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The most prominent discourse here is the debate whether Nazism would constitute a political religion, but there has also been research on the millenarianistic, messianic, Gnostic and occult aspects of Nazism. There is also a lively debate about whether Nazism was a "pagan" or a secular movement, or whether (and to what extent) it borrowed concepts from Christianity.
Nazism as political religion?Edit
Among the writers who alluded before 1980 to the religious aspects of National Socialism are Raymond Aron, Albert Camus, Romano Guardini, Denis de Rougemont, Eric Voegelin, George Mosse, Klaus Vondung and Friedrich Heer. Voegelin's work on political religion was first published in German in 1938. Emilio Gentile and Roger Griffin, among others, have drawn on his concept. The French author and philosopher Albert Camus is mentioned here, since he has made some remarks about Nazism as a religion and about Adolf Hitler in particular in L'Homme révolté.
Outside a purely academic discourse, public interest mainly concerns the relationship between Nazism and Occultism, and between Nazism and Christianity. The interest in the first relationship is obvious from the modern popular myth of Nazi occultism. The persistent idea that the Nazis were directed by occult agencies has been dismissed by historians as modern cryptohistory. The interest in the second relationship is obvious from the debate about whether Adolf Hitler was a Christian or not.
Nazism and occultismEdit
There are many works that speculate about National Socialism and Occultism, the most prominent being The Morning of the Magicians (1960) and The Spear of Destiny (1972). From the perspective of academic history, however, most of these works are "cryptohistory". Notable exceptions are Der Mann, der Hitler die Ideen gab (The man who gave Hitler the ideas) by Wilfried Daim (1957), Urania's children by Ellic Howe (1967) and The Occult Establishment by James Webb (1976). Aside from these works, historians did not consider the question until the 1980s. Due to the popular literature on the topic, "Nazi 'black magic' was regarded as a topic for sensational authors in pursuit of strong sales." In the 1980s, two Ph.D. theses were written about the topic. Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke published The Occult Roots of Nazism (1985) based on his thesis, and the German librarian and historian Ulrich Hunger's thesis on rune-lore in Nazi Germany (Die Runenkunde im Dritten Reich) was published in the series Europäische Hochschulschriften (also 1985).
Goodrick-Clarke's book The Occult Roots... is not only considered "without exception" to be the pioneering work on Ariosophy, but also the "definitive book" on the topic. The term 'Ariosophy' refers to an esoteric movement in Germany and Austria of the 1900s to 1930s. It clearly falls under Goodrick-Clarke's definition of occultism, as it obviously drew on the western esoteric tradition. Ideologically, it was remarkably similar to Nazism. According to Goodrick-Clarke, the Ariosophists wove occult ideas into the völkisch ideology that existed in Germany and Austria at the time. Ariosophy shared the racial awareness of völkisch ideology, but also drew upon Theosophy's notion of root races, postulating locations such as Atlantis, Thule and Hyperborea as the original homeland of the Aryan race (and its "purest" branch, the Teutons or Germanic peoples). The Ariosophic writings described a glorious ancient Germanic past, in which an elitist priesthood "expounded occult-racist doctrines and ruled over a superior and racially pure society." The downfall of this imaginary golden age was explained as the result of the interbreeding between the master race and the untermenschen (lesser races). The "abstruse ideas and weird cults [of Ariosophy] anticipated the political doctrines and institutions of the Third Reich" writes Goodrick-Clarke in the introduction to his book, motivating the phrase "occult roots of Nazism"; direct influences, however, are sparse. With the exception of Karl Maria Wiligut, Goodrick-Clarke has not found evidence that prominent Ariosophists directly influenced Nazism. There were other occult and paganist movements in Germany and Austria during that time, but the Ariosophists were the most extreme. The contacts between the Nazi organizations and Ariosophists and other occultists is examined below. This topic can broadly be divided into relations between the Thule Society and the Nazi party, and the occult and paganist activities within the SS.
