The Hitler Faith: Its First 100 Years
by James Harting
I reread and studied [Mein Kampf] some more. Slowly, bit by bit, I began to understand. I realized that National Socialism, the iconoclastic worldview of Adolf Hitler, was the doctrine of scientific, racial idealism – actually a new ‘religion’ for our times. (George Lincoln Rockwell, This Time the World)
IT HAS LONG been recognized that Adolf Hitler was someone who was more than just another German politician, and that the National-Socialist movement he created was something more than just another transitory political faction or party. Even his bitterest enemies acknowledge this. As time rolls on, the perception that Hitler was in essence a religious figure of the first order has grown. It is now fair to say that that a new spiritual creed has emerged from the ashes of the Second World War: the Hitler Faith.
In the Beginning
The earliest known manifestation of the Hitler Faith took place in Vienna, Austria, in the first decade of the 20th century. Adolf Hitler and his friend August Kubizek had attended a performance of the opera Rienzi by Richard Wagner. Both teenagers enjoyed opera in general, and especially Wagnerian opera, but on this occasion the performance had an unprecedented, electrifying effect on Hitler.
At the conclusion of the opera, with Kubizek in tow, he climbed to the top of the Freinberg, a mountain which overlooks the city. There, under the stars, he made an astounding declaration. Kubizek reports:
I cannot repeat every word that my friend uttered. I was struck by something strange, which I had never noticed before, even when he talked to me in the moments of the greatest excitement. It was as if another being spoke out of his body, and moved him as much as it did me. It was not all the case of a speaker being carried away by his own words. On the contrary, I rather felt that he himself listened with astonishment and emotion to what burst forth from him with elemental force. I will not attempt to interpret this phenomenon, but it was a state of complete ecstasy and rapture … He conjured up in grandiose, inspiring pictures his own future and that of his people.
In 1939, Hitler commented on the episode to Winifred Wagner, daughter-in-law of the composer, that, “In that hour it began.”
But nothing immediate came of this remarkable epiphany. Although other people with whom Hitler had personal contact in the following years noticed that there was something different or uncanny about him, it was not until he began his political career that he attracted a circle of personal followers who perceived him as someone who was absolutely unique and charismatic. It was at this time that the now famous National-Socialist salutation “Heil Hitler!” arose. The world heil is not merely the German version of the English greeting hail, but additionally carries a religious or spiritual connotation. The related word, heilige, for example, means “holy.” Hitler began to be known as the Fuehrer, which does not mean simply “Leader” in a general sense but more exactly someone who guides in a specific direction. It also has a religious connotation, as it is used by Christians to mean “shepherd” in a ecclesiastic sense.
Slowly at first, but with increasing popularity, that notion began to spread that there was a spiritual dimension to Hitler’s personality that placed him on a level higher than that of ordinary political leaders. His creation, the National-Socialist worldview, was also seen as something special. Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess, noted that to be a National-Socialist “presupposes a spiritual disposition.”
One of the first to notice the extraordinary aura projected by Hitler was the folkish author and publicist Dietrich Eckart. In November, 1923, on the occasion of the ill-fated NS revolt in Munich, he stated, “Let happen what will and must, but I believe in Adolf Hitler: over him there hangs a star.”
After Hitler assumed power in 1933, the momentum towards a religious definition of Hitler and his mission gained speed. Soon, even those outside the NS movement were commenting on it. A reporter for The New York Times who attended the 1935 NSDAP rally in Nuremberg filed this dispatch after hearing Hitler speak to his followers:
A new German religion with God manifesting himself in an invincible German nation with Adolf Hitler as his modern prophet appeared in the making tonight if Nazi party conventions and utterances could be taken as indications. The trend towards such a religious conception was marked in the developments of the day.
In 1936, the founder of Analytical Psychology, Carl Gustav Jung, published his landmark essay “Wotan,” in which he analyzed the re-paganization of Germany in psychological terms. Jung’s thesis was that a reawakening of the archetype of the primeval Germanic God Wotan was occurring. In passing, however, he posed an alternative explanation: the “deification” of Hitler, “which has indeed actually happened.” Jung’s comment implies that the perception of Hitler as a divine figure was inevitable, or at least expectable.
