Hitler – der Soldat – 1914-1918

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Hitler and his fellow recruits did not have to worry that the war would end before they had a chance to do battle.

French Aircraft

Because of the help of a new invention called the aeroplane, the French were able to determine the basic, overall German battle plan.

In hopes of encircling and annihilating the French forces, the Germans, after advancing across Belgium and into northern France, had unexpectedly turned south just before reaching Paris. The German right flank, therefore, was exposed and within easy striking distance just east of Paris.

French Troops leave Paris – 1914

The French high command, therefore, quickly directed their armies in the field to new positions while French reinforcements were called out directly from Paris and delivered in taxi cabs to positions off the German exposed right flank.

French Infantry – 1914

The French, by concentrating their troops where needed, were able to strike back in force and upset the whole German battle plan.

By Sept 5, the German advance was nearly checked and the French, supported by the British, began an all-out attack.
The first “great” battle of W.W.I began in the vicinity of the river Marne.
Three days later the Germans grudgingly began a limited withdraw.
First Battle of the Marne
German Infantry

When the First Battle of the Marne ended a few days later, an additional 140,000 German and 160,000 French and other allied soldiers lay dead or wounded.

Their loss was only a prelude of what was to come.
As the opposing armies fought their way north in an attempt to get around one another, Hitler continued with his basic training.
As with many scrawny young men, the disciplined regular hours, good food, exercise and outdoor life brought about a new vitality to his appearance.
The five-foot- nine-inch Hitler appeared fit and healthy – one wonders why he had been rejected, before the war, by the Austrian Army.

Hitler’s Lodgings

At the beginning of October Hitler made a visit to his landlords, and told Mr. and Mrs. Popp that his regiment would soon be leaving Munich, and he would be sent to the front shortly after. 

Since his room was his official address, he asked the Popps to notify his sister if a message came that he been killed.
He told the Popps that if no one wanted his few possessions, they could keep them.
Hitler bid them farewell and, as he hugged the Popp’s two children in a farewell gesture, Mrs. Popp, aware of the heavy casualties at the front, burst into tears. Hitler, undoubtedly touched by such concern, turned tail and hurriedly took off down the street.

Kaiser Wilhelm II
König Ludwig III von Bayern

On Oct 8, Hitler, along with the other recruits of the 16th Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment, called the List Regiment after its first commander, swore allegiance to Ludwig III, head of the state of Bavaria, and Kaiser William of Germany.

Hitler and a few other Austrians were also required to swear allegiance to Emperor Franz Josef of Austria.
Hitler would later state in ‘Mein Kampf’ that he hated the Austrian state at the time and had “left Austria first and foremost for political reasons.”
It is ironic, however, that he didn’t remember anything about swearing allegiance to Franz Josef when questioned about this day years later, but, he distinctly remembered that his company has served an extra good meal that day consisting of “roast pork and potato salad.”

Imperial Russian Infantry

On Germany’s Eastern Front, the Russian Army, after some initial advances in the direction of Berlin, was soundly beaten by the Germans north of Warsaw within the first month of the war. 

Further south, however, the Austrian army was pushed back in some places over a hundred miles with especially heavy losses among “Germanic, as opposed to Slavic units.”
Czechs in the Austrian army deserted in great numbers to the Russians, and the South Slavs fought with great reluctance
German reinforcements were sent south and the tide began to turn. With the Eastern Front stabilized, most of the new German recruits were destined for the Western Front.
On Saturday, October 10, Hitler and his regiment completed their preliminary training and left the vicinity of Munich for training in large manoeuvres. 
After marching around in a cold pouring rain from dawn to dusk, Hitler spent his first night on the road soaking wet in a stable.
The following morning his regiment was on the march again.
At six o’clock that evening they made camp in the open.
The night was freezing cold,” Hitler would later write the Popps, “none of us got any sleep.”
By the third day Hitler would write that he and his fellow recruits were “dog tired” and “ready to drop.”

Lechfeld Barracks

Hitler’s regiment now headed west and after a seven hour march entered Lechfeld, near Augsberg, where they were to be given additional training in large maneuvers before being sent to the front.

At 1 p.m.,” Hitler would later write, “we marched through the French prison camp in the Lech valley. They all gaped at us…most of them were strapping lads. They were French shock-troops captured at the beginning of the campaign. Dead-tired though we were, we marched past them smartly. They were the first French I ever saw.”*
Hitler would describe the next five days of “strenuous exercises and night marches up to 42 kilometers followed by brigade maneuvers,” as the “most tiring of my whole life “.
Although he considered Lechfeld a “dull garrison” town, he was delighted with his lodging and the hospitality of the German people and would write: “We are quartered in the village of Graben, privately and with board. The latter is excellent. The people are almost stuffing us with food.”
On October 17, Hitler’s regiment completed its training, and the brigade received its colors.
It would be only a few days before they were sent off to the front.
Like two-million other German volunteers, Hitler was elated at the prospect of facing the enemy. “I am terribly excited,” he wrote the Popps, “I hope we shall get to England.”
While Hitler was taking his advanced training, the battle lines in France slowly began developing into static trench warfare as the opposing forces dug in.
Although the German army had been driven back forty miles from Paris, they had an unbroken front extending 450 miles from Switzerland to the North Sea not far from Dunkirk.

Ypres – Belgium

Except for a small area in the NW corner of Belgium, centered around the city of Ypres, under German control or within range of their guns was over one tenth of the richest territory of France.

