Hitler’s Nazi Party, at its evil roots, embraced a bizarre interpretation of ancient European paganism, blending it with fragments of other traditions from sources as diverse as tenth-century Saxon warlords, nineteenth-century spiritualism, and early-twentieth-century fringe archeology. Even the swastika, the hated symbol of Nazism, had its roots in ancient symbolism, its first recorded appearance carved into a mammoth tusk twelve thousand years before Hitler came to power.
At the heart of the evil was Hitler’s “witch doctor,” Heinrich Himmler, and his stranger-than-fiction cult, the deadly SS. The mundanely named Schutzstaffel, literally “protective squadron,” was the very essence of Nazism, and their threatening double lightning bolt was one of the most dreaded symbols of the Third Reich. With good reason: what the SS was truly protecting was the ideology of Aryan superiority.
Hitler’s Master of the Dark Arts is the first history of the SS and its leader to focus on the mystical cult aspects of the organization. It follows Himmler’s transformation of the SS from a few hundred members in 1929 to over fifty thousand black-uniformed Aryans by the mid-1930s. Concurrent with its expansion and its eventual independence from the brown shirts of the SA, Himmler infused the Black Knights with a mishmash of occult beliefs and lunatic-fringe theories that would have been completely laughable—except that they were also used to justify the Final Solution.