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on March 24, 2001
This book chronicles some of the underground movements and popular delusions that existed in Germany and Austria before the Nazis came to power. It examines the influence these groups may have had on Nazi leaders in the SS, on Adolf Hitler, and on the thinking of Germans at the time. It is necessary to understand such extremist and occult groups in order to understand how the Nazis were able to take over Germany. Millenarian fantasies and a kind of cultural paranoia preoccupied the German mind, and these fantasies came to hold a unique place within various secret societies set up to propagate racist and occult doctrines (especially concerning the role of the "Aryan" race and it's existence in German prehistory). The author examines many eccentric German individualists, dreamers, and romantics and their role in occult societies. These include: Guido (von) List, who claimed to have rediscovered a Wotanist religion and was influenced by the Theosophist Helena Petrovna Blavatsky; Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, who resurrected a sect based on the Knights Templars; the Ariosophists, who relied on a "theozoology" concerning the struggle of the Aryan race, and their secret societies, the Germanenorden, the Thule Society, and the Edda Society. The author also considers the influence of such individuals as Rudolf von Sebottendorf, Herbert Reichstein, and Karl Maria Wiligut on the SS (Himmler), and examines the role Ariosophical thinking might have played in the development of Adolf Hitler. The book includes several appendices, one of which deals with some of the sensationalist and "crypto-historical" literature that has sprang up around the occult and Nazism, which attributes a great role to the occult in the rise to power of the Nazis. This is an important book for understanding how collective delusions can arise in the mind of a country, particularly racist ideologies. The Nazis continue to exercise a fascination upon us, both for their brutality and for their nationalist mysticism. And, this book allows us to understand.
[If you are interested in this kind of thing, I can also recommend any of the works by Norman Cohn, who is cited repeatedly in this book. He deals mostly with the medieval period, but you'll notice that the same sort of delusions and fantasies keep on cropping up throughout European history.]
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on August 5, 2002
This is a great book on the history of the movement. A lot of good info about Aryan Paganism in Germany at the start of the 1900s. I've known people who were involved with German Wotanism between the 1920s to 1945 and have books of and about that time period, but Mr. Goodricke-Clarke talks about alot of people I've never heard of before, and he gives new details about people I've read a great deal about. This book is the only source for a lot of this info.
His new book Black Sun is like part II of The Occult Roots of Nazism. He talks about the Pagan Revival after WWII and all the new ideas and people in the movement. These two books should be read together.
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on June 3, 2004
_The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology_ by Nicholas Goodrick-Clark is an intriguing academic study on the pre-Nazi occult scene in Germany. The cover features a rather threatening Thule Gesellschaft symbol: a sword and swastika wrapped in laurels and a halo of emanating light. Many of the occult practices described in this book--palmistry, crystals, secret orders, hidden knowledge, spirit guides, channeling, tarot cards, fortune telling, astrology--have retained their popularity today in the New Age movement. What's particularly interesting about Goodrick-Clarke's work is he compares the Ariosophists List and Lanz to the ancient duelist philosophies of Gnosticism and Manicheanism in their extreme division of reality into two eternally conflicting forces of good (Aryans) and evil (Jews). Goodrick-Clarke begins his discussion by going back to the writings of Madame Helena Blavatsky, her two books _The Secret Doctrine_ and _Isis Unvieled_, and her occult Theosophical Society. Her books propagated a form of anti-rationalism and anti-scientism, instead relying upon supposed revealed secret doctrines by hidden masters in Tibet. Blavatsky believed there was a series of seven "root races" that lived on earth, of which the Aryan race was the fifth. Other notables connected with the occult at this time included Annie Besant, Charles Leadbeater and Bulwer Lytton. Lytton wrote in his work _The Coming Race_ of a subterranean race that was to give mankind new enlightenment and psychic abilities. Ariosophy, the so-called wisdom of the Aryans, developed from theosophical ideas and the general occult subcultures of the time. The political and motivation for the rise of occultism in Germany and Austria was the situation of the Austro -Hungarian Empire and the Hapsburg monarchy. Prussia had permanently excluded Austria from a role in a united German state by Bismark's military victories before 1871. However the Austrian Empire encompassed not only Hungary but also many nationalities of Slavic, non-German descent, in addition to Jewish minorities. The status of Germans as a whole in Austria was tenuous and the conservative elements of the populace were more inclined to fall for unorthodox metaphysical beliefs that would allow them to fight against the tides of political liberalism in the Empire. Hitler, it is to be noted, was not actually born in "Germany" proper but in the Austro-Hungarian Empire near the German border. Goodrick-Clarke takes care to note that Hitler despised the Hapsburg monarchy, while his sectarian occultist predecessors admired it as a bastion of German mystical/mythical tradition. In Vienna, during the late 1800s and early 1900s before World War I, two radical German nationalists, Guido von List and Adolf Lanz (who self-styled