Even in far-away America, the religious character of National-Socialism was clear to some adherents of the Movement. Peter Stahrenberg, leader of the tiny American National-Socialist Party, maintained “My religion is National-Socialism. Christianity is the bunk.”
The emergence of National-Socialism as a new Germanic religion with Adolf Hitler as its central figure was not universally popular. Pious Christians, in particular, were aghast at the development. But in resisting the nascent Hitler Faith they received important support from a powerful source – Adolf Hitler himself.
Hitler on the Hitler Faith
Hitler was aware that there was movement in the direction of casting him and National-Socialism in religious, rather than political, terms. On occasion, both publicly and privately, he addressed the issue head on: he was against it.
At the 1938 NSDAP Nuremberg rally, he stated in clear-cut language:
National-Socialism is a cool-headed doctrine of realities; it mirrors clearly scientific knowledge and its expression in thought. Since we have won the heart of our people for this doctrine we do not wish to fill their minds with a mysticism which lies outside of that doctrine’s goal and purpose. National Socialism is not a cult-movement, a movement for worship; it is exclusively a folkish political doctrine based on racial principles. In its purpose there is no mystic cult, only the care and leadership of a people defined by a common blood-relationship. Therefore we have no rooms for worship, but only halls for the people – no open spaces for worship but spaces for assemblies and parades….
We will not allow mystically-minded occult folk with a passion for exploring the secrets of the world beyond to steal into our Movement. Such folk are not National-Socialists but something else – in any case something which has nothing to do with us … Our worship is exclusively for the cultivation of the natural, and for this reason, because natural, therefore God-willed. Our humility is the unconditional submission before the divine laws of existence so far as they are known to us: it is to these we pay our respect.
It will be noted that even when denying that National-Socialism has a religious focus, Hitler invokes divine authority.
On October 14, 1941, Hitler echoed these sentiments in a private conversation with his immediate entourage.
A movement like ours mustn’t let itself be drawn into metaphysical digressions. It must stick to the spirit of exact science. It is not the Party’s function to be a counterfeit for religion… I especially wouldn’t want our Movement to acquire a religious character and institute a form of worship. It would be appalling for me, and I would wish I’d never lived, were I to end up in the skin of a Buddha.
On the surface, such statements on the part of Hitler himself would seem to settle the matter, and indicate that National-Socialism is not a religion. The post-World War II proponents of the Hitler Faith are undeterred in their beliefs, however, because the issue is more complex and subtle than it first appears.
Adherents of the Hitler Faith have yet to address this matter in a comprehensive and detailed manner. However, three possible explanations come to mind:
1. Hitler meant what he said when he rejected a religious focus for National-Socialism, and was pursuing no hidden agenda;
2. Hitler himself was unaware of the religious implications and the spiritual depth of his life and his mission; and
3. Hitler did realize that he was founding a new religion which would eventually supplant Christianity among the Aryan peoples, but that he felt that the public articulation of this new faith was premature, and that it would only emerge in future generations.
Hitlerians today reject the first possibility above as a superficial and mistaken interpretation of Hitler’s intentions. Considered in isolation from the rest of his life and work, the “anti-religious” declarations seem plausible and even compelling. However, when taken in the full context of what he said, wrote and did, it is clear that there is more to the story.
As to the second possibility, it would be astounding if someone of Hitler’s intellect and possessing his encyclopedic knowledge of history and religion, would be blind to the full implications of what he was doing. That Hitler was too naive to recognize the historic forces that he had set in motion simply is not credible. Indeed, that he felt it necessary to address the issue at all indicates that he was aware a spiritual reorientation of the Germans was under way.
