Thule Society

Last updated

Thule Society
Thule-Gesellschaft
German nameThule-Gesellschaft
AbbreviationThuleorden
Leader Walter Nauhaus [1]
Founder Rudolf von Sebottendorf
Founded1918;106 years ago (1918)
Dissolved1925;99 years ago (1925)
Split from Germanenorden
Headquarters Berlin, Germany
Newspaper Münchener Beobachter
Ideology
Religion Ariosophy

The Thule Society ( /ˈtlə/ ; German : Thule-Gesellschaft), originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum ('Study Group for Germanic Antiquity'), was a German occultist and Völkisch group founded in Munich shortly after World War I, named after a mythical northern country in Greek legend. The society is notable chiefly as the organization that sponsored the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP; German Workers' Party), which was later reorganized by Adolf Hitler into the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP or Nazi Party). According to Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw, the organization's "membership list ... reads like a Who's Who of early Nazi sympathizers and leading figures in Munich", including Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Julius Lehmann, Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart, and Karl Harrer. [2]

Contents

Author Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke contends that Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess had been Thule members, but other leading Nazis had only been invited to speak at Thule meetings or they were entirely unconnected with it. [3] [4] According to Johannes Hering, "There is no evidence that Hitler ever attended the Thule Society." [5]

Origins

The Thule Society was originally a "German study group" headed by Walter Nauhaus, [6] a wounded World War I veteran turned art student from Berlin who had become a keeper of pedigrees for the Germanenorden (or "Order of Teutons"), a secret society founded in 1911 and formally named in the following year. [7] In 1917, Nauhas moved to Munich; his Thule Society was to be a cover-name for the Munich branch of the Germanenorden, [8] but events developed differently as a result of a schism in the order. In 1918, Nauhas was contacted in Munich by Rudolf von Sebottendorf (or von Sebottendorff), an occultist and newly elected head of the Bavarian province of the schismatic offshoot known as the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail. [9] The two men became associates in a recruitment campaign, and Sebottendorff adopted Nauhas's Thule Society as a cover-name for his Munich lodge of the Germanenorden Walvater at its formal dedication on 18 August 1918. [10]

Beliefs

A primary focus of the Thule Society was a claim concerning the origins of the Aryan race. In 1917, people who wanted to join the "Germanic Order", out of which the Thule Society developed in 1918, had to sign a special "blood declaration of faith" concerning their lineage:

The signer hereby swears to the best of his knowledge and belief that no Jewish or coloured blood flows in either his or in his wife's veins, and that among their ancestors are no members of the coloured races. [11]

"Thule" (Greek : Θούλη) was a land located by Greco-Roman geographers in the farthest north (often displayed as Iceland). [12] The Latin term "Ultima Thule" is also mentioned by Roman poet Virgil in his pastoral poems called the Georgics . [13] Thule originally was probably the name for Scandinavia, although Virgil simply uses it as a proverbial expression for the edge of the known world, and his mention should not be taken as a substantial reference to Scandinavia. [14] The Thule Society identified Ultima Thule as a lost ancient landmass in the extreme north, near Greenland or Iceland, [15] said by Nazi mystics to be the capital of ancient Hyperborea.

Activities

The Thule Society attracted about 250 followers in Munich and about 1,500 elsewhere in Bavaria. [16]

The followers of the Thule Society were very interested in racial theory and, in particular, in combating Jews and communists. Sebottendorff planned but failed to kidnap Bavarian socialist prime minister Kurt Eisner in December 1918. [6] [17] During the Bavarian revolution of April 1919, Thulists were accused of trying to infiltrate its government and of attempting a coup. On 26 April, the Communist government in Munich raided the society's premises and took seven of its members into custody, executing them on 30 April. Amongst them were Walter Nauhaus and three aristocrats, including Countess Heila von Westarp who functioned as the group's secretary, and Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis who was related to several European royal families. [18] [19] In response, the Thule organised a citizens' uprising as White troops entered the city on 1 May. [20]

Münchener Beobachter newspaper

In 1918, the Thule Society bought a local weekly newspaper, the Münchener Beobachter (Munich Observer), and changed its name to Münchener Beobachter und Sportblatt (Munich Observer and Sports Paper) in an attempt to improve its circulation. The Münchener Beobachter later became the Völkischer Beobachter (" Völkisch Observer"), the main Nazi newspaper. It was edited by Karl Harrer.

