Kersten, Felix, born 30-09-1898 in Dorpat, Estonia, when the country was still a part of Imperial Russia. During World War I he fought in the German Army and arrived in Finland in April 1918 with the German forces that intervened in the Finnish Civil War. Kersten served for a while in Suojeluskunta, was granted Finnish citizenship in 1920 and commissioned 2nd Lieutenant in the Finnish Army in September 1921. Kersten began his studies in Helsinki where he studied with the specialist Dr. Colander. After two years’ study he was awarded his degree in scientific massage. He then left for Berlin where he continued his studies and eventually became Dr Ko’s pupil after an encounter at a dinner party. In 1925 Dr. Ko told Kersten “You have learned all I can teach you.” He then turned his patients over to Kersten and retired. Kersten had a number of very influential customers, among them Prince Bernard of the Netherlands (after 1928) and Benito Mussolini’s son-in-law and Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano . Ciano was executed by a firing squad along with 4 others who had voted for Mussolini’s ousting. The executed Italians were tied to chairs and shot in the back as a further humiliation. Ciano’s last words were “Long live Italy”.
Kersten accepted Heinrich Himmler‘s request to become his personal masseur
writing later that he feared for his safety if he refused. He was able to alleviate Himmler’s severe stomach pains with his skills and gained his trust. Himmler called him his “Magic Buddha”. Kersten used this trust to obtain pardons and releases of several prisoners. During the War, Kersten also provided information to the OSS, predecessor of the CIA. Towards the end of the War, Kersten arranged a meeting with Himmler and Norbert Masur, a member of the Swedish branch of the World Jewish Congress, in Harztwalde, a few miles from Ravensbrück concentration camp. As a result Himmler agreed to spare the lives of the remaining 60.000 Jews left in Nazi concentration camps days before their liberation by the Allies. In December 1945 the World Jewish Congress presented Kersten with a letter thanking him for helping to save Jewish concentration-camp victims. In his post-war memoirs Kersten takes credit for saving, among others, the whole Dutch people from forced deportation to the Nazi-occupied East. In 1953 the Dutch government nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize on this account.However a later official Dutch investigation concluded that no such plan had ever existed and that some of Kersten’s documents were fabricated. The Swedish archives testify that Kersten was intermediary between Himmler and Count Folke Bernadotte in the negotiations that led to the rescue operation “The white Buses” , saving hundreds of Norwegians and Danes from certain death in the last days of the Third Reich. Kersten’s claims of being instrumental in saving Finlands’s Jews from German hands may be exaggerated, but the Finnish government did use his services in the hope of influencing Himmler. Dr. Kersten apparently had a tendency to distort the facts in order to portray himself in a more heroic light. After the War Kersten lived in West Germany and Sweden, taking Swedish citizenship in 1953.
Death and burial ground of Kersten, Felix.
Felix Kersten died at the age of 61 of a heart attack in Stockholm, on 16-04-1960 and is buried on the Cemetery Strängnäs, Sodermanlands Lan, Sweden.