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Were the National Socialists a Völkisch Party? Paganism, Christianity, and the Nazi Christmas

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2015

Samuel Koehne*
Deakin University


A trend in studies about National Socialism and religion in recent years argues for a deliberate distinction between the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and the antisemitic völkisch movement of nineteenth-century Germany. This article challenges that contention. Several researchers have published comprehensive studies on the heterogeneous nature of Christian responses to the Nazis, but a comparable approach looking at how the Nazis viewed religion has not yet been undertaken. A study of the latter type is certainly necessary, given that one of the consistent features of the völkisch movement was its diversity. As Roger Griffin has argued, a “striking feature of the sub-culture . . . was just how prolific and variegated it was . . . [T]he only denominator common to all was the myth of national rebirth.” In short, the völkisch movement contained a colorful, varied, and often bewildering range of religious beliefs.

Copyright © Central European History Society of the American Historical Association 2015 

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1 For the “particularist” or “heterogenous” nature of Protestant experience, see Gailus, Manfred, Protestantismus und Nationalsozialismus. Studien zur nationalsozialistischen Durchdringung des protestantischen Sozialmilieus in Berlin (Cologne: Böhlau, 2001)Google Scholar; Jantzen, Kyle, Faith and Fatherland: Parish Politics in Hitler's Germany (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2008).Google Scholar

2 Griffin, Roger, The Nature of Fascism (London: Pinter, 1991), 8788Google Scholar. As he notes, the term völkisch generally meant “integral and racist nationalism.” See also Mosse, George L., The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (New York: Schocken Books, 1981), 39Google Scholar; Williamson, George S., The Longing for Myth in Germany: Religion and Aesthetic Culture from Romanticism to Nietzsche (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004), 285–88.Google Scholar

3 Puschner, Uwe, “Weltanschauung und Religion, Religion und Weltanschauung. Ideologie und Formen völkischer Religion,” Zeitenblicke 5, no 1 (2006): 11Google Scholar. On “Christ [transformed] into the Germanic sun god,” see Mosse, Crisis of German Ideology, 72.

4 See Steigmann-Gall, Richard, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 1415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

5 See the program published in the Völkischer Beobachter (hereafter cited as VB) 45 (May 15, 1920).

6 See the special issue Nazis, Christianity and Political Religion: A Debate” in the Journal of Contemporary History 42, no. 1 (January 2007)Google Scholar. More generally on national-religious trends, see Williamson, George S., “A Religious Sonderweg? Reflections on the Sacred and the Secular in the Historiography of Modern Germany,” Church History 75, no. 1 (2006): 139–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Gailus, Manfred and Nolzen, Armin, eds., Zerstrittene “Volksgemeinschaft.” Glaube, Konfession und Religion im Nationalsozialismus (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2011)Google Scholar; Altgeld, Wolfgang, Katholizismus, Protestantismus, Judentum. Über religiös begründete Gegensätze und nationalreligiöse Ideen in der Geschichte des deutschen Nationalismus (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald-Verlag, 1992)Google Scholar; Gailus, Manfred and Lehmann, Hartmut, eds., Nationalprotestantische Mentalitäten. Konturen, Entwicklungslinien und Umbrüche eines Weltbildes (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005).Google Scholar

7 Steigmann-Gall, Richard, “Rethinking Nazism and Religion: How Anti-Christian Were the ‘Pagans’?,” Central European History 36, no. 1 (2003): 104CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hastings, Derek, “How ‘Catholic’ Was the Early Nazi Movement? Religion, Race and Culture in Munich, 1919–1923,” Central European History 36, no. 3 (2003): 383–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Searching for the intellctual roots of Nazism has become an important part of the literature in recent years: see Hastings, Derek, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism: Religious Identity and National Socialism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010)Google Scholar; Kellogg, Michael, The Russian Roots of Nazism: White Émigrés and the Making of National Socialism, 1917–1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

8 Steigmann-Gall, Holy Reich, 12; on the dichotomy between “paganists” and “positive Christians,” see, e.g., 86–87, 261–63. Steigmann-Gall uses the term paganists because he argues that paganism was not a “coherent religious system” (xv). The notion of “positive Christianity” as a “religious system” also lacks coherence; see Koehne, Samuel, “Reassessing The Holy Reich: Leading Nazis' Views on Confession, Community and ‘Jewish’ Materialism,” Journal of Contemporary History 48, no. 3 (2013): 423–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

9 Steigmann-Gall, “Rethinking Nazism and Religion”; cf. Hexham, Irving, “Inventing ‘Paganists’: A Close Reading of Richard Steigmann-Gall's The Holy Reich,” Journal of Contemporary History 42, no. 1 (January 2007): 5978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

10 Steigmann-Gall, Holy Reich, 13–14.

11 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 8. Doris Bergen argues that “Steigmann-Gall's analysis rarely extends past 1937”; see her piece Nazism and Christianity: Partners and Rivals? A Response to Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich,” Journal of Contemporary History 42, no. 1 (2007): 31.Google Scholar

12 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 72.