Further, from the very beginning of his political career, Hitler consciously employed religious language and imagery in connection with himself and with National-Socialism. In the very first sentence of Mein Kampf, for example, Hitler claims that the location of his birth was divinely appointed. And elsewhere:
Blood-sin and the desecration of the race is the original sin in this world and the end of a humanity which surrenders to it. (Vol. I, Chapter 10)
There is only one holiest human right, and this right is at the same time the holiest obligation, namely: to make sure the blood is kept pure. (II:10)
For the will of God gave men their form, their being, and their abilities. He who destroys His work declares war upon the creation of the Lord and upon the Divine will. (II:10)
By defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord. (I:2)
There are countless more examples which could be cited from Mein Kampf, including at least one short non-Christian prayer which Hitler authored:
Almighty God, bless our arms when the time comes. Be just as Thou hast always been; judge now whether we be deserving of freedom; Lord, bless our battle! (II:13)
Or consider the way that Hitler allowed himself to be portrayed in the famous documentary of the 1934 Nuremberg rally, Triumph of the Will: the opening shows Hitler descending godlike from the clouds, to be greeted by jubilant throngs of admirers. Throughout the film he is shown in heroic isolation, apart from and above ordinary humanity.
What else will come from such consistent use of religious words and imagery, if not a religious perception of the subject? Could Hitler have been unaware of what he was doing? It hardly seems possible!
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe notes in his Letters from Italy, 1786-1788, “How true it is the heroic representation of the human being simply as he is makes him godlike.” Indeed, and even how more true is this when the one being portrayed is already an outstanding and unique personality!
Rather, the most likely explanation is the third: that Hitler did realize the religious, spiritual implications of National-Socialism, and the central role that he played, but that he felt the time was not ripe for the open advocacy of National-Socialism as a competitor faith and eventual replacement for Christianity.
Indeed, the vast majority of the population of Hitler’s Germany identified themselves as Christians. The formal establishment of an NS “church” would have undermined the broad support Hitler and his movement enjoyed among ordinary Germans. It would have subverted his entire effort at building the NS state. Especially after the outbreak of the War, the loss of Christian support would have been catastrophic.
Also from his remarks of October 14, 1941:
I’ve always kept the Party aloof from religious questions. I’ve thus prevented my Catholic and Protestant supporters from forming groups against one another … So it’s not opportune to hurl ourselves into a struggle with the churches. The best thing is for Christianity to die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble … We’ll see to it that the churches cannot spread abroad teachings in conflict with the interests of the [NS] state. We shall preach the doctrine of National-Socialism, and the young will no longer be taught anything but the truth. [Hitler’s Table Talk]
And so Hitler’s own words to the contrary notwithstanding, the Hitler Faith moved forward, and continued on after Hitler’s death. Perhaps the survival of the Faith was in some small way spurred on by a statement attributed to the Fuehrer in the last days of his life: “It is necessary that I should die for my people, but my spirit will rise from the grave and the world will know that I was right!”
The Hitler Faith after the War
With German National-Socialists being murdered en masse, and Germany itself under the heel of a brutal Judeo-Capitalist-Bolshevik military occupation, it is unsurprising that the rebirth (or continuation, if one prefers) after the war of the Hitler Faith took place outside the Reich.
The first such manifestation was the publication of a slim volume entitled The Holy Book of Adolf Hitler by the Englishman James Larratt Battersby in 1952. In its pages, for the very first time, the claim is openly made that National-Socialism is a religion and not a political movement, and that Hitler was specifically an agent of the Divine. The penultimate paragraph reads:
Hitler was chosen by God for unique tasks: he was the prophet of the rebirth of man in a new form. Through him has the world verily found a New Order, combining Church and State, the spiritual and the material, in a consummation uniting all religions in a Brotherhood of Man under the Guidance of God.
Unfortunately, Battersby was killed in a mysterious automobile accident shortly after publication of his book, and nothing further came from his efforts.
Concurrent with Battersby, however, another, more prolific acolyte of the Hitler Faith was beginning her mission. Maximiani Portas was an Aryan mystic of English and Greek descent. She was an admirer and student of Hinduism, and wrote under the name Savitri Devi. Beginning in the late 1940s, she began, almost completely unaided, a one-woman effort to revive the Hitler Faith after the defeat of Germany, and to spread the faith throughout the Aryan world. Although her organizational efforts proved largely ineffective, she authored series of books promoting her beliefs. These books in fact did spread the Hitler Faith through NS and related circles in the English-speaking world, and so contributed substantially to the survival and growth of the new religion.
