Religious aspects of Nazism

Religious aspects of Nazism

Historians, political scientists and even philosophers have studied Nazism with a specific focus on its religious or semi-religious aspects. ["Semi-religious beliefs in a race of Aryan god-men, the needful extermination of inferiors, and an idealized millennial future of German world-domination obsessed Hitler, Himmler and many other high-ranking Nazi leaders." Goodrick-Clarke, 1985 , 203]

The most prominent discourse here is the debate about Nazism as political religion, but there has also been research on the millenarianistic, messianic, Gnostic and occult aspects of Nazism. There also is a large debate about the question whether Nazism was a "pagan" or an atheist movement, or whether (and to what extent) it borrowed concepts from Christianity. [cp. Steigmann-Gall 2003: 4: "Christianity, so the argument" [of earlier historians] "went, offered nothing but spiritual opposition to the 'paganism' and 'atheism' of the" [Nazi] "movement."]

The potential occult aspects of Nazism have been the subject of a broader interest outside of academic discourses, with the development of a popular myth of Nazi occultism since 1960. This persistent idea, that the Nazis were directed by occult agencies, has been dismissed by historians as modern cryptohistory, in the sense that such an agency "has remained concealed to previous historians of National Socialism." [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 218]

Nazism as political religion?

Writers who had alluded to the religious aspects of National Socialism before 1980 are, among others: Raymond Aron, Albert Camus, Romano Guardini, Denis de Rougemont, Eric Voegelin, George Mosse, Klaus Vondung and Friedrich Heer. [Goodrick-Clarke 2004: vi. ]

Eric Voegelin's work on political religion goes back to 1938, when it was first published in German. Emilio Gentile and Roger Griffin, among others, have drawn on this concept.

That the French author and philosopher Albert Camus is mentioned here might surprise some readers, but in his "L'Homme révolté" he has made some specific remarks about Nazism as religion and Adolf Hitler in particular. [Albert Camus 1951, L'Homme révolté fr icon, Gallimard, p. 17f, p.222, p. 227f.]

Important among the more recent work are Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's The Occult Roots of Nazism from 1985 and Richard Steigmann-Gall's "The Holy Reich" from 2003. Goodrick-Clarke's book has (aside from a few details) largely answered the question what significance the occult ideas of Ariosophy had for the formation of Nazism, [cp. e.g. the preface of H.T. Hakl for its German edition 1997.] whereas "The Holy Reich" has broken new ground in the examination of the relation between Nazism and Christianity. [cp. e.g. the [ Review by John S. Conway] , H-Net] This article (currently) focusses on their research, for the simple reason that these questions are in the focus of the public when the religious aspects of Nazism are debated.

Nazism and occultism

Speculation about Nazi occultism goes back to the 1940s, but only in the 1960s it reached a broader audience, with the best-seller Le Matin des Magiciens. From this speculation a few serious works originated, namely by the historian James Webb and Ellic Howe, [cp. Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 225] but generally "Nazi 'black magic' was regarded as a topic for sensational authors in pursuit of strong sales." [Goodrick-Clarke 2004: vi.]

"The Occult Roots of Nazism" is not about Nazism as such. Instead it focuses, as the title indicates, on its possible occult roots, an esoteric movement of the 1900s to 1930s in Germany and Austria that is generically referred to as Ariosophy. It clearly falls under definition of occultism included in the book, for it drew on the western esoteric tradition in an obvious manner. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke also explicitly considers the "Nazi crusade [as] ... essentially religious", [Goodrick-Clarke 1985:203.] but he does not offer theoretical concept to specify in what sense Nazism can be called a religion.