13 See also Spicer, Kevin P., Hitler's Priests: Catholic Clergy and National Socialism (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2008).Google Scholar

14 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 73, 104–6.

15 Though we differ in our interpretations, Eric Kurlander and I are pursuing similar ends in this regard; see Kurlander, Eric, “Hitler's Monsters: The Occult Roots of Nazism and the Emergence of the Nazi ‘Supernatural Imaginary,’German History 30, no. 4 (2012): 528–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

16 See Evans, Richard J., The Coming of the Third Reich (London: Penguin, 2004), 2251, 159–60Google Scholar; Kershaw, Ian, Hitler, 1889–1936: Hubris (London: Penguin, 1998), 4952, 76–89Google Scholar; Noakes, Jeremy and Pridham, Geoffrey, eds., Nazism, 1919–1945: A Documentary Reader, vol. 1 (The Rise to Power, 1919–1934) (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 1983), 110.Google Scholar

17 Though celebrations of solstice and Christmas in the early years have not been thoroughly examined, Esther Gajek and Joe Perry have published important studies on Nazi views of Christmas, particularly after 1933; see Gajek, Esther, “Christmas under the Third Reich,” Anthropology Today 6, no. 4 (1990): 39CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Faber, Richard and Gajek, Esther, eds., Politische Weihnachten in Antike und Moderne. Zur ideologischen Durchdringung des Fests der Feste (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 1997)Google Scholar; Perry, Joe, “Nazifying Christmas: Political Culture and Popular Celebration in the Third Reich,” Central European History 38, no. 4 (2005): 572605CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Perry, Joe, Christmas in Germany: A Cultural History (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010), 189238.Google Scholar

18 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 5.

19 Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf (Munich: Zentralverlag der NSDAP, 1936)Google Scholar, 241, 378.

20 This summary is not intended to be exhaustive. Völkisch thought has its own extensive literature. See Cancik, Hubert and Puschner, Uwe, Antisemitismus, Paganismus, völkische Religion (Munich: K. G. Saur, 2004)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Puschner, Uwe, Die völkische Bewegung im wilhelminischen Kaiserreich. Sprache–Rasse–Religion (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 2001)Google Scholar; Puschner, Uwe, Schmitz, Walter, and Ulbricht, Justus H., eds., Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung,” 1871–1918 (Munich: K. G. Saur, 1996)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology—The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany, 1890–1935 (New York: New York University Press, 1992)Google Scholar; Puschner, Uwe and Vollnhals, Clemens, eds., Die völkisch-religiöse Bewegung im Nationalsozialismus. Eine Beziehungs- und Konfliktgeschichte (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2012).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

21 Williamson, The Longing for Myth, 286; von Schnurbein, Stefanie and Ulbricht, Justus H., Völkische Religion und Krisen der Moderne. Entwürfe “arteigener” Glaubenssysteme seit der Jahrhundertwende (Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2001).Google Scholar

22 Kershaw, Hitler, 1889–1936, 151, 660n116.

23 Chamberlain, Houston Stewart, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century: A Translation from the German by John Lees, vol. 2 (London: J. Lane, 1911), 108–12Google Scholar. He described racially delineated “tendencies of mind” as “the racial soul” (193). See also Field, Geoffrey G., Evangelist of Race: The Germanic Vision of Houston Stewart Chamberlain (New York: Columbia University Press, 1981).Google Scholar

24 Chamberlain, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1, 120–21, 214–17, 225, 234. See the discussion of Jews as “materialists” possessing a “minimum of religion” and a “poverty of [religious] imagination” (pp. 411–23).

25 Ibid., 2, 20.

26 Ibid., 1, 213–14.

27 Evans notes Chamberlain's undeniable influence, but argues that “durable popular anti-Semitic propagandists” like Fritsch had a greater impact on the party rank-and-file. See Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, 33–34, 217–18.