Goodrick-Clarke considers the "Nazi crusade [as] ... essentially religious", but he does not offer theoretical concepts to specify in what sense Nazism can be called a religion. His follow-up volume Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity was intended to take a look at the survival of 'ariosophic' ideas after 1945; however, he uncovered a new subject that he has described as neo-völkisch movements.
Nazism and ChristianityEdit
After Nazi Germany had surrendered in World War II, the U.S. Office of Strategic Services published a report on the Nazi Master Plan of the Persecution of the Christian Churches. The discussion among historians and theologians about religion in Nazi Germany often came to similar results. For Kathleen Harvill Burton, there was a religious objective in National Socialism: make traditional Christianity disappear, and transform it into positive Christianity, based on Nazi mysticism as preached by Alfred Rosenberg. In particular the Bible had to be purged of all its Jewish content (i.e., the entire Old Testament, the Gospel of Matthew, and the Pauline Epistles). This was continuous with Paul Lagarde's research on a Germanised and "de-judaized" Christianism. According to Rosenberg:
The Nazi Party program of 1920 included a statement on religion as point 24. In this statement, the Nazi party demands freedom of religion (for all religious denominations that are not opposed to the customs and moral sentiments of the Germanic race); on the other hand, this paragraph proclaims the party's endorsement of what is called positive Christianity. Historians have commonly regarded this statement, and the phrase "positive Christianity" in particular, "as a tactical measure, 'cleverly' left undefined in order to accommodate a broad range of meanings." John S. Conway, in his The Nazi Persecution of the Churches calls it an "ambiguous phraseology." However, Richard Steigmann-Gall in The Holy Reich holds that, on closer examination, "Point 24 readily provides us with three key ideas in which the Nazis claimed that their movement was Christian": the movement's antisemitism, its social ethic under the phrase Gemeinnutz vor Eigennutz (roughly: public need before private greed) and its attempt to bridge the confessional divide between Catholicism and Protestantism in Germany.
Unsurprisingly, this is a controversial topic, even among historians. Conway holds that The Holy Reich has broken new ground in the examination of the relation between Nazism and Christianity, despite his view that "Nazism and Christianity were incompatible." Conway acknowledges that Steigmann-Gall "is undeniably right to point out how much Nazism owed to German Christian" concepts and only considers his conclusion as "overdrawn".
The religious beliefs of leading NazisEdit
Within a large movement like Nazism, "it may not be especially shocking to discover" that individuals could embrace different ideological systems that would seem to be polar opposites. The religious beliefs of even the leading Nazis diverged strongly.
Any impression that Nazism was a 'pagan' movement is due to the efforts of Nazi paganists like Alfred Rosenberg, Heinrich Himmler and Richard Walther Darré. Their beliefs could be called pagan or neo-pagan, but Steigmann-Gall prefers the term paganist to indicate that those "proponents of a Nordicized religion within the [Nazi] party did not actually practice this religion, let alone devise a coherent religious system that could actually be practised. Rather, they advocated the establishment of a faith that ultimately never came into being."
While these paganist elements sometimes dominate the image of Nazism (e.g., in the Discovery Channel documentary Nazis: The Occult Conspiracy), a majority of leading Nazis, including Hitler himself, did not attack Christianity in public or speak out in favour of the recreation of a heathen religion in Germany. This does not necessarily mean that they harboured no anti-Christian sentiments; if they did, for political reasons they would have carefully avoided campaigning against Christianity. The difficulty for historians lies in the task of evaluating not only the public, but also the private statements of the Nazi politicians. Steigmann-Gall, who intended to do this in his study, points to such people as Erich Koch (who was not only Gauleiter of East Prussia and Reichskomissar for the Ukraine, but also the elected president of the East Prussian provincial synod of the Evangelical Church of the old-Prussian Union) and Bernhard Rust as examples of Nazi politicians who also professed to be Christian in private.