According to Goodrick-Clarke, the Ariosophists wove occult ideas into the "völkisch" ideology that existed in Germany and Austria during that time. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 5] Ariosophy shared the racial awareness which was already current within "völkisch" ideology, [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 4.] but in addition to this the Ariosophists drew upon the notion of root races from Theosophy, thus postulating locations such as Atlantis, Thule and Hyperborea as the original homeland of the Aryan race (and its alleged "purest" branch, the Teutons or Germanic peoples).The ariosophic writings described a time of a glorious ancient Germanic past, in which an elitist priesthood had "expounded occult-racist doctrines and ruled over a superior and racially pure society." [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 2.] The downfall of this imaginary golden age was explained as the result of the interbreeding between the master race and those considered "untermenschen" (lesser races). The "abstruse ideas and weird cults [of Ariosophy] anticipated the political doctrines and institutions of the Third Reich" [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 1.] as Goodrick-Clarke writes in the introduction of his book, motivating the phrase "occult roots of Nazism"; however, with the exception of Karl Maria Wiligut, [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 177.] Goodrick-Clarke has not found evidence that prominent 'Ariosophists' directly influenced Nazism.

Goodrick-Clarke's follow-up volume was intended to take a look at the survival of 'ariosophic' ideas after 1945, however, he uncovered a whole new subject, that he has described as Neo-völkisch movements.

The religious beliefs of leading Nazis

Within a large movement like Nazism, "it may not be especially shocking to discover" that different, isolated individuals can embrace different ideological systems that would supposed to be polar opposites. [Steigmannn-Gall 2003: 2.] However, in the case of their religious beliefs, even the leading Nazis diverged strongly. People like Erich Koch (who was not only Gauleiter of East Prussia and "Reichskomissar" for the Ukraine, but also the elected president of the East Prussian provincial Protestant Church synod) [Steigmannn-Gall 2003: 1.] or Bernhard Rust [see: Steigmann-Gall 2003: 122] were convinced advocates of Positive Christianity.

On the other hand: The religious beliefs of Heinrich Himmler, Alfred Rosenberg and Richard Walther Darré are described by Steignmann-Gall as "paganist". [Steigmann-Gall 2003: 91-101 (Rosenberg), 101-104 (Darré), 106-109 (Himmler).] He uses this terminology to indicate that those "proponents of a Nordicized religion within the [Nazi] party did not actually practice this religion, let alone devise a coherent religious system that could actually be practiced. Rather, they advocated the establishment of a faith that ultimately never came into being."Steigmann-Gall 2003: XV.] For this reason Steigmann-Gall avoids referring to them as "pagans" or "neopagans". Dárre's interests have rarely been the subject of an examination,Hakl 1997:197.] with the exception of Anna Bramwell's biography of him. Darré's works were primarily concerned with the ancient and present Nordic peasantry (the ideology of Blood and soil), however, within this context, he made an explicit attack against Christianity. In his two main works ("Das Bauerntum als Lebensquell der Nordischen Rasse", Munich, 1927 and "Neuadel aus Blut und Boden", Munich, 1930), Darré accused Christianity, with its "teaching of the equality of men before God," to have "deprived the Teutonic nobility of its moral foundations", the "innate sense of superiority over the nomadic tribes". [Steigmann-Gall 2003: 103] (Himmler's and Rosenberg's religious interests are looked at below.)

Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs

Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs are a difficult case. On the one hand he had been in contact with Lanz von Liebenfels, on the other hand he made definite remarks against the völkish occultism in "Mein Kampf" and in public speeches.Since 1957, when the Austrian psychologist Wilfried Daim published the important study on Lanz von Liebenfels [W. Daim: "Der Mann, der Hitler die Ideen gab", 1. Edition 1957, 2. rev. ed. 1985, 3.rev.ed.1994 ] enough evidence exists to say that Hitler had been exposed to the ariosophic "Weltanschauung" in Vienna; however, to what extent he was influenced by it, is not clear. In the research into this question, Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has even been compared to Liebenfels' "Theozoologie" in detail. [Harald Strohm, "Gnosis und Nationalsozialismus", 1997, p.46-52] According to an online article from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, [Jackson Spielvogel and David Redles: [ Hitler's Racial Ideology: Content and Occult Sources] ] the influence of the anti-Judaic, Gnostic and root race teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, and the adaptations of her ideas by her followers, constituted a popularly unacknowledged but decisive influence over the developing mind of Hitler.