28 Fritsch, Theodor, Der falsche Gott. Beweismaterial gegen Jahwe, 9th ed. (Leipzig: Hammer-Verlag, 1921)Google Scholar, 25. This book was first published as Beweismaterial gegen Jahwe; see Puschner, Uwe, “Völkische Geschichtsschreibung. Themen, Autoren und Wirkungen völkischer Geschichtsideologie,” in Geschichte für Leser. Populäre Geschichtsschreibung in Deutschland im 20. Jahrhundert, ed. Hardtwig, Wolfgang and Schütz, Erhard (Munich: Franz Steiner, 2005)Google Scholar, 290.

29 Sin against the Blood sold 235,000 copies by 1927, making it Dinter's most popular book; see Tracey, Donald R., “The Development of the National Socialist Party in Thuringia, 1924–30,” Central European History 8, no. 1 (March 1975): 26, 38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

30 Dinter, Artur, Die Sünde wider das Blut. Ein Zeitroman, 10th ed. (Leipzig: Matthes & Thost, 1920), 430–31, 160–73Google Scholar. Emphases in original.

31 Ibid., 178. For Dinter, this had the consequence that Christianity was a racially specific religion. See also Heschel, Susannah, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008).Google Scholar

32 VB-102 (Nov. 25, 1920); the paper was not yet in Nazi hands by this point. On the search for a “German Faith,” see Poewe, Karla O., New Religions and the Nazis (New York: Routledge, 2006).Google Scholar

33 Mosse, Crisis of German Ideology, 112, 120–21; Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung,” 1871–1918, 265–67. Donnershag was established on July 13, 1919, on the basis of “race,” “German Faith,” and “German law.” See Steiger, Alfons, Katholizismus und Judentum (Berlin: Germania, 1923), 9699.Google Scholar

34 VB-102 (Nov. 25, 1920); von Wolzogen, Ernst Freiherr, Wegweiser zu deutschem Glauben. Versuch einer gemeinverständlichen Darstellung der wesentlichsten Gesichtspunkte der deutsch-religiösen Gemeinden und Verbände (Oranienburg-Eden: Verlag Jungborn, 1919).Google Scholar I have translated “deutsch” as “German” and “germanisch” as “Germanic.” The latter refers to an older usage relating to the early Germanic tribes; see Mees, Bernard, “Hitler and Germanentum,” Journal of Contemporary History 39, no. 2 (April 2004): 255–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

35 Meyer's main objection was that, in his view, Liebenfels “is far more an Orientalist than a Germanist” and that “Guido von List stands closer to the Kabbalah than to the Edda.” See VB-108 (Dec. 16, 1920). There are two references in Hastings and none in Steigmann-Gall. See Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 38, 41.

36 List, Guido, Die Bilderschrift der Ario-Germanen (Ario-Germanische Hieroglyphik) (Vienna: Verlag der Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft, 1910), 45, 116–17Google Scholar. See also List, Guido, Die Armanenschaft der Ario-Germanen, vol. 1 (Vienna: Verlag der Guido-von-List-Gesellschaft, 1908), 1720.Google Scholar

37 Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 56–65.

38 List, Guido, Die Rita der Ario-Germanen, 3rd ed. (Berlin: Guido von List-Verlag, 1920)Google Scholar, 58; the Edda is a series of Old Norse poems.

39 Wolzogen was attracted to List's ideas, dedicating one of his plays in 1909 to “Guido von List in Vienna, who has rediscovered the ancient wisdom of the Armanen.” List attended the play's performance and was introduced to the audience. See Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 45, 66, 71 (quote on p. 49).

40 Ibid., 90–94.

41 Ibid., 90, 112, 197; Lanz-Liebenfels, J., Das Buch der Psalmen teutsch, das Gebetbuch der Ariosophen, Rassenmystiker und Antisimiten (Düsseldorf-Unterrath: Herbert Reichstein, 1926)Google Scholar, vol. 1, 13. “Antisimiten” was Liebenfels's concept of “anti-simia” (against the ape).

42 This assumption may have been based on the relatively small number of people reading the Völkischer Beobachter. According to one scholar's estimates, the paper's circulation was about 10,000 until June 1922, and about 17,000 at its highest point in 1923; see Mühlberger, Detlef, Hitler's Voice: The Völkischer Beobachter, 1920–1933, vol. 1 (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2004)Google Scholar, 21.

43 VB-17 (Feb. 28, 1920). For the full speech, “Was uns not tut,” see Hauptarchiv der NSDAP/Central Archive of the NSDAP (Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace), Reel 52, File 1214, microform (hereafter HA-File#). According to Dingfelder, the anonymous report in the Völkischer Beobachter was written by Max Sesselmann.

