Journal Article

Hitler’s Monsters: The Occult Roots of Nazism and the Emergence of the Nazi ‘Supernatural Imaginary’

Eric Kurlander

in German History

Volume 30, issue 4, pages 528-549
Published in print December 2012 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online November 2012 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
Hitler’s Monsters: The Occult Roots of  Nazism and the Emergence of the Nazi ‘Supernatural Imaginary’

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While occult figures undoubtedly played an important role in the early days of the NSDAP, it is equally clear that leading Nazis criticized and persecuted occult organizations thereafter. Nevertheless, the sociopolitical and intellectual networks between the early Nazi Party and the Thule Society were richer and more complex than much recent scholarship would suggest. The NSDAP retained closer ties to the Wilhelmine occultist milieu than any mass party of the Weimar era. More importantly, the NSDAP went far beyond the obscure theories of ‘völkisch wandering scholars’ to craft a broader, more populist message that drew on elements of prewar occultism but was also more ideologically eclectic and politically accessible; what I call the ‘supernatural imaginary’. As the Nazi Party grew in stature and influence after 1919, the occultist ‘true believers’ in the party ranks were often marginalized and persecuted. However, even skeptics recognized the utility of exploiting a supernatural imaginary that might appeal to a larger bourgeois social milieu that viewed popular aspects of the occult as fundamental to negotiating the complexities of modern life. If the Nazis appeared uncertain of how to proceed toward supernatural belief and practices, it was because they, for all their invocations of ‘enlightenment’ (Aufklärung), attacks on ‘superstition’ (Aberglaube), and internecine squabbling over the proper role of science and religion in the Third Reich, still recognized the utility, indeed, the necessity, of appealing to postwar Germany’s desperate ‘longing for myth’ and desire for transcendence in making their amorphous racial and imperial visions a reality.

Keywords: supernatural; imaginary; occultism; superstition; myth; ideology

Journal Article.  12777 words. 

Subjects: European History

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