German Louis De Wohl, who claimed to have been the son of a Hungarian nobleman, had moved to Britain before the war and written a number of books on astrology, including one he called Secret Service of the Sky. He came to MI5's attention in 1940 through connections with people interned because of their suspected pro-German sympathies. He did not "speak a word of Hungarian", observed one MI5 officer, who added that De Wohl "claims to have often frequented cafes in Berlin in feminine attire".
It seems that MI5 were particularly keen on De Wohl. Another MI5 officer described De Wohl as a "tame astrologer of German upbringing who is employed by SO2 [SOE's sabotage section] for their own fell purposes". Their to De Wohl is reflected in its suggestion that before he was granted British citizenship he should be tested about who he knew, "including any German harlots". One MI5 officer described De Wohl as a "bumptious seeker after notoriety".
SOE, however, gave De Wohl the rank of captain having persuaded intelligence officers that he could use horoscopes to influence Hitler and his advisers. "An attack against Hitler at a time when he knows that his aspects are bad will certainly find him prone to some amount of defeatism, to force his hand then would be a definite advantage for us," enthused one of De Wohl's supporters. They included Admiral John Godfrey, director of naval intelligence, on the grounds that the stars seemed the only explanation for Hitler's unpredictable strategic decisions.
In the summer of 1941, SOE sent De Wohl on a lecture tour of the US, armed with horoscopes to show the American public that Hitler would be defeated. His talks and interviews received widespread media coverage. In June, under the headline "Seer Sees Plot to Kill Hitler", the New York Sun ran a report in which De Wohl forecast that Hitler was "doomed" and would be "done away with within a year". He was also involved in a forged "master plan" by Hitler to take over Latin America. It was the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 which brought the US into the war.
An MI5 officer reported that none of De Wohl's predictions had materialised except his forecast of Italy's entry into the war, made when that was "quite patent to anybody with the slightest knowledge of international affairs". The historian Christopher Andrew, whose official history of MI5 is due next year, the 100th anniversary of the agency's birth, said yesterday that despite De Wohl's claims, Hitler in fact regarded astrology as a "complete nonsense".