As members of one of the most reviled and sinister organizations ever to rise to power, the Nazis were the architects of many evil and disturbing plans. Genocide, medical experimentation on humans, world war; you name it, the Nazis did it. However, while living in a ruthlessly efficient military engine many Nazis believed some very strange things; indeed many senior Nazis even went so far as to embrace the occult. Stories abound of how psychics and occultists were used to predict events and pinpoint warships and troop movements on maps. Some have even said that Satan himself possessed Adolf Hitler.
The relationship between Nazism and occultism is often shrouded in secrecy – as well as the mists of time that have descended upon the fallen regime. Yet if anything this has only worked to further stimulate the public imagination and fascinate researchers. Were the Nazis searching for the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant – or were they more focused on V2 rockets and the race for the atom bomb? Whether the Nazis truly believed in the pseudoscience of supernatural powers or simply considered them to be a valuable tool for propaganda remains to be seen.
10. Alfred Rosenberg
Born the son of a cobbler, Alfred Rosenberg was an important figure in the Nazi party’s beginnings. Rosenberg was also a close associate of the Thule Society – an occult-mystical organization that believed true Germans originated from a superhuman race of Aryans. For him, religion and philosophy were crucial to political change, and he was extremely outspoken about his strong views in these regards. He has been described as having an “occult-driven psychosis” (as well as "rabid anti-Semitism"), and was adamant that Christianity should be eliminated or “allowed to die out,” in favor of a new "religion of the blood." He effectively led the Nazis while Hitler was imprisoned in Landsberg after being convicted of treason following the Munich Beer Hall Putsch, and thus was instrumental in laying the anti-Semitic foundations of the Nazis' principles.
9. Dietrich Eckart
The Thule society had many links with the Nazi party. The organization was a secretive group of occultists who believed in the coming of a “German Messiah” who would restore Germany’s fortunes after her defeat in World War I and the humiliation of the Versailles Treaty. One such member was Johann Dietrich Eckart, a successful playwright, poet and journalist. Eckart met Adolf Hitler for the first time during a speech he gave before NSDAP party members in 1919, and became convinced that the Austrian was the “prophesied redeemer” that he believed Germany longed for.
It is said that Eckart “exerted considerable influence on Hitler in the following years and is strongly believed to have helped establish the theories and beliefs of the Nazi party.” As such, “few other people had as much influence on Hitler in his lifetime.”
8. Ludwig Straniak
Originally an architect, Ludwig Straniak was a Germanic revivalist and mystic as well as an enthusiastic adherent of astrology and pendulum dowsing. In particular, Straniak believed that he had a talent for discerning the location of objects simply by suspending a pendulum over a map. In order to test his claims, high-ranking Kriegsmarine officers provided him with a variety of naval charts and asked him to pinpoint the exact location of the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen (pictured above). Despite the warship being assigned a top secret mission, Straniak was able to correctly tell the officers the ship’s location as being off the coast of Norway. Based on these skills, Straniak served in the German Institute for Occult Warfare during World War II.
7. Erik Jan Hanussen
A mentalist, clairvoyant, astrologer and occultist of considerable fame, Erik Jan Hanussen is rumored to have aided Adolf Hitler with his famously inspirational style of oratory. Using the skills of suggestion and persuasion that come naturally to mentalists, Hanussen taught Hitler the secrets of influencing a crowd. Hanussen was fascinated by the occult. He published a journal on the subject and even purchased a mansion which became known as “The Palace of the Occult.” Despite being a supporter of the Nazis, Hanussen was an Austrian Jew, and when he predicted the Reichstag fire in 1933 his days were numbered. He was murdered in March, 1933 by SA (Sturmabteilung) foot soldiers.
6. Wilhelm Wulff
Born in Hamburg, Wilhelm Wulff was an astrologer of some capability – a skill he built upon while researching in Italy. Through some of his clients he came to know various high ranking officers within the SS (Schutzstaffel), including Heinrich Himmler. Wulff came to aid the SS by working for the Ahnenerbe (a Nazi semi-occult ‘ancestry’ think-tank) in order to attempt “to harness not only natural, but also supernatural forces.” He was also said to have predicted certain notable events in Hitler’s life, including his survival of Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s 20th July plot of 1944 to blow him up, and even the approximate date of his death amid the rubble of Berlin (the chart cast by Wulff for Hitler is pictured above). He would later be arrested and spend four months in a concentration camp when Rudolf Hess’s flight to Britain made Hitler suspect that all the occultists within the Nazi organization were part of a Hess-led conspiracy.
