There are two claims made about the
German Nazis that have been debunked by scholarly research but which
continue to enjoy popular interest.
The first is that Adolph Hitler
and the Nazis were driven by an occult agenda; that their early
success, and ultimate failure, was a result of either supernatural
intervention, or their magical attempts to control the supernatural.
A second claim is found in certain branches of conspiracy theory:
that the Nazis were created by the Freemasons.
It is a curious historical footnote that a link can be found between
the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), founded in
1920, and the Germanenorden, a magical fraternity founded at a
conference of occultists in May of 1912, organized by disciples of
Guido von List (1848-1919/05/17) and Adolf Lanz, aka
Jörg Lanz von
Liebenfels (1874-1954) in the home of Theodor Fritsch.
The link was Rudolf Glandeck von Sebottendorff (1875/11/09 -
1945/05/09). The son of a Silesian railway engineer, Sebottendorff
was born Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer. He travelled to Turkey in 1900,
where he was adopted by Baron Heinrich von Sebottendorff in 1909,
and also claimed to have been initiated into Freemasonry.1 Changing
his name and taking Turkish citizenship, he returned to Germany in
1913. Sebottendorff’s version of Freemasonry did not prevent his
striking up a friendship with the Germanenorden chancellor,
Pohl, who violently opposed Freemasonry as being international and
Jew-ridden, but who used masonic terminology and organizational
structure, believing this would insure secrecy.
Shortly after Sebottendorff’s return to Germany, the Germanenorden
splintered, its then ex-chancellor, Hermann Pohl, establishing the
German Order Walvater of the Holy Grail. Pohl was joined in 1916 by Sebottendorff who was made Master of the Bavarian section of the
order in 1917. Sebottendorff later established another occult
society in Munich on August 17, 1918 as a cover identity for the
Germanenorden: the Thule Gesellschaft, named after the mythic
northern island home of the white race: Ultima Thule.
Originally called the "Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum"
(Study Group for German Antiquity), it derived its ideology (and
some members) from earlier occult groups founded by List—the Armenan
(est, 1908)—and Liebenfels—the Order of the New Templars (est.
1900)—and from the writings of Madame Blavatsky. Yet this facade of
occult study hid a counter-revolutionary activism of stockpiled
weapons; schemes to kidnap the Communist leader, Kurt Eisner;
infiltration of spies into the Communist cadres; and the Kampfbund
Thule paramilitary group.3
With the suppression of many other groups by a suspicious
government, the Thule became a meeting place for nationalistic,
pan-German rightist Bunds. A leading part in the successful attack
on Munich’s Communists on April 30, 1919 was played by Thulists who
allied themselves with the Freikorps Oberland to fight the Bavarian
republic of councils (Räterepublik).4
Sebottendorff resigned from
the group in June of 1919. While the Thule continued to meet as a
political and cultural club until 1925, Sebottendorff and the
Thule’s more activist members joined with the Committee of
Independent Workers on January 5, 1919 to found the Deutsche
Arbeiterpartei: the German Workers' Party. Shortly after Hitler
joined this group, they again renamed themselves the National
Socialist German Workers' Party.
Sebottendorff’s real association with Freemasonry is difficult to
determine, although it appears that he was initiated into an
irregular body of the Rite of Memphis under the Grand Orient of
France.5 From his own writings it is clear that his version of
Freemasonry incorporated aspects of Islamic Sufi mysticism,
astrology and Rosicrucianism.
In his autobiographical novel Der
Talisman des Rosenkreuzers (The Rosicrucian Talisman), he made a
clear distinction between Turkish Freemasonry and regular
"It must be shown that Oriental Freemasonry still retains faithfully
even today the ancient teachings of wisdom forgotten by modern
Freemasonry, whose Constitution of 1717 was a departure from the
"We look at our world as a product of the people. The
Freemason looks at it as a product of conditions..."6
Sebottendorff believed that the esoteric tradition of Sufism was the
purest stream of wisdom and that it had nourished European occultism
through astrologists, Rosicrucians and authentic freemasons of the
"No one can accuse me of profanation, nor of sacrilege in uncovering
the course of these mysteries...It is the means that the communities
of dervishes traditionally use in order to acquire special strength
by means of unusual techniques. They are, for the most part, men who
aspire to the highest rite, that from which come those who have been
prepared for their missions as spiritual leaders of Islam...
high rite is the practical basis of Freemasonry, and it inspired in
times past the work of the alchemists and of the Rosicrucians...But
to reply to the accusation of my being guilty of some kind of
treachery: I say to you plainly that this book has been written on
the instructions of the leaders of the Order."