Her most substantial writings on Hitlerism are the four books:
1. Defiance (1951)
2. Gold in the Furnace (1952)
3. The Lightning and the Sun (1958)
4. Pilgrimage (1958)
Savitri felt that Aryan paganism (or heathendom) was divided into a Eastern faith represent by Hinduism, and a Western faith, which historically was extirpated by Christianity. National-Socialism was a rebirth of Western Aryan paganism. Conceptually uniting East with West, she described Hitler as the ninth avatar of the Hindu God Vishnu. The Lightning and the Sun was her magnum opus. It has been the most widely read, reprinted, and influential of her books. Although few National-Socialists have accepted Savitri’s analysis and exposition in its totality, her work was still vitally instrumental in spreading the Hitler Faith to new generations of believers. (See: http://www.savitridevi.org.)
Another Aryan mystic proponent of the Hitler Faith was the Chilean diplomat and author Miguel Serrano, whose central work was Adolf Hitler: The Ultimate Avatar.
As the epigraph preceding this essay reveals, the American NS activist and leader Lincoln Rockwell had an essentially religious understanding of National Socialism. His definitive statement of belief, entitled the National Socialist World View has, as its seventh and ultimate point:
WE BELIEVE that Adolf Hitler was the gift of an inscrutable Providence to a world on the brink of Jewish-Bolshevik catastrophe, and that only the blazing spirit of this heroic man can give us the strength to rise, like the early Christians, from the depths of persecution and hatred, to bring the world a new birth of radiant idealism, realistic peace, international order, and social justice for all men.
Yet like Hitler before him, Rockwell eschewed a religious orientation for the Movement, and instead focused exclusively on its racial-political aspects. It remained for Rockwell’s successor, Matt Koehl, to give the Hitler Faith a formal organizational definition.
The New Order
When American Nazi Party Commander George Lincoln Rockwell was assassinated on August 25, 1967, his deputy Matt Koehl took over leadership of the Party, which Rockwell had renamed the National Socialist White People’s Party some months before his death. Like Rockwell before him, Koehl had a religious, rather than a political, appreciation of National Socialism. And for the first 16 years as his tenure as commander, Koehl followed in Rockwell’s footsteps. Little by little, however, he began to move the NSWPP in a religious direction.
In 1982, Koehl published a watershed essay, “Hitlerism: Faith of the Future,” in which he set forth his basic conception of a new religion centered on the personality of Adolf Hitler and his teachings. This work has since become the basic text for the Hitler Faith worldwide, and is indispensible for understanding the new creed.
Then, on January 1, 1984, Koehl broke completely with Rockwell’s (and Hitler’s) political definition of National-Socialism. He dissolved the NSWPP, and reorganized it as the New Order, which describes itself as an Aryan spiritual alternative.
The New Order is the first attempt to give formal organizational structure to the Hitler Faith, and to develop its theology in a systematic manner. Previously, adherents of the Faith had existed as scattered individuals, either on their own or dispersed in various politically-oriented NS groups.
Koehl’s conception of the new faith is monotheistic, whereas his predecessor Savitri Devi was (at the least) sympathetic to a polytheistic approach. But Koehl’s Hitlerian monotheism has little in common with the monotheism of the three major Semitic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Rather, he draws the contrast “True God, not Jew God.”
Religious worship in itself is not the purpose of the New Order. Its long-term goal is the formation of a new Aryan people, the “Hitler Folk,” made up of Aryans of every nationality who accept Hitler’s worldview as their own, and who view Hitler as the exemplar of a new Aryan humanity.
In working towards the long range goal, the New Order is exploring the possibilities of a physical Hitlerian community, somewhat along the lines the Pioneer Little Europe concept favored by some Stormfronters.
Now just over 100 years old, the Hitler Faith is still a young religion, but one that shows great promise for the future. It is here to stay: it is now a permanent religious alternative for a besieged and embattled Aryan humanity.
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Source: The Hitler Faith (2012)