Dark Fellowships: Nazi Cult (2008)
Uncover the truth surrounding one of the most renowned and feared organisations in the world, the Vril Society. This compelling one-off explores conspiracy theories, retraces historical events, investigates internal agendas and uncovers macabre rituals. Profiling prominent and often famous members, alleged to include many of the Nazi Party elite, including Hermann Göring, Heinrich Himmler, and even Adolf Hitler, the programme reveals information that the most clandestine of secret societies want to remain secret.
Legend has it that the original members of the society believed they could live under the earth and fly to far away stars powered by a mysterious substance called Vril. They also believed that one day they would rule the world. This dangerous group existed at the core of the Nazi Party, and like many dark fellowships, remnants of the group still exist today, almost 100 years after its founding. In this special, viewers will discover what occult rites were performed by the organisation in their dark lust for ultimate power.
National Socialism and Occultism
Historically verifiable religious or semi-religious aspects of Nazism up to 1945 are discussed in the article religious aspects of Nazism. Religious aspects of neo-Nazism after 1945 are discussed in the article esoteric Nazism. Semi-religious developments within post-1945 neo-Nazism are discussed under the term neo-völkisch movements.
Speculation about National Socialism and Occultism has become part of popular culture since 1960. Aside from several popular documentaries, there are numerous books on the topic, most notably Le Matin des Magiciens (1960) and The Spear of Destiny (1972); The first examples of this literary genre appeared in the occult milieu in France and England in the early 1940s. These books have been discussed by the historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke as "the modern Mythology of Nazi occultism" or "the Nazi Mysteries": The recurring element of this "occult historiography" is the thesis that the Nazis were directed by occult agencies of some sort: black forces, invisible hierarchies, unknown superiors, secret societies or even Satan, who is supposed to have possessed Hitler. Since such an agency "has remained concealed to previous historians of National Socialism," Goodrick-Clarke and the German historian Michael Rißmann have described the genre as cryptohistory. However, there also has been academic research on the potential influence of occultists and paganists on Nazism. This is part of an ongoing debate among historians and political scientist about the religious aspects of Nazism.
Documentaries on Nazism and the occult
More than 60 years after the end of the Third Reich, National Socialism and Adolf Hitler have become a recurring subject in history documentaries. Among these documentaries, there are several that focus especially on the potential relations between Nazism and Occultism, such as the History Channel's documentary Hitler and the Occult. As evidence of Hitler's "occult power" this documentary offers, for example, the infamous statement by Joachim von Ribbentrop of his continued subservience to Hitler at the Nuremberg Trials. After the author Dusty Sklar has pointed out that Hitler's suicide happened at the night of April 30/May 1, which is Walpurgis Night, the narrator continues: "With Hitler gone, it was as if a spell had been broken". A much more plausible reason for Hitler's suicide (that does not involve the paranormal) is that the Russians had already closed to within several hundred meters of Hitler's bunker and he did not want to be captured alive.
Hitler speaking at a huge mass meeting, the Nuremberg Rally 1934
From the perspective of academic history, these documentaries on Nazism, if ever commented, are seen as problematic because they don't contribute to an actual understanding of the problems that arise in the study of Nazism and Neo-Nazism. Without referring to a specific documentary Mattias Gardell, a historian who studies contemporary separatist groups, writes:
"In documentaries portraying the Third Reich, Hitler is cast as a master magician; these documentaries typically include scenes in which Hitler is speaking at huge mass meetings. [...] Cuts mix Hitler screaming with regiments marching under the sign of the swastika. Instead of providing a translation of his verbal crescendos, the sequence is overlaid with a speaker talking about something different. All this combines to demonize Hitler as an evil wizard spellbinding an unwitting German people to become his zombified servants until they are liberated from the spell by the Allied victory after which, suddenly, there were no German Nazis left among the populace. How convenient it would be if this image were correct. National socialism could be defeated with garlic. Watchdog groups could be replaced with a few vampire killers, and resources being directed into anti-racist community programs could be directed at something else. [...]