Deutsche Arbeiterpartei

Anton Drexler had developed links between the Thule Society and various extreme right workers' organizations in Munich. He established the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (DAP; German Workers' Party) on 5 January 1919, together with the Thule Society's Karl Harrer. Adolf Hitler joined this party in September the same year. By the end of February 1920, the DAP had been reconstituted as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP; National Socialist German Workers' Party), often referred to as the Nazi Party. [21]

Sebottendorff by then had left the Thule Society, and never joined the DAP or the Nazi Party. Dietrich Bronder (Bevor Hitler kam, 1964) alleged that other members of the Thule Society were later prominent in Nazi Germany: the list includes Dietrich Eckart (who coached Hitler on his public speaking skills, along with Erik Jan Hanussen, and had Mein Kampf dedicated to him), as well as Gottfried Feder, Hans Frank, Hermann Göring, Karl Haushofer, Rudolf Hess, Heinrich Himmler, and Alfred Rosenberg. [22] Historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke has described this membership role and similar claims as "spurious" and "fanciful", noting that Feder, Eckart, and Rosenberg were never more than guests to whom the Thule Society extended hospitality during the Bavarian revolution of 1918, [23] although he has more recently acknowledged that Hess and Frank were members of the society before they came to prominence in the Nazi Party. [4] It has also been claimed that Adolf Hitler himself was a member. [24] Evidence on the contrary shows that he never attended a meeting, as attested to by Johannes Hering's diary of society meetings. [5] It is quite clear that Hitler himself had little interest in, and made little time for, "esoteric" matters. [25]

Wilhelm Laforce and Max Sesselmann (staff on the Münchener Beobachter) were Thule members who later joined the NSDAP. [6]

Dissolution

Early in 1920, Karl Harrer was forced out of the DAP as Hitler moved to sever the party's link with the Thule Society, which subsequently fell into decline and was dissolved about five years later, [22] well before Hitler came to power.

Rudolf von Sebottendorff had withdrawn from the Thule Society in 1919, but he returned to Germany in 1933 in the hope of reviving it. In that year, he published a book entitled Bevor Hitler kam (Before Hitler Came), in which he claimed that the Thule Society had paved the way for the Führer: "Thulers were the ones to whom Hitler first came, and Thulers were the first to unite themselves with Hitler." This claim was not favourably received by the Nazi authorities: after 1933, esoteric organisations were suppressed (including völkisch occultists), many closed down by anti-Masonic legislation in 1935. Sebottendorff's book was prohibited and he himself was arrested and imprisoned for a short period in 1934, afterwards departing into exile in Turkey.

Nonetheless, it has been argued that some Thule members and their ideas were incorporated into Nazi Germany. [24] Some of the Thule Society's teachings were expressed in the books of Alfred Rosenberg. [26] Many occult ideas found favour with Heinrich Himmler, who had a great interest in mysticism, unlike Hitler, but the Schutzstaffel (SS) under Himmler emulated the structure of Ignatius Loyola's Jesuit order [27] rather than the Thule Society, according to Hohne.

Conspiracy theories

The Thule Society has become the center of many conspiracy theories concerning Nazi Germany, due to its occult background (like the Ahnenerbe section of the SS). Such theories include the creation of vril-powered Nazi UFOs. [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">German Workers' Party</span> Predecessor of the Nazi Party

The German Workers' Party was a short-lived far-right political party established in Weimar Germany after World War I. It only lasted from 5 January 1919 until 24 February 1920. The DAP was the precursor of the Nazi Party, which was officially known as the National Socialist German Workers' Party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dietrich Eckart</span> 19/20th-century German poet, playwright, journalist, and far-right political activist

Dietrich Eckart was a German völkisch poet, playwright, journalist, publicist, and political activist who was one of the founders of the German Workers' Party, the precursor of the Nazi Party. Eckart was a key influence on Adolf Hitler in the early years of the Party, the original publisher of the party newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, and the lyricist of the first party anthem, Sturmlied. He was a participant in the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 and died on 26 December of that year, shortly after his release from Landsberg Prison, from a heart attack.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karl Harrer</span> German journalist and politician

Karl Harrer was a German journalist and politician, one of the founding members of the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei in January 1919, the predecessor to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, more commonly known as the Nazi Party.