44 “Wie es kam!,” HA-1214; VB-17 (Feb. 28, 1920).

45 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 75–76.

46 Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 145, 274; “ar, Sonne, Urfyr, Arier, Adler usw.,” in List, Guido, Das Geheimnis der Runen, 5th ed. (Berlin: Guido von List-Verlag, 1938)Google Scholar, 13.

47 For instance, the fleur-de-lys became “the ‘Ar-mal,’ the symbol of the sun or divinity”; see List, Die Rita der Ario-Germanen, 112.

48 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 213n155. My translation of the German text, which is quoted by Hastings. See also Dingfelder's speech, “Was uns not tut,” HA-1214.

49 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 76, 69; Widar Wälsung, “War Jesus ein Jude? Eine deutsche Antwort,” VB-16 (Feb. 25, 1920), VB-17 (Feb. 28, 1920), VB-18 (March 3, 1920), VB-19 (March 6, 1920), VB-20 (March 10, 1920).

50 On “Widar,” see Simek, Rudolf, Dictionary of Northern Mythology, trans. Hall, Angela (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993)Google Scholar, 359. He notes “Víðarr” was “mainly known as Odin's avenger.”

51 HA-851; Phelps, Reginald H., “‘Before Hitler Came’: Thule Society and Germanen Orden,” Journal of Modern History 35, no. 3 (1963): 251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

52 Franz Schrönghamer-Heimdal,” in Handbuch des Antisemitismus. Judenfeindschaft in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. 2, part 1, ed. Wolfgang Benz (Munich: K. G. Saur, 2008), 747–48Google Scholar; “Heimdall,” in Simek, Northern Mythology. 135.

53 Schrönghamer-Heimdal was interested in the Edda and in “Widar,” arguing in favor of a kind of pagan-Christian synthesis in 1918; see Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 52–54.

54 See VB-16 (Feb. 25, 1920). For the statement by Simon Peter, see Matthew 16:16; see also Matthew 27:54, Mark 15:39, Luke 23:47. In the Bible, a centurion at the crucifixion of Christ confesses, “Truly, this man was the Son of God!” Wälsung fundamentally reinterpreted this.

55 VB-20 (March 10, 1920).

56 Georg Schott argued this viewpoint during a mass Nazi Party gathering on “National Socialism and Christianity” held for summer solstice on June 21, 1923. See VB-123 (June 23, 1923). His speech is discussed in Hastings, “How ‘Catholic’ Was the Early Nazi Movement?,” 409–10. Hastings does not mention the idea of Israelites as non-Jewish.

57 VB-20 (March 10, 1920).

58 Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich.

59 Quotations from VB-13 (13 Feb. 1921); Wolzogen, Wegweiser zu deutschem Glauben, 16.

60 Andersen, Friedrich, Der deutsche Heiland (Munich: Deutscher Volksverlag, 1921).Google Scholar

61 Chamberlain, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, vol. 1, 237, 414–15, 420–22; Fritsch, Der falsche Gott, 25.

62 Steigmann-Gall, “Rethinking Nazism and Religion,” 103–5.

63 This was written under another pseudonym: Wieland, Hermann, Atlantis, Edda und Bibel. Das entdeckte Geheimnis der Heiligen Schrift, des deutschen Volkes Rettung aus Not und Tod (Nuremberg: C. K. Wuzel, 1922)Google Scholar. On Weinländer/Döllinger/Wieland, see Völkisch-religiöse Bewegung, 206. He also wrote as Werner Stauffacher.

64 Wälsung, Widar, War Jesus ein Jude? Eine deutsche Antwort, 1st ed. (Nuremberg: Lorenz Spindler Verlag, 1920)Google Scholar; Döllinger, Friedrich, Baldur und Bibel. Germanische Kultur im biblischen Kanaan und Germanisches Christentum vor Christus (Nuremberg: Lorenz Spindler Verlag, 1920)Google Scholar, 49, 69. On “Baldr,” see Simek, Northern Mythology, 26–32.

65 This refers to Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” See VB-20 (March 10, 1920).

66 Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel, 133.

67 Fritsch, Der falsche Gott, 61–63.

68 Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 18–23.

69 Fritsch, Der falsche Gott, 63, 65. He also used the term Lichtgeist. Wälsung, however, argued that the name “Jesus Christ itself is of Aryan origin” and that it was connected to “Sohn des Ja, Jovis, Jahwe”; see VB-20 (March 10, 1920).

70 Dinter, Sünde wider Blut, 372–77. This quoted large sections from Der falsche Gott (1916), including the material on “El-Elion” and “El-Schaddai.”

