New Religions and the Nazis
By Karla Poewe
Routledge – 2005 – 236 pages
This book sheds light on an important but neglected part of Nazi history – the contribution of new religions to the emergence of Nazi ideology in 1920s and 1930s Germany.
Post –World War I conditions threw Germans into major turmoil. The loss of the war, the Weimar Republic and the punitive Treaty of Versailles all caused widespread discontent and resentment. As a result Germans generally and intellectuals specifically took political, paramilitary, and religious matters into their own hands to achieve national regeneration. Taken together such cultural figures as Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, Mathilde Ludendorff, Ernst Bergmann, Hans F.K. Günther, and nationalist writers like Hans Grimm created a mind-set that swept across Germany like a tidal wave. By fusing politics, religion, theology, Indo-Aryan metaphysics, literature and Darwinian science they intended to craft a new, genuinely German faith-based political community. What emerged instead was an anti-Semitic totalitarian political regime known as National Socialism. Looking at modern paganism as well as the established Church, Karla Poewe reveals that the new religions founded in the pre-Nazi and Nazi years, especially Jakob Hauer’s German Faith Movement, present a model for how German fascism distilled aspects of religious doctrine into political extremism.
New Religions and the Nazis addresses one of the most important questions of the twentieth century – how and why did Germans come to embrace National Socialism? Researched from original documents, letters and unpublished papers, including the SS personnel files held in the German Federal Archives, it is an absorbing and fresh approach to the difficulties raised by this deeply significant period of history.
'This far-ranging investigation is given cohesion and development by focusing on Jacob Hauer's New German Faith Movement… New Religions and the Nazis is a welcome addition to the new wave of scholarship that reveals key components in the peculiar constitution of Nazism's alternative modernity' - Roger Griffin, Oxford Brookes University, UK
'[Hauer's] extensive correspondence have been well researched by Poewe, who is well versed in the study of "fringe" religious movements… Poewe's study includes helpful notes and an excellently comprehensive bibliography.' - John Conway, University of British Columbia, Canada
'A deep, interesting and informative research… Christianity is presented, contrary to popular opinion, as almost an equal casualty of Nazi ideology, rather than being partially responsible for the annihilation of Jews.' - Haaretz, May 5, 2006
'Poewe's analysis is of a very high standard … Poewe offers excellent analysis.' – Journal for the Study of Radicalism
'Poewe's book provides a strong arguement for scholars of religions to address the complex relationship between paganism, Christianity and National Socialism.' - Horst Junginger, University of Tubingen
"…anthropologist Karla Poewe's contribution is thus especially hopeful as it approaches the subject with new sources and from a fresh perspective." --Chad Ross, East Carolina University
1. Introduction 2. An Overview 3. Hauer and the Bünde: Becoming a National Socialist 4. The Push toward Nazism: Youths and Leaders 5. Hauer’s View of Religion 6. The Germanic-deutsch Leg of Hauer’s German Faith 7. Organizational Help from Wehrwolf and the SS 8. Hauer and the War of Attrition against Christianity 9. Werner Best: Hauer’s Reciever in the SS 10. The Faith of the Nationalists: Narrative and the Third Reich 11. Scientific Neo-Paganism and the Extreme Right Then and Today 12. Conclusion