Hitler put his rejection of the völkisch Esotericism in harsh terms. In Heinrich Heims' "Adolf Hitler, Monologe im FHQ 1941-1944" (several editions, here Orbis Verlag, 2000), Hitler is quoted as having said on 14 October 1941: "It seems to be inexpressibly stupid to allow a revival of the cult of Odin/Wotan. Our old mythology of the gods was defunct, and incapable of revival, when Christianity came...the whole world of antiquity either followed philosophical systems on the one hand, or worshipped the gods. But in modern times it is undesirable that all humanity should make such a fool of itself."

Rudolf Hess

According to Goodrick-Clarke, Rudolf Hess had been a member of the Thule Society before attaining prominence in the Nazi party. [Goodrick-Clarke 2003: 114. Note that Goodrick-Clarke had previously (1985: 149) maintained that Hess was no more than a guest to whom the Thule Society extended hospitality during the Bavarian revolution of 1918.] As Adolf Hitler's official deputy, Hess had also been attracted and influenced by the organic farming theories of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy. [Bramwell 1985: 175, 177.] In the wake of his flight to Scotland, Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the security police, banned lodge organizations and esoteric groups on 9 June 1941. [Bramwell 1985: 178.] When organic farmers and their supportersndash and even nudistsndash were arrested, Agriculture Minister Richard Walther Darré protested to Himmler and Heydrich, "despite a letter from Bormann, warning Darré that Hitler was behind the arrests." [Bramwell 1985: 178.]

However, the suppression of esoteric organisations began very soon after the Nazis acquired governmental power. This also affected ariosophic authors and organisations: "One of the most important early Germanic racialists, Lanz von Liebenfels, had his writings banned in 1938 while other occultist racialists were banned as early as 1934." [Bramwell 1985: 42.]

Thule Society and the origins of the NSDAP

The Thule Society, which is remotely connected to the origins of the NSDAP, was one of the ariosophic groups of the late 1910s. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 135-152 (chapter 11, "Rudolf von Sebottendorff and the Thule Society").] "Thule Gesellschaft" had initially been the name of the Munich branch of the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail, a lodge-based organisation which was built up by Rudolf von Sebottendorff in 1917. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 142.] For this task he had received about a hundred addresses of potential members in Bavaria from Hermann Pohl, and from 1918 he was also supported by "Walter Nauhaus". [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 142.] According to an account by Sebottendorff, the Bavarian province of the Germanenorden Walvater had 200 members in spring 1918, which had risen to 1500 in autumn 1918, of these 250 in Munich. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 143.] Five rooms, capable of accommodating 300 people, were leased from the fashionable Hotel Vierjahreszeiten ('Four Seasons') in Munich and decorated with the Thule emblem showing a dagger superimposed on a swastika. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 144.] Since the lodge's ceremonial activities were accompanied by overtly right-wing meetings, the name "Thule Gesellschaft" was adopted to arouse less attention from socialists and pro-Republicans. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 144.]

The Aryan race and Lost lands

The Thule Society took its name from Thule, an alleged lost land. Sebottendorff identified "Ultima Thule" as Iceland. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 145.] Within the Armanism of Guido von List, to which Sebottendorff made distinct references, [See: Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 145.] it was believed that the Aryan race had originated from the apocryphal lost contintent of Atlantis and taken refuge in "Thule/Iceland" after Atlantis had become deluged under the sea. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 145.] Hyperborea was also mentioned by Guido von List, with direct references to the theosophic author William Scott-Elliot. [See: Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 54.]