5. Heinrich Luitpold Himmler
SS leader and architect of the ‘Final Solution,’ Heinrich Himmler was one of the most evil men in one of the most evil regimes imaginable. He was also a master occultist with an intense interest in Germanic paganism. Long an associate of various esoteric secret societies, Himmler used his position of power within the Nazi party to mix his own ideologies with the Third Reich’s. At Wewelsburg Castle he conducted numerous secret black magic rituals in a small room he named the “realm of the dead” in an attempt to communicate necromantically with the long deceased ancestors of the German people. Indeed, Himmler saw Wewelsburg as his Camelot and planned to make it “the center of the world” after Germany’s final victory (Endsieg). But such a Teutonic triumph was not to be, and Himmler ordered that the castle be destroyed before Allied troops could capture it.
4. Karl Ernst Krafft
Swiss-born Karl Krafft’s considerable talents for mathematics were eclipsed only by his love of astrology. Towards the end of 1939, he made an extraordinary forecast, predicting that someone would make an attempt upon Adolf Hitler’s life between the 7th and 10th of November. Sure enough, on the 8th of November, a bomb was detonated at the Munich Beer Hall, injuring 63 and killing 7. Hitler had left unexpectedly early. Krafft’s prophecy came to the attention of Rudolf Hess and he was immediately arrested for questioning by the Gestapo. Luckily for Krafft, his interrogators believed his innocence, and he was passed on to propaganda minister Dr Joseph Goebbels. Goebbels’ interest in prophecy and Nostradamus led him to instruct Krafft to commence work on a pro-German evaluation of the medieval French seer Nostradamus.
It wasn’t long before Krafft came to the attention of Adolf Hitler, and he was invited to undertake a horoscope reading for Hitler – a great honor for Krafft, who was an ardent Nazi. But his predictions would eventually lead to his demise. A combination of 'Aktion Hess' (see Rudolf Hess) and his foretelling that a British aerial raid would bomb the Propaganda Ministry drew the attention of the Gestapo, who decided that this was anti-German. While in prison, Krafft developed typhus and died in early 1945 while being transported to the concentration camp at Buchenwald.
3. Ernst Schulte-Strathaus
Another man with strong connections to Rudolf Hess was Ernst Schulte-Strathaus. Schulte-Strathaus was not only the Nazi deputy leader’s close friend, but also his leading occult adviser and personal astrologer. It is supposed that Hess’ enigmatic flight to Scotland (Hess’ crashed plane is pictured above) was heavily influenced by Schulte-Strathaus, who advised Hess that on May 10, 1941, there would be “an auspicious arrangement [that] was to signal important and long-lasting changes in the world”. Hess interpreted this as a new openness of Britain to an alliance with Germany.
Other historians have conjectured that Schulte-Strathaus wasn’t Hess’ astrological adviser at all, “but merely talked to him occasionally about astrology.” Still others say that Schulte-Strathaus was actually employed by the British Secret Service to convince Hess to fly to Scotland and score a propaganda coup for Britain.
2. Karl Maria Wiligut
Karl Maria Wiligut has been called both the “only occultist who exerted real influence in the Third Reich” and “Himmler’s Warlock” or “Himmler’s Rasputin.” Wiligut’s beliefs were at times a bit out there. He maintained that Germany’s true culture reached back to hundreds of thousands of years before Christ to an era when the globe was inhabited by creatures plucked from various mythologies including giants and dwarfs. He maintained that the German people were descended from the mythical inhabitants of Atlantis and that at one time there were even three suns. Wiligut was eccentric, to say the least, so it is perhaps unsurprising to learn that he was committed to an insane asylum in 1924 for his beliefs.
His original role within the SS was as the head of the Pre-and-Early History Department, but he was soon moved up until he eventually became a member of Himmler’s personal staff, even officiating in the role of priest at weddings of SS men and their brides. Most notably, though, Wiligut designed the Death’s Head ring which Himmler personally awarded to prestigious SS officers.
1. Rudolf Hess
As Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Hess was the third most powerful man in the Third Reich. He was also said to be “the biggest occult supporter of them all.” The Egyptian-born Hess would become a close associate of Hitler during their time in Landsberg Prison, helping Hitler to complete Mein Kampf.
Even before the Nazis' rise to power, Hess was a member of the Thule Society and had long been interested in the more esoteric aspects of life. Hess even ordered that all the supposed ley lines that criss-crossed the Third Reich be mapped.
Famously, Hess flew over to Scotland at the height of the war. The reasons for this were not clear at first, and this “apparent defection” caused a shockwave that rippled through the Nazi Party. These repercussions were not good news for the occultists who Hess left behind, as Hitler instructed the Third Reich’s notorious secret police, the Gestapo, to implement ‘Aktion Hess.’ Hundreds of occultists were arrested; a ban on all secret societies was enforced; and any open performances of clairvoyancy, astrology, fortune-telling or telepathy were prohibited.