71 VB-17 (Feb. 28, 1920); VB-18 (March 3, 1920); VB-19 (March 6, 1920). Hastings does not mention this heavy reliance on Dinter.

72 This line comes from an article by Willi Damm in VB-10 (Feb. 4, 1920); Damm cited Schrönghamer-Heimdal as an inspiration. Such concepts were not uncommon in the völkisch movement, and Fritsch (writing as Fritz Thor) argued, “whosoever pollutes his blood, kills the god within himself ”; see Steiger, Katholizismus und Judentum, 141.

73 VB-17 (Feb. 28, 1920).

74 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 76.

75 Fritsch and Dinter were prominently advertised in VB-37 (May 12, 1921). Rosenberg did criticize the notion that “true Occultism” was necessary in order to succeed as a völkisch party, and attacked Dinter for his supposed interest in spiritualism; see VB-60 (July 31, 1921). Despite this, Dinter's works were still being advertised by the VB bookshop in VB-95 (Dec. 14, 1921). See also the continued advertisement of Fritsch's publications and the defense of both Sin against the Blood and The False God in VB-62 (April 8–9, 1923); VB-76 (April 25, 1923); VB-93 (May 16, 1923).

76 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 79.

77 See the newspaper reports in HA-1478.

78 That series, “Die jüdischen Patriarchen in antisemitischer Beleuchtung,” relied heavily on Eugen Dühring and concluded that the Old Testament should no longer be taught in schools. See VB-15 (Feb. 21, 1920). Dühring argued “in terms of racial categories” and “condemned the Jew as a whole” because he “linked depravity in culture, morals and manners to inherent racial traits possessed by all Jews”; see Mosse, Crisis of German Ideology, 131. See also the sections from Dühring and the positive review of his ideas, including the open acknowledgement that Dühring opposed Christianity, in VB-12 (Feb. 9, 1923); VB-121 (June 21, 1923); VB-75 (Sept. 20, 1922).

79 He only refers to the articles themselves to support these claims. See Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 76, 79.

80 Hitler also chaired the meeting. See this police report in HA-1478.

81 Max Sesselmann was a “person of note” in the early Nazi Party; see Phelps, “Before Hitler Came,” 255. He was the leader of the German Socialist Party in Munich, but had also joined the DAP in December 1919 and often spoke at meetings alongside Hitler; see Hitler, Adolf, Sämtliche Aufzeichnungen: 1905–1924, ed. Jäckel, Eberhard and Kuhn, Axel (Stuttgart: Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, 1980)Google Scholar, 1288.

82 This connection has not been previously identified. See “Deutschwirtschaft” by the editors in VB-3 (Jan. 10, 1920) (the paper was called the Deutschwirtschaftszeitung at this point) and compare this editorial to the DSP Program of 1918 and 1920; see “Aus der Bewegung” (report on the Nuremberg DSP), VB-2 (Jan. 7, 1920); von Sebottendorff, Rudolf, Bevor Hitler kam. Urkundliches aus der Frühzeit der nationalsozialistischen Bewegung, 1st ed. (Munich: Deukula-Verlag, 1933), 171–82Google Scholar and 205.

83 DSP-Parteitag, in HA-109.

84 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 66, 126–27. Müller was a member of the Wälsungen-Orden at this point; he was later a member of the Edda Society (Eddagesellschaft), founded in 1925 to reconstruct “the Aryan religion” on “the basis of the runes, occultism, and the Edda”; see Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 155, 159, 254n14; Franz, Georg, “Munich: Birthplace and Center of the National Socialist German Workers' Party,” Journal of Modern History 29, no. 4 (1957): 327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

85 Hamann, Brigitte, Hitler's Vienna: A Dictator's Apprenticeship, trans. Thornton, Thomas (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 210–13Google Scholar. The summary of List's view (as quoted) is in Mosse, George L., “The Mystical Origins of National Socialism,” Journal of the History of Ideas 23, no. 1 (1961): 93.Google Scholar

86 Speech delivered by Hitler on August 13, 1920, in Aufzeichnungen, 186. On this speech, see also Phelps, Reginald H., “Hitlers ‘grundlegende’ Rede über den Antisemitismus,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 16 (1968): 390420Google Scholar. Phelps noted various probable influences, including the writings of Ludwig Wilser and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, as well as Theodor Fritsch's Handbook on the Jewish Question (p. 397). Sebottendorff credited Ludwig Wilser with establishing the notion that the swastika was a “common Aryan symbol of the sun”; see Sebottendorff, Bevor Hitler kam, 240.