Since the original German battle plan was shattered, the German Generals decided to launch a massive assault against Ypres, push on to the English Channel, seize the port cities and cut the connection between France and Britain.
Since the French had lost all of their iron fields, most of their coal mines, and much of their heavy industry, the German general staff hoped the maneuver would bring an end to the war in the west.

British Heavy Artillery

But, with new large guns able to deliver shells that kept the area above ground alive with shrapnel, and with the addition of new machine guns which were capable of firing up to 600 rounds a minute, anyone caught out in the open was torn to pieces.

A whole new kind of warfare was developing, yet, generals on either side carried on as though these new inventions did not exist.
On Oct 20th the German Generals launched the first Battle of Ypres.
It would be the first of the many stagnant, bloody battles of W.W.I where nothing was achieved except tremendous losses in life.
On the same day, Hitler and his Regiment were loaded onto trains and headed for the Western Front.
Rumor had it that their destination was Ypres.
The recruits were full of enthusiasm, and like Hitler, believed they were going to do battle to protect the Fatherland from “the greed of the old enemy.”

River Rhine Crossing

As they crossed the Rhine, “the German river of all rivers,” as Hitler called it, the recruits sporadically began singing German patriotic songs.

Hitler was overcome with emotion and felt his “heart would burst.”
While the troop train traveled through the Rhineland, it made occasional stops.
Hitler was overwhelmed by “the kindness and spontaneity of the Rhinelanders … [who] received us and feted us in a most touching manner.”
Wagnerian Hero

Hitler undoubtedly felt like some heroic knight on a holy mission out of one of Wagner’s operas.
The memory of the event stayed with him for the rest of his life.
A few days later Hitler and his regiment arrived near Ypres.
They were unloaded miles behind the front line.
As their regiment linked up with hundreds of others and proceeded west, the long column of men, horse drawn and motorized vehicles reminded Hitler of a giant snake inching forward. 
Hitler was amazed by the industriousness of the Belgium farmers in gathering fertilizer.
After a horse column had passed, he observed, children would gather up any manure that had fallen.
Such peaceful thoughts were soon drowned out, for as Hitler would write his lawyer friend: “From the distance we could hear the monotonous roar of our heavy guns.
He also added: ” … we encountered more and more horrors – graves.
As Hitler got closer to the front, his letter, describing the events, continued:

British Artillery

The thunder of gunfire had grown a bit stronger…. At 9 p.m. we pitched camp and ate. I couldn’t sleep. Four paces from my bundle of straw lay a dead horse. The animal was already half rotten. Furthermore, a German howitzer battery immediately behind us kept sending two shells flying over our heads into the darkness of the night every quarter of an hour. They came whistling and hissing through the air, and then far in the distance there came two dull thumps. We all listened. None of us had ever heard that sound before.

While we were huddled close together, whispering softly and looking up at the stars in the heavens, a terrible racket broke out in the distance. At first it was a long way off and then the crackling came closer and closer, and the sounds of single shells grew to a multitude, finally becoming a continuous roar. All of us felt the blood quickening in our veins.**  The word was that the English were making one of their night attacks. Anxiously we waited, uncertain what was happening. Then it grew quieter and at last the sound ceased altogether except for our own batteries which sent out their iron greetings to the night every quarter of an hour.’

The next morning, Hitler and his regiment marched off in the direction of the enemy.
In the previous week of fighting nothing had been gained at Ypres except heavy loses on either side.
Nevertheless, on the 29th of October, Hitler and his unit were thrown into the battle as storm (front line attack) troops.

German Infantry – Ypres

In the morning fog they took up positions near the edge of a woods.

Their objective was to attack across an open field and dislodge the British soldiers who were dug in on the other side in the trees and beyond.
Hitler and his fellow recruits stood eagerly by ready to advance.
The area was under heavy bombardment.
Enemy shells splintered trees as if they were straws,” Hitler’s letter to his friend continued. 
We had no real idea of the danger. None of us is afraid. Everyone is waiting impatiently for the command: ‘Forward‘”.
At last the command rang out and Hitler writes about his first experience under fire:

We swarmed out of our positions and raced across the fields toward a small farm. Shrapnel was bursting left and right of us while English bullets came whistling through the shrapnel …. Good God, I had barely any time to think …. The first of our men began to fall. The English turned their machine guns on us. We threw ourselves down and crawled forward through a ditch …. We kept on crawling until the ditch stopped, then we were in the open field again. We ran fifteen or twenty yards and came to a big pond. One after another we splashed into it, took cover, and caught our breath. But this was no place to lie still. So we dashed out double quick to a forest that lay about a hundred yards ahead. There we regrouped, but it looked like we had really been pared down. We were now led by a mere vice-sergeant …. We crawled on our bellies to the edge of the trees. Above us are howls and hisses, splintered tree trunks and branches flew around us. Shells explode at the edge of the forest and hurl clouds of stones, earth and sand into the air and tear the heaviest trees out by the roots. Everything is choked in a terrible yellow-green, stinking steam. We couldn’t lie there forever. If we were going to be killed, it was better to die in the open….
Again we went forward. I jumped up and ran as fast as I could across meadows and turnip fields, jumping over ditches, wire, and hedges …. There was a long trench in front of me and in an instant I jumped in and countless others round me did likewise …. under me were dead or wounded Englishmen …. The trenches on our left were still held by the English …. [so] an unbroken hail of iron was whistling over our trench.
Finally at ten o’clock our artillery opened up …. again and again shells burst in the English trenches. The English swarmed out like ants and we rushed them. We ran into the fields like lighting, and after bloody hand-to-hand fighting in different places, we forced them out of one trench after another. Many of them raised their hands. Those who wouldn’t surrender were slaughtered. So it went on from trench to trench …. To the left of us lay several farms that were still in enemy hands so we went through a withering fire. One man after another collapsed around me.
Our major, fearless and calmly smoking, came up with his adjutant …The major took in the situation at a glance and ordered us to assemble … for another assault. We had no more officers, hardly any non-coms, so everyone of us who had any gumption left, ran back to get reinforcements. When I got back the second time with a scattered troop … the major lay on the ground with his chest blown open. A heap of corpses lay around him. The major’s adjutant was the only officer left. We were boiling with fury. ‘Lieutenant, lead us at them!’ we all shouted. So we went forward again….’