Adolf Hitler's religious viewsEdit
Adolf Hitler's religious views are a difficult case. On the one hand he had been in contact with Lanz von Liebenfels; on the other hand he made definite remarks against the völkisch occultism in Mein Kampf and in public speeches.
Since 1957, when the Austrian psychologist Wilfried Daim published the important study on Lanz von Liebenfels, enough evidence exists to say that Hitler had been exposed to the Ariosophic Weltanschauung in Vienna. However, it is not clear to what extent he was influenced by it. In the research into this question, Mein Kampf has even been compared to Liebenfels' Theozoologie in detail. According to an online article from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the influence of the anti-Judaic, Gnostic and root race teachings of H.P. Blavatsky, the founder of Theosophy, and the adaptations of her ideas by her followers, constituted a popularly unacknowledged but decisive influence over Hitler's developing mind.
Hitler harshly rejected the völkisch esotericism. In Heinrich Heims' Adolf Hitler, Monologe im FHQ 1941-1944 (several editions, here Orbis Verlag, 2000), Hitler is quoted as having said on 14 October 1941: "It seems to be inexpressibly stupid to allow a revival of the cult of Odin/Wotan. Our old mythology of the gods was defunct, and incapable of revival, when Christianity came...the whole world of antiquity either followed philosophical systems on the one hand, or worshipped the gods. But in modern times it is undesirable that all humanity should make such a fool of itself."
It is worth noting that Hitler never publicly said that pagan gods shouldn't be worshipped due to Christian belief, but rather that Odin worship would be "inexpressibly stupid."
According to Goodrick-Clarke, Rudolf Hess had been a member of the Thule Society before attaining prominence in the Nazi party. As Adolf Hitler's official deputy, Hess had also been attracted to and influenced by the organic farming theories of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy. In the wake of his flight to Scotland, Reinhard Heydrich, the head of the security police, banned lodge organizations and esoteric groups on 9 June 1941. When organic farmers and their supporters – and even nudists – were arrested, Agriculture Minister Richard Walther Darré protested to Himmler and Heydrich, "despite a letter from Bormann, warning Darré that Hitler was behind the arrests."
However, the suppression of esoteric organisations began very soon after the Nazis acquired governmental power. This also affected ariosophic authors and organisations: "One of the most important early Germanic racialists, Lanz von Liebenfels, had his writings banned in 1938 while other occultist racialists were banned as early as 1934."
The Thule Society and the origins of the Nazi PartyEdit
The Thule Society, which is remotely connected to the origins of the Nazi Party, was one of the ariosophic groups of the late 1910s. Thule Gesellschaft had initially been the name of the Munich branch of the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail, a lodge-based organisation which was built up by Rudolf von Sebottendorff in 1917. For this task he had received about a hundred addresses of potential members in Bavaria from Hermann Pohl, and from 1918 he was also supported by Walter Nauhaus. According to an account by Sebottendorff, the Bavarian province of the Germanenorden Walvater had 200 members in spring 1918, which had risen to 1500 in autumn 1918, of these 250 in Munich. Five rooms, capable of accommodating 300 people, were leased from the fashionable Hotel Vierjahreszeiten ('Four Seasons') in Munich and decorated with the Thule emblem showing a dagger superimposed on a swastika. Since the lodge's ceremonial activities were accompanied by overtly right-wing meetings, the name Thule Gesellschaft was adopted to arouse less attention from socialists and pro-Republicans.
The Aryan race and lost landsEdit
The Thule Society took its name from Thule, an alleged lost land. Sebottendorff identified Ultima Thule as Iceland. In the Armanism of Guido von List, to which Sebottendorff made distinct references, it was believed that the Aryan race had originated from the apocryphal lost continent of Atlantis and taken refuge in Thule/Iceland after Atlantis had been deluged and sunk under the sea. Hyperborea was also mentioned by Guido von List, with direct references to the theosophic author William Scott-Elliot.