87 The influence of Liebenfels and List on Hitler remains contested; see Kershaw, Hitler, 1889–1936, 49–50.

88 List, Geheimnis der Runen, 20, 44.

89 List, Die Bilderschrift der Ario-Germanen 1, 43–45.

90 List added “Goethe, Beethoven, Kant, Richard Wagner, [and] Bismarck,” and stated that it was a great error that “a ‘god-man’ would appear as the son of god” only once “in the entire life of humanity.” Ibid., 22.

91 Phelps's consideration of the Beweismaterial gegen Jahwe was fairly limited; see Phelps, “‘Grundlegende’ Rede,” 398.

92 Speech, August 13, 1920, in Hitler, Aufzeichnungen, 185–86. This was in line with Chamberlain.

93 Ibid., 187–88.

94 Ibid., 189.

95 Ibid.; also see Fritsch, Der falsche Gott, 18–20, 25.

96 Hitler, Aufzeichnungen, 191–92.

97 A notice appeared stating that the NSDAP had taken over the Völkischer Beobachter as of December 18, 1920. See VB-110/111 (Dec. 25, 1920).

98 One critic of the NSDAP noted this: “The ancient Germanic tribes called the winter solstice the Yule festival,” contrasting this with the Christfest (Christmas). See the report from January 18, 1922 in the Donau-Zeitung, HA-1479. On the distinction between the “pre-Christian” Weihnachten and the Christfest, see Perry, “Nazifying Christmas,” 576–77. In December 1922 the event was advertised as a Weihnachtsfest but also called a Christfest, whereas Hitler was advertised as the speaker who would give the Julrede, or “Yule speech”; see VB-98 (Dec. 9, 1922); VB-99 (Dec. 13, 1922); VB-100 (Dec. 16, 1922).

99 “Aus der Bewegung,” VB 1–2 (Jan. 6, 1921); Hitler, Aufzeichnungen, 296.

100 VB 1–2 (Jan. 6, 1921). Unless otherwise indicated, I rely on the translation in Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice, 1, 83–84.

101 VB 1–2 (Jan. 6, 1921). My translation.

102 Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice, 1, 84.

103 On “Idafeld” or “Iðavollr,” see Simek, Northern Mythology, 170. Simek notes that Idafeld was a “mythical plain” that was “part of the home of the [Norse] gods.” For the passages on Ragnarok in the Edda, see Dronke, Ursula, The Poetic Edda, vol. 2 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 19, 5861.Google Scholar

104 Perry, “Nazifying Christmas,” 575–76.

105 The book came from Dr. Babette Steininger. See Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 199.

106 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 105.

107 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921). A year earlier Dietrich had recommended Liebenfels in an article entitled “Problem aller Probleme”; see VB-3 (Jan. 10, 1920). In this earlier paper he argued for “the sacredness of the blood,” calling for “priests and leaders of the people” to “again preach racial teaching and care for the race,” which, he believed, was advocated by “holy scripture”––ideas deriving from Liebenfels.

108 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921). For a comparable discussion on the “defilement of the race,” including the idea that marriage should “produce images of the Lord and not monstroities between man and ape,” see Hitler, Mein Kampf, 444–45.

109 Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 100, 242n36. I have translated this as “mongrelized.”

110 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921). In 1926 Liebenfels summarized his writings, which dated back to the early twentieth century: “I have brought the anthropological and archaeological proof that the gods once actually lived upon this earth. . . . Froh-di, Frauja, Teuto is the god-become-man, the ‘god-man’ (Gottmensch) and in the ancient ariosophical writings consubstantial with the ‘son’ or ‘Christ.’” He argued that these were names for the “Tribal-god” of the Aryan race. See Lanz-Liebenfels, Das Buch der Psalmen teutsch, 1, 13.

111 Simek notes that Freyr was “the most powerful god of fertility of Germanic mythology,” that “Fróði and Freyr are identical,” and that “Teut” was a “god invented by poets in the eigteenth century” and came from “Tuisto.” See Simek, Northern Mythology, 91–92, 313.

112 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921). List wrote on “Logos” and the idea that the Aryan Lichtreligion and its rites were “obscured” (verdunkelt) by the “dark as night Asiatic-Roman demon-faith”; see List, Rita der Ario-Germanen, 55.

113 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921).

