Nazism and Germanic occultism - allies at the beginning:
Military defeat, economic collapse, anti-Semitism, and militant, vengeful nationalism are part of the explanation for the emergence and spread of Nazism. But there was another critical factor, as well: the influence of occultic, irrational forms of spirituality in Germany.
1919-1923: the Thule Society and Dietrich Eckart
The German Workers' Party, which became the National Socialist German Worker's (Nazi) Party in February 1920, was founded on January 5, 1919. (2) The German Workers' Party was the creation of the Thule Society, an extreme-right, Aryan-theosophical organization that had been founded in July 1918; its first meeting occurred in Thule Society offices. (3) Hitler, who was serving as a political spy for the German Army in Munich, entered the German Worker's Party to determine whether it was a leftist threat, or whether it could - as his superiors in the Army hoped - serve as an opponent to the new, liberal regime in Germany. Soon - as early as August-September 1919 - he gained notice as a mesmerizing speaker with the ability to mobilize the masses for counterrevolution. By March 1920, he had become "indispensable" to the Nazis.
At this time, Hitler received critical assistance from Dietrich Eckart, an anti-Semitic, occultist playwright and journalist. (4) Part of this help included "lending him books" and "helping to improve his German - both written and spoken." (5) Eckart, a member of the Thule Society with connections to the Army, also introduced Hitler to wealthy and influential residents of Munich; they then began supporting Hitler and the Nazis. Eckart also helped to transfer funds from Henry Ford to Hitler and the Nazis; Ford's 1920 anti-Semitic book The International Jew inspired what Hitler wrote about the Jews several years later in Mein Kampf. (6)
Several other Thule Society members - Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, and Hans Frank - became Nazi leaders and had key roles in the Third Reich. The Nazi choice of the swastika symbol was influenced by the Thule Society's example. Hitler was already an anti-Semite before 1919, but his tutelage from Eckart and Rosenberg accentuated this - to the point that by 1922, Hitler told an associate that "if I one day actually come to power, then the extermination of the Jews will be my first and most important task." (7)
With financial help from Eckart's friends, the Nazis bought the Thule Society's newspaper, the Volkischer Beobachter, in December 1920. This became the Party's official paper, and continued publishing until the fall of the Third Reich. Eckart, who had regarded Hitler as his own protégé, died on December 26, 1923, soon after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch. (According to one source, Eckart said on his deathbed, "Hitler will dance, but it is I who play the tune. ... Do not mourn for me, for I will have influenced history more than any other German." (8)) When Hitler published Mein Kampf - which became the Nazi "bible" - in 1925 and 1927, he dedicated the second volume of the book to Eckart; Hitler described Eckart as "that man, one of the best, who devoted his life to the awakening of his, our people in his writings and his thoughts and finally in his deeds." (9)
There is no honor or gratitude among thieves - or among fanatics. Once Hitler seized power, he banned the Thule Society and other occult organizations. Rudolf von Sebottendorff, the founder of the Thule Society, spent time in a Nazi jail before emigrating to Turkey and serving as a spy for Germany. (10) On May 9, 1945, with Germany's defeat, he committed suicide by jumping into the Bosporus. (11)
Rudolf Hess and his mentor, Professor Karl Haushofer:
As Hitler built his movement, he continued to learn from his Thule Society comrades. (12) By the end of 1922, Hitler had become convinced that Germany needed to conquer Lebensraum, "living space" in Eastern Europe and Russia; he never wavered from this view in later years.
By 1922, Rudolf Hess had introduced Hitler to the geopolitical, imperialist ideas of his mentor, Professor Karl Haushofer (1869-1946), who taught at the University of Munich. Haushofer - who became a general in the German Army by World War I - was fluent in Japanese, and had served as a military attaché to Japan for the Kaiser in 1908-1909. During the 1930s, Haushofer helped to establish the alliance between Germany and Japan; he also formed relationships between the Third Reich and South American governments, building ties that would later be useful to Nazi war criminals fleeing prosecution after 1945. His geopolitical theories helped to win intellectuals over to Nazism. However, Karl Haushofer fell out of favor with Hitler after Hess flew to England in 1941. He was suspected of involvement in the anti-Hitler resistance during 1944, and was held for eight months by the Gestapo in the Dachau concentration camp. The Professor survived the war, but he and his wife committed suicide by taking arsenic in 1946. Haushofer had taught Hitler the necessity of colonizing the "East" to gain Lebensraum for Germany, but there is no evidence that he was ever a member of the Thule Society, or that he initiated Hitler into occultism. (13)
During the late 1930s and the first years of the war, Professor Haushofer's son, Albrecht, unsuccessfully attempted to broker an anti-Bolshevik alliance between Germany and Great Britain. It is possible that he influenced Rudolf Hess' decision to fly to Britain in May 1941 in a foredoomed quest for such an alliance. As the war went on, Albrecht became convinced that the Nazis would ruin Germany. He joined in the unsuccessful July 1944 bomb plot against Hitler, and was arrested in December 1944. Albrecht Haushofer was executed by the Nazis in April 1945, as the Russians were entering Berlin.