In The Myth of the Twentieth Century, the most important Nazi book after Mein Kampf, Alfred Rosenberg referred to Atlantis as a lost land or at least to an Aryan cultural center. Since Rosenberg had attended meetings of the Thule Society, he might have been familiar with the occult speculation about lost lands; however, according to Lutzhöft (1971), Rosenberg drew on the work of Herman Wirth. The attribution of the Urheimat of the Nordic race to a deluged land was very appealing at that time.
Formation of DAP and NSDAPEdit
In the autumn of 1918 Sebottendorff attempted to extend the appeal of the Thule Society's nationalist ideology to people from a working class background. He entrusted the Munich sports reporter Karl Harrer with the formation of a workers' club, called the Deutscher Arbeiterverein ('German workers' club') or Politischer Arbeiterzirkel ('Political workers' ring'). The most active member of this club was Anton Drexler. Drexler urged the foundation of a political party, and on 5 January 1919 the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP, German Workers' Party) was formally founded. When Adolf Hitler first encountered the DAP on 12 September 1919, Sebottendorff had already left the Thule Society (in June 1919). By the end of February 1920, Hitler had transformed the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei into the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP or National Socialist German Workers’ Party). Apparently, meetings of the Thule Society continued until 1923. A certain Johannes Hering kept a diary of these meetings; it mentions the attendance of other Nazi leaders between 1920 and 1923, but not Hitler.
That the origins of the Nazi Party can be traced to the lodge organisation of the Thule Society is fact. However, there were only two points in which the NSDAP was a successor to the Thule Society. One is the use of the swastika. Friedrich Krohn, who was responsible for the colour scheme of the Nazi flag, had been a member of the Thule Society and also of the Germanenorden since 1913. Goodrick-Clarke concludes that the origins of the Nazi symbol can be traced back through the emblems of the Thule Society and the Germanenorden and ultimately to Guido von List, but it is not evident that the Thulean ideology filtered through the DAP into the NSDAP. Goodrick-Clarke implies that ariosophical ideas were of no consequence: "the DAP line was predominantly one of extreme political and social nationalism, and not based on the Aryan-racist-occult pattern of the Germanenorden [and Thule Society]". Godwin summarises the differences in outlook which separated the Thule Society from the direction taken by the Nazis:
"Hitler...had little time for the whole Thule business, once it had carried him where he needed to be...he could see the political worthlessness of paganism [i.e., what Goodrick-Clarke would describe as the racist-occult complex of Ariosophy] in Christian Germany. Neither did the Führer's plans for his Thousand-year Reich have any room whatever for the heady love of individual liberty with which the Thuleans romantically endowed their Nordic ancestors."
The other point in which the NSDAP continued the activities of the Thule Society is in the publication of the newspaper Völkischer Beobachter. Originally, the Beobachter ("Observer") had been a minor weekly newspaper of the eastern suburbs of Munich, published since 1868. After the death of its last publisher in June 1918, the paper ceased publication, until Sebottendorff bought it one month later. He renamed it Münchener Beobachter und Sportsblatt ("Munich Observer and Sports Paper") and wrote "trenchant anti-Semitic" editorials for it. After Sebottendorff left Munich, the paper was converted into a limited liability company. By December 1920, all its shares were in the hands of Anton Drexler, who transferred the ownership of the paper to Hitler in November 1921.
Its connection with Nazism has made the Thule Society a popular subject of modern cryptohistory. Among other things, it is hinted that Karl Haushofer and G. I. Gurdjieff were connected to the Society, but this theory is completely unsustainable.
In January 1933 Sebottendorff published Bevor Hitler kam: Urkundlich aus der Frühzeit der Nationalsozialistischen Bewegung ("Before Hitler Came: Documents from the Early Days of the National Socialist Movement"). Nazi authorities (Hitler himself?) understandably disliked the book, which was banned in the following year. Sebottendorff was arrested but managed to flee to Turkey.