The truth, however, is that millions of ordinary German workers, farmers and businessmen supported the national socialist program. [...] They were people who probably considered themselves good citizens, which is far more frightening than had they merely been demons."
Hitler and the Occult includes a scene in which Hitler is seen as speaking at a huge mass meeting. While Hitler's speech is not translated, the narrator talks about the German occultist and stage magician Erik Jan Hanussen: "Occultists believe, Hanussen may also have imparted occult techniques of mind control and crowd domination on Hitler" (see below). When historians have noted the existence of such "myths" as those about Erik Jan Hanussen, they have displayed nothing but academic contempt for their originators.
Ernst Schäfer's expedition to Tibet
At least one documentary, Hitler's Search for the Holy Grail, includes footage from the 1939 German expedition to Tibet. The documentary describes it as "the most ambitious expedition" of the SS. This original video material was made accessible again by Marco Dolcetta in his series Il Nazismo Esoterico in 1994. An interview that Dolcetta conducted with Schäfer does not support myths of Nazi occultism, neither does Reinhard Greve's 1995 article Tibetforschung im SS Ahnenerbe (Tibet Research Within the SS Ahnenerbe), although the latter does mention the occult thesis. Hakl comments that Greve should have emphasized the unreliability of authors like Berger and Pauwels or Angbert more. Ernst Schäfer's expedition report explicitly remarks on the "worthless goings-ons" by "a whole army of quacksalvers" concerning Asia and especially Tibet.
Mythology of Nazi occultism
"The Modern Mythology of Nazi Occultism" is the title of Appendix E of the Oxford historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's seminal work The Occult Roots of Nazism. On nine pages, he here surveys the most influential books that have attempted to explain the rise of Nazism as the work of a "hidden power". That Goodrick-Clarke's book includes such an appendix is not without reason. The book's main subject is the racist-occult movement of Ariosophy, a major strand of Esotericism in Germany and Austria, and this movement's potential influences on Nazism. One specific difficulty of this topic lies in "a number of popular books [that] have represented the Nazi phenomenon as the product of arcane and demonic influence." In a new preface for the 2004 edition of The Occult Roots… Goodrick-Clarke comments that in 1985, when his book first appeared, "Nazi 'black magic' was regarded as a topic for sensational authors in pursuit of strong sales."
Consequently, Goodrick-Clarke comments on the popular literature in the Appendix of The Occult Roots…. He refers to the writers of this genre as "crypto-historians", and as their possible motive he mentions a "post-war fascination with Nazism". For Goodrick-Clarke it is clear that the claims made by this literature are "wholly spurious."
In his 2002 work Black Sun, which was originally intended to trace the survival of "occult Nazi themes" in the postwar period, Goodrick-Clarke considered it necessary to readdress the topic. He devotes one Chapter of the book to the Nazi mysteries, as he terms the field of Nazi occultism there. Other reliable summaries of the development of the genre have been written by German historians. The German edition of The Occult Roots… includes an essay Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus (National Socialism and Occultism), which traces the origins of the speculation about Nazi occultism back to publications from the late 1930s, and which was subsequently translated by Goodrick-Clarke into English. The German historian Michael Rißmann has also included an longer "excursus" about Nationalsozialismus und Okkultismus in his acclaimed book on Adolf Hitler's religious beliefs.
According to Goodricke-Clarke the speculation of Nazi occultism originated from "post-war fascination with Nazism"; The "horrid fascination" of Nazism upon the Western mind emerges from the "uncanny interlude in modern history" that it presents to an observer a few decades later. The idolization of Hitler in Nazi Germany, its short lived and brutal dominion on the European continent and Nazism's irrational and gruesome Antisemitism set it apart from other periods of modern history. "Outside a purely secular frame of reference, Nazism was felt to be the embodiment of evil in a modern twentieth-century regime, a monstrous pagan relapse in the Christian community of Europe."
By the early 1960s, "one could now clearly detect a mystique of Nazism." A sensationalistic and fanciful presentation of its figures and symbols, shorn of all political and historical contexts" gained ground with thrillers, non-fiction books and films and permeated "the milieu of popular culture."