In The Myth of the Twentieth Century, the second most important Nazi book after "Mein Kampf", Alfred Rosenberg also referred to Atlantis as a lost land or at least to an "Aryan cultural center". [Strohm 1997: 57.] Since Rosenberg had attended meetings of the Thule Society he might have been familiar with the occult speculation about lost lands; however, according to Lutzhöft (1971), Rosenberg drew on the work of Herman Wirth.Hans Jürgen Lutzhöft (1971):"Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920-1940". de icon Stuttgart. Ernst Klett Verlag, p. 114f] The attribution of the Urheimat of the Nordic race to a deluged land had found a great appeal in that time.Hans Jürgen Lutzhöft (1971):"Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920-1940". de icon Stuttgart. Ernst Klett Verlag,p. 114f]

Formation of DAP and NSDAP

In autumn 1918 Sebottendorff attempted to extend the appeal of the Thule Society's nationalist ideology to people from a working class background. He entrusted the Munich sports reporter Karl Harrer with the formation of a workers' ring, called the "Deutscher Arbeiterverein" ('German workers' club') or "Politischer Arbeiterzirkel" ('Political workers' ring').Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150.] The most active member of this ring was Anton Drexler.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150.] Drexler urged the foundation of a political party, and on 5 January 1919 the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei ("DAP", "German Workers' Party") was formally founded.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150.] When Adolf Hitler first encountered the DAP on 12 September 1919, Sebottendorff had already left the Thule Society (in June 1919). [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150, 201.] By the end of February 1920, Hitler had transformed the "Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" into the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei ("NSDAP, National Socialist German Workers’ Party").Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150.] Apparently meetings of the Thule Society continued until 1923. A certain Johannes Hering kept a diary of these meetings which mentions the attendance of other Nazi leaders between 1920 and 1923, but not of Hitler. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 201; Johannes Hering, "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Thule-Gesellschaft", typescript dated June 21, 1939, Bundesarchiv, Koblenz, NS26/865.]

That the origins of the Nazi party can be traced to the lodge organisation of the Thule Society is fact. However, there were only two points in which the NSDAP was a successor to the Thule Society. One is the use of the swastika. Friedrich Krohn, who was responsible for the colour scheme of the Nazi flag, had been a member of the Thule Society and also of the "Germanenorden" since 1913.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 151.] This allows Goodrick-Clarke the conclusion that it is possible to trace the origins of the Nazi symbol back through the emblems of the Thule Society and the Germanenorden and ultimately to Guido von List,Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 151.] but it is not evident that the Thulean ideology filtered through the DAP into the NSDAP. Goodrick-Clarke implies that ariosophical ideas were of no consequence: "the DAP line was predominantly one of extreme political and social nationalism, and not based on the Aryan-racist-occult pattern of the Germanenorden [and Thule Society] ".Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150.] Godwin summarises the differences in outlook which separated the Thule Society from the direction taken by the Nazis:

"Hitler...had little time for the whole Thule business, once it had carried him where he needed to be...he could see the political worthlessness of paganism [i.e. what Goodrick-Clarke would describe as the racist-occult complex of Ariosophy] in Christian Germany. Neither did the Führer's plans for his Thousand-year Reich have any room whatever for the heady love of individual liberty with which the Thuleans romantically endowed their Nordic ancestors." [Godwin 1996: 57.]

The other point in which the NSDAP continued the activities of the Thule Society is in the publication of the newspaper Völkischer Beobachter. Originally, the "Beobachter" ("Observer") had been a minor weekly newspaper of the eastern suburbs of Munich, published since 1868.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 146.] After the death of its last publisher in June 1918, the paper ceased publication, until Sebottendorff bought it one month later.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 146.] He renamed it "Münchener Beobachter und Sportsblatt" ("Munich Observer and Sports Paper") and wrote "trenchant anti-Semitic" editorials for it.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 146.] After Sebottendorff had left Munich, the paper was converted into a limited liability company. By December 1920 all its shares were in the hands of Anton Drexler, who transferred the ownership of the paper to Hitler in November 1921. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 147;Sebottendorff, "Bevor Hitler kam", de icon (Munich, 1934), p. 194f]

Its connection with Nazism has made the Thule Society a popular subject of modern cryptohistory. Among other things, it is hinted that Karl Haushofer and G. I. Gurdjieff were connected to the Society, [ [ The Thule Gesellshaft] ("sic")] but this is completely unsustainable.


In January 1933 Sebottendorff published "Bevor Hitler kam: Urkundlich aus der Frühzeit der Nationalsozialistischen Bewegung" (Before Hitler Came: Documents from the Early Days of the National Socialist Movement). Nazi authorities (Hitler himself?) understandably disliked the book, which was banned in the following year. Sebottendorff was arrested but managed to flee to Turkey.