Hitler's Jewish psychic - and a critical occult intervention in late 1932
On July 31, 1932, the Nazis had won 37.4% of the votes in national parliamentary elections, making them the largest party in Germany. However, their share of the vote fell to 33.1% in the November 6, 1932 elections, and the Nazis lost seats in the Reichstag.
During the fall of 1932, Hitler had showed his willingness to cooperate with his Communist enemies, to the horror of old-line conservatives and middle-class voters. (14) On September 12, the Nazis in the Reichstag voted for a Communist no-confidence motion against the government (which passed overwhelmingly). In October, the Nazis joined the Communists in supporting a strike by transit workers in Berlin - a strike that the Social Democrats and the mainstream unions opposed. These alliances of expediency foreshadowed the 1939 pact between the Nazis and the Soviets. In their turn, "the Communists, at the behest of Moscow, were committed to the last to the silly idea of first destroying the Social Democrats, the Socialist trade unions, and what middle-class democratic forces there were, on the dubious theory that although this would lead to a Nazi regime, it would be only temporary and would bring inevitably the collapse of capitalism, after which the Communists would take over and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat." (15)
In December 1932, the Nazi tide seemed to be further on the wane. (16) Its votes in the December 4 local elections in Thuringia declined by up to 35%. As historian Michael Burleigh said, "for the first time, what had seemed since 1930 to be an unstoppable movement showed signs of fatigue and internal strain." Intrigues within the Nazi Party and between the German government and Gregor Strasser, leader of a left-socialist Nazi faction, threatened to split the movement. Historian Burleigh said, "at least once during this high-stakes poker game, a despondent Hitler spoke of suicide, if his Party should disintegrate under the weight of frustrated expectations." During the last week of 1932, Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels wrote in his diary, "1932 has brought us eternal bad luck ... The past was difficult and the future looks dark and gloomy; all prospects and hopes have quite disappeared." (17)
At this critical moment, Hitler got spiritual assistance from below. (18) Hitler sought help from Erik Jan Hanussen, a famous astrologer, hypnotist, and occultist whom he had met in 1926 in Berlin. (Ironically, Hanussen was Jewish, and was born in a Viennese jail cell on June 2, 1889. Hitler was born in Braunau, Austria on April 20, 1889 - the Saturday before Easter). Hanussen had taught Hitler how to project his voice and how to use his hands to emphasize emotions; he thus had contributed to Hitler's ongoing success as a spellbinding orator. In the autumn of 1932, Hanussen told Hitler that his horoscope showed that he had been cursed. To remove this curse, Hanussen said that it was necessary for someone to travel to Hitler's home town and take a mandrake root from a butcher's back yard. (Occultists have used mandrake roots for protection, and as aphrodisiacs.) Hanussen volunteered to do this himself, and at midnight on a night of a full moon, he took a mandrake root from a suitable location in Linz, Austria. Hanussen returned to Berlin with the mandrake root on New Year's Day, 1933. He told Hitler that the curse had been lifted, and that Hitler's ascent to power would resume on January 30.
And so it occurred....
By January 4, 1933, Hitler's mood had lifted, and he resumed the negotiations that would make him Chancellor on January 30. By January 16, 1933, the Nazi Party had received large donations from business interests, enough to remove the threat of bankruptcy that the Party had faced during November and December, 1932. (19) By natural causes, or by "spiritual" assistance, or both, the road to power was again open for Hitler.
At a séance in Berlin (held at Hanussen's ornate "Palace of Occultism") on February 26, 1933, Hanussen predicted the Reichstag Fire - which occurred the next day. (20) As the Nazi seizure of power progressed, Hanussen went with the spirit of the times. In February 1933, he had joined the Nazi Party and the Storm Troopers (using false proof of Aryan background), and he had converted to Catholicism. Nevertheless he went swiftly to his doom. On March 24, Hanussen was arrested by the Storm Troopers, and he was murdered on March 25, 1933.
The founder of the Thule Society, and Erik Jan Hanussen, and the Haushofer family all cooperated with the Nazis at critical times. All received - in the end - the wages due for their works.