Some of this modern mythology even touches Goodrick-Clarke's topic directly. The rumor that Adolf Hitler had encountered Lanz von Liebenfels already at the age of 8, at Heilgenkreuz abbey, goes back to Les mystiques du soleil (1971) by Michel-Jean Angbert. "This episode is wholly imaginary."
Nevertheless, Michel-Jean Angbert and the other authors discussed by Goodrick-Clarke present their accounts as real, so that this modern mythology has led to several legends that resemble conspiracy theories, concerning, for example, the Vril Society or rumours about Karl Haushofer's connection to the occult. The most influential books were Trevor Ravenscroft's The Spear of Destiny and Le Matin des Magiciens by Pauwels and Bergier.
In Ravenscroft's book a specific interest of Hitler concerning the Spear of Destiny is alleged. With the annexation of Austria in 1938, the Hofburg Spear, a relic stored in Vienna, had actually come into the possession of the Third Reich and Hitler subsequently had it moved to Nuremberg in Germany. It was returned to Austria after the war.
Claims of Nazi occultism
Demonic possession of Hitler
For a demonic influence on Hitler, Hermann Rauschning's Hitler Speaks is brought forward as source, although most modern scholars do not consider Rauschning reliable. (As Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke summarises, "recent scholarship has almost certainly proved that Rauschning's conversations were mostly invented".) Similarly to Rauschning, August Kubizek, one of Hitler's closest friends since childhood, claims that Hitler—17 years old at the time—once spoke to him of "returning Germany to its former glory"; of this comment August said, "It was as if another being spoke out of his body, and moved him as much as it did me."
That Hitler (and also Stalin) were possessed by the devil is also believed by some members of the Catholic Church. Father Gabriele Amorth, an exorcist of the Vatican is "convinced that the Nazis were all possessed. All you have to do is think about what Hitler—and Stalin did. Almost certainly they were possessed by the Devil." There even are documents that Pope Pius XII performed an exorcism on Hitler at a distance, but supposedly failed every time.
An article "Hitler's Forgotten Library" by Timothy Ryback, published in The Atlantic (May 2003), mentions a book from Hitler's private library authored by Dr. Ernst Schertel. Schertel, whose interests were flagellation, dance, occultism, nudism and BDSM, had also been active as an activist for sexual liberation before 1933. In Nazi Germany had been imprisoned for seven months and his doctoral degree revoked. He is supposed to have sent a dedicated copy of his 1923 book Magic: History, Theory, and Practice to Hitler some time in the mid-1920s. Hitler is said to have marked extensive passages, including one which reads "He who does not have the demonic seed within himself will never give birth to a magical world." The quote was previously mistranslated as "a new world" in Ryback's article. An English translation of Magic is due June 2009.
Theosophist Alice A. Bailey stated during World War II that Adolf Hitler was possessed by what she called the Dark Forces. Her follower Benjamin Creme has stated that through Hitler (and a group of equally evil men around him in Nazi Germany, together with a group of militarists in Japan and a further group around Mussolini in Italy) was released the energies of the Antichrist, which, according to theosophical teachings is not an individual person but a destructive force of energy.
New World Order
Conspiracy theory "cults frequently identify German National Socialism inter alia as a precursor of the New World Order." With regard to Hitler's later ambition of imposing a National Socialist regime throughout Europe, Nazi propaganda used the term Neuordnung (often poorly translated as "new order", while actually referring to "re-structurization" of state borders on the European map and the resulting post-war economic hegemony of Greater Germany), so one could probably say that the Nazis pursued "a" new world order. But the claim that Hitler and the Thule Society conspired to create "the" New World Order (as put forward on some webpages) is completely unfounded; the Thule Society did not have this impact on Nazism and Hitler never attended any of their meetings.