Hitler then relates the confusion of battle and the horrible toll on life: “Four times we advance and have to retreat.. From my whole group only one remains besides myself and finally he falls. A shot tears off my right coat sleeve, but like a miracle I remain safe and alive. Finally … we advance a fifth time and occupied the farm.”
On November 3, what remained of Hitler’s regiment was pulled out of the line for three days of rest and reorganization.
Once refitted and reinforced they were thrown back into the fray four miles south of Ypres, at Messines and Wytschaete, where they, along with other regiments, launched another two assaults.
The battle continued until Nov 22, and one of the fiercest, most wasteful, and most tragic battles of the war saw no gain on either side.

German Prisoners taken at Messines

The toll in dead and maimed was staggering.

The British regular army alone, which had been boosted to a 175,000, had 40,000 wounded and 10,000 killed.
Frontal attacks against machine guns and artillery brought the German casualties to twice that number.
Hitler’s regiment of 3600 suffered 722 dead (including Colonel Von List for whom the regiment was named) and two thousand wounded.
Whereas these losses would horrify a soldier of today, Hitler, like most of the soldiers during the early stages of the war, saw it as their duty.
To the Popps he wrote: “I can proudly say that our regiment fought like heroes.”
Hitler, however, acted more heroically than most and was a good deal more conscientious.
He carried out any and all assignments given him without question.
He never abandoned a wounded comrade and never wavered in his bravery.
Hitler was cautious, sensible, resolute, and quite fearless.
As one of his officers would state, he was “an exceedingly brave, effective, and conscientious soldier.
On one occasion when the commander of Hitler’s regiment, Lieutenant Colonel Engelhardt, stepped out of a woods to survey the situation, he was detected and enemy machine gunners opened up.
Hitler and another soldier leaped in front of the officer and pushed him into a ditch and shielded him with their bodies.

Hitler with Army Comrades

Hitler’s superiors quickly recognized his ability.

After fighting at Ypres he was promoted to lance-corporal.
After the first two assaults against Messines and Wytschaete, he was attached to the staff as regimental dispatch carrier.
While carrying dispatches near the front shortly after, Hitler found a seriously wounded officer and summoned a friend, a fellow dispatch runner named Schmidt.
The two dragged the officer out of danger while under heavy fire.
For his actions three officers recommended 

Das Eiserne Kreuz
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Hitler, along with four others in his regiment, for one of Germany’s highest military decorations: the Eiserne Kreuz – (Iron Cross), 1st class for “gallant conduct during the fighting“, however, since Hitler was attached to the staff by the time the request came through, his name was moved to the bottom of the list.

For that reason alone, he received (December 2, 1914) the much less coveted Iron Cross 2nd Class.
Hitler, nevertheless, was delighted and wrote the Popps: “It was the happiest day of my life,” but he added that his fellow recruits who also deserved a medal, “are mostly all dead.”
Lt. Col. Engelhardt, whose life Hitler had previously saved, was also seriously wounded and Hitler would write his lawyer friend: “It was the worst moment of my life. All of us worshipped Lt-Col Engelhardt.”
The unsuccessful attempt to take Ypres ended the German offensive.
Any thought of a quick victory faded away.
Hitler would later state that his “first impression of Ypres was – towers, so near that I could all but touch them.
He, like many of the young soldiers, thought that they would quickly overrun the place.
He soon came to realize that “the little infantryman in his hole in the ground has a very small field of vision.”

Großen Krieg deutschen Schützengräben

The elan that Hitler felt during his first battles quickly began to fade.

Hitler, like the millions of other young men on both sides, began to accustom himself to life in the trenches which would be his home for the next four years.
Trench warfare, many intellectuals noted at the time, was a prime example of Darwin’s survival of species.
If proof of the adaptive quality of the “human animal” were needed, it was born out in the manner in which soldiers burrowed into vermin infested earth and lived under conditions on a par with the lowest of animals.
The soldiers frequently endured long deprivations of food, fuel, medical supplies and suitable clothing while under constant bombardments from the ground and air.
During the early stages of the war, thousands died from enemy fire but thousands more died as a result of disease and exposure.
Thousands of others were incapacitated for life by hideous wounds and “trench foot,” a result of exposure to cold and the water which readily flowed through the trenches.
Yet in spite of these and other discomforts, in spite of the large rats that fed on the dead, in spite of the constant bombardments, in spite of the filth, lice, disease and aversion, men learned to survive.

Großen Krieg deutschen Schützengräben

At first the trenches were comparatively straight, shallow affairs.