Subsequent authors such as Jean-Michel Angebert (pseudonym for
Michel Bertrand and Jean Angelini), Trevor Ravenscroft,
Herbert Brennan, and Gerald Suster made much of the occult leanings
of the Thule and its influence on the Nazi party and Hitler. Many of
their claims have been effectively debunked by Goodrick-Clarke whose
research proves, among other things, that Ravenscroft lied about his
source and invented his history of a social network of Munich-based
"This sensational image of the Thule Society and its members is
almost entirely a fictional invention. Hitler never attended a
single meeting of the Thule Society. While the founder of the Thule
Society, Rudolf von Sebottendorff, was certainly interested in the
occult, a detailed diary of its regular meetings from 1919 to 1925
maintained by its secretary, Johannes Hering, mentions only two
lectures on such topics.
On 31 August 1918, Sebottendorff gave a
talk on dowsing, of which Hering disapproved, commenting that
occultism brought dubious members into the Thule from time to time;
and on 23 February 1919 a certain Wilde lectured on occultism. All
other lectures and excursions were devoted to such themes as
megalithic culture, the original homeland of the Teutons, Germanic
myths and poetry, the Thule legend, the Jews and Zionism, and
current political issues."9
Goodrick-Clarke traces the theory of an
occult inspired Nazism to a French Christian mystic, Reneé Kopp who,
in 1934, wrote of invisible spirits influencing Hitler. Later, the
self-proclaimed German rocket engineer, Willy Ley, in 1947 wrote an
article for a pulp fantasy magazine ridiculing pseudoscience in
Germany, which he claimed included a Berlin sect attempting to
conjure up the mysterious vril force described by British novelist
Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his
The Coming Race (1871).
While French journalists Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier,11 and
others, saw a magical explanation for the effectiveness of the
Hitler myth, Goodrick-Clarke demonstrated that although the Thule
was purportedly a literary-cultural group, this appears to have been
a cover for counter-revolutionary activism. Sebottendorff’s Bevor
Hitler Kam, a 1933 attempt to claim some of Hitler’s glory,12 and
Hermann Rauschning’s Hitler speaks, a discredited attempt to paint
Hitler as a magician,13 are often used to support this claim.
Ravenscroft saw a link between the Thule and such early "fringe
freemasons" as Robert Wentworth Little, but his research standards
are demonstrated when, among other errors, he identifies Dietrich
Eckart as being Rudolf Glauer. 14
Sebottendorff, expelled from Germany in 1923 as an undesirable
alien, returned in 1933. With his book, Bevor Hitler Kam, banned by
the Bavarian political police on March I, 1934, and the Thule Group
dissolved, Sebottendorff was arrested by the Gestapo, interned in a
concentration camp and then expelled to Turkey, where he committed
suicide by jumping into the Bosporus on May 9, 1945 upon hearing of
the German surrender.15
Anti-masons will attempt to embarrass Freemasonry by imagining a
link with Hitler, and occult writers will attempt to inflate the
importance of magic in world affairs, but neither of these claims
can be proven from the available facts.
1.<phi-presse.de/Buchclub/Angebote/xc3/x-vorhitler.htm>. Also see
"In 1901 von Sebottendorff was initiated into a Masonic lodge which,
like many in the Middle east, had connections with the French Grand
Orient." Michael Howard, The Occult Conspiracy: secret societies,
their influence and power in world history. Destiny Books is a
division of Inner Traditions International, Ltd., 1989. ISBN:
0-89281-251-6. p. 124.
