Nazism...and occultism in the CegeSoma library

Nazism and occultism in the CegeSoma library … Under this title, we invite you to discover the first topic of our series "The Librarian's Pick". Each topic gives you the opportunity to delve into our collections and shall be accompanied by a video and a text as complementary information.

Watch the first video 'Les rendez-vous du bibliothécaire: 1. Esotérisme et occultisme sous le régime nazi'.

Until very recently, both in French-speaking Belgium and in deep Flanders, the naive who would have ventured to evoke supposedly esoteric aspects of Nazism, or who would have gone so far as to link certain rituals of the SS Black Order to those of an occultist sect, would inevitably have raised the eyebrows of professional historians, if not a gentle irony on their part. Such comparisons made on this topic have often had a sulphurous reputation for the corporation of historians who, by vocation, like to show a Cartesian spirit - when they were not assimilated to pure fantasy. And this field of research was usually left to the journalist with too much imagination, or the amateur historian, a bit demented, when he was not some shipwrecked Fascist, in search of pseudo-philosophical but valorizing justifications (or deemed as such) for the errors of his past.

Yet, abroad, confirmed researchers have long since devoted themselves to dissecting and putting such themes into perspective, whether it be Nazi esotericism or the mysticism and pseudo-mysticism conveyed by Nazism and its nineteenth-century ideological ancestors. Thus, we will remember Jan Baird’s pioneering study on « The Mythical World of Nazi War Propaganda » (1974), Hans Mommsen’s « National Socialism and German Society »(1998), or George Mosse with « The Crisis of German Ideology. Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich » (1964). For a long time lagging behind in this domain, France has managed to make up for lost time thanks to the substantial research of Stéphane François, from « Le nazisme revisité : l'occultisme contre l'histoire » (2008) to « L'occultisme nazi : Entre la SS et l'ésotérisme » (2020). The reserve, or indifference, of our historians is, however, quite understandable in this matter, because it is very difficult to sift the grain from the chaff while remaining within the framework of a scientific approach.

However, the theme does not fail to challenge the curious researcher insofar as the belief in "Nazi esotericism" may seem to be based on a series of indisputable data.

-Nazism, as it appeared in 1919 in the wake of the German defeat, is not a creation "ex nihilo nihil". It has strong roots in a whole "völkisch" nebula, often anti-Semitic and pangermanist, already present in the pre-war period and at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries in a myriad of ultra-nationalist circles and small groups which often spread heterodox, semi-esoteric or pre-ecological ideas, imbued with "Nordic" or "Old German" racialism. The ‘Germanenorde’ (1912) and the Munich-based ‘Thule-Gesellschaft’ (1918), matrix of the ‘Deutscher Arbeiterpartei’ which was to welcome a certain Adolf Hitler, are often singled out among the immediate "great ancestors" of Nazism…

-Several senior leaders of the young Nazi party (Scheubner-Richter, Hess and Hans Franck as well as Himmler) belonged to one or the other of these societies and drew some of their ideas and Nazi symbolism from them. The same goes to some extent for Hitler himself, a sympathizer of Schönerer's Austrian Pangermanist movement and occasional reader of Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels' racist magazine Ostara (but he was not really in contact with it, contrary to what was believed for a long time...).

-Nazism as a movement presents para-religious aspects in terms of political aesthetics, with the liturgy of its ceremonies and the adoption/use of a pre-Christian, "Nordic" symbolism (swastika or swastika, runes of the SS...).

However, from the beginning of the 1930s, with the rise of the NSDAP, the equation Nazism/esotericism, or even Nazism/occultism was systematized in the ranks of the Catholic Church led by its hierarchy. Seeing the Hitlerian movement as a dangerous competitor, the latter assimilated Nazism to an emerging neo-paganism and were more or less happy toying with this model. Later, on the war’s eve, « Hitler told me » (‘Gespräche mit Hitler’) the bestselling book of Hermann Rauschning, a breakaway from the Nazi party, added a layer to it by presenting Hitlerism as a phenomenon much more demonic than specifically political. To be somewhat reductive (to say the least), this thesis achieved a certain success in the Christian movement.

Curiously enough, this vision of things was to enjoy renewed success with the general public at the beginning of the 1960s with « Le Matin des Magiciens » (translated to English as « The Dawn of Magic » in 1963) by Louis Pauwels (born in Ghent but French-speaking) and Jacques Bergier, a work imbued with magical realism and the starting point for a whole series of "non-conformist" and "para-scientific" productions spread from Paris by the widely distributed magazine « Planète » (1961-1971). The writings of Saint-Loup/Marc Augier (‘Nouveaux cathares pour Montségur’-1968 and ‘Götterdammerung. Rencontres avec la Bête’-1986) and Jean Mabire (‘Thulé. Le soleil retrouvé des Hyperboréens’ - 1978) as well as those of their epigones, sometimes linked to the most radical extreme right, will complete the field of research on this theme. And our historians, amateur or professional, will no doubt be dissuaded from venturing into it. It is hardly possible at this stage to pinpoint the recent contribution of Arnaud de la Croix, ‘Himmler et le Graal. La vérité sur l’affaire Otto Rahn’ (2018), honestly made but not very innovative (we find there echoes of ‘Le mystère Otto Rahn : Le Graal et Montségur’ by Christian Bernadac, a book which dates back to 1978 anyway…).

The curious reader will find all these titles, and a few other ‘ejusdem farinae’ (« of the same flour ») in the CegeSoma library - As you have probably understood by now this library extends its areas of interest far beyond the real or supposed tribulations of Nazism with the Cathars, Thule or neo-Pagan esotericism...


Alain Colignon, librarian