Himmler and the SS

Credited retrospectively with being the founder of "Esoteric Hitlerism", and certainly a figure of major importance for the officially-sanctioned research and practice of mysticism by a Nazi elite, was Heinrich Himmler who, more than any other high official in the Third Reich (including Hitler) was fascinated by pan-Aryan (i.e. broader than Germanic) racialism and by certain forms of Germanic neopaganism. Himmler's capacity for rational planning was accompanied by an "enthusiasm for the utopian, the romantic and even the occult." [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 178; Joachim C. Fest, "The Face of the Third Reich" (London, 1970); pp.111-24; Bradley F. Smith, "Heinrich Himmler: a Nazi in the making 1900-26" (Stanford, Calif., 1971); Josef Ackermann, "Heinrich Himmler als Ideologie" (Göttingen, 1970) de icon]

It also seems that Himmler had an interest in Astrology. The astrologer Wilhelm Wulff was consulted by Himmler in the last weeks of the Second World War. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 165; Wilhelm Th. H. Wulff, 1968, "Tierkreis und Hakenkreuz"] One detailed but difficult source for this is a book written by Wulff himself, "Tierkreis und Hakenkreuz", published in Germany in 1968. That Walter Schellenberg had discovered an astrologer called "Wulf" is also mentioned in Hugh Trevor-Roper's "The Last Days of Hitler".

In Bramwell's assessment: "Too much can be made of the importance of bizarre cultism in Himmler's activities...but it did exist, and was one of the reasons behind the split between Himmler and Darré that took place in the late 1930s." [Bramwell 1985: 90.] Although Himmler he did not have any contact with the Thule Society, he possessed more occult tendencies than any other Nazi leader. [Hakl 1997:201] The German journalist and historian Heinz Höhne, an authority on the SS, explicitly describes Himmler's views about reincarnation as occultism. [Höhne 1966:145]

The historic example which Himmler used in practice as the model for the SS was the Society of Jesus, since Himmler found in the Jesuits what he perceived to be the core element of any order, the doctrine of obedience and the cult of the organisation. [Höhne 1966:135.] The evidence for this largely rests on a statement from Walter Schellenberg in his memoirs (Cologne, 1956, p. 39), but Hitler is also said to have called Himmler "my Ignatius of Loyola". [Höhne 1966:135; Gerald Reitlinger, The SS (German Edition), p. 64.] As an order, the SS needed a coherent doctrine that would set it apart. Himmler attempted to construct such an ideology, and to this purpose he deduced a "pseudo-germanic tradition" [Höhne 1966: 146.] from history. However, altogether this attempt was not successful.Höhne observes that "Himmler's neo-pagan customs remained primarily a paper exercise". [Höhne 1969: 138, 143-5, 156-57.]

Only adherents of theories of Nazi occultism or the few former SS-members who were after the war participants in the Landig Group in Vienna would hold the claim that the cultic activities within the SS would amount to an own mystical religion. At the time of his death in 1986, Rudolf J. Mund was still working on a book on the Germanic "original race-cult religion" , however, what exactly was indoctrinated in the SS about this is not known in detail. [ Harald Strohm, "Gnosis und Nationalsozialismus", 1997, p. 89 ]

Nazi archaeology

In 1935 Himmler established with Darré the Ahnenerbe. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 178] At first independent, it became the ancestral heritage branch of the SS. Headed by Dr. Hermann Wirth, it was dedicated primarily to archaeological research, but it was also involved in proving the superiority of the 'Aryan race' and in occult practices.Fact|date=October 2007A great deal of time and resources were spent on researching or creating a popularly accepted “historical”, “cultural” and “scientific” background so the ideas about a “superior” Aryan race could prosper in the German society of the time. For example an expedition to Tibet was organized in order to search for the origins of the Aryan race. [See "Himmler's Crusade" by Christopher Hale.] To this end, the expedition leader, Ernst Schäfer, had his anthropologist Bruno Beger make face masks and skull and nose measurements. Another expedition was sent to the Andes.