"...he learned Turkish from a Muslim imam and
worked for a Sufi initiate at a town near Bursa, becoming initiated
into Freemasonry there in 1901."
Peter Levenda, Unholy Alliance. New
York : Continuum, 2002, c. 1995. p. 74. Note that Sebottendorff is
often spelt Sebottendorf and that the Library of Congress gives his
birth year as 1943. Also see Bevor Hitler Kam, Eine historische
Studie, Dietrich Bronder. Hannover : Hans Pfeiffer Verlag, 1964. pp.
232-240. 446pp. hb.
2.Also termed the Thule-Bund. See Simon Taylor, Germany 1918-1933.
London : Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1983. ISBN: 0-7156-1689-7. p.
"By the end of the war von Sebottendorff had moved to Munich and
the German order had adopted the name of the Thule Society. This was
to prevent its activities being disturbed by the Communists who were
opposed to the German Order’s right-wing, pro-monarchist views. In
1918 the Thule Society had over 250 members in Munich and nearly
1,500 members scattered across the Bavarian countryside." [pp.
"Politically, the Thulists were committed to the
establishing of a pan-German state based on the Habsburg dynasty
which had abdicated in November 1918 when faced with a socialist
revolution in Austria." [p. 125.];
Copies of the Protocols of the
Elders of Zion had been imported into Germany from Russia by the
Thule Society at the beginning of the First World War. [p. 127.];
"The early meetings of the German Workers Party had been advertised
in the Thulist newspaper Volkisher Beobachter and this later became
the official organ of the Nazi Party" [p. 128.].
See Michael Howard.
"This group was outwardly just
one more fringe Pan-German club promoting German mythology,
spreading anti-Semitism and encouraging the formation of a
greater German Reich."
"Whether or not the club ever
acted on its mystical premises or used them only as some
silly and meaningless initiation gibberish is not known."
See J. Sydney Jones, Hitler in
Vienna, 1907-1913. 1983 : Stein and Day, NY. c. 1982. ISBN:
0-8128-2855-0. p. 302. n. 92.
3.See Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke,
The Occult Roots of Nazism. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, U.K.: Aquarian Press, 1985. hb,
293pp, illust, ISBN: 0-85030-402-4. Also see: Gemäss Glowka
(1981:25) soll die Thule-Gesellschaft als "Verein zur Pflege
deutscher Altertümer" noch bis 1933 bestanden haben. Cited at <www.relinfo.ch/thule/info.html>.
4.Christian Zentnere and Friedemann Bedürftig (1940- ), The
Encyclopedia of the Third Reich, Grosse Lexikon des Dritten Reiches,
English. ed. Amy Hackett. New York : Macmillan Publishing
Company, 1991 [c. 1985]. ISBN: 0-02-897502-2 (v. 2) p. 956.
5.Wulf Schwartzwaller, The Unknown Hitler. Berkeley Books, 1990.
Also see Bundesarchiv, Koblenz; Roots. Cf.: E. Gugenberger, Mutter
Erde/Magie und Politik: zwischen Faschismus Schweidlenka, R. und
neuer Gesellschaft. Wien: Verlag fuer Gesellschaftskritik, 1987. p.
6.Untitled article, Runen July 21, 1918, Thule Society journal,
cited in "Hitler, Nazis & the Occult," M. Sabeheddin. New Dawn No.
41, March-April 1997) <www.newdawnmagazine.com> Also see his 1925
autobiographical novel, Der Talisman des Rosenkreuzers. Pfulligen in
Wurttemberg : Johannes Baum Verlag,  115p. Die Bibliothek des
Deutschen Freimaurermuseums in Bayreuth.
7.Rudolf Glandeck Sebottendorff, Die Praxis der alten türkischen
Freimaurerei. [The practice of the old Turkish Freemasons] [2. verb.
und verm. Aufl.] Freiburg im Breisgau, H. Bauer [c1954] 54 p. 21 cm.
