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The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology

The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke


A scholarly study of the occult ideas that emerged in Germany and (especially) Austria in the year leading up to and after the First World War. It raises many ideas, most of them disquieting – not least the similarities with modern-day tendencies to believe in hidden plots and secret societies controlling the world's destiny. Perhaps this is a common reaction to feelings of social and economic dislocation, but it's worrying nonetheless.

Goodrick-Clarke is entirely honest about his inability to definitively establish a causal chain from the Thule Society and like-minded groups to the Nazis. He presents two hypotheses: that the members and hanger-on of the Thule did indeed have some influence, notably over Heinrich Himmler's view of the SS as a revenant mediaeval order of chivalry; and that the ideas were simply "in the air", a symptom of the times than were independently picked up and developed by the Nazis.

It'd be easy for a book on this theme to become lost in fables, and indeed many other works have done so. (Goodrick-Clarke devotes an appendix to dismantling these "crypto-histories".) You never get the feeling, reading him, that he's in the slightest bit a believer, even as he recounts the (probably and putatively sincere) beliefs of his subjects. That many of these beliefs can be traced back definitively to works of late-nineteenth-century fiction (notably to the books of Edward Bulwer-Lytton) makes their attraction all the more surprising, even given that the belief was always a niche one.

4/5. Finished 03 May 2021.

(Originally published on Goodreads.)

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