Himmler and the SSEdit
Credited retrospectively with being the founder of "Esoteric Hitlerism", and certainly a figure of major importance for the officially sanctioned research and practice of mysticism by a Nazi elite, was Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler who, more than any other high official in the Third Reich (including Hitler) was fascinated by pan-Aryan (i.e., broader than Germanic) racialism and by certain forms of Germanic neopaganism. Himmler's capacity for rational planning was accompanied by an "enthusiasm for the utopian, the romantic and even the occult."
It also seems that Himmler had an interest in astrology. He consulted the astrologer Wilhelm Wulff in the last weeks of the Second World War. (One detailed but difficult source for this is a book written by Wulff himself, Tierkreis und Hakenkreuz, published in Germany in 1968. That Walter Schellenberg had discovered an astrologer called Wulf is mentioned in Hugh Trevor-Roper's The Last Days of Hitler.)
In Bramwell's assessment: "Too much can be made of the importance of bizarre cultism in Himmler's activities...but it did exist, and was one of the reasons behind the split between Himmler and Darré that took place in the late 1930s." Although Himmler did not have any contact with the Thule Society, he possessed more occult tendencies than any other Nazi leader. The German journalist and historian Heinz Höhne, an authority on the SS, explicitly describes Himmler's views about reincarnation as occultism.
The historic example which Himmler used in practice as the model for the SS was the Society of Jesus, since Himmler found in the Jesuits what he perceived to be the core element of any order, the doctrine of obedience and the cult of the organisation. The evidence for this largely rests on a statement from Walter Schellenberg in his memoirs (Cologne, 1956, p. 39), but Hitler is also said to have called Himmler "my Ignatius of Loyola" . As an order, the SS needed a coherent doctrine that would set it apart. Himmler attempted to construct such an ideology, and to this purpose he deduced a "pseudo-Germanic tradition" from history. However, this attempt was not entirely successful. Höhne observes that "Himmler's neo-pagan customs remained primarily a paper exercise".
In a 1936 memorandum, Himmler set forth a list of approved holidays based on pagan and political precedents and meant to wean SS members from their reliance on Christian festivities. The Winter Solstice, or Yuletide, was the climax of the year. It brought SS folk together at candlelit banquet tables and around raging bonfires that harked back to German tribal rites.
The Allach Julleuchter (Yule light) was made as a presentation piece for SS officers to celebrate the winter solstice. It was later given to all SS members on the same occasion, December 21. Made of unglazed stoneware, the Julleuchter was decorated with early pagan Germanic symbols. Himmler said, “I would have every family of a married SS man to be in possession of a Julleuchter. Even the wife will, when she has left the myths of the church find something else which her heart and mind can embrace.”
Only adherents of theories of Nazi occultism or the few former SS members who were, after the war, participants in the Landig Group in Vienna would claim that the cultic activities within the SS would amount to its own mystical religion. At the time of his death in 1986, Rudolf J. Mund was working on a book on the Germanic 'original race-cult religion', however, what was indoctrinated into the SS is not known in detail.
In 1935 Himmler, along with Darré, established the Ahnenerbe. At first independent, it became the ancestral heritage branch of the SS. Headed by Dr. Hermann Wirth, it was dedicated primarily to archaeological research, but it was also involved in proving the superiority of the 'Aryan race' and in occult practices.
A great deal of time and resources were spent on researching or creating a popularly accepted “historical”, “cultural” and “scientific” background so the ideas about a “superior” Aryan race could be publicly accepted. For example, an expedition to Tibet was organized to search for the origins of the Aryan race. To this end, the expedition leader, Ernst Schäfer, had his anthropologist Bruno Beger make face masks and skull and nose measurements. Another expedition was sent to the Andes.
Bramwell, however, comments that Himmler "is supposed to have sent a party of SS men to Tibet in order to search for Shangri-La, an expedition which is more likely to have had straightforward espionage as its purpose".
