MAGNETO: Page 2 of 13

Last Updated: 
28th September 2007

Little has been revealed about the early life of the man who would one day be known world-wide as Magneto, the self-declared Master of Magnetism. He was born in the late 1920s, most likely somewhere in Poland. Though later forged records indicate otherwise, Magneto’s family was Jewish and among those registered and persecuted during the early days of Nazi tyranny in Europe. In 1939, the Third Reich extended their power in Europe and annexed Poland. When he was still a child, Magnus was with his parents and sister when they were stopped by Nazi soldiers. The soldiers opened fire on his family. As he heard his parents’ screams, something awakened inside young Magnus. The bullets seemed to slow down and he was able to reach out subconsciously and move them aside. This initial surge of his mutant power helped him to survive as the rest of his family was slain. He fell unconscious, whether from the strain of his powers emergence or shock at seeing his family killed, and the Nazis buried him alongside his family in a shallow grave. However, the boy survived and dug his way up through the loose earth to the surprise of the Nazi troops. Rather than kill the boy, they moved him to the Nazi’s primary concentration camp in Auschwitz. [New Mutants (1st series) #49]

The young man who would eventually be known as Magnus was one of the earliest prisoners of Auschwitz which was established in 1940. He could not have been more than thirteen when he entered the camp and grew to manhood within the barbed wire fences of the concentration camp. He was one of the rare younger prisoners to survive the hardships of the camp, where he was forced to join the Sonderkommando and given special duties within the camp assisting the Nazi guards with the processing of bodies. It was not uncommon for young men, almost always Jews, to be selected for such special duties. In exchange, they were given extra food and limited protection for as long as they were deemed useful. Magnus successfully avoided the medical examinations conducted by a mysterious doctor, who was actually Mr. Sinister in disguise, testing camp inmates for mutant genes. [Excalibur (3rd series) #7]

Magnus used his status as one of the Sonderkommando to help others to survive as well. Many viewed his actions as heroic. His fierce determination to survive despite the abuse, malnourishment and constant threat of death was inspirational and gave hope to other prisoners. Among those that Magnus sought to protect was a young woman named Magda. The early days of 1945 marked a dramatic victory for the Allied Forces of World War II and a sweeping defeat to the Third Reich. Facing imminent defeat, the SS began to kill those who still survived in the camps to eliminate any witnesses to the atrocities they had committed. When a guard threatened to kill Magda, Magnus struck him with a piece of wood and killed him. He and Magda fled the camp mere days before it was liberated by Soviet troops. [Classic X-Men #12]

Magnus and Magda traveled for some time together. Despite Magda’s bad health and lack of hope, Magnus pressed on. He foraged food and clothing for them, determined that they would survive to find a better life than they had known in the camp. They eventually made their way to the Carpathian Mountains, where they began a new life. Magnus learned a trade as a carpenter and the two survivors fell in love. They were married and soon welcomed a daughter, Anya. The couple found happiness in their new life together and lived in the small mountain village for several years. In Anya, Magnus found a person upon whom he could place all of his hopes for the future and he vowed that he would not allow the world to make her suffer as he had. But Magnus soon grew restless. His intelligence and thirst for knowledge prompted him to relocate his family to the Soviet city of Vinnitsa, where he hoped to attend the university.

Magnus took a job working in construction but, at the end of his first day, his employer took a healthy “commission” from the agreed upon wage. When Magnus started to protest, the man told him to keep his mouth shut if he ever wanted to work in this town again. Magnus swallowed his anger but it manifested through his mutant power, sending a crowbar flying at his employer’s head. In fear, the man gave Magnus the full amount he was owed. Despite being a full-grown adult, this was only the second time Magnus’ power had manifested. The years of physical abuse, malnourishment and a case of meningitis had delayed the natural manifestation of his mutant powers.

When he made his way back to the inn that he, Magda and Anya called home, Magnus found the building engulfed in flames. Desperate to find his family, Magnus rushed into the inferno to find Magda frantically trying to make her way up to Anya on the floor above. As the stairs collapsed upon them, Magnus instinctively created a bubble of pure force around himself and Magda. Magda realized immediately that Magnus was responsible for this miracle. After getting Magda to safety outside, Magnus saw little Anya from her window. She was trapped in her room as the fire drew closer. Magnus braced himself to run in to get her, hoping that his strange new power would aid him. However, before Magnus had a chance to save his daughter, he was grabbed by local police who had been sent there by his vengeful employer. The man gloated as the police held Magnus back, preventing him from saving little Anya. The man taunted Magnus as Anya leapt from the window of their apartment, her tiny body in flames.

