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Eduard Gugenberger

Hitlers Visionäre. Die okkulten Wegbereiter des Dritten Reiches (Hitler's Visionaries. Nazism's Occult Roots)

Verlag Carl Ueberreuter, March 2001, 208 pp.
ISBN 3-8000-3793-9

Fantasists, fanatics, social and sexual misfits, sometimes nothing but downright and absurd imposters, 'Hitler's Visionaries', as this well-researched book aptly calls them, fanned the flames of the Nazi fire. Their legacy still persists in the shadow of such movements as Jörg Haider's Freedom Party of Austria, and the New Age Movement from the 1980s onwards. The author's aim is to chronicle the lives and trace the thought of these esoteric 'philosophers' from the beginning.

As he interestingly points out, even when ostensibly unpolitical, some early occult and esoteric movements were already extremely right-wing, as in their view of feminism as satanically inspired. But in Germany itself the seeds of future evil were sown in the nationalistic fervour of 19th century Romanticism, with its theme of a return to Teutonic roots and from thence a belief in Aryan superiority, all grist in due course to the esoteric mill. A cult of Germanic ancestors grew up and the Holy Grail, particularly dear to the heart of Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS, became an unholy adjunct to the doctrine of the master race.

Weird are the theories, and weird their proponents, as described in this well-focused study. Otto Rahn, Himmler's researcher, came to believe that the cosmos consisted mainly of ice, which was responsible for favourable and unfavourable cycles on earth, the Aryan and other superior races being the products of the favourable ones. Guido von List studied runes and the swastika, while Karl Maria Wiligut claimed to be descended from an ancient clan called the 'Wiligotia' and to be the last 'King of the Burgundian Lands'. Himmler promoted him and Hitler continued to consult him until the early 1940s, by which time it was clear that he was nuts.

The German leadership had been pragmatic enough to distance themselves from the more extreme groupings, for fear of unnecessarily alienating the churches, and finally they were suppressed. But too late. By then these ludicrous figures had helped to produce a world tragedy.

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