The Völkisch movement was a German ethno-nationalist movement active from the late 19th century through to the Nazi era, with remnants in the Federal Republic of Germany afterwards. Erected on the idea of "blood and soil", inspired by the one-body-metaphor, and by the idea of naturally grown communities in unity, it was characterized by organicism, racialism, populism, agrarianism, romantic nationalism and – as a consequence of a growing exclusive and ethnic connotation – by antisemitism from the 1900s onward. Völkisch nationalists generally considered the Jews to be an "alien people" who belonged to a different Volk from the Germans.

The Germanenorden was an occultist and völkisch secret society in early 20th-century Germany.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Guido von List</span> Austrian occultist and writer (1848–1919)

Guido Karl Anton List, better known as Guido von List, was an Austrian occultist, journalist, playwright, and novelist. He expounded a modern Pagan new religious movement known as Wotanism, which he claimed was the revival of the religion of the ancient German race, and which included an inner set of Ariosophical teachings that he termed Armanism.

Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer, also known as Rudolf Freiherr von Sebottendorff was a German occultist, writer, intelligence agent and political activist. He was the founder of the Thule Society, a post-World War I German occultist organization where he played a key role, and that influenced many members of the Nazi Party. He was a Freemason, a Sufi of the Bektashi order - after his conversion to Islam - and a practitioner of meditation, astrology, numerology, and alchemy. He also used the alias Erwin Torre.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Occultism in Nazism</span> Speculation about Nazism and occultism

The association of Nazism with occultism occurs in a wide range of theories, speculation, and research into the origins of Nazism and into Nazism's possible relationship with various occult traditions.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke</span> British historian (1953–2012)

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke was a British historian and professor of Western esotericism at the University of Exeter, best known for his authorship of several scholarly books on the history of Germany between the World Wars and Western esotericism.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ariosophy</span> Ideological systems of an esoteric nature, pioneered by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels

Armanism and Ariosophy are esoteric ideological systems that were largely developed by Guido von List and Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, respectively, in Austria between 1890 and 1930. The term 'Ariosophy', which translates to wisdom of the Aryans, was invented by Lanz von Liebenfels in 1915, and during the 1920s, it became the name of his doctrine. For research on the topic, such as Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke's book The Occult Roots of Nazism, the term 'Ariosophy' is generically used to describe the Aryan/esoteric theories which constituted a subset of the 'Völkische Bewegung'. This broader use of the word is retrospective and it was not generally current among the esotericists themselves. List actually called his doctrine 'Armanism', while Lanz used the terms 'Theozoology' and 'Ario-Christianity' before the First World War.

The Landig Group was an occultist and neo-völkisch group formed in 1950, that first gathered for discussions at the studio of the designer Wilhelm Landig in the Margareten district of Vienna. The circle's most prominent and influential members were Wilhelm Landig (1909–1997), Erich Halik and Rudolf J. Mund (1920–1985). The circle has also been referred to as the Landig Circle, Vienna Group and Vienna Lodge.

Philipp Stauff was a prominent German/Austrian journalist and publisher in Berlin. He was an enthusiastic Armanist, a close friend of Guido von List, and a founding member of the Guido-von-List-Society. He was also the obituarist for List in the Münchener Beobachter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Esoteric Nazism</span> Mystical interpretations and adaptations of Nazism

Esoteric Nazism, also known as Esoteric Fascism or Esoteric Hitlerism, refers to a range of mystical interpretations and adaptations of Nazism. After the Second World War, esoteric interpretations of the Third Reich were adapted into new religious movements of white nationalism and neo-Nazism. Theories suggest that high ranking Nazis believed in the use of Qabalah magic. They included beliefs in finding a mythical Hyperborea.