As artillery searched them out, as machine gunners learned the art of looping their fire so that bullets would drop into hiding places, as sharpshooters zeroed in on anything moving, as night raiding became more sophisticated, it was seen that straight trenches exposed whole companies to enfilading fire and the trenches gradually became more involved.
Well protected and fortified positions were constructed and new defences were presented by zigzagging deep front-line trenches which were equipped with firing steps, sand-bag parapets, concerted pill-boxes, and other pitfalls.
Communicating trenches were dug, leading back to second line trenches, artillery stations, third line trenches, supplies, company kitchens, more trenches, field hospitals, and finally the open road and rest billets beyond.
Hitler described the life in the trenches to the Popps:

‘Because of the constant rain…and the low-lying terrain, the meadows and fields are like bottomless marshes while the roads are covered with vile mud. Through these swamps run the trenches of our infantry, a mass of shelters and dugouts with gun emplacements, communications ditches and barbed wire barricades, pitfalls, land mines; in short, an almost impregnable position.’

In earlier letters:

We often spend days on end living knee-deep in water and, what is more, under heavy [artillery] fire…..The hellish noise begins at 9 a.m …. At 5 p.m. it’s all over. What is most dreadful is when the guns began to spit across the whole front at night. In the distance at first, and then closer and closer with rifle-fire gradually joining in. Half an hour later it all starts to die down again except for countless flares in the sky. And further to the west we can see the beams of large searchlights and hear the constant roar of heavy naval guns.’

In a letter to his lawyer friend:

‘I must close now and beg you, dear Hepp, to forgive my poor hand [writing]. I am very nervous right now. Day after day we are under heavy artillery fire from 8 in the morning till 5 in the evening which is bound to ruin even the strongest of nerves.’

Of the artillery fire the men in the trenches were exposed to, one of the smallest calibres was on a par with a defensive grenade used by both sides.

German Infantry using Hand Grenades

It was about the size of an orange, made of nearly two pounds of cast iron and designed to burst into a hundred jagged pieces.

They wounded or killed within a radius of one-hundred and fifty yards.
Bigger shells could not only kill anything in an open area four or five times that area, but also obliterate an area 25 yards across at the point of impact.
It was not only the destructive element of the larger shells which caused such fear in men that their nerves shattered, but also the terrifying noises which accompanied their firing.
First, there is the explosion when the shell leaves the gun which can be heard for miles; second, is the peculiar rattling noise, like the passing of a freight train, when the shell passes overhead; third, is the explosion at the point of impact which produces a shattering concussion.
The combination of all three had a profound effect on many men.


The constant exposure to fear and terror resulted in a derangement of body and brain, paralyzing nerve and muscle centers, which frequently produced “shell-shock” (a form of psychosis) from which many men never fully recovered.

Besides artillery fire, the soldiers also had to contend with the airplane. In an early letter to his lawyer friend, Hitler related that while moving up to the front in daylight for his first engagement with the enemy: “We no longer moved as a regiment, but split up into companies, each man taking cover against enemy airplanes.
As the deadlock dragged on, bombing and machine gunning by air improved and ultimately changed the whole character of the war.
Pilots learned to run parallel with the trenches, bombing and strafing anything that moved.
The plane also helped extend the fighting far behind the front lines and brought the horrors of the fighting to supply troops as well as civilians.
The constant terror brought on by the continuous fighting took its toll on nearly every one.
Hitler was no exception.
There was one period during a heavy barrage, when fellow recruits remembered him pacing back and forth with his rifle in hand and his helmet pulled low over his eyes.
Hitler had no illusions about war once the initial bravado and valour faded away and, like any solider, had his bad days.
As another of Hitler’s friends remarked: “As soon as serious firing would begin on the front, Hitler acted like a racehorse before it has to start. He had the habit of walking around restlessly, buckling on his equipment.”
Unlike thousands of others, however, Hitler never cracked.
He performed his duties with distinction.
The constant artillery bombardments often caused communications lines, to command posts, to be put out of commission.
The need for dispatch runners increased.
During attacks their job was one of the most dangerous in the war for it was imperative that communications with front-line attacking storm troops be kept open.
Only the best and bravest men were chosen for the job since it often required them to cross open areas.
Even during quiet times they had constantly to be aware of lone planes, sniper fire or stray shells.

Adolf Hitler and ‘Runners’ and ‘Foxl’

The small group of “runners” were chosen from the more educated,  because “it was a job that required a high degree of resourcefulness and devotion to duty.”

Because of their high death rate, messengers had certain privileges and were left to do much as they wanted till they were needed.
However once given a message, much depended on their getting through because the orders were often critical.
They were obligated to deliver their messages no matter what the situation or the obstacles in their way.
The heavier the fire the heavier their burden.
Shortly after Hitler became a messenger, of the eight dispatch runners on duty in his regiment, three were killed and one seriously wounded during one day of battle at Wytschaete.
Hitler and the remaining three, were recommended for a citation (which was another reason why Hitler received his Iron Cross 2nd class).
Hitler and his fellow recruits still hoped for a quick victory, but unlike many of the others, the twenty-five year old Hitler had no grand ideas of what the war would accomplish.
Since Yugoslavians, Russians, French, Japanese, and British (with Canadians, Indians, Australians, etc.) had already declared war on Germany, and (as Hitler stated), “American-manufactured shrapnel was bursting above the heads of our marching columns, as a symbol of international comradeship,”.
Hitler saw his country in a nationalistic struggle against foreign enemies, foreign influences, and international visions which were intent on destroying Germany.
His closing sentences in a Feb. 1915, letter to his lawyer friend give a good insight to his beliefs at the time:

‘I often think of Munich and every man of us has one wish, that we will come to blows and settle the score once and for all with that gang out here. We want an all out fight, at any cost, and hope that those of us who have the good fortune to see their homeland again will find it purer and less riddled with foreign influences. That through the sacrifices and sufferings which hundreds of thousands of us go through everyday, that through the stream of blood that flows here daily against an international world of enemies, not only will Germany’s enemies abroad be crushed, but that our internal internationalism will also be broken. That would be worth much more than any territorial gains.’