himself with the aristocratic title of von Liebenfels) researched and published a considerable amount of literature dealing with Germany's so-called repressed history. List believed that ancient, pagan, pre-Christian Germany was a center of culture kept alive by a secret order of initiates, the Armanenschaft, who established a decentralized aristocratic hierarchy and kept the German race pure through eugenic practices. Oddly enough, their secret doctrine, according to List, was encoded and given to the Rabbis for safekeeping in the form of the Cabala, in order to preserve it from Christian destruction. Lanz, whose _Ostara_ pamphlets Hitler is likely to have read, was an ex-Cistercian monk who joined the pan-German movement. Lanz made an extensive study of ancient civilizations and the Old Testament and concluded that the ancestors of the German race lived on Atlantis, which sank, and spread to Northern Europe and the Middle East. The supposed Aryan Middle Easterners founded the great civilizations of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent, including the Hebrews. The Hebrew Scripture, according to Lanz's analysis, was a history of the attempt for Aryans to preserve their race. He interpreted the fall as the miscegenation between Aryans and lesser races. Lanz believed Jesus ("Frauja") was an Aryan savior and the medieval Christian character of Europe, with its monasteries and nobility, embodied the Aryan ideal. He believed Alexandria, known for its library and scholarship, was the center of gravity of ancient Ariosophy. The first bishop to convert the Germans to Christianity was Ulifas, an Arian bishop from Alexandria, thus Lanz equates "Aryanism" with the Christian heresy of "Arianism," or disbelief in the deity of Christ. The Ariosophists and pan-Germanists believed the only way to preserve Germany's Aryan past was to fight against modern liberal tendencies and take aggressive action against those corrupting Germany's traditional landscape: the Jews, communists and Slavs. Several quasi-Masonic lodges were founded throughout Germany and Austria before, during and after WWI. Among these were the Thule Society and the Germannorden. There is some speculation that the Thule Society, its membership being a collection of well-educated professionals and aristocrats, founded the German Workers Party (DAP) as an activist political party to attract a mass membership. Hitler was sent as a spy to the DAP to survey its activities. Hitler later joined this party, which eventually renamed itself the German National Socialist Party (NASDAP or Nazi Party). Although Hitler never mentioned Lanz by name in any of his recorded words, Goodrick-Clarke attributes this fact to Hitler not wanting to call attention to where he got his ideas during his formative years in Vienna. Although Hitler did not have much of an interest in actual occult practices, his chief of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, did. Himmler consulted a former mental asylum inmate, Karl Maria Willigut (a.k.a. Weisthor), who claimed to possess an ancient ancestral knowledge of the German race. Himmler constructed a "Nazi Vatican" at a castle in Wewelsburg where neo-pagan ceremonies for the Nazi SS were held. Goodrick-Clarke's final appendix to this study is an examination of the mythology Nazi Germany's meteoric rise and fall from an obscure party from the 1920s to a totalitarian government that had Europe from the English Channel to the Caucasus Mountains under its thumb (albeit briefly). A considerable amount of literature has been published in various countries about how the Nazi Party's rise to power was aided by supernatural and demonic forces.
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on November 7, 2001
The Occult Roots of Nazism by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is a very well written study of the massive influence Aryan occultism and esoteric societies had upon Hitler and the theoriticians of the NSDAP. He is quite comprehensive in his coverage of Ariosophist philosophers and enigmatic volkish groups which blossomed in late ninteenth-early twentieth century middle Europe.
What makes this book worth reading to the student of Modern European History, is not only Goodrick-Clarke's ability to link these movements to Nazi philosophy, but his attention to detail. Further, he carefully explains the historical surroundings and mystical, sometimes ludicrous, beliefs held by members of the various Ariosophical societies.These explanations, coupled with what must have been very tedious research, enlighten these somewhat obscure and often forgotten influences on the NSDAP.
This book is well worth a read. However, its appeal is somewhat limited to those with particular interest in the occult
philosophy sub-genre of Nazi Studies. By no means is it a typical Shirer inspired playscript of the Reich.
TAB
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on September 21, 1999
Folks who think that Nazism isn't all that bad would *hate* this book. Dr. Goodrick-Clarke has documented, with impressive comprehensiveness, aspects of the origins of the occult sections of Nazism from Ariosophy, Guido List, and other sources. He has gone back to original, primary sources (some of which are hard to get), and this research is impeccable. If one also reads "Unholy Alliance" (Levander), "Die Runenkunde im Dritten Reich" (Hunger), "Schwarze Fahnen, Runenzeichen" (WeiBmann), you'll see that this book is a first-class survey of the subject at hand. A "must read" for anyone interested in the occult aspects of Nazism!
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on September 19, 2009
"The occult roots of Nazism" is not a sensationalist work claiming that Hitler was a Satanist or demoniac. Rather, it's a perfectly serious and scholarly work. The author, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, is a British professor specializing in the relationship between occultism and right-wing extremism, an admittedly obscure subject.

