The claim that Hitler and the Nazis were obsessed with the occult is embedded in our pop culture now, and often repeated in documentaries as if it is an established fact. (At least in the kinds of documentaries that run on the History Channel.)

I am familiar with Otto Rahn, the German medievalist who was inducted into the SS and instructed to do research on the connection between German and French Grail traditions. What I've never seen any proof that Rahn's research was funded because of a belief in the occult, as opposed to the more political aim of proving some sort of territorial claim over France, however tenuous. I'd love some sort of primary reference as to Himmler's exact motives.

Is there any truth to the larger Nazi/occult claim? Do we have writings by Hitler or other high ranking Nazi officials on the subject of the occult? Is there good evidence that the Nazis actually expended significant manpower and money to find the Holy Grail or the Spear of Destiny? Obviously, I mean beyond the usual looting of museums that goes on in any conquest.

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    The best you will do is likely to be some of the odder parts of the "Thule Society" (one of the predecessors leading to establishment of the NSDAP), Himmler's mystical interest in Aryan Hinduism and a few fans of Wagner's operas.
    – Henry
    Apr 22, 2011 at 23:34
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    Hellboy is a good example of this claim in pop culture
    – Jader Dias
    Apr 23, 2011 at 1:16
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    @Scott: I didn't say that the Nazi occultism was unique. Antisemitism is, in my eyes, a form of unfunded occultism, especially the German racism was propagated with an obscure ideology of blood which I would summarize as occultism too. Maybe you have a different idea what occultism is. Apr 23, 2011 at 3:08
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    @user a) The use of eagles, the banners, the torch parades, carving busts, etc. B) It's not occultism because it's not based on knowledge only known to the elite. Occult means hidden knowledge, not absolutely anything symbolic. Apr 26, 2011 at 18:53
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    @Oliver My current theory is that all Nazi occultism belief was inspired by Morning of the Magicians, which is the only source claiming a Vril Society even existed, let alone had anything to do with the Nazi party. It incredible that such a silly book could be so influential. Apr 26, 2011 at 18:56

4 Answers 4


Hitler had a personal astrologer by some claims (Karl Ernst Krafft - though that claim is disputed elsewhere).

Also, he had an interest in Numerology - which may or may not be occultic.

The source referenced by the previous link:

"Interest in astrology being as intense, in Germany, as it was - Ellic Howe, in Urania's children, 1967, estimates that during the twenty years after 1921 at least four hundred specialist books and pamphlets were published in that country - it was inevitable that it should be suspected that Hitler and the Nazi party made use of astrology for their own purposes"


"Dr Karl-Gunther Heimoth, for instance, a doctor and psychologist who published an astrological study of homosexuality and through it became a friend of Ernst Rohm, the chief of the Sturm-Abteilung (Hitler's private army), was murdered by the Fuhrer with Rohm and others in June 1934. The Astrological Society in Germany, on the other hand, managed to stay out of trouble, integrating with the establishment and providing a certain amount of protection for astrologers even after 1934, when the Nazis banned all 'fortune-telling', making the publication of almanacs and astrological journals illegal."

Which sounds like the practice was banned. Does that mean Hitler wasn't participating? Who knows for sure - the guy who committed suicide before the Allies got to him in 1945.

There is certainly evidence that occult practices were investigated for propagandic purposes.

"Krafft was summoned to Berlin by Goebbels to look through the prophesies of Nostradamus and translate any of them that could be used as propaganda against the Allies. It was felt that these, if dropped into unoccupied areas, might well do something to persuade the people that government by the Nazis was in the natural order of things"

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    Please use more reputable sources (like primary sources, a peer-reviewed article or a referenced essay by a reputable historian).
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 25, 2011 at 16:54
  • @Sklivvz - is my expansion better?
    – warren
    Apr 25, 2011 at 23:45
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    Incidentally, National Geographic had a documentary on this called Hitler and the Occult. Mar 19, 2012 at 21:51
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    It has been postulated that Goebbels' and some other senior Nazis' interest in occult phenomenon was not in line with Party policies, that they were using state resources for personal pet projects in the belief that they were helping the Cause.
    – jwenting
    Jul 3, 2013 at 10:46

Wikipedia - 1939 German expedition to Tibet

Himmler was fascinated by Asian mysticism and therefore wished to send such an expedition under the auspices of the SS Ahnenerbe (SS Ancestral Heritage Society), and desired that Schäfer perform research based on Hans Hörbiger’s pseudo-scientific theory of “Glacial Cosmogony” promoted by the Ahnenerbe.