Bramwell, however, comments that Himmler "is supposed to have sent a party of SS men to Tibet in order to search for Shangri-La, an expedition which is more likely to have had straightforward espionage as its purpose". [Bramwell 1985: 90.]

Das schwarze Korps

The official newspaper of SS was Das Schwarze Korps("The Black Corps"), published weekly from 1935 to 1945. Already in its first issue, the newspaper brought an article on the origins of the Nordic race, hypothesizing a location near the north pole similar to the theory of Hermann Wirth (but not mentioning Atlantis).Lutzhöft 1977:115; W.Petersen: "Woher kommt die Nordrasse"?", in: "Das Schwarze Korps", Year 1, Issue 1, 1/2/1935, p.11.]

Also in 1935 the SS journal commissioned a Professor of Germanic History, Heinar Schilling, to prepare a series of articles on ancient Germanic life. As a result, a book containing these articles and entitled "Germanisches Leben" was published by Koehler & Amelung of Leipzig with the approval of the SS and Reich Government in 1937. Three chapters dealt with the religion of the Germanen over three periods: nature worship and the cult of the ancestors: the sun religion of the Late Bronze Age, and finally the cult of the gods.

According to Heinar Schilling, the Germanic peoples of the Late Bronze Age had adopted a four-spoke wheel as symbolic of the sun "and this symbol has been developed into the modern swastika of our own society [i.e. Nazi Germany] which represents the sun." Under the sign of the swastika "the light bringers of the Nordic race overran the lands of the dark inferior races, and it was no coincidence that the most powerful expression of the Nordic world was found in the sign of the swastika". Very little had been preserved of the ancient rites, Professor Schilling continued, but it was a striking fact "that in many German Gaue today on "Sonnenwendtage" (solstice days) burning sun wheels are rolled from mountain tops down into the valleys below, and almost everywhere the "Sonnenwendfeuer" (solstice fires) burn on those days." He concluded by saying that "The Sun is the All-Highest to the Children of the Earth".

Cultic activities within the SS

The SS-Castle Wewelsburg

Himmler has been claimed to have considered himself the spiritual successor or even reincarnation of Heinrich the Fowler, [Höhne 1966: 145; Achim Besgen, "Der Stille Befehl" de icon (Munich, 1960), p. 76.] having established special SS rituals for the old king and returned his bones to the crypt at Quedlinburg Cathedral. Himmler even had his personal quarters at Wewelsburg castle decorated in commemoration of him. The way the SS redesigned the castle referred to certain characters in the Grail-mythos; see "The "SS-School House Wewelsburg"".

Himmler had visited the Wewelsburg on 3 November 1933 and in April 1934, the SS took official possession of it in August 1934.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 186.] The occultist Karl Maria Wiligut (known in the SS under the pseudonym 'Weisthor') had accompanied Himmler on his visits to the castle.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 186.] Initially, the Wewelsburg was intended to be a museum and officer's college for ideological education within the SS, but then it was placed under the direct control of the office of the Reichsführer SS (Himmler) in February 1935.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 186.] The impetus for the change of the conception most likely came from Wiligut, according to Goodrick-Clarke.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 186.]

