- "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.
In 1936, Oberst Herman Dietrich was assigned the task of finding the Ark by Eidel, a Schutzstaffel officer and member of Adolf Hitler's inner circle. Eidel explained the Führer's interest in the artifact and specifically needed Dietrich for his acquaintance with archaeologist René 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 any other parties interested in finding the Ark would be.
Due to prior contact with the Frenchman, it was Dietrich who contacted Belloq and arranged for his employ. 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 where the excavation was already in progress.
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.
When Indiana and Marion escaped, destroying the plane that was to carry the Ark to Berlin in the process, Dietrich, Belloq and Gestapo agent Major 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.
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.
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 firebolts 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.
Personality and traits
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". He was also displeased with the use of a "Jewish ritual" to open the Ark 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.
During his meeting with Eidel, the superior who assigned him the task of finding the Ark of the Covenant for Adolf 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. 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. Dietrich also enjoyed listening to Richard Wagner on his gramophone.
Behind the scenes
During the development of Lawrence Kasdan's script for Raiders, Dietrich's name was Shliemann. He was to catch Marion in her tent along with Toht and Gobler, and his fate was not with the initial opening of the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, he and a few of his men survive and pursue Indy and Marion through tunnels in mine carts. During the mine car chase, Shliemann and his men are killed by the explosives that were kept in the caverns. This was cut as Kasdan ultimately felt that the ending was too similar to that of most James Bond movies, so the mine chase idea was recycled for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
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 the Raiders novelization, Dietrich's role is slightly the same than in the film. However, his role is slightly expanded in the novel, which features one scene where Belloq and he smoking cigarettes, discussing what they would do about Jones' escape from Cairo. Also, his death during the opening of the Ark of the Covenant, along the deaths of the other Nazi soldiers, is never explicitly described.
In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure, Indy can bypass Helmut by mentioning that he is "Gestapo ... Dietrich's successor".
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 shrink in their bodies, killing him and Toht in the process. In the sequel game, Dietrich's wereabouts during The Desert Chase are unknown, 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.
There were plans by Hasbro for a 2009 action figure of Dietrich, but the toyline was cancelled before one could be made. 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.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark novel (First appearance)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Raiders of the Lost Ark comic
- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: The Graphic Adventure (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (Non-canonical appearance)
- LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (Non-canonical appearance)
- The Adventures of Indiana Jones Unpainted Metal Miniatures
- Raiders of the Lost Ark Sourcebook
- Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide