There are few regimes and organizations in European history so universally condemned for their evil actions as the Nazis. Their leader, Adolf Hitler, led Germany into infamy in the Second World War, committing unspeakable crimes against humanity. However, another lurid element in the story of the Fuhrer’s monstrous beliefs comes from his obsession – and that of his close advisors – with occult and esoteric practices.
From the members of sinister secret societies to SS officers carrying out rituals in ancient castles, here are four Nazis with dark and mysterious links to the occult.
The SS Occultist: Heinrich Himmler
Himmler is remembered as the infamous author of Hitler’s so-called “Final Solution.” He was a key figure in the Nazi regime and a powerful player in the German government. However, his obsession with the occult has also added a lurid mystery to his life and career.
It is claimed that Himmler was an active practitioner and believer in black magic. He is thought to have studied and followed many ritualistic traditions, including necromancy and ancient Germanic paganism. There are numerous accounts of his attempts to contact the dead, a practice he carried out at the sinister Wewelsburg Castle, in north-east Germany.
This castle became a stronghold of the SS Order, and Himmler envisioned the location as the center of a new Nazi-dominated world order, to be established after a mythical final battle. His personal fascination with sorcery, spiritualism and the occult as a whole colored and influenced his political ideologies and, by extension, those of the Nazi party itself.
As a close confidant of the Fuhrer and an influential political figure in the party, Himmler added a strangely fantastical element to the already monstrous legacy of the Nazi regime.
The Traitor: Rudolf Hess
Of the many high-ranking Nazis who associated themselves with esoteric and occult beliefs, few could claim such a legacy as Rudolf Hess. Not only did he promote these practices and raise many occultists to positions of power within the regime, but his actions also brought the same beliefs into infamy among his comrades.
Hess was a member of the Thule Society, an organization dedicated to the occult, and even went so far as to have extensive maps drawn up of supposed networks of spiritual energy. The story of his flight to Scotland – an act that Hitler perceived as a massive personal betrayal – is a remarkable one in itself, but following the news that the Fuhrer’s own deputy had vanished across the North Sea, the Nazi’s Gestapo forces commenced “Aktion Hess.”
This process involved rounding up and imprisoning Hess’s associates, including his wide-ranging network of occultists and ritualists. By positioning himself squarely at the center of the occult movement and then falling from grace so spectacularly, Hess doomed his fellow practitioners to a very sudden end. Everything from fortune-telling to astrology was outlawed, and the Nazi party’s infatuation with black magic was over.
The Fortune-Teller: Karl Ernst Krafft
While his seemingly supernatural gifts would eventually be his undoing, Krafft’s uncanny abilities seemed in life to be both a blessing and a curse. Originally born in Sweden, the man was fascinated by astrology and clairvoyance. He was a committed supporter of the Nazi regime, but in 1939 he made a remarkable prediction. There would, he claimed, be an assassination attempt against Adolf Hitler between the 7th and 10th of November.
At the time his claims received little attention, but following the detonation of a bomb in the Munich Beer Hall on November 8, everything changed. Hitler had already left the building by the time the explosion occurred, and although seven people were killed and almost 70 more injured, the target of the attack escaped unscathed. Soon afterward, word of Krafft’s prophecy reached Rudolf Hess, and the fortune-teller was arrested. However, he managed to convince his interrogators that he was innocent of any wrongdoing and that his gifts were genuine.
Krafft was well-liked by Hitler himself, and was ordered to begin an evaluation of the prophecies of Nostradamus that would favor the Nazi worldview. However, his own gifts were his undoing; following Rudolf Hess’s flight to Scotland, the Nazis instituted a massive crackdown against many of the occultists involved with the perceived traitor. Krafft was arrested and died in prison in 1945.
The Secret Society: Johann Dietrich Eckart
Adolf Hitler has often been seen as the subject of various prophecies. Perhaps most notable is the Nostradamus verse in which the fortune-teller wrote, “Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers; the greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister”, along with references to a “Child of Germany.”
One man who believed in Hitler’s almost mythical status was Johann Dietrich Eckhart. A member of the mysterious Thule Society, he and many of the group’s members believed that a German messiah was prophesied to enter history eventually. This figure would return the nation to its former glory, avenge their defeat in the First World War and undo the humiliation imposed upon them with the Treaty of Versailles.
Eckhart met Hitler in 1919 and was certain that this man was the savior he believed Germany had been promised. The man went on to shape Hitler’s ideologies considerably, sculpting the beliefs and worldview of the Nazi party. Along with Rudolf Hess, this is yet another example of the shadowy Thule Society’s influence over the Nazi regime.
While the evils perpetrated by the Nazis are a matter of undeniable historical fact, the thought process and belief systems behind their actions will always remain a subject of debate. While there were many different influences that formed the twisted ideologies of Hitler and his followers, the impact of the occult adds another layer of mystery to the genesis of evil.