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"Only our mission for the Führer matters."
―Herman Dietrich[src]

Oberst Herman Dietrich was a high-ranking Wehrmacht officer and Nazi colonel who under the orders of Adolf Hitler, was in charge of the 1936 excavation by René Emile Belloq of the Ark of the Covenant in Cairo, Egypt.


At some point, Wehrmacht Colonel Herman Dietrich came into contact with French archeologist René Emile Belloq.[4][5] Although the pair had little regard for one another, Dietrich kept himself in tabs with Belloq's operations and expensive services, leading Adolf Hitler's inner circle to eventually take notice of their association,[6] getting jobs from the German people to recover artifacts of significance to them which could symbolically represent their country's rise to power and domination over its enemies.[2]

Searching the Ark[]

In 1936, Oberst Herman Dietrich[3] was assigned the task of finding the Ark by Eidel, a Schutzstaffel officer,[6] under direct order of Adolf Hitler himself.[7] Eidel explained the Führer's interest in the artifact and specifically needed Dietrich for his acquaintance with Belloq. Despite Dietrich's misgivings over how much the mercenary archaeologist could be trusted, Eidel informed the colonel that that would be something he'd have to deal with, as were any other parties interested in finding the Ark.[6]

Due to prior contact with the Frenchman, it was Dietrich who contacted Belloq and arranged for his employ.[5] After meeting with Belloq in Marseilles, France, Dietrich and the archaeologist traveled to Berchtesgaden, Germany for a debriefing with Hitler at his mountain retreat before finally making their way to Cairo, Egypt where the excavation was already in progress.[6] During the excavation, Dietrich would make sure to send communiques to to Germany in a daily basis. His Gestapo agents,[2] three in fact,[1] also had infiltrated Cairo right under the British government's nose.[2]

Dietrich and his fellow Nazi commander Major Gobler were unaware that the excavation was being done in the wrong place, until Belloq noticed the a group of diggers a good distance away from the main digsite. They descended upon the diggers led by Sallah and claimed the Ark for themselves, sealing Marion Ravenwood and Indiana Jones inside. When Belloq protested Marion's imprisonment, as he wanted her for himself, Dietrich replied that the girl was of no concern to him; and that Belloq appeared to have forgotten that only the mission to his Führer mattered.[1]

When Indiana and Marion escaped, destroying the plane that was to carry the Ark to Berlin in the process, Dietrich, Belloq and Gestapo agent Arnold Ernst Toht were in a car escorting the truck transporting the Ark to the nearest airport, and were caught up in a skirmish with Indiana Jones' successful effort to capture the truck. When the truck apparently vanished into thin air, Dietrich took a melon from one of the merchants surrounding the car and threw it down to vent his anger.[1]

Eventually, the Nazis caught up with Indy and the Ark at sea, and transported it to a remote island between Crete and the mainland of Greece, aboard the U-boat Wurrfler. Being a Nazi, he asked Belloq if it really was necessary to hold a "Jewish ritual" to reveal the contents of the Ark, to which Belloq asked him if he would prefer the risk of opening an empty Ark in front of Hitler in Berlin. There was a tense moment when Indy threatened to blow up the Ark with a bazooka in a desperate attempt to rescue Marion Ravenwood, but the archaeologist was convinced by Belloq to surrender rather than destroy a monumental piece of history.[1]


Death by face melting 2

Dietrich's head shrinks.

Dietrich and Toht watched on as Belloq performed his ritual at the Tabernacle, reaching into the Ark when it was opened and bringing out only dust; all that was left of the Ten Commandments, which he then promptly tossed to the ground contemptuously whilst glaring at Belloq. His frustration at the apparent uselessness of the coveted artifact turned to surprise and wonder as ghostly apparitions began to emerge from the Ark. Dietrich was not sure what to make of the experience until an angelic spirit turned to face them, and suddenly transformed into a decaying, corpse like entity, baring its fangs and howling at them. Dietrich and the others became frozen to the spot with terror, as a fireball rose from the Ark and engulfed Belloq, using him as a conduit to shoot forth fire bolts to strike down the assembled Nazis. As he trembled in fear, Dietrich was killed when the fires emanating from Belloq hollowed his skull. His collapsed remains were then swept up and incinerated by the following firestorm.[1]

Personality and traits[]

"Savage! You are not in a position to ask for anything. We will take what we wish, and then decide whether or not to blow your ship from the water."
―Herman Dietrich[src]

