The idea that there is some unholy connection between Nazism and occultism has a lengthy history. It long predates 1933, when the National Socialist...

The idea that there is some unholy connection between Nazism and occultism has a lengthy history. It long predates 1933, when the National Socialist party took power in Germany. But what’s behind that idea? Some top-ranking members of the party were deeply engaged with the occult, perhaps most notably Rudolf Hess and Heinrich Himmler. Was Nazi occultism just a predilection of a handful of Nazi elites, some weird novelty?

No, in short, is the answer Professor Eric Kurlander gives in this astonishing history of occult ideas and their influence on National Socialism from its origins to the end of the Third Reich. The party drew upon border science, alternative religious traditions, mythologies, the paranormal, and all manner of esoteric ideas in ways that, Professor Kurlander argues, no other mass political party has ever done. What Kurlander calls a supernatural imaginary was in fact central to the entire project of National Socialism. Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich (Yale University Press, 2017) deals soberly with a provocative topic that has often been sensationalized. Even for those very knowledgeable of the Third Reich, the book–the result of years of archival research by a judicious and prolific scholar–will likely be quite unexpected. Professor Eric Kurlander teaches history at Stetson University.

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