On August 2nd, 1934, Adolf Hitler seized the reigns of Germany. He captivated millions of Germans, including Jewish Germans, to support his campaign and elect him to power. Surprisingly enough, Adolf Hitler’s meteoric ascent occurred democratically, however once in power, the inferno of democracy in Germany receded to a total absence of light. While all should view Adolf Hitler as irrational, very few can denounce his strategy for controlling the Germans with an iron fist. The amount of time and effort allocated to the movement, generated through the power of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, commonly referred to as the Nazi Party, helped Hitler accomplish total control of Germany.
Hitler chronicled his idea for a unified Germany and “perfect nation” in his work Mein Kampf. Hitler inscribed this ideologically charged literature while serving his time in jail following an attempt to overthrow the government back in the 1920’s. To truly understand the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler, one must look back at his service during the First World War, his mentors, his life, his failures and his successes that led up to him taking the helm as Fuehrer of Germany.
Among other things highlighted in Mein Kampf, it called for the creation of a Volksgemeinschaft in which the Nazi Party would coordinate every aspect of society (Gleichschaltung) and place it in the service of the state in which a singular ruler leads (Fuhrerprinzip).
The term “Volksgemeinschaft” originates from World War I. Many German citizens commonly used this term to signify a “people’s community”. It originally existed as a word meant to include all Germans as a united whole to fight the enemy during The Great War. However, by the time of Hitler’s reign, the term shifted towards a racially motivated meaning. Instead of including all Germans, Hitler used it to mean “homogenous”. Rather than including all, this “homogenous” national community excluded those of impure blood, also known as Jews.
Along with the “Volksgemeinschaft”, the Nazis used the term “Gleichschaltung” as a word to describe the Nazification of Germany and Europe. The Gleichschaltung also serves as the word for how the Nazis nationalized private industry and rescinded individual rights in the name of collectivism. The Gleichschaltung is truly how the Nazis ended up committing their heinous acts.
The Fuhrerprinzip established a hierarchy of control in Nazi Germany. The Fuehrer (Adolf Hitler) at the top of the hierarchy wielded full control of the people, or the Volk, who rested at the bottom of the chain. This hierarchy not only made the people of Germany believe that Hitler dominated them entirely but his officers and party leaders, too. It still shocks millions that the strong, resilient German people willingly submitted themselves to this hellish regime. However, many do not understand the suffering they faced after World War I and the promises that Hitler made, almost as if creating a cult.
To truly understand the extent of the terrors of Nazi Germany, one must first look at the crazy ideology of Nazism and the original perpetrators of this racial hatred. Adolf Hitler did not just stumble upon a lifelong goal of establishing an Aryan race. Many authors, theologists, and racial theorists encouraged a young Adolf Hitler to develop a certain set of hate towards “inferior races”. The book we read titled The Occult Roots of Nazism offered plethoras of insight into this dark beginning.
A strong influence over racial eugenics and the birth of Nazism started in Austria. During the late 1800s, lots of changes took place, ethnically and politically. Additional voting classes and “radical democracy” resulted in Pan-Germanism establishing a radical parliamentary force (Goodrick-Clarke, 7-8). In addition to a confused and emerging Austria, the massive mix of culture and race fueled the beginnings of radically racist views. To further prove the hostility towards Germanic people, the Austrian government banned the Germanenbund in 1889. In 1897, protests and riots led to conflicts between the mobs, police, and even military. Further feuding ensued when leaders of the Ariosophy started lamenting the Catholic church for their electoral influence. The anti-Catholic rhetoric stems from the Pan-German movement. Schonerer believed a Protestant counter movement could stall the Catholics voting power (Goodrick-Clarke, 12).