There are also unverifiable rumours that the infamous occultist Aleister Crowley sought to contact Hitler during World War II. Despite several allegations and speculations to the contrary (e.g. Giorgio Galli) there is no evidence of such an encounter. In 1991, John Symonds, one of Crowley's literary executors published a book: The Medusa's Head or Conversations between Aleister Crowley and Adolf Hitler, which has "definitely" to be understood as a literary fiction. That the edition of this book was limited to 350 also contributed to the mystery surrounding the topic. Mention of a contact between Crowley and Hitler—without any sources or evidence—is also being made in a letter from René Guénon to Julius Evola dated October 29, 1949, which later reached a broader audience.
Erik Jan Hanussen
When Hitler and the Occult describes how Hitler "seemed endowed with even greater authority and charisma" after he had resumed public speaking in March 1927, the documentary states that "this may have been due to the influence" of Erik Jan Hanussen. It is said that "Hanussen helped Hitler perfect a series of exaggerated poses," useful for speaking before a huge audience. The documentary then interviews Dusty Sklar about the contact between Hitler and Hanussen, and the narrator makes the statement about "occult techniques of mind control and crowd domination".
Whether Hitler had met Hanussen at all is not certain. That he even encountered him before March 1927 is not confirmed by other sources about Hanussen. In the late 1920s to early 1930s Hanussen made political predictions in his own newspaper, Hanussens Bunte Wochenschau, that gradually started to favour Hitler, but until late 1932 these predictions varied. In 1929 Hanussen predicted, for example, that Wilhelm II would return to Germany in 1930 and that the problem of unemployment would be solved in 1931.
Crypto-historic books on Nazi occultism
In the essay that is included in the German edition of the The Occult Roots…, H. T. Hakl, a German publisher of esoteric works, traces the origins of the speculation about National Socialism and Occultism back to several works from the early 1940s. His research was also published in a short book, Unknown sources: National Socialism and the Occult, translated by Goodrick-Clarke. Already in 1933 a pseudonymous Kurt van Emsen described Hitler as a "demonic personality", but his work was soon forgotten. The first allusions that Hitler was directed by occult forces which were taken up by the later authors came from French Christian esotericist René Kopp. In two articles published in the monthly esoteric journal Le Chariot from June 1934 and April 1939, he seeks to trace the source of Hitler's power to supernatural forces. The second article was titled: "L'Enigme du Hitler". In other French esoteric journals of the 1930s, Hakl could not find similar hints. In 1939 another French author, Edouard Saby, published a book: Hitler et les Forces Occultes. Saby already mentions Hanussen and Ignaz Trebitsch-Lincoln. Hakl even hints that Edouard Saby would have the copyright on the myth of Nazi occultism. However, another significant book from 1939 is better known: Hermann Rauschning's Hitler Speaks. There it is said (in the chapter "Black and White Magic"), that "Hitler surrendered himself to forces that carried him away. (…) He turned himself over to a spell, which can, with good reason and not simply in a figurative analogy, be described as demonic magic." The chapter "Hitler in private" is even more dramatic, and was left out in the German edition from 1940.
Goodrick-Clarke examines several pseudo-historic "books written about Nazi occultism between 1960 and 1975", that "were typically sensational and under-researched". He terms this genre "crypto-history", as its defining element and "final point of explanatory reference is an agent which has remained concealed to previous historians of National Socialism". Characteristic tendencies of this literature include: (1) "a complete ignorance of primary sources" and (2) the repetition of "inaccuracies and wild claims", without the attempt being made to confirm even "wholly spurious 'facts'". Books debunked in Appendix E of The Occult Roots of Nazism are:
* Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, 1960, Le Matin des Magiciens
* Dietrich Bronder, 1964, Bevor Hitler kam
* Trevor Ravenscroft, 1972, The Spear of Destiny
* Michel-Jean Angbert, 1971, Les mystiques du soleil
* J.H. Brennan, 1974, Occult Reich
These books are only mentioned in the Appendix. Otherwise the whole book by Goodrick-Clarke does without any reference to this kind of literature; it uses other sources. This literature is not reliable; however, books published after the emergence of The Occult Roots of Nazism continue to repeat claims that have been proven false:
* Wulf Schwarzwaller, 1988, The Unknown Hitler
* Alan Baker, 2000, Invisible Eagle. The History of Nazi Occultism
1. a b c d Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 218
2. The History Channel online Store: The Unknown Hitler DVD Collection
3. Another critique of Hitler documentaries: Mark Schone—All Hitler, all the time
4. "Even with all I know, if in this cell Hitler should come to me and say 'Do this!', I would still do it."—Joachim von Ribbentrop, 1946
5. Gardell 2003, 331,332
6. a b c d Hakl 1997: 204
7. Reinhard Greve: Tibetforschung im SS Ahnenerbe; in: Thomas Hauschild: Lebenslust durch Fremdenfurcht, Frankfurt (Main), 1995, pp. 168–209.