114 Ibid. I have used the German form (Halgadom) because it is a peculiar term.

115 List, Die Armanenschaft der Ario-Germanen, 1, 20. See also Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 57.

116 See Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 67–8, 237. List supposedly rediscovered “an extended network of shrines and sanctuaries dedicated to the gods of the Wotanist religion.” The “Halgadom” concept was also used in the secret leagues of the Germanic Order and Thule Society, völkisch groups that included in their ranks some of the leading figures of the Nazi Party; see Phelps, “Before Hitler Came,” 245–61; Sebottendorff, Bevor Hitler kam, 24–25, 42, 190, 202.

117 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 105.

118 Hastings, “How ‘Catholic’ Was the Early Nazi Movement?,” 399.

119 VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921).

120 Ibid. The term arisch-heroisch was used by Liebenfels; see Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 110.

121 VB-4 (Jan.13, 1921).

122 Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 104–5.

123 See, e.g., the anti-Catholic article “Der gefährliche Nationalismus” in VB-12 (Feb. 8, 1921); cf. Anton Drexler, “Dürfen Sozialisten Judengegner sein?” in VB-46 (June 12, 1921). Drexler argued that Jesus was the “first Socialist” and the “first active antisemite.” In January 1921 the VB also recommended five new publications to its readers, three of which dealt with religion and advocated either a pagan-Christian blend or paganism outright: Döllinger's Baldur and the Bible, Wälsung's Was Jesus a Jew?, and Emil Tetzlaff's The Sermon on the Mount and the Teaching of the Edda; see VB-4 (Jan. 13, 1921).

124 Der Nationalsozialist (hereafter NS) 2/3 (July 3, 1921). In the same edition Drexler attacked “the Bible” (specifically the Old Testament) as a Jewish book in an article entitled “Bibel und Politik.” The VB was published as Der Nationalsozialist from June 26 to July 21.

125 NS-2/3 (July 3, 1921).

126 The battle of Hermann (Arminius) against the Romans in the Teutoburg forest was a significant part of German nationalist tradition; see Mosse, George L., The Nationalization of the Masses: Political Symbolism and Mass Movements in Germany from the Napoleonic Wars through the Third Reich (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1996), 5862.Google Scholar

127 NS-2/3 (July 3, 1921). On Donnershag and the “German Faith Community,” see Handbuch zur “Völkischen Bewegung”. 1871–1918, 265, 407; Völkisch-religiöse Bewegung, esp. 19–21, 26; Steiger, Katholizismus und Judentum, 91–100.

128 VB-100 (Dec. 16, 1922); Margart Hunkel, Von deutscher Gottesmutterschaft (Sontra in Hessen: Verlag Jungborn, 1919)Google Scholar. The title, which is difficult to translate, literally means On German Mother-of-God-hood. It was advertised alongside such staples as Dinter's Sin against the Blood.

129 Hunkel, Von deutscher Gottesmutterschaft, 20.

130 Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice, 1, 84–85.

131 Ibid., 85. See also the front-page advertisement and report on summer solstice in VB-50 (June 24, 1922) and VB-51 (June 28, 1922).

132 The pieces from Wagner included the bridal chorus from Lohengrin, as well as the “magic thunderstorm” (Gewitterzauber) and the “entrance of the gods into Valhalla” from Rheingold. There were also musical pieces from Beethoven, Schubert, and Handel; see VB-3 (Jan. 11, 1922); VB-4 (Jan. 14, 1922).

133 VB-3 (Jan. 11, 1922). There was a prevailing notion in the völkisch movement that the “German spirit” was “idealistic,” whereas the “Jewish spirit” was “materialistic”; see Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich, 50. See also Koehne, “Reassessing The Holy Reich,” 441–45. This was openly acknowledged by writers like Hellmuth von Gerlach, who had been heavily involved in the German antisemitic movement in the late nineteenth century. Gerlach eventually changed his views and wrote in his 1937 autobiography that he had been cured of his “delusions about idealism as an Aryan monopoly and materialism as a Semitic stigma”; see the document “Helmuth von Gerlach on Leading Antisemites and their Agitation,” translated by Erwin Fink, available through

134 See the various reports in Hitler, Aufzeichnungen, 769–70.

135 Speeches of Nov. 2, Dec. 4, and Dec. 8, 1922, in Hitler, Aufzeichnungen, 720, 754, 756.

136 VB-101 (Dec. 20, 1922).

137 VB-101 (Dec. 20, 1922). In this last argument, Rosenberg was following his hero Houston Stewart Chamberlain, who himself had followed Flinders Petrie; see Chamberlain, The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, vol. 2, 28–29; Petrie, W. M. Flinders, Religion and Conscience in Ancient Egypt: Lectures Delivered at University College (London: Methuen, 1898), 4547Google Scholar. Rosenberg's other argument was that because the swastika appeared on older Christian churches and monuments, it should not be rejected as pagan. He borrowed directly from Jörg Lechler, even following him point for point; see Lechler, Jörg, Vom Hakenkreuz. Die Geschichte eines Symbols, vol. 1 (Leipzig: Curt Kabitzsch, 1921), 2526.Google Scholar