LCCN: 57017289; La pratique opérative de l'ancienne franc-maçonnerie
turque : la clé de la compréhension de l'alchimie : un exposé du
rituel, de l'enseignement, des signes de reconnaissance de la franc-maçonnerie
orientale. [Operative practice of the old Turkish freemasonry: the
key of the comprehension of alchemy: a talk of the ritual, teaching,
signs of recognition of Eastern freemasonry.]. traduit de l'allemand
par Henry E. Wansard. Praxis der alten türkischen Freimaurerei.
French. Braine-le-Comte : Éditions du Baucens, 1974. 87pp. ; 21 cm.
LCCN: 75511952. Cited in "Book Review: The Occult Roots of Nazism,"
William Grimstad. The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 11, no. 1,
8.Jean-Michel Angebert, The Occult and the Third Reich (1971);
Trevor Ravenscroft (1921-1989), The Spear of Destiny. London: G.P.
Putnam & Sons, 1973; J.H. Brennan, Occult Reich, London: Futura,
1974; Gerald Suster (1951-), Hitler and the Age of Horus. London:
Sphere Books Limited, 1981, c. 1980 Gerald Suster. hb, 11cm x 19cm
231pp.; Lewis Spence (1874-1955), The occult causes of the
present war. London : Rider & Co., 1940. 191 p ; 19 cm; Francis
King, Satan and Swastika, London: Mayflower Books Ltd, 1976.
Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the politics of
identity, Chap. 6, "The Nazi Mysteries." New York: New York
University Press, 2002. ISBN: 0-8147-3124-4. pp. 116-17. Also
see The Occult Roots of Nazism.
10.Willy Ley (1906-1969), "Pseudoscience in Naziland"
Astounding Science Fiction. New York. Edited by John W.
Campbell, Jr. (June 8, 1910 - July 11, 1971) May 1947, 39/3. pp.
11.Louis Pauwels, Jacques Bergier,
Le matin des magiciens. 1960;
trans. London: Granada Publishing Ltd; Panther, 1964. Cf. Ian
Kershaw, The "Hitler Myth" ; image and reality in the Third Reich.
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1989. pb 297pp.
12.Rudolf [Glandeck] von Sebottendorff, Bevor Hitler kam:
Urkundliches aus der Frühzeit der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung
von Rudolf von Sebottendorff. [Quellen zur Zeitgeschichte Ein
Sammlung von drei Hauptquellen zurIdeengeschichte und Fruehzeit des
Nationalsozialismus] München: Grassinger [Hans Georg Grassinger],
1933. 267 p. ports., facsims. 22 cm. LCCN: af 48000823.
"The Occult and the Third Reich," Jean-Michel Angebert, as noted in
The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 121-127. [Historische
Faksimiles. Reprint für Forschungszwecke, insbes. zur Ergänzung von
Sammlungen. Erscheinungsjahr 1982. Faksimile-Verlag/Versand. D-2800
Bremen 1. Postfach 10 14 20. Der Faksimile-Versand liefert eine
große Auswahl außergewöhnlicher Nachdrucke. Fordern Sei unser neues
13.Hermann Adolf Reinhold Rauschning, (1887-1982) [Gespraeche mit
Hitler] Munich: Deufula-Verlag Grassinger & Co., 1933. Hitler m'a
dit. Confidences du Fuehrer sur son plan de conquete du monde, etc.
(Traduit par Albert Lehman.) [With plates, including portraits.]
Paris, 1939. pp. 320. ; 8o. Hitler speaks : a series of political
conversations with Adolf Hitler on his real aims. London : Thornton
Butterworth Ltd., 1939. 287pp,  p. ; 21.7cm [second impression:
Andover: Chapel River Press, December 1939]. For Raushning’s
unreliability see <freemasonry.bcy.ca/anti-masonry/hitler.html#2>
14.Trevor Ravenscroft, p. 159
15.Sutter, p. 137; Reginald H. Phelps, "Before Hitler came: Thule
Society and Germanen Orden" The Journal of Modern
History, Vol. xxxv, No. 3 (September 1963); Wikipedia, the free
encyclopedia . Date noted in Unholy Alliance. p. 147.
16. Portrait from frontispiece, Bevor Hitler kam: bust by sculptor,
Hanns Goebl (23. 6. 1901 -12. 8. 1986), München.