-Officers in Argentina

There are some accounts of SS-officers celebrating solstices, apparently attempting to recreate a pagan ritual. In his book "El Cuarto Lado del Triangulo" (Sudamericana 1995), Professor Ronald Newton describes a number of occasions in Argentina when a "Sonnenwendfeier" occurred. When SS-Sturmbannführer Baron von Thermann ("Edmund Freiherr von Thermann", [ German WP] ), the new head of the German Legation, arrived in December 1933, one of his first public engangements was to attend the NSDAP "Sonnenwendfeier" at Vicente Lopez in the suburbs of Buenos Aires "a neo-pagan festival with torches in which the Argentine Nazis greeted the winter and summer solstices". At another in December 1937, 500 young people, mostly Hitler Youth and Hitler Maidens, were taken to a natural amphitheatre dominating the sea at Comodoro Rivadavia in the south of the country. "They lit great pillars of wood, and in the light of the flickering flames diverse NSDAP orators lectured the children on the origins of the ceremony and sang the praises of the (Nazis) Fallen for Liberty. In March 1939 the pupils at the German School in Rosario were the celebrants on an island in the River Parana opposite the city: Hitler Youth flags, trumpets, a rustic altar straight from Germanic mythology, young leaders enthroned with solemnity to the accompaniment of choral singing...the Creole witnesses shook their heads in incredulity..." In the Chaco in the north of Argentina the first great event promoted by the Nazis was the "Sonnenwendfeir" at Charata on 21 December 1935. Portentous discourses of fire alternated with choral renderings". Such activities were still continued in postwar in Argentina: Uki Goñi in his recent book "The Real Odessa" (Granta, 2003) describes how Jacques de Mahieu, a wanted SS war criminal, was "a regular speaker at the pagan solar solstice celebrations held by fugitive Nazis in Argentina postwar."

Occultists working for the SS

Karl Maria Wiligut

Among the personnel of the SS, Karl Maria Wiligut could most of all be described as a "Nazi occultist". The (first?) biography of him, written by Rudolf J. Mund, was titled: "Himmler's Rasputin" [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 285] (German: "Der Rasputin Himmlers", not translated into English). After his retirement from the Austrian military, Wiligut had been active in the 'ariosophic' milieu. Ariosophy was only one of the threads of Esotericism in Germany and Austria during this time. When he was involuntarily committed to the Salzburg mental asylum between November 1924 and early 1927, he received support from several other occultists. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 182] Wiligut was clearly sympathetic to the Nazi Revolution of January 1933.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 183.] When he was introduced to Himmler by an old friend who had become an SS officer, he got the opportunity to join the SS under the pseudonym 'Weisthor'.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 183.] He was appointed head of the Department for Pre- and Early history within the Race and Settlement Main Office ("Rasse- and Siedlungshauptamt", RuSHA) of the SS.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 183.] His bureau could (much rather than the Ahnenerbe) be described as the occult department of the SS: Wiligut's main duty appears "to have consisted in committing examples of his ancestral memory to paper."Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 183.] Wiligut's work for the SS also included the design of the "Totenkopfring" (death's head ring) that was worn by SS members. [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 177] He is even supposed to have designed a chair for Himmler or at least this chair and its covers are offered for sale on the web. [ [ The great Chair of Heinrich Himmler] ] [ [ Genuine Leather Covers from Heinrich Himmler's SS-Castle Wewelsburg] ]

Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch

Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch was a radical author with German-Ukrainian ancestry.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 169.] An active agitator against the Bolshevik Revolution, he fled his native Russia in 1920 and travelled widely in eastern Europe, making contact with Bulgarian Theosophists and probably with G.I. Gurdjieff. As a mystical anti-communist, he developed an unshakeable belief in the Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik world conspiracy portrayed in the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion". [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 169-170.] In 1922 he published his first book, "Freemasonry and the Russian Revolution", and emigrated to Germany in the same year.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 170.] He became an enthusiastic convert to Anthroposophy in 1923, but by 1929 he had repudiated it as yet another agent of the conspiracy. Meanwhile, he had begun to give lectures for the Ariosophical Society [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 170-171.] and was a contributor to Georg Lomer's originally Theosophical (and later, neopagan) periodical entitled "Asgard: a fighting sheet for the gods of the homeland". [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 162.] He also worked for Alfred Rosenberg's news agency during the 1920s before joining the SS. He lectured widely on conspiracy theories and was appointed an honorary SS professor in 1942, but was barred from lecturing in uniform because of his unorthodox views. In 1944 he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer on Himmler's recommendation.