Considering that “most statesmen and people saw in the war primarily the fulfilment of their national aspirations,” Hitler’s statements are moderate indeed.
There were those who had much broader visions.
They looked upon the conflict as a means to greatly extend their domains at the expense of other races.
The coming of Spring saw the continuation of the trench deadlock.
Although there were countless efforts to effect a breakthrough on either side, all resulted in insignificant gains of land and tremendous losses of life.
‘The British (in their quest to expand their empire) were shipping many of their troops to other parts of the world; so they wanted to reassure the mistrusting French that they were “pulling their weight.” 

Neuve Chapelle

On March 10, therefore, they launched an attack south of Ypres near the village of Neuve Chapelle where they pitted four divisions, 48,000 troops, against a weak point in the German line. Because it was believed at this time that the only method of fighting was to attack the enemy at her strongest point so as to destroy the bulk of her fighting forces, this was an unconventional attack.

German troops had recently been drawn away from Neuve Chapelle due to heavy French pressure further south.
Only one division, consisting of about 12,000 “Saxons and Bavarians,” defended the area. One of the Bavarian regiments making up the division at Neuve Chapelle was Hitler’s.
At seven o’clock in the morning the British artillery lazily began lobbing shells on the German lines.
It was the usual breakfast accompaniment, and Hitler and his comrades took no unusual notice of it.
The British however, had air superiority in the sector and had been able to move up a large number of heavy guns in secrecy.
The British artillery crews were taking turns bracketing the German important positions and making sure of their range.
At 7:30 the range finding ended and suddenly and surprisingly “the first really massive artillery barrage of the war” began.
Instead of the normal lengthy, preliminary bombardment that went on for hours across miles of trenches, the British laid down a very intense bombardment against a 2,000 yard frontage.
It lasted only 35 minutes but was an artillery concentration absolutely unprecedented.   Hundreds of 6-inch, 9-inch and 15-inch howitzers, lobbed their shells upon the doomed German trenches as other field guns, firing at point blank range, cut the barbed wire entanglements defending the German lines.

Neuve Chapelle

The British in the front trenches were deafened by the continuous roar of shells leaving their own guns.

The continuous eruption of exploding shells on the German side flung earth, rock, blood, and hideous fragments of human bodies onto the British troops in the forward positions.
The upper half of a German officer, his cap still on his head, was blown into one of their trenches.
As one British solider would later comment: “Words will never convey any adequate idea of the horror of those five and thirty minutes.”*
On the German side a curtain of fire, dust, debris and body parts filled the air.
Thousands of shells plunged screaming amid the pillars of smoke and flying fragments while “bombing airplanes” added their high explosives to the fray.
The earth shook and shuttered.
The sickening smell of exploded powder filled the air.
Suddenly, at 8:05, the shells “lifted” off the German trenches and began to fall upon the village of Neuve Chapelle beyond.
In perfect unison the British soldiers leaped out of their trenches and stormed the German front line.
The German machine-gunners left alive had not recovered from the shock and the British crossed No Man’s Land in almost complete immunity.
The German trenches had been blown to unrecognizable pits littered with dead and parts of dead.
Most of the Germans left alive were in a state of trauma and there was little resistance.
The British advance occurred so quickly that the artillery firing on the village had not completed its work and the British soldiers were held up momentarily.
One saw them standing out in the open, laughing and cracking jokes amid the terrible dim made by the huge howitzer shells screaming overhead and bursting in the village.”
The barrage soon moved off the village and beyond to roads leading into the area so as to hinder any German reinforcements from entering the battle zone.
The line of roads and streets was all but obliterated. 
The British soldiers stormed the shattered village and began “working with the bayonet.
The British drove forward for over half a mile and for the first and only time during the war broke the German lines.
But, the British were too slow in sending their second wave into the hole, and before the day was over the Germans quickly adjusted their line and brought up reinforcements at a terrible cost who plugged the gap.
Hoping that there might be a weak point in the new German line the British commanders ordered their soldiers to press on “regardless of loss.”
For two more days they went on battering against a wall they could no longer breach.
With 13,000 dead and seriously wounded British soldiers littering the battle zone, the assault was finally called off.

Prinz Rupprecht von Bayern

Prinz Rupprecht von Bayern – commander of the sixth army in the Neuve Chapelle sector, made a desperate attempt to counter-attack and recapture the village.

The Bavarian regiments sent into the battle were met by British artillery and machine guns already moved up in position.
The Germans were cut to pieces.
Before Prinz Rupprecht finally called off his fruitless counterattack the German losses exceeded that of the British.
Hitler took part in all phases of the five-day battle and came through it without a scratch.
Because the German line had been broken, the British commanders considered Neuve Chapelle a success and took confidence that, with a little better coordination and refinement, they might break through the next time.
For whatever reason they drew the wrong conclusion that “mere volume” of shell fire was the key to success.
The Germans also came to the same conclusions.
For the next two years Der Große Krieg would become primarily an artillery duel.
The true lesson, surprise attained by a short intense bombardment followed by numerically superior troops against a weak point, never occurred to them.
Considering, however, the “sudden and surprising” tactics Hitler would employ in another time and in another war, it is extremely likely the lesson was not lost on him.
A month after the battle of Neuve Chapelle, the Germans made another attempt to break the British and French line.
The spot chosen was fifteen miles to the north where a British and French “bulge,” five miles deep and four wide, penetrated the German line.