Das Schwarze KorpsEdit
The official newspaper of SS was Das Schwarze Korps ("The Black Corps"), published weekly from 1935 to 1945. In its first issue, the newspaper published an article on the origins of the Nordic race, hypothesizing a location near the North Pole similar to the theory of Hermann Wirth (but not mentioning Atlantis).
Also in 1935, the SS journal commissioned a Professor of Germanic History, Heinar Schilling, to prepare a series of articles on ancient Germanic life. As a result, a book containing these articles and entitled Germanisches Leben was published by Koehler & Amelung of Leipzig with the approval of the SS and Reich Government in 1937. Three chapters dealt with the religion of the German people over three periods: nature worship and the cult of the ancestors, the sun religion of the Late Bronze Age, and the cult of the gods.
According to Heinar Schilling, the Germanic peoples of the Late Bronze Age had adopted a four-spoke wheel as symbolic of the sun "and this symbol has been developed into the modern swastika of our own society [i.e., Nazi Germany] which represents the sun." Under the sign of the swastika "the light bringers of the Nordic race overran the lands of the dark inferior races, and it was no coincidence that the most powerful expression of the Nordic world was found in the sign of the swastika". Very little had been preserved of the ancient rites, Professor Schilling continued, but it was a striking fact "that in many German Gaue today on Sonnenwendtage (solstice days) burning sun wheels are rolled from mountain tops down into the valleys below, and almost everywhere the Sonnenwendfeuer (solstice fires) burn on those days." He concluded by saying that "The Sun is the All-Highest to the Children of the Earth".
Cultic activities within the SSEdit
The SS-Castle WewelsburgEdit
Himmler has been claimed to have considered himself the spiritual successor or even reincarnation of Heinrich the Fowler, having established special SS rituals for the old king and having returned his bones to the crypt at Quedlinburg Cathedral. Himmler even had his personal quarters at Wewelsburg castle decorated in commemoration of Heinrich the Fowler. The way the SS redesigned the castle referred to certain characters in the Grail-mythos (see The "SS-School House Wewelsburg").
Himmler had visited the Wewelsburg on 3 November 1933 and April 1934; the SS took official possession of it in August 1934. The occultist Karl Maria Wiligut (known in the SS under the pseudonym 'Weisthor') accompanied Himmler on his visits to the castle. Initially, the Wewelsburg was intended to be a museum and officer's college for ideological education within the SS, but it was subsequently placed under the direct control of the office of the Reichsführer SS (Himmler) in February 1935. The impetus for the change of the conception most likely came from Wiligut.
SS-Officers in ArgentinaEdit
There are some accounts of SS officers celebrating solstices, apparently attempting to recreate a pagan ritual. In his book El Cuarto Lado del Triangulo (Sudamericana 1995), Professor Ronald Newton describes a number of occasions when a Sonnenwendfeier occurred in Argentina. When SS-Sturmbannführer Baron von Thermann (Edmund Freiherr von Thermann, German WP), the new head of the German Legation, arrived in December 1933, one of his first public engangements was to attend the NSDAP Sonnenwendfeier at the house of Vicente Lopez in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, "a neo-pagan festival with torches in which the Argentine Nazis greeted the winter and summer solstices". At another in December 1937, 500 young people, mostly Hitler Youth and Hitler Maidens, were taken to a natural amphitheatre dominating the sea at Comodoro Rivadavia in the south of the country. "They lit great pillars of wood, and in the light of the flickering flames diverse NSDAP orators lectured the children on the origins of the ceremony and sang the praises of the (Nazis) Fallen for Liberty. In March 1939 the pupils at the German School in Rosario were the celebrants on an island in the Paraná River opposite the city: Hitler Youth flags, trumpets, a rustic altar straight from Germanic mythology, young leaders enthroned with solemnity to the accompaniment of choral singing...the Creole witnesses shook their heads in incredulity..." In the Chaco in the north of Argentina the first great event promoted by the Nazis was the Sonnenwendfeir at Charata on 21 December 1935. Portentous discourses of fire alternated with choral renderings". Such activities continued in Argentina after the war; Uki Goñi in his book The Real Odessa (Granta, 2003) describes how Jacques de Mahieu, a wanted SS war criminal, was "a regular speaker at the pagan solar solstice celebrations held by fugitive Nazis in Argentina postwar."