^ a b Isrun Engelhardt, The Ernst-Schaefer-Tibet-Expedition (1938-1939) : new light on the political history of Tibet in the first half of the 20th century in McKay Alex (ed.)

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    That book is not a very good reference: it doesn't exist in Google Books or Amazon and Engelhardt is possibly a photographer.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 25, 2011 at 22:55
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    @Sklivvz Just because your 2 second google search failed doesn't mean you can discount the reference yet.
    – iterationx
    Apr 26, 2011 at 0:34
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    I have read about the Tibet expedition before - the book Morning of the Magician claims it was about making contact with Aryan masters or whatever. In reality it was five people, led by near suicidal but somewhat famous zoologist. All indications are that it was exactly what it appeared to be, a publicity stunt. As to Himmler's alleged interest in Asian mysticism I'd love some independent confirmations of that. Like his Wikipedia endorsed "obseession" with the occult, the argument for it seems to be completely circular. Apr 26, 2011 at 1:35
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    @iterationx: the fact that I can't verify your sources is a problem, and the fact that your reference is just a copy/paste from Wikipedia makes me suspect you haven't verified them either.
    – Sklivvz
    Apr 26, 2011 at 8:16
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    I'm not sure what having that source would tell us. That the Schafer expedition took place is not in doubt. What needs to be remembered is that in the first half of the 20th century it was a point of national pride for countries to send expeditions to places like Tibet and Antarctica. It seems a little quaint now, but it's true. Schafer may have been asked to do all kinds of things on his expedition, but really, the expedition was its own reason for being. It's not like a zoologist was going to overturn Einstein by going to Tibet. Apr 26, 2011 at 19:06

Ernie, and all,

The primary sources that Himmler and other top Nazis [mainly Hess] were involved in the occult, or what we deem 'the occult' are listed in Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's books. However, to answer Ernie's concerns - it is well known that Himmler was an avid occultist. The SS was, in his opinion, a 'sacred order of Aryan knights'. Furthermore, the expedition to Tibet in 1938 and the Antarctic in 1937 were attempts by Himmler to not only investigate various cultural exchanges [in the case of Tibet] but also attempts to prove some of the theories that he was interested in [such as the Welteislehre, the existence of Thule, and the Hollow Earth theory].

The Nazis in general had a different perspective on what we call 'history' and 'science'. This is well known and documented. All one has to do is download 'Ostara' [which is a primary source from the period] to see the ideas that influenced the Nazis. Also, look at any of the biographies of Himmler, i.e. by Padfield, and one can see how he was influenced by certain occult ideas. Also, the Nazi interest in alternative science might be something of interest here as well. Viktor Schauberger and other 'alternative' scientists were very instrumental in advancing Nazi ideas about science [whether willing or unwilling].

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    This seems to be more of a comment, not an answer. Also, can you cite some sources here?
    – HDE 226868
    Jun 12, 2015 at 22:23
  • 23 octobre 1940 - Heinrich Himmler made a secret wartime mission to Montserrat Abbey (Spain) in search of what he believed was the Aryan Holy Grail. source: The Desecrated Abbey by Montserrat Rico Góngora
    – Graffito
    Nov 13, 2015 at 13:10
  • Concerning "Rudolf Hess", after he flewed over to Scotland at the height of the war, 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. source: 10 Most Sinister Nazi Occultists & The Haunting of Twentieth-Century America by William J. Birnes,Joel Martin
    – Graffito
    Nov 13, 2015 at 13:17

Himmler started a major operation called H-Sonderauftrag (H = Hexen = witches) or Hexenkartothek researching into the early-modern witch hunt in Europe. He interpreted the witch hunt as an attempt by the Catholic church to expunge some Germanic heritage. There was even a family legend that one of Himmlers ancestors had been burnt as a witch.

German Wikipedia - Hexkartothek

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    Can you quote the relevant parts, and provide a translation to that? If possible can you also find a better reference than wikipedia?
    – Wertilq
    Jul 3, 2013 at 14:58
  • Google Translate can help you propably more than I do: translate.google.com/#de/en. Yes, this is a Wikipedia article, but it is quite ok. The special order H is also mentioned in these proceedings: socialhistory.org/sites/default/files/docs/… (p. 134-135), together with similar topics. There, too, only German literature is cited.
    – georg w.
    Jul 4, 2013 at 8:07
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    How exactly is this supposed to be evidence of obsession with the occult? If one of my ancestors had been burnt as a witch by the Catholic church, and I was Lutheran, I wouldn't be particularly pleased about that fact either. It's pretty much the default that any Protestant isn't particularly pleased with Catholicism for any number of reasons.
    – Ernie
    Jul 5, 2013 at 18:11

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