Deutsch Infanterie Zweite Schlacht von Ypres

It would become know as the Second Battle of Ypres and would have a profound affect on every soldier who served in W.W.I.

To prepare the way for the attack, the Germans decided to make use of a new technology; asphyxiating chlorine gas.
The gas was prepared and stored in large cylinders weighing ninety pounds each far behind the lines.

German Gas Cylinders

After being shipped to the front, the gas cylinders were carried to the front line by the infantry. 

The cylinders were then buried at the bottom of the front line trench with only a small “dome,” which protected the discharge valve, protruding out of the ground.
To protect against any leakage, a large flat bag, stuffed with a substance like peat moss and heavily socked with a potash solution, was placed on top.
To protect against shells or shell fragments, three layers of sandbags were built up around and over it.
Batteries” of twenty cylinders were strategically located so that once released the small gas clouds would combine to form a large cloud.
After waiting until air currents were moving steadily west, the protective coverings and domes were removed and lead pipes were connected to the cylinders, directed over the parapet and pointed to a sector defended by the French.

Poison Gas Attack

At 5 p.m. on April 22 (two days after Hitler’s 26th birthday). the Germans opened the valves.

Being heavier then air, the gas swept slowly forward in a yellow-green cloud about six feet high and flowed into the enemy trenches.
Germans troops wearing special masks came with the gas-cloud.
Never before had any solider been intentionally exposed to a killing gas.
In the French front lines, unprecedented confusion resulted as the chlorine gas attacked the troops lungs and respiratory systems.
Some soldiers attempted to hold their breath.
Others tried burying their mouths and nostrils in dirt.
Many began coughing and vomiting blood.
Others felt pains in their chests and began suffocating.
The faces of the dead men “turned a sort of saffron-yellow which after a time changed to purplish blue.”
In some sections the gas killed 25% of the men exposed to it.
Panic soon spread among the French forces and the infantry in the line fled, opening up a four mile gap.
The Germans advanced about a half mile and captured fifty big guns.
They soon left the wall of gas behind them, which had begun to break up into patches, and it seemed that nothing was in the way to stop them.
But, just as with the British at Neuve Chapelle, by the time the Germans sent their second wave through the breach, the French brought up reinforcement and plugged the gap.
The advancing Germans were cut to pieces.
Two days later the Germans turned their gas on an adjoining section of the line defended by British troops.
Though death seemed certain, the British (mostly Canadians) attempted to protect themselves with makeshift “respirators” of handkerchiefs and rags moistened with salt water or experimental neutralizing chemicals.
They were able to hold their sector till the gas passed over, but suffered appalling causalities. The German drive was stopped.
With all hopes lost of obtaining a break-through by using gas as the primary weapon, the Germans launched an all out conventional attack supported by gas.
They began creeping forward, but by now, nearly every gas mask to be found in France and Britain had found its way to the front.
After four weeks the Germans finally called off the attack.
They had failed to take Ypres.
To advance roughly two miles along a four mile front, the Germans paid with over 34,900 men killed or seriously wounded.
The British, who launched a series of counter-attacks and gained nothing, had 10,500 dead and nearly 49,000 wounded.
Even though the use of gas did not bring the desired results, out of desperation both sides began using it in hopes of breaking the deadlock.
The French and British soon gained the ascendancy and the cumbersome cylinder and gas-pipe system, which depended on air currents, was abandoned in favour of the gas-shell.
Besides the first asphyxiating gas, both sides soon developed others more deadly.
Soldiers were instructed that the first breath produced a spasm in the throat, the second brought about mental confusion, the third produced unconsciousness and the fourth, death.*   There were also “mustard” gases, which were designed to blister and burn “moist” parts of the body, and produce blindness as an alternative if death didn’t occur.
Thirty percent of all causalities during the early stages of the war would be a result of one gas or another.
Gas masks, covering the whole face, were speedily perfected, and every command had a gong or siren which warned of approaching gas.
Masks were worn not only by troops, but by horses, pack mules, company dogs and civilians behind the lines.
Because of the mustard gases, soldiers were also forced to wear heavy clothes that covered the whole body even in the hottest weather.
During the war, front line soldiers on either side of ‘No Man’s Land’ looked like dreamlike figures.
Their heads were protected with a steel helmet covered with cloth so the glint of steel would not advertise their whereabouts.
Beneath the helmet they wore a close fitting woolen cap pulled down tightly over the ears and sometimes tied beneath the chin.
Attached to a dull-colored uniform were the soldiers’ belt, brace straps, bayonet, ammunition pouches, grenades, trench knife, and gas mask (which was normally carried on the chest).
A cloak, made of rubber without sleeves, was usually worn to keep off the rain.
High rubber boots, strapped at the ankle and upper thigh, covered the legs.
During attacks each soldier proceeded forward with his rifle, bayonet fixed, thrust out in front of him.
Just a few months before, the thought of a man so dressed appearing out of a greenish gas-cloud while peering through an insect-like mask, would have been the stuff of nightmares.
Because the British and French succeeded in stopping the nightmarish attack of the Germans at Ypres, their confidence was up.
The Germans, they believed, had exhausted themselves and were ready to crack.
All that was needed, they believed, was one great combined thrust which would drive the Germans back into Germany.
Though the British had consumed large amounts of men and material at Ypres, their plan was to penetrate the German line in a two-pronged attack, one to the north and one to the south of Neuve Chapelle.