Occultists working for the SSEdit
Karl Maria WiligutEdit
Of all the SS personnel, Karl Maria Wiligut could be best described as a Nazi occultist. The (first?) biography of him, written by Rudolf J. Mund, was titled: Himmler's Rasputin (German: Der Rasputin Himmlers, not translated into English). After his retirement from the Austrian military, Wiligut had been active in the 'ariosophic' milieu. Ariosophy was only one of the threads of Esotericism in Germany and Austria during this time. When he was involuntarily committed to the Salzburg mental asylum between November 1924 and early 1927, he received support from several other occultists. Wiligut was clearly sympathetic to the Nazi Revolution of January 1933. When he was introduced to Himmler by an old friend who had become an SS officer, he got the opportunity to join the SS under the pseudonym 'Weisthor'. He was appointed head of the Department for Pre- and Early history within the Race and Settlement Main Office (Rasse- and Siedlungshauptamt, RuSHA) of the SS. His bureau could (much more than the Ahnenerbe) be described as the occult department of the SS: Wiligut's main duty appears "to have consisted in committing examples of his ancestral memory to paper." Wiligut's work for the SS also included the design of the Totenkopfring (death's head ring) that was worn by SS members. He is even supposed to have designed a chair for Himmler; at least, this chair and its covers are offered for sale on the Internet.
Otto Rahn had written a book Kreuzzug gegen den Gral ("Crusade against the Grail") in 1933. In May 1935 he joined the Ahnenerbe; in March 1936 he formally joined the SS. "In September 1935 Rahn wrote excitingly to Weisthor [Karl Maria Wiligut] about the places he was visiting in his hunt for grail traditions in Germany, asking complete confidence in the matter with the exception of Himmler." In 1936 Rahn undertook a journey for the SS to Iceland, and in 1937 he published his travel journal of his quest for the Gnostic-Cathar tradition across Europe in a book titled Luzifers Hofgesinde ("Lucifer's Servants"). From this book he gave at least one reading, before an "extraordinarily large" audience. (An article about this lecture was published in the Westfälische Landeszeitung ("Westphalia County Paper"), which was an official Nazi newspaper.)
Rahn's connection of the Cathars with the Holy Grail ultimately leads to Montségur in France, which had been the last remaining fortress of the Cathars in France during the Middle Ages. According to eyewitnesses, Nazi archaeologists and military officers were present at that castle.
Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch was a radical author with German-Ukrainian ancestry. An active agitator against the Bolshevik Revolution, he fled his native Russia in 1920 and travelled widely in eastern Europe, making contact with Bulgarian Theosophists and probably with G.I. Gurdjieff. As a mystical anti-communist, he developed an unshakeable belief in the Jewish-Masonic-Bolshevik world conspiracy portrayed in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1922 he published his first book, Freemasonry and the Russian Revolution, and emigrated to Germany in the same year. He became an enthusiastic convert to Anthroposophy in 1923, but by 1929 he had repudiated it as yet another agent of the conspiracy. Meanwhile, he had begun to give lectures for the Ariosophical Society and was a contributor to Georg Lomer's originally Theosophical (and later, neopagan) periodical entitled Asgard: A Fighting Sheet for the Gods of the Homeland. He also worked for Alfred Rosenberg's news agency during the 1920s before joining the SS. He lectured widely on conspiracy theories and was appointed an honorary SS professor in 1942, but was barred from lecturing in uniform because of his unorthodox views. In 1944 he was promoted to SS-Standartenführer on Himmler's recommendation.