Ariosophy serves as the very early foundation of Nazism. Spearheaded by Guido Von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, this seed quickly sprouted into a tree of hate. Guido von List infamously combined volkish ideology with theosophy, or the idea that many philosophies may occur through spiritual ecstasy, and occultism. He claimed to be the last Armanist magician, a powerful figure in the Aryan world (Goodrick-Clarke 33). List also wrote fervent articles about his ideals. He contributed regularly to the Ostdeutsche Rundschau, a nationalistic newspaper. In addition to writing for weekly papers, List also wrote books, such as Deutsch-Mythologische Landschaftsbilder. He didn’t stop his Pan-German ideology at papers, as he also wrote some plays, songs, and lectures expressing his beliefs (Goodrick-Clarke, 38-40). List also focused heavily on promoting Pan-Germanism. List further continued his Pan-Germanism ideology into the 1900s. In fact, he first associated the swastika with the Aryan race. He remained grateful to Sebdalt throughout the early 1900s, too (Goodrick-Clarke, 52).
In addition to the anti-modern stance taken by him, he took a stance that highlighted the power of the human spirit and that there would be peace in nature. He wished to use this new faith as a revival of the Pan-German world. He owes his views of theosophy to a distinct writer, Max Ferdinand Sebdalt von Werth (Goodrick-Clarke, 51). List further continued his Pan-Germanism ideology into the 1900s. In fact, he first associated the swastika with the Aryan race. He remained grateful to Sebdalt throughout the early 1900s, too (Goodrick-Clarke, 52). List published his final “research report” in 1914, titled Die Ursprache der Ario-Germanen, which discussed theosophical ideas and ties to the past (Goodrick-Clarke, 54).
In 1902, List transferred his attention from Pan-Germanism to occultist beliefs. After a cataract surgery that left him blind for 11 months, he began questioning the runes and language of the Germanic faith. List sent a letter to the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna regarding the ancient runes and the Aryan language. The academy did not present a comment on the letter, however, the letter grew popular among nationalists (Goodrick-Clarke 41). Eventually, members of Parliament raised hell with the Minister of Culture and Education. They viewed the academy’s ignoring of his list as an offense and therefore labeled him as a victim of the government. Due to this public issue, Guido von List formed the “List Society”, a society which Hitler drew many ideas from (Goodrick-Clarke 42).
List exploited many people to bring power to many more causes than just this. List delved into the hellish ideology of Wotanism. The term “Wotanism” is derived from a principal god in the German pantheon, Wotan. Derived from the earlier mentioned runes, List worshipped Wotan as he was the god of war. Wotan used gnosis and was thought to have freed the pagan immigrants of Iceland from Christian persecution (Goodrick-Clarke, 49). Volkish rune occultism owes credit to List, too. He linked 18-letter ancient runes, or futhark, to runes related to Wotan in “Havamal”. This rediscovery marked the rediscovery of Wotanism. He also created Wotanism as a way to fight the modern world and based it off of archaic rituals (Goodrick Clarke, 50-51).
One close associate of List, another man whom Hitler drew inspiration from, was Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels (Goodrick-Clarke, 90). The Babenberg Dukes played a huge role in Lanz’s life, too. He swore an oath with them in 1897 and began teaching their ideas. Lanz enjoyed undertaking the holy studies (Goodrick-Clarke, 91). Lanz’s teacher referred to the Jews in the Old Testament with much furor. He considered them detestable and unrighteous. This dialogue greatly impacted the ideas of Lanz and eventually Hitler (Goodrick-Clarke, 92). In 1903, Lanz published a periodical chronicling past religions. He explained their significance relating to cults. He also thought that these were made in the Near East (Goodrick-Clarke, 93). Lanz found enjoyment in scientific studies. Specifically, radiation and the X-Ray, discoveries of the late 1890’s, captured his attention. Many people found interest in such topics as a futuristic form of technology that could bring the world to the better for humankind, fueling the start of racial eugenics (Goodrick-Clarke, 95).