Each prong was to be a mile wide. The main thrust however, was to be delivered further south by the French army.
The French massed nearly a quarter-million men for their assault along a ten mile front north of Arras. They had over 1100 heavy guns to “soften up” the German lines and were predicting victory within weeks.
The Germans, having learned from what had occurred earlier at Neuve Chapelle, had prepared a much more elaborate network of well protected shelters, dugouts, and machine-gun emplacements opposite the British and French lines.
The Germans manning the lines were nearly all hardened soldiers, and knew what to expect. One of the German regiments still defending the area between Neuve Chapelle and Arras was Hitler’s.
On May, 8th the British opened up with the same type of preliminary bombardment that had been so effective at Neuve Chapelle.
The French opened up the following day with a bombardment that consumed more than 300,000 shells the first day.
The German front line trenches from Neuve Chapelle to Arras were reduce to rubble intermixed with human debris.
Where aerial photographs the day before had shown perfect geometric patterns of zigzag trenches and an occasional village, there now existed a moonscape.
Beneath the carnage however, many of the German strong points were still intact.
As the combined Franco-British offensive got under way, the causality count soared as the surviving Germans in their well protected and camouflaged machine gun emplacements sprayed the unprotected attackers.
On the first day the British lost 8000 men in the first few hours and their offensive quickly stalled. 
Although the French were able to advance two miles at one point, the anticipated breakthrough never materialized.
Although the British attacks continued sporadically until the end of May, the determined French threw themselves continually at the German lines for another month until 60,000 German and 120,000  French soldiers had fallen.
During the battle, Hitler’s regiment was shifted back and forth where needed and fought against the British south of Neuve Chapelle at La Bassee and against the French at Arras.
Like most young soldiers, Hitler had to find justification for the agony, death and sacrifice he observed.  He also had to accept the fact that he could die violently for his country. He came to accept the idea that these sacrifices were necessary since he was fighting for a grand ideal. He believed that he and his fellow comrades were fighting for “the existence or non-existence of the German nation.
As the war continued and the causalities soared, the average soldier’s life took on a very simple course; the preservation of existence. 
There was fellowship, brotherhood, and a feeling of solidarity.
They stood together and depended on one another.
They shared the same life, the same fear, and the same ideas.
They protected one another, belonged to one another and loved one another.
One’s comrades became the most comforting things in the world.
“In my section there was a spirit of open larking,” Hitler would state. “Apart from the runners, we’d had no link with the outside world.
This strong unity greatly impressed Hitler and he would later state: “I passionately loved soldiering.
Although most who knew Hitler observed that he was somewhat “aloof and different from themselves,” by now “he had earned the respect of his comrades and officers.
Hans Mend, a fellow soldier, described him as a “born soldier.
In the throes of battle he never faltered.
He never pretended to be sick to avoid doing his duty and he got his messages through.
Although Hitler still worried that “the everlasting artillery fire” would ruin his nerves, he had proven himself.
His fellow messengers noticed a look of determination in his eyes and appreciated his fearlessness.
Whether it was the excitement of battle or nervous energy, Hitler developed a ravenous appetite and one of his fellow recruits considered him a “glutton.”
Even though Hitler received food parcels from the Popps, his lawyer friend and wife, the baker, and members of his own family, he was not beneath “requisitioning” food items from the food supplies when he was on guard duty and sharing them with his friends.
For a nominal cost he also purchased food from the cooks and kitchen help.
The sweet tooth he acquired in Vienna hadn’t abated and one of his favourite snacks was bread heaped with jam.
If he found a tin of artificial honey,” Mend would later write, “nothing could get him away from it, shells or no shells.”.
Although Hitler normally avoided trivial conversation, when the talk turned serious, he would be in the midst of it.
Ignaz Westenkirchner, a fellow dispatch runner, and also a close friend, remembered Hitler as a very serious young man concerned only with serious matters.
There is almost no subject” said Westenkirchner, “about which he did not talk. He mastered each theme and spoke fluently. We simple fellows were very much impressed, and liked it.” 
The List Regiment’s students and intellectual volunteers were also impressed with Hitler’s knowledge on a wide variety of subjects and considered him an “intellectual.”
Mend stated that “almost no one could withdraw himself from Adolf Hitler’s strong personality, and his opinions were accepted by most of us.”
Hitler was not always serious and would later state: “A sense of humour and a propensity for laughter are qualities that are indispensable to a unit.”
He could bring his fellow comrades to laughter by mimicking one of the officers who wasn’t particularly liked, and by also reading, in a deadpan manner, “housekeeping” regulations that armies of all nations are so fond of posting in environments where they have little bearing.
Most of his fellow soldiers considered him a “levelheaded” companion and his “comradely” manner earned him the nickname his mother had given him, “Adi.”
Unlike the other young men, Hitler seldom joined in any of the conversations about women. Although he felt that the “Flemish girls were most attractive,” according to Mend he never approached any of the girls they came in contact with.
In a war where front-line soldiers stood a good chance of being killed any day, about the only complaints Hitler’s comrades made about him was his “constant lectures on the evils of smoking and drinking.
There were also those who resented his dedication and commitment to duty.