138 See Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 158.

139 The Hakenkreuzlermarsch was published in the same issue. See VB-101 (Dec. 20, 1922).

140 Puschner, “Weltanschauung und Religion, Religion und Weltanschauung,” 24.

141 Wolzogen, Wegweiser zu deutschem Glauben, 16, 29.

142 Ibid., 33–34. Wolzogen supported Easter as a pagan celebration dedicated to Ostara, “goddess of youth and the first Spring.” For the quote about the “Wild Hunt,” see Simek, Northern Mythology, 372.

143 VB-80 (April 29/30, 1923); Hastings, “How ‘Catholic’ Was the Early Nazi Movement?,” 403.

144 Mühlberger, Hitler's Voice, 1, 90. This was a special edition of the Völkischer Beobachter. Döllinger had expressed remarkably similar sentiments about World War I; see Döllinger, Baldur und Bibel, 182.

145 See, e.g., Heschel, The Aryan Jesus; Spicer, Hitler's Priests; Ericksen, Robert P., Theologians under Hitler: Gerhard Kittel, Paul Althaus, and Emanuel Hirsch (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1985).Google Scholar

146 This was not limited by religious form, but relied on a broader assumption that Aryans were “spiritual” or “moral,” whereas Jews were not. See Koehne, Samuel, “The Racial Yardstick: ‘Ethnotheism’ and Official Nazi Views on Religion,” German Studies Review 37, no. 3 (2014): 575–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

147 It should be noted that the NSDAP was not loathe to attack other völkisch groups, however: see Puschner and Vollnhals, Völkisch-religiöse Bewegung.

148 Gajek notes the role that folklorists played in reinterpreting Christmas as a “Yule festival” or a specifically “German” festival. See Gajek, “Christmas under the Third Reich”; Perry, “Nazifying Christmas.” On the creation of new myths and a “political religion,” see, e.g., Behrenbeck, Sabine, Der Kult um die toten Helden. Nationalsozialistische Mythen, Riten und Symbole 1923 bis 1945 (Vierow: SH-Verlag, 1996)Google Scholar; Maier, Hans, ed., Totalitarianism and Political Religions (London: Routledge, 2004)Google Scholar; Burleigh, Michael, Sacred Causes: The Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror (London: HarperCollins, 2007), 94115Google Scholar, 122.

149 Steigmann-Gall, Holy Reich, 259–60; Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 155–76.

150 Hastings argues that there was “little or no room within the Nazi ideological universe for any ‘genuine’… Catholic or Christian substance during Hitler's tenure in power”; see Hastings, Catholicism and the Roots of Nazism, 182.

151 Hajo Holborn, “National Socialism in Germany: A Short Bibliography,” International Affairs 13 (1934): 96. See Steigmann-Gall, Holy Reich, 92; Ernst Piper, “Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich,” Journal of Contemporary History 42, no. 1 (January 2007): 57. It was assigned as a school text by April 1933; see Robert Cecil, The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology (London: Batsford, 1972), 103.

152 Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts (Munich: Hoheneichen-Verlag, 1935), 24–28 (“Atlantis”), 21–144 (“Race and the Racial Soul”).

153 VB-95 (Dec. 14, 1921). Meyer had reviewed Herkunft und Geschichte des arischen Stammes and praised it for its use of the Edda and its exploration of the idea that the Aryans had come from Atlantis; see VB-101 (Nov. 21, 1920). Zschaetzsch later published Atlantis, die Urheimat der Arier (Berlin: Arier-Verlag, 1922)Google Scholar. Both he and Weinländer/Wieland influenced Liebenfels; see Goodrick-Clarke, The Occult Roots, 209, 262n1.

154 Rosenberg, Mythus, 613–14.

155 Baumgärtner, Raimund, Weltanschauungskampf im Dritten Reich. Die Auseinandersetzung der Kirchen mit Alfred Rosenberg (Mainz: Matthias-Grünewald, 1977).Google Scholar

156 Bergen, Doris L., Twisted Cross: The German Christian Movement in the Third Reich (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996)Google Scholar; Heschel, The Aryan Jesus. See also Conway, John S., The Nazi Persecution of the Churches, 1933–1945 (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968), 1013, 45–60.Google Scholar