Herman Dietrich was a known member of the Wehrmacht, the combined German armed forces during the period before World War II. In-keeping with his Nazi allegiances, he regarded those not of German heritage as primitive and untrustworthy; he openly addressed the African captain Simon Katanga as a "savage".[1] He was also displeased with the use of a "Jewish ritual" to open the Ark of the Covenant and openly cited his distrust of the Frenchman René Emile Belloq, telling the traitorous mercenary to spare him from his sarcasm when Belloq asked for the preconditions of the ritual and reminded the Frenchman that he was in charge.[6] He also chastised Belloq for his personal interest in Marion Ravenwood. Despite how unreasonable and "idiotic" the Nazi was for him, Belloq could sometimes sway Dietrich to follow his point of view with a little convincing and logic.[2]

Fanatically loyal to the Nazi cause, Dietrich deeply admired Adolf Hitler's vision of a stronger and influential Germany, always spouting praises for how his precious country had improved since the Great Depression. While he holded Hitler in the greatest regard, he was a bit more practical than his idealistic Fuhrer.[2]

During his meeting with Eidel, the superior who assigned him the task of finding the Ark of the Covenant for Hitler, Dietrich privately desired to kill Eidel for his pompous attitude, fantasizing about throttling him and stuffing his manila folders down his throat until he choked, given that he was an impatient man who hated offices[6] and always expected immediate results,[8] demanding respect from his own men and constantly following Belloq to ask him for updates in the Tanis Dig.[2] He had problems controlling himself, as demonstrated when he threw down a melon from an Egyptian merchant out of frustration having temporarily lost the Ark.[1] He was known for always ruthlessly executing his given orders by whatever means necessary such as torture.[8]

Dietrich was known for being obsessed with order[2] and military protocol.[8] In Belloq's opinion, an annoying habit of Dietrich's was always letting his guard down whenever the Nazis under his command had some type of accomplishment no matter how insignificant, setting his suspicions aside and boosting his ego under the childish belief that every bit of stone was vital key to finding the relic.[2] He also enjoyed listening to Richard Wagner on his gramophone.[3]

Behind the scenes[]

Herman Dietrich was portrayed by actor Wolf Kahler in Raiders of the Lost Ark.[1] In English, the name Dietrich means skeleton key or ruler.[9]

During the development of Lawrence Kasdan's script, Dietrich's name was Shliemann. He was to catch Marion in her tent along with Toht and Gobler, but his fate was not with the initial opening of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, he and some of his men survived to pursue Indy and Marion escaping with the artifact through tunnels in mine carts. During the mine car chase, Shliemann and the Nazis are killed by explosives that were kept in the caverns. This was ultimately cut, a decision that satisfied Kasdan who felt that the climax was too similar to those of the James Bond movies. Instead, the focus was put on the opening of the Ark itself and mine chase sequence was repurposed for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.[10]

Kahler also played another Nazi officer named Dietrich in the 1985 TV movie The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (along with Michael Sheard), though the officer's rank is a General and the full name is Sepp Dietrich, named after the real life SS General.

In Campbell Black's novelization, Dietrich's role is largely the same as in the film but expanded on to include his being the assigned the task of hunting the Ark and one section depicts Belloq and Dietrich smoking cigarettes, discussing what they would do about Jones' escape from Cairo, Egypt. His death during the opening of the Ark, along the deaths of the other Nazi soldiers, is never explicitly described.[6]

In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Indy can bypass Helmut by mentioning that he is "Gestapo ... Dietrich's successor".[11]

Although Dietrich doesn't appear in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull itself,[12] he can briefly be seen a trailer for the film which reused footage from the Raiders opening of the Ark scene.[13]


Dietrich in LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures.

Dietrich doesn't appear in either LEGO game until The Desert Chase. In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, Dietrich and Toht help Belloq to capture Indy and Marion. However, during the opening of the Ark, his and Toht's heads appear to shrink in their bodies while their feet seem to melt, killing them in the process.[14] In the sequel, Dietrich's whereabouts during The Desert Chase are unknown despite being seen at the beginning of it, but he reappears during the opening of the Ark. However, instead of dying, Dietrich survives as he is send away by Belloq after this kills some Nazi soldiers and Toht.[15]

There were plans by Hasbro for a 2009 action figure of Dietrich, but the toy line was cancelled before one could be made.[16] Dietrich's only other piece of tie-in merchandise is an unpainted metal miniature released in a set containing both characters from Raiders of the Lost Ark and Temple of Doom.


Non-canon appearances[]


Notes and references[]