Overwhelmed by anguish and grief, Magnus lashed out with his powers. In a single attack, he killed all those around him with the sole exception of Magda. Horrified by this raw, carnal display of power Magda realized that her husband was not quite human. She called him “monster” and fled. Magnus was weakened by this attack and lacked the strength to pursue Magda. He barely left the scene with Anya’s body in time to evade the secret police, which came to investigate. Magnus escaped into the night and buried the body of his firstborn child. [Classic X-Men #12, X-Factor Annual #4]

The soldiers pursued Magnus and caught up with him the next morning. When they tried to arrest him for “crimes against humanity,” he renounced their authority over him and used his newfound powers to force them to kill each other. Unlike his early attack on the villagers of Vinnitsa, this attack was purposeful and controlled but no less deadly. Years of being hounded, persecuted and tortured by mankind’s capacity for inhumanity finally boiled over and Magnus gave in to the rage that had filled his life since youth, directing it against his would-be captors. [Uncanny X-Men #304]

Afterwards, Magnus began his search for Magda. He engaged the services of Georg Odekirk, a master forger, who created a new identity for Magnus, that of the Sinte gypsy Erik Lehnsherr. Magnus originally used the Lehnsherr identity in his efforts to locate Magda and evade arrest for the incident at Vinnitsa. Odekirk’s forgery was so complete that it would serve Magnus for decades before being revealed as a falsehood by the Israeli government. [X-Men (2nd series) #72]

Magnus’ efforts to locate Magda proved futile and at some point he gave up searching for her. His journeys eventually led him to Haifa, Israel, where he found work as an orderly at a psychiatric hospital for survivors of the Holocaust. There, he met a young American doctor named Charles Xavier, who managed to pull a young woman named Gabrielle Haller out of a catatonic state she had been in for years. In the following weeks, Magnus, Xavier and Gabrielle spent much time together traveling about Israel. He and Xavier became close friends. A trust was developed between them and Charles shared with Magnus his theories on the evolution of humanity and the emergence of mutants. Magnus shared Xavier’s beliefs about the rise of mutantkind but given his own experiences with persecution believed that mutants must hold the reins of power in order to survive. When a cadre of Hydra agents attacked the hospital in Haifa and kidnapped Gabrielle, Xavier and Magnus sprung to her defense. The pair then managed to track her and her captors. In the process, they learned of each other’s mutant abilities. Their efforts to save Gabrielle, led to a confrontation with Hydra’s leader, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Von Strucker had used information that had been forcibly implanted in Gabrielle’s mind by the Nazis to uncover Hitler’s hidden cache of gold. Magnus easily defeated Baron Von Strucker in combat and left with the treasure. As he and Charles Xavier parted ways, Magnus assured his friend that mutantkind would not go meekly to their deaths and that, when the time came to fight for their place in the world, he would be prepared. [Uncanny X-Men #161]

Little has been revealed about Magnus’ activities in the years that followed, though he spent some time working with a covert government agency, hunting down Nazi war criminals who had eluded capture prior to the Nuernberg Trials. His codename was Magneto and he used his powers to mete out justice to those who had persecuted his people. Magneto had begun to suffer intense headaches when he used his powers and, in between missions, he would travel to Rio de Janeiro to seek the help of his personal physician, Isabelle, in finding a means to ease his pain. During one assignment, Magneto unexpectedly happened upon and captured Hans Richter, a former Nazi officer. Magneto was unaware that his employers only wanted him to hunt down certain Nazis, and Richter was not among them, as he who was now aiding the Americans in their Cold War efforts against the Soviet Union. Magneto‘s handler, known only as Control, killed Isabelle in order to teach him a lesson. Enraged, Magnus lashed out at him easily overloading the protective device that Control wore to protect himself against Magneto’s powers. This incident cemented Magnus’ belief that humanity would not hesitate to exploit and eventually eliminate mutantkind. He vowed that he would lead mutantkind in supplanting humanity as the planet’s dominant species as Magneto. [Classic X-Men #19]

Presumably, Magnus spent the following years establishing his base of power and studying the various sciences that he would later demonstrate mastery of, such as physics, engineering and genetics. During this period, Magnus also developed an understanding of the world and investigated how humanity was responding to the emergence of mutants. He briefly interacted with Interpol agent Sean Cassidy and helped him to track down the rogue mutant killing machine known as Omega Red. His motives in doing so were not entirely clear but he told Cassidy that he believed that mutants like Omega Red and the humans who held his leash would prove a detriment to mutantkind in the coming genetic war. [Generation X #10]
Magnus was preparing for this war by amassing power, resources and allies. His earliest recruits were the impressionable Toad and a teleporting mutant who called herself Astra. Magneto used Astra’s ability to teleport across interstellar distances to collect alien technologies. One such device enabled Magneto to locate other mutants. [X-Men Forever #4] With this technology, Magneto found a great many mutants and recruited some to join his cause. Among these were the gypsy twins, Wanda and Pietro Maximoff. Magneto rescued the young mutants from an angry mob who believed Wanda to be a witch. The twins felt indebted to Magneto for saving their lives and pledged themselves to his cause as a way to repay the debt. [Avengers (1st series) #47, X-Men (1st series) #4] Along with a mutant illusionist codenamed Mastermind they would come to form Magneto’s original Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.