The book deals with the Thule Society, the Germanenorden and other occult groups in interwar Germany and Austria. Guido von List, Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels and Rudolf von Sebottendorff are featured. It turns out that fascist occultism was simply a more extreme, exotic version of "völkisch" nationalism, a much broader movement. The function of occultism, in the author's opinion, was to sacralize the purported traditions of völkisch German nationalism, thereby turning them into really timeless truths (and religious dogmas).

Inevitably, a book of this kind must confront the question of whether the Third Reich and the Nazi party were in some sense "occult". After all, the Nazis did use the swastika as their symbol, and so did some of the "Ariosophist" groups. Was Hitler himself influenced by this kind of evil occultism? Goodrick-Clarke believes that the influence, if any, must have been negligible. Hitler may have been an avid reader of the occult magazine "Ostara" and apparently sought out its editor Lanz to purchase back issues. The hysterical anti-Semitism of the magazine would have appealed to Hitler, but overall, there is little resemblance between the ideas of Lanz and later National Socialism. Goodrick-Clarke rejects other testimonies, according to which Hitler was influenced by Guido von List (although he may have read his works). A more promising line of evidence is that the Nazi party was originally established by the occultist Thule Society. However, the society seems to have been broader than the occultist milieu, and the Nazi party disavowed all occult connections when Hitler took it over. Indeed, Hitler even heckles the occultists in "Mein Kampf".

However, Goodrick-Clarke does manage to find one connection between occultism and Nazism. Himmler actually believed in occultist lore, and was influenced by one Karl Maria Willigut, an "Irminist" neo-pagan whom Himmler promoted to a high-ranking position within the SS. The occult-inspired symbolism of the SS was apparently the work of Willigut. Goodrick-Clarke calls him "Himmler's magus". Wikipedia, less charitably, calls him Himmler's Rasputin!

On balance, however, it must be concluded that Nazi evil was human, all too human.

"The occult roots of Nazism" is a very well written book, and a relatively easy read, despite the obscure subject. It's already something of a classic, and deserves all its five stars.
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on September 3, 2008
I am not going to summarize the extensive range of historical data presented in this delightful book because the reviewers below me have already done a fine job of it. I would like to state though that the subject of Nazi occultism has interested me for some time, yet I have often been disappointed at the quality of most of the other books on this subject. This is due primarily to the fact that most of the writers of these other books seem to be almost as insane as the volkish mystics they are writing about. I am happy to say that Goodrick-Clarke is not one of these writers. On the contrary, he presents a well-researched and rational analysis of a bizarre and malignant ideology which unfortunately causes many other people to venture into the realm of the sensationalistic and downright ridiculous when attempting to grapple with it. Don't get me wrong, this is still one of the most fascinating and entertaining history books I have ever read. It's basis in actual fact just happens to make it all the more so.
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on July 8, 2010
There are a surprising number of books that supposedly link Nazism to the occult, or to paganism, or to satanism, and on and on. Most such books are sensationalist trash. Many writers take a few known connections and pad them into book-length drivel with lots of illustrations. Others rely on innuendo and guilt by association. This writer, however, takes the trouble to seriously delve into the belief systems of these groups and carefully analyze not only their philosophical linkages but also the overlap of memberships. Anyone who wants to seriously learn about the esoteric philosophies that lay beneath Hitlerism should read this book. It is often dry and academic, but it also avoids sensationalism.
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on May 13, 2015
The thing about books on this subject is your personal thoughts about the Nazis and their involvement with the occult.
There's enough evidence within the pages of this book to make you seriously wonder. Too many books on the edge of this subject suppose and have no solid grounds for their theories. Not so with this book, there really is enough to think about in the writing. Still it is personal what you choose to believe.
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on August 11, 2012
Those who doubt the reality of the Nazi/occult connection are encouraged to read this book, which is a thorough if somewhat dry history of the influence of racialist philosophers such as Guido von List and Lanz von Liebenfels upon Hitler. The NSDAP attracted many Ariosophist thinkers and members of occult societies such as the Germanenorden, the Thule Society, and the Edda Society to swell its ranks.

Nazi symbols, such as the swastika, the death's head, the iron eagle and the lightning rune were drawn from occult sources and imbued with occult symbolism (and some would say power). Heinrich Himmler made no bones about it (pardon the bad pun): The SS was meant to be a mystical Order. Anyone who watches the filmed funeral of Reinhardt Heydrich which is replete with Nazi occult symbolism and ritual, will see those powerful influences about which Goodrick-Clarke writes so well.
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