Germany and Austria have spawned many movements and practices in Western esotericism, including Rosicrucianism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy and Ariosophy, among others.

Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch was a prominent figure in Nazi Germany. He was a German-Russian author in the völkisch movement and became SS-Standartenführer in 1944.

Historians, political scientists and philosophers have studied Nazism with a specific focus on its religious and pseudo-religious aspects. It has been debated whether Nazism would constitute a political religion, and there has also been research on the millenarian, messianic, and occult or esoteric aspects of Nazism.

Prince Gustav Franz Maria of Thurn and Taxis was a member of the House of Thurn and Taxis and a Prince of Thurn and Taxis by birth. As a member of the Thule Society, Gustav was executed by the Bavarian Soviet Republic government during the German Revolution of 1918–19.

Politischer Arbeiter-Zirkel was a political activist group founded by Karl Harrer, a known nationalist, in hopes of gathering intellectuals to discuss the political future of Germany in March 1918. The organization eventually merged with the Workers' Committee for a Good Peace formed by Anton Drexler to become the German Workers' Party in January 1919. Ultimately these principles would develop into the National Socialist German Workers Party, also known as the Nazi Party.

Käthe Bierbaumer, also known as Katharina Bierbaumer, was a pioneer of National Socialism in Germany. She was a publisher, entrepreneur, sponsor of the Thule Society and investor in the Franz-Eher Verlag. She is known as a financial backer of Adolf Hitler in the early days of the NSDAP after World War I.

References

  1. Phelps 1963
  2. Kershaw, Ian (2000). Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris, W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 138–139.
  3. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , pp. 149, 221
  4. 1 2 Goodrick-Clarke 2003 , p. 114
  5. 1 2 Johannes Hering, "Beiträge zur Geschichte der Thule-Gesellschaft", typescript dated 21 June 1939, Bundesarchiv Koblenz, NS26/865, cited in Goodrick-Clarke (1985: 201), who concludes: "There is no evidence that Hitler ever attended the Thule Society" (ibid., 201).
  6. 1 2 3 Phelps 1963
  7. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , pp. 127–28, 143
  8. Phelps 1963, n.31.
  9. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , pp. 131, 142–43
  10. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 144
  11. Rudolf von Sebottendorff, Bevor Hitler kam, 1933, page 42 (original: "Blutbekenntnis": "Unterzeichner versichert nach bestem Wissen und Gewissen, daß in seinen und seiner Frau Adern kein jüdisches oder farbiges Blut fließe und daß sich unter den Vorfahren auch keine Angehörigen der farbigen Rassen befinden.")
  12. "Perseus Digital Library", citing Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography
  13. "Georgics, by Virgil — trans. in 1916 by H. R. Fairclough (1862–1938)". www.stoictherapy.com. Retrieved 15 May 2021.
  14. Hornblower, Simon; Spawforth, Antony; Eidinow, Esther (2012). The Oxford Classical Dictionary. OUP Oxford. p. 554. ISBN   978-0-19-954556-8.
  15. Goodrick-Clarke, Nicolas (1995) The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology New YorkL NYU Press. p.145 ISBN   9780814730607
  16. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 143
  17. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 147
  18. Timebase 1919 Archived 2006-09-29 at the Wayback Machine . Timebase Multimedia Chronography. Accessed April 18, 2008.
  19. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 148.
  20. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 149.
  21. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 150
  22. 1 2 Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , p. 221
  23. Goodrick-Clarke 1985 , pp. 149, 217–225
  24. 1 2 Angebert 1974 , p. 9
  25. Skorzeny 1995
  26. See, for example, Alfred Rosenberg, Der Mythus des 20. Jahrhunderts: Eine Wertung der seelischgeistigen Gestaltungskämpfe unserer Zeit, München: Hoheneichen, 1930.
  27. Höhne 1969 , pp. 138, 143–145
  28. Goodrick-Clarke 2003, pp. 166–169.
  29. "The Secret World Chronicle". The Secret World Chronicle. Retrieved 2014-02-24.
  30. "The Thule Society". The Secret World Chronicle. 2004-02-15. Retrieved 2014-02-24.

Bibliography

Further reading