There are hundreds of archival documents indicating Nazi attempts to differentiate between occult charlatanry and putatively “scientific occultism.” During the Second World War, the German Navy, Himmler’s SS, and Joseph Goebbels’ Propaganda Ministry all hired astrologers and pendulum dowsers to obtain military intelligence and conduct psychological warfare. The Gestapo, worried about offending both Hitler and the German public, even banned professional debunkers from revealing the secrets behind “magic.”
Throughout this period Hitler and Himmler sponsored a fanciful doctrine known as “World Ice Theory,” which posited that history, science, and religion could be explained by moons of ice hitting the earth in prehistoric times. Even in 1945, as the Third Reich was collapsing, the Nazis cobbled together a guerrilla band of Nazi “Werewolves” to combat Communist partisans, who were in turn accused of vampirism by ethnic Germans fleeing the Russians.
No mass political movement drew as consciously or consistently as the Nazis on what I call the “supernatural imaginary”—occultism and “border science” (Grenzwissenschaft); pagan, New Age, and Eastern religions; folklore, mythology, and many other supernatural doctrines—in order to attract a generation of German men and women seeking new forms of spirituality and novel explanations of the world that stood somewhere between scientific verifiability and the shopworn truths of traditional religion. Certainly no mass party made a similar effort, once in power, to police or parse—much less appropriate and institutionalize—such doctrines, whether in the realm of science and religion, culture and social policy, or the drive toward war, empire, and ethnic cleansing. Without understanding this relationship between Nazism and the supernatural, one cannot fully understand the history of the Third Reich.