Otto Rahn

Otto Rahn had written a book "Kreuzzug gegen den Gral" ("Crusade against the Grail") in 1933.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 189.] In May 1935 he joined the Ahnenerbe, in March 1936 he also joined the SS formally.Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 189.] "In September 1935 Rahn wrote excitingly to Weisthor [Karl Maria Wiligut] about the places he was visiting in his hunt for grail traditions in Germany, asking complete confidence in the matter with the exception of Himmler." [Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 189; Rahn to Weisthor, Letter dated 27 September 1935, Bundesarchiv, "Koblenz", Himmler Nachlass 19.] In 1936 Rahn undertook a journey for the SS to Iceland, and in 1937 he then published his travel journal of his quest for the Gnostic-Cathar tradition across Europe in a book titled "Luzifers Hofgesinde" ("Luzifer's Servants").Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 189.] From this book he gave at least one reading, before an "extraordinary large" audience. (In the "Westfälische Landeszeitung" ("Westphalia county paper"), which was an official Nazi newspaper, [German Wikipedia: Westfälische Landeszeitung – Rote Erde] an article about this lecture was published.) [A copy of this article by a certain Dr. Wolff. Heinrichsdorff, "Westfälische Landeszeitung", January 9, 1938, is available on the pages of the Working group of Nazi Memorial centres in Northrhine-Westphalia [] de icon an English translation can be found on the internet: [ NEWSPAPER COVERAGE OF A SPEECH BY OTTO RAHN SS] ; This article could also be verified by consulting the microform edition avaible in some German libraries]

Rahn's connection of the Cathars with the Holy Grail ultimately leads to Montségur in France, which had been the last remaining fortress of the Cathars in France during the Middle Ages. According to eyewitnesses, Nazi archaeologists and military officers had been present at that castle. [Strohm 1997, 99; Strohm refers to René Nelli, "Die Katharer", p.21]


Referred Literature

*Anna Bramwell. 1985. "Blood and Soil: Richard Walther Darré and Hitler's 'Green Party"'. Abbotsbrook, England: The Kensal Press. ISBN 0-946041-33-4

*Joscelyn Godwin. 1996. "Arktos: The Polar Myth in Science, Symbolism, and Nazi Survival". Kempton, Ill.: Adventures Unlimited Press. ISBN 0-932813-35-6
*Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. 1985. "The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890-1935". Wellingborough, England: The Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-402-4. (Several reprints.) Expanded with a new Preface, 2004, I.B. Tauris & Co. ISBN 1-86064-973-4
*———. 2002. "Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity". New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3124-4. (Paperback, 2003. ISBN 0-8147-3155-4)
*H. T. Hakl. 1997: "Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus". de icon In: Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke: "Die okkulten Wurzeln des Nationalsozialismus". Graz, Austria: Stocker (German edition of "The Occult Roots of Nazism")
*Heinz Höhne. 1966. "Der Orden unter dem Totenkopf". Verlag Der Spiegel. de icon; 1969. "The Order of the Death's Head: The Story of Hitler's SS". Martin Secker & Warburg. en icon
* citation
title=The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945
publisher=Cambridge University Press
publication-date = 2003
*Harald Strohm. 1997. "Die Gnosis und der Nationalsozialismus". de icon. Suhrkamp.

ee also

*The Occult History of the Third Reich
*Nazi UFOs
*Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs
*Nazism and religion
*Neofascism and religion
*Positive Christianity
*German Christians
*Protestant Reich Church
*Nazi archaeology
*Walter Johannes Stein (known as an esotericist researching on the Holy Grail and source in Trevor Ravenscroft's "The Spear of Destiny"; see: Goodrick-Clarke 1985)

External links

* [ The Occult Roots of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke] - Short article at
* [ Magic Realism - A book review] by William Main of "The Occult Roots of Nazism", taken from the December 1994 issue of "Fidelity" Magazine
* [ Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus? Die Thule-Gesellschaft] de icon Article on an information page from the Swiss Reformed Church
*NARA Research Room: [ Captured German and Related Records on Microform in the National Archives: Captured German Records Filmed at Berlin (American Historical Association, 1960). Microfilm Publication T580. 1,002 rolls] , including among, others, files of the Ahnenerbe and the "Nachlass" of Walter Darré.
* [ Hitler and the Occult: Nazism, Reincarnation, and Rock Culture]

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