Spreading since the 1960s, the idea that there was an esoteric National Socialism is actually a post-war invention without an historical foundation in the Third Reich, writes Julian Strube (University of Heidelberg, Germany) in an article in German published in the Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft (2012/2).
If one is to believe a number of best-selling authors over the past 50 years, there was a hidden history of National Socialism and its leaders had allegedly belonged to secret orders. While those authors would present the Nazis as evil or “black magicians,” a post-war neo-Nazi subculture has also adopted this theme, making the Nazi leaders into initiates who continued a perennial struggle against the forces of darkness.
The “Black Sun” has become a symbol of beliefs for members of an esoteric branch of the SS that continues operating clandestinely today. According to Strube, esoteric neo-Nazism should be considered as a part of a wider phenomenon of radical right esotericism, although one should be careful not to associate all forms of esotericism with such political views, as some authors have done.Strube traces the origins of esoteric neo-Nazism to a circle of former SS members who started meeting in Vienna, Austria in the 1950s around Wilhelm Landig (1909-1997) and Rudolf Mund (1920-1985).
A Swiss engineer and UFO enthusiast, Erich Halik, paved the ground for the publication of such theories in a magazine dealing with astrology and fringe sciences. In the 1970s a trilogy of novels by Landig around the theme of the mythical northern land of Thule became the most influential work for the popularization of esoteric Nazism. In the 1990s the idea of esoteric Nazism spread further with various publications, especially the Vril Project, written by Norbert Jürgen-Ratthofer and Ralf Ettl, both members of a society self-described as Marcionite and Templar that is now dissolved. They mixed elements drawn from the esoteric literature of neo-Nazi circles with other theories about Nazi occultism spread by best-selling authors exploiting this vein, but hostile to Nazism, such as the famous work by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier, The Morning of the Magicians.
Jürgen-Ratthofer and Ettl were actually in touch with the older Vienna circle, as well as with various radical right groups. Ettl equated “Satan El Shaddai” with the God of the Jews, opposed to the true God, who sent Jesus on Earth: older theories about a “German Christ” were thus being reactivated.The two authors also developed a “right-wing ufology,” in the line of Halik. The popularity of UFO speculations at that time allowed them to spread their ideas through this channel. UFOs became associated with Nazi secret weapons, a theory that had already been promoted by a few neo-Nazi authors.
The two younger authors would go one step further by suggesting the extraterrestrial origins of the Germans. The influence of this strange mixture of beliefs should not be underestimated, warns Strube. With the development of the Internet they have found still wider, uncritical audiences. In addition, other authors are publishing novels and other books on such themes, building on previous works and thus popularizing such ideas, making esoteric Nazism a flourishing field across politics, occult and fiction.
Strube remarks that esoteric Nazism/Neo-Nazism allows one to create an identity that goes across centuries and incorporates other ancestors and holders of “suppressed knowledge” going from ancient times to the “esoteric SS through Gnostics, Cathars, Templars and other organizations. It confirms a sense of the German people’s mission and promises ultimate salvation, despite the 1945 defeat (a new Reich will come, and here authors have apparently also absorbed some of the New Age beliefs of a coming Aquarian Era). It disconnects Nazism from history and creates a mythology with a strong religious flavor and an impact on popular culture.”
(Zeitschrift für Religionswissenschaft, De Gruyter, Genthiner Strasse 13, 10785 Berlin, Germany, www.degruyter.com/zfr)