8. Goodrick-Clarke 2004: vi.
9. a b c Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 217.
10. a b Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 225.
11. Goodrick-Clarke 2002: 6.
12. Goodrick-Clarke 2002: 107–128.
13. Rißmann 2001: 137–172.
14. a b c d e Goodrick-Clarke 2002: 107.
15. a b Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 224.
16. Demonic Possession of World Leaders
17. Theodor Schieder (1972), Hermann Rauschnings "Gespräche mit Hitler" als Geschichtsquelle (Oppladen, Germany: Westdeutscher Verlag) and Wolfgang Hänel (1984), Hermann Rauschnings "Gespräche mit Hitler": Eine Geschichtsfälschung (Ingolstadt, Germany: Zeitgeschichtliche Forschungsstelle), cit. in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (2003), Black Sun, p. 321.
18. Goodrick-Clarke (2003: 110). The best that can be said for Rauschning's claims may be Goodrick-Clarke's judgment that they "record ... the authentic voice of Hitler by inspired guesswork and imagination" (ibid.).
19. “Hitler and the Holy Roman Empire”
20. a b Pisa, Nick. "Hitler and Stalin were possessed by the Devil, says Vatican exorcist". Daily Mail, 28 August 2006. Accessed 27 June 2009.
21. Ryback, Timothy W. "Hitler's Forgotten Library". The Atlantic, May 2003. Accessed 27 June 2009.
22. German Wikipedia: Ernst Schertel
23. Kelley, JH. "New Translation of German Book Links Hitler to Satanism" (press release). PRLog, May 17, 2009. Accessed 28 June 2009.
24. Bailey, Alice A. The Externalisation of the Hierarchy New York:1957 (Compilation of earlier revelations by Alice A. Bailey) Lucis Publishing Co.
25. Goodrick-Clarke 2002: 288.
26. Safire, William. "On Language; The New, New World Order".The New York Times, February 17, 1991. Accessed 27 June 2009.
27. Historic Results of Hitler's Thule Societies pursuit of the NWO
28. Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 201; Johannes Hering, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Thule-Gesellschaft, typescript dated June 21, 1939, Bundesarchiv, Koblenz, NS26/865.
29. a b c d Hakl 1997: 205.
30. a b Frei 1980: 85.
31. Entry for Hans Thomas Hakl from the German National Library.
32. Hakl 1997: 209.
33. a b c d Hakl 1997: 210.
34. Hakl 1997: 212.
35. a b Hakl 1997: 214.
36. Hakl 1997: 211.
37. Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 224, 225.
38. Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 219–220.
39. a b Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 221.
40. Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 221–223.
41. If The Unknown Hitler is quoted correctly in The Vril Society, the Luminous Lodge and the Realization of the Great Work, then this book makes false allegations about Karl Haushofer and G. I. Gurdjieff.
42. Chapter 5 of the Free online version of Invisible Eagle is mainly based on Ravenscroft.
43. DECODING THE PAST: Nazi Prophecies
44. Decoding The Past: Nazi Prophecies DVD
45. Hitler and the Occult DVD
46. Robin Cross, "The Nazi Expedition"
47. Unsolved Mysteries: V1-5 World War Ii (1998)
48. Unsolved Mysteries of World War II: Decision at Dunkirk/Stalin's Secret Armies DVD
49. Unsolved Mysteries of World War II: The Eagle & The Swastika/The Last Days of Hitler (1998)