Karla Poewe New Religions and the Nazis

ISBN 13: 9780415290258

New Religions and the Nazis

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9780415290258: New Religions and the Nazis
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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 Researched from original documents, letters and unpublished papers, including the SS personnel files held in the German Federal Archives, it is an absorbing and fresh approach to the difficulties raised by this deeply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.

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Academic Reviews

Professor Roger Griffin, Extremism & Democracy, Volume 7, No.2, Summer 2006

Karla Poewe fills in yet another corner of the enormous jigsaw constituted by Nazism as an ideological and social phenomenon by exploring the contribution to its genesis of the ‘cultic milieu,’ which generated a spate of New Religions in German speaking Europe at the turn of the century. This far-ranging investigation is given cohesion and development by focusing on Jakob Hauer’s New German Faith Movement. By locating it within the European-wide ‘revolt against’ positivism and growing crisis of the Enlightenment project rather than in the exclusively German völkisch movement Poewe lets a gust of fresh air into the often stiflingly Germano-centric study of the rise of Nazism. Also, by refusing to treat it teleologically as a proto-Nazi phenomenon, Poewe underscores its linkages not just with the rise of racist anthropology, the Aryan myth, Ariosophy, bündische Youth, and the Conservative Revolution, but occultism, life-reform and back-to-nature, vitalism, and racial hygiene, elements of which were absorbed into aesthetic, communist, and liberal discourses as well ... 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. It also has the unusual merit of encouraging political scientists to scrutinize the barely hidden political agenda lurking with the ‘metapolitics’ of the European New Right, and pay more attention to the racial persecution and ethnic cleansing that would result were they ever translated into policies and social praxis.

Professor John Conway, Association of Contemporary Church Historians (Arbeitsgemeinschaft kirchliche Zeitgeschichtler) Newsletter - April 2006 - Vol. XII, no 4

Richard Steigmann-Gall's book "The Holy Reich" ... sought to show the lingering attachment of many leading Nazis to some ill-defined form of Christianity. Karla Poewe starts from the other side. Her object is to depict the ideas and actions of those who deliberately sought to create a new religion of Germanic nationalism and racism to replace the now discredited Christianity ... Her principal proponent in this process is Professor Jakob Wilhelm Hauer (1881-1962), whose surviving papers, especially his extensive correspondence, have been well researched by Poewe ... Together with kindred spirits such as Matthilde Ludendorff, the wife of the Field Marshal, Ernst Bergmann, the novelist Hans Grimm and the noted anthropologist Hans F.K.Günther, Hauer in the 1920s was determined to build up a new myth and religious sensibility ... to make his beliefs the sacred religious centre of the Nazi movement ... His antagonism to Christianity was in part prompted by his belief that Christianity was unable to shake off its Jewish roots. Instead, a German Faith, led by heroic individuals conscious of their historic bloodlines, would revitalize the Volk. The spiritual and the political tasks were to be intimately linked. Hauer's creed was based on a belief in a primal religious force, linked to social Darwinist concepts of the superiority of the German race. The German Faith had its links to the Indo-Germanic cultures in ancient Asia, and thus could acquire a "history" with which to combat the Judeo-Christian tradition ... By the end of the 1930s, Hauer's activities were to be increasingly side-lined by the Nazi authorities. Nevertheless Poewe argues that they were an important component of the conservative revolution which sustained the fascist movement throughout Europe ... Poewe's study includes helpful notes and an excellently comprehensive bibliography.

Lee Duigon, Chalcedon Commentary, February 21, 2006

Sixty years after the end of World War II, we still wonder how the Third Reich happened: how it could have done what it did, gas chambers and all, with the full support of a whole nation of modern, educated, supposedly Christian Europeans ... To keep the topic manageable, Poewe focuses on the career of Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, founder and Führer of the German Faith Movement, the largest and most influential of a host of "new religions" devised to replace Christianity in Germany ... Poewe has mined a vast lode of primary sources — letters, diaries, flyers, magazine and newspaper articles, the texts of lectures, popular literature of the time, and conference agendas ... Perhaps the author’s most controversial claim is that liberal Christianity led the Germans straight to National Socialism, along the highway of neo-paganism ...

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University of Calgary, Canada

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