As dangerous as his position was, if a fellow messenger was ill or unfit, not about, or argued whose turn it was, Hitler would deliver their messages.
When he returned he would lecture them on the value and importance of doing their duty. 
Unlike the other recruits, Hitler never applied for a leave, as though it was imperative to win the war first.
Consequently, some of the men considered him “odd.”
During quiet times in his sector, Hitler, one of his comrades noted, “always had a book spread out in front of him,” which he carried in his back pack.
He still refused to read popular novels or short stories, since he considered them frivolous.
I hated nothing more than trash literature,” Hitler would later tell an acquaintance.
As in all wars, young men who had never seriously thought about God, and even those who had claimed earlier to be atheists, turned to God for comfort.
Hitler was no exception. In an early letter to Mr. Popp, Hitler ask him to “please save the newspaper” that noted his Iron Cross award because he wanted to “have it as a keepsake if the Lord should spare my life.”
Hitler’s favorite writer during the war was the early 19th century philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer.
In contrast to the involved idiom of most German philosophers, Schopenhauer’s clear and expressive writing style won him a world wide audience.
His writing influenced much of the later philosophy of the 19th century.
Hitler, like Thomas Mann, was greatly impressed by Schopenhauer’s book: ‘The World as Will and Idea’.
Hitler read the book over and over again during the war and was greatly influenced by Schopenhauer’s teaching.
Schopenhauer taught that man lives in inner pain because he is unable to satisfy the wants of his “will.”
This will included all impulses, strivings, and desires which, Schopenhauer believed, are at the heart of all man’s actions.
Will is force, will alone rules, all else is illusion.
Even intellect, so highly lauded, is feeble in the overpowering sway of will which blindly and unconsciously dominates.
Because the will is obstinate, blind, impetuous, unreasonable and irresponsible, most men would never know true reality or peace.
Temporary escape could be found in pleasure, art and music when the will is momentarily canceled, but things would never improve.
The only exceptions were men who had within themselves the ability to grasp the meaning of life by using their feelings instead of reason and knowledge.
Schopenhauer dwelled with the misery of life and the aimless strivings and irrationality that exist on the earth.
In the end, however, Schopenhauer came to the same basic conclusion as all the great religions on the earth – to find true happiness and peace, man must deny his wants and give up all personal worldly desires.
So in the end, the “pessimism” of Schopenhauer, in a way, brings with it a means of escape from the worthlessness of existence.
On one hand, Hitler stated that he “learned a great deal from Schopenhauer“. 
Hitler, who saw men risk their lives for another and risked his for another on more than one occasion, also had his doubts about the survival of the fittest.
He saw the individual as a means of insuring the survival of the nation or people.
On the other hand, Hitler was no pessimist and stated: “Schopenhauer’s pessimism, springs partly, I think, from his own line of philosophical thought and partly from subjective feeling, and the experiences of his own personal life.”
As Hitler would later state: “Have pity on the pessimist. He spoils his own existence. In fact, life is endurable only on condition that one’s an optimist …. what would have happened to us soldiers by Heaven, if we’d been a group of pessimists …. One must have faith in life.”
As his dreary and sometimes. mundane life as a soldier continued, Hitler resumed his painting. He did over forty paintings during the war, and most of them show a marked improvement over his earlier works. 
Some were considered “remarkable artistic productions” by later observers.
Although he still possessed a talent for realistic renditions of buildings and churches, one of his best paintings during the war was not of a building, but a painting he titled ‘The Hohlweg at Wyschaete’.
He knew the lane well for he had travelled along it many times when it was under heavy fire.
On one day alone, 192 German soldiers were killed or wounded while passing through it.
He painted the scene with heavy thick strokes which “suggested the stark horror and menace of the landscape with a minimum of means.”
Because of his painting ability and understanding of colours  Hitler was called upon to offer suggestions on repainting the officer’s mess at a commandeered villa.
Hitler’s advice was accepted, and he was put to work repainting the room. (This incident along with the fact that Hitler’s comrade and friend, Schmidt, was a house painter, would later feed more rumours that Hitler had been a house painter.)
To spark a little humour in the drab life of the trenches, Hitler would also draw cartoons and caricatures of the men and their life in the trenches.
Many of his rough sketches were sent home and the humour is obvious in them.
While Hitler was taking a respite in a trench near the front lines one day, a stocky, white terrier leaped into the trench and started chasing a rat.
Hitler caught the dog and, although it attempted to get away, it soon accepted Hitler as its new master.
The dog obviously belonged to a British soldier, and according to Hitler, “didn’t understand a word of German.”
Hitler soon overcame all the difficulties and not only taught the dog to understand but to perform various tricks.
He named him ‘Foxl’ (Little Fox).
Fellow recruits marvelled at the attachment the dog showed to Hitler.
Little Fox seldom left Hitler’s side during the day, and slept beside him at night.
When I ate,” Hitler would later recall, “he used to sit beside me and follow my gestures with his gaze. If by the fifth or sixth mouthful I hadn’t given him anything, he used to sit up on his rump and look at me with an air of saying: ‘And what about me, am I not here at all?‘” 
With the summer of 1915 the tempo of the fighting increased to a never ending gas and artillery duel.
No “major” offense was launched by either side that summer, but both armies attempted to break the stalemate by obliterating opposing trenches.
Intense barrages, that went on for hours, regularly broke out along small sections of the line.
The “few thousand” troops sent “over the top” and across ‘No Man’