Many books have been written about Hitler and the Holocaust, and many reasons suggested to account for them. It is said that Germany in the 1930’s was economically and spiritually bankrupt, that Hitler and his henchmen were madmen or simple opportunists or petty bureaucrats — or some combination of the three. Perhaps. But one explanation tends to contradict another, and when all are combined, they merge into a solution so general that nothing is explained.
Understandably, then, many people are still not satisfied that the grotesque events of the Third Reich have been adequately dealt with by the historians.
In all this complicated story, there is one question which cries out for an answer: How is it that the theorists have missed a vital element, even when they themselves provide important clues? That element is the occult.
Many historians have alluded to the Nazi party’s origins in an occult sect, to the occult leanings of leading Nazi officials, to the mystical rites of the SS and the Hitler Youth, to the establishment of a bureau devoted exclusively to the occult during World War II.
It now seems puzzling that they should not also have given as much consideration to the underlying basis for these odd phenomena as they gave to economic and social factors. That they did not is, of course, evidence of their own dismissal — quite reasonably — of a crankish pseudoscience. But this has led, inevitably, to selective blindness. In order not to be accused of giving credence to irrational beliefs, they have failed to see those beliefs in their proper historical perspective. Since early studies always influence later ones, the interpretation of Nazi origins has tended to remain pretty much the same for the past two decades.
All the same, people do seem to have a subliminal awareness that the Nazis were involved in occultism. One often comes across references such as these: “The Nazi horror […] reveals how Satanic the human soul can become. […] If there is anything fundamentally diabolic about [Anton] LaVey, it stems […] from the echo of Nazism in his theories […]. It was predictable that [Charles] Manson would identify with Hitler, for they [both] have been motivated by a kindred demonic spirit and they are comparable personalities.”
The current occult revival has placed us in a better position to examine the Nazi horror from a different perspective and gives ample ground for believing that occult beliefs and practices, however weird, played a significant part in the irrational history of the Third Reich.
Some scholars may have been thrown off the scent because Hitler went to great pains to eradicate occultism from Germany almost as soon as he came to power, and on that account, is mistakenly identified as an enemy of irrational faith.
On the contrary. As will be borne out in later chapters, the occult was purged, not because it was abhorrent, but because the Nazis took it seriously — so seriously, indeed, that it posed a potential threat. The astrologer William Wulff, who was put to work by the SS casting horoscopes of nations, groups, and movements, describes, in Zodiac and Swastika, Heinrich Himmler’s confession of his own interest in and practice of occultism and his explanation of the purge: “For us politics means […] the elimination of all forces except those serving the one constructive idea […]. In the Third Reich we have to forbid astrology. […] We cannot permit any astrologers to follow their calling except those who are working for us. In the National Socialist state astrology must remain a privilegium singulorum. It is not for the broad masses.”
The Holocaust appeared in a new light when I began, some time ago, to investigate certain modern esoteric cults making claims to paranormal knowledge. These cults, from those connected with George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, and Rudolf Steiner to their present reincarnations, shared certain features: an authoritarian obedience to a charismatic and Messianic leader; secrecy; loyalty to the group above all other ties; a belief in supernatural possibilities open to the members only; a belief in reincarnation; initiation into superhuman sources of power; literal acceptance of the myth of ancient “giants” or supermen who handed down an oral tradition to a chosen people and who were guiding us now; and, in uncommon cases, Satanic practices.
Glaring parallels to Nazi history. Turning back to that history and its antecedents, I saw unmistakable evidence of a direct relationship between the Nazis and occultism. In fact, it was hard not to see it. Here was the missing link in our understanding of the beasts who proclaimed themselves gods.
If it seems too fantastic to believe that one of the most civilized countries in the world should have fallen to occultism, here is a highly respected German historian, an exiled former staff member of the liberal newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung, Konrad Heiden, observing, in his introduction to The Memoirs of Dr. Felix Kersten, Heinrich Himmler’s masseur, that among the Germans the best of them found refuge from the despair of their daily life in a perverse fanaticism called “the mysticism of a political movement.”
Germany was the perfect place for this development. In almost no other country were so many “miracles” performed, so many ghosts conjured, so many illnesses cured by magnetism, so many horoscopes read, between the two World Wars.
A veritable mania of superstition had seized the country, and all those who made a living by exploiting human stupidity thought the millennium had come. General [Erich] Ludendorff, who had commanded the German armies in World War I, tried to make gold with the assistance of a swindler boasting the appropriate name of Tausend (meaning “thousand”).
There was scarcely a folly in natural or world history to which the great general did not lend credence; when the German Republic, which he hated so intensely, had the barriers of the railway crossings painted red and white for better visibility, Ludendorff declared that the Jews in the government were doing this because Moses had led the Jews through the desert under these colours.