Hitler's Monsters A Supernatural History of the Third Reich Eric Kurlander

Publication date:
15 May 2018
Yale University Press
448 pages: 216 x 140mm
32 b-w illus.
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The definitive history of the supernatural in Nazi Germany—the occult ideas, esoteric sciences, and pagan religions touted by the Third Reich in the service of power

“[Kurlander] shows how swiftly irrational ideas can take hold, even in an age before social media.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“A careful, clear-headed, and exhaustive examination of a subject so lurid that it has probably scared away some of the serious research it merits.”—National Review

The Nazi fascination with the occult is legendary, yet today it is often dismissed as Himmler’s personal obsession or wildly overstated for its novelty. Preposterous though it was, however, supernatural thinking was inextricable from the Nazi project. The regime enlisted astrology and the paranormal, paganism, Indo-Aryan mythology, witchcraft, miracle weapons, and the lost kingdom of Atlantis in reimagining German politics and society and recasting German science and religion. In this eye-opening history, Eric Kurlander reveals how the Third Reich’s relationship to the supernatural was far from straightforward. Even as popular occultism and superstition were intermittently rooted out, suppressed, and outlawed, the Nazis drew upon a wide variety of occult practices and esoteric sciences to gain power, shape propaganda and policy, and pursue their dreams of racial utopia and empire.

Eric Kurlander is professor of history at Stetson University. He lives in DeLand, FL.

“Deeply researched, convincingly authenticated, this extraordinary study of the magical and supernatural at the highest levels of Nazi Germany will astonish.”—Robert Carver, Spectator

“A trustworthy [book] on an extraordinary subject.”—David Aaronovitch, The Times 

“This is a dense and scholarly book about one of the pulpiest subjects of the past 70 years – the relationship between the Nazi party and the occult, which has been much debated across popular culture both in fiction (Captain America, Hellboy, Wolfenstein, the Indiana Jones series, Iron Sky, The Keep and countless others) and in innumerable schlocky works of pseudoscience with runes and swastikas on the covers. As it turns out, though, even this sober, academic treatment of the topic reveals stranger-than-fiction truths on every page.”—Tim Martin, Daily Telegraph

“[Kurlander] shows how swiftly irrational ideas can take hold, even in an age before social media.”—Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

“This original and compellingly argued book shows a significant link between Nazism and the supernatural.”
—Lisa Pine, English Historical Quarterly

“This fascinating supernatural history explores the Third Reich’s obsession with the occult. Astrology, the paranormal and paganism were just as much part of Hitler’s mad credo as his pseudo-scientific belief in a master race, and Kurlander shows how the party used such practices to gain power and shape policy.”—Sebastisan Shakespeare, Tatler 

“Kurlander’s is a thoughtful, well-written and extremely welcome contribution.”—Roger Moorhouse, BBC History

“The author has turned a massive amount of research into a comprehensive account of the supernatural in Nazi Germany, and has surely made his point that we cannot understand the Third Reich apart from this bizarre aspect of its existence.”—Kyle Jantzen, German History

"Hitler’s Monsters is a book I’ve long been wishing to read. Now that it’s been written, I couldn’t be more delighted. Eric Kurlander delivers in just about every way possible. His writing is crisp and compelling; his haunting narrative richly documented, utterly convincing, and certain to change popular understanding of National Socialist history in Germany."—Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, author of Hitler’s Holy Relics 

"Eric Kurlander’s provocative new study offers compelling reasons to take a critical look at the neglected history of occultism in Nazi Germany. It should spark renewed attention to the topic and more informed debates about its significance."—Peter Staudenmaier, author of Between Occultism and Nazism

"In this thought-provoking and original book, Kurlander explores the monstrousness of Hitler’s Germany by taking seriously the demons, vampires, witches, and werewolves that populated the Nazi world and made possible the building of a Third Reich right in the middle of the twentieth century."—Peter Fritzsche, author of An Iron Wind: Europe Under Hitler

"Until now, no one has offered a sustained treatment of the links between Nazism and occultism. Eric Kurlander has unearthed myriad examples of these links, and in fields as diverse as agriculture, archaeology and armaments manufacture. Their cumulative effect in Hitler’s Monsters is positively jaw-dropping."—Monica Black, author of Death in Berlin

"In this stunning new book, historian Eric Kurlander shows how the Third Reich was monstrous in more ways than commonly supposed. The regime's modern planning and methods of conquest and biopolitics were shot through with the search for esoteric pagan, even supernatural knowledge.  We cannot think of “racial science” in the same way again."—A. Dirk Moses, author of German Intellectuals and the Nazi Past