Many people distorted the meanings of certain Scripture from the Judeo-Christian Bible. The idea of impure races dragging down Aryan races stemmed from radical interpretations. Lanz had radical impressions drawn from Scripture like this (Goodrick-Clarke, 96). From 1908 to 1918, Lanz greatly collaborated with Theologians to produce writings. He emphasized racial ambiguity. He transformed into an anti-feminist, anti-parliamentarian, and greatly aligned himself with the ideology of future Nazis. He also capitulated on the differences between blond and dark haired races (Goodrick-Clarke, 100). Lanz did not prefer Christian values like compassion. Rather, he drove fake derivatives and misinterpretation of the Bible to fuel his racial views. Some of his writings and ideas included the extermination of the Jewish population (Goodrick-Clarke, 97). Lanz produced a work, along with other Theologians, Theologizing Judaism. It was published by a major editorial that represented Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism. This work only began their ambitious endeavors (Goodrick-Clarke, 99). Pre 1918, Lanz’s ideology was strictly occult gnostic. He also imagined a new world order along the lines of the ancient Austrian elite. It’s indisputable to see the formations of Nazism from ideas like this (Goodrick-Clarke, 105).
Lanz wished to establish a chivalrous order based on racist premonitions. Though it first included Israelites and Christians, he eventually included medieval saints, runes, etc as part of the gnosis. Lanz wished to establish this as a German nobility (Goodrick-Clarke, 106). Lanz tried to associate himself with Swiss heritage by including the last name Liebenfels with his. Even though this was fake, he wanted to legitimize his name and ideas. Lanz also tried to mend his coat-of-arms (Goodrick-Clarke, 106). Descendants of Hans Lanz de Liebenfels held high positions in church and state. Associating with this name, Lanz wanted to seem powerful. He tried to do this to pursue his racist agenda (Goodrick-Clarke, 107). The Cistercian order had close ties to the Templars. Lanz was a Cistercian himself. He owed allegiance to the Templars due to this connection (Goodman-Clarke, 108).
Ideas of piety and chivalry, combined with racial ideas and elitism, helped cultivate the strength of the new Templars. Pan Germanism added to this new wanting, too. Lanz wanted to use this to create a new era of racial hatred. (Goodrick-Clarke, 108). Lanz created a hierarchy of order for this new Templar organization. The 7 steps were (from highest to lowest) the Servers (SNT), the Familiars (FNT), the Novices (NNT), the Masters (MONT), the Canons (CONT,) the Presbyter (pONT), and the Prior (PONT). This hierarchy lessened confusion within his proposed group (Goodrick-Clarke, 111). During the first World War, Lanz strengthened this cult. He created orders, songs, chants, etc to energize supporters. Ceremonies for this radical ideology existed for Lanz, too (Goodrick-Clarke, 112). New Templars also created ritualistic brothers. They worshipped St. Bernard for his protection of their soldiers on the Eastern front in the form of poems. Other poems declared the Burg Werfenstein and River Danube as sites of gnosis (Goodrick-Clarke, 113).
Surprisingly enough, even Lanz disliked Hitler. Though he originally enamored Hitler for his charismatic speeches and loyalty to Lanz’s early occultist ideas, he lost his liking towards the Fuehrer by the time Nazi Germany established the Third Reich. Even Lanz, the acclaimed occultist, and racial theorist couldn’t stand Adolf Hitler (Goodrick-Clarke, 122). Interestingly enough, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels outlived Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. While he and a few others effectively wrote the ideology that Hitler believed, they did not face any retributions.
The Holocaust serves as the ultimate expression of this hate, this radical occultism. The Holocaust does not end with the liberation of the concentration camps, rather the Holocaust served as an annexing of the mind. While Jewish prisoners, Allied POWs, and defectors of the Nazi regime all physically rotted in prison cells, inmates who survived and the people of Nazi Germany to this day still bear scars on their mind and soul. Hitler ensured that even after his death and the collapse of Nazi Germany that people living during his reign would remember his racial eugenics and his goal to purify the blood of the German people.
This piece will be continued tomorrow when we release Part 2. Follow Matt on Twitter @MattZupon
All text explaining the roots of Nazis ideological warfare originate from “The Occult Roots of Nazism” by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. All other info comes from “HISTORY 121: History of the Holocaust” presented by Dr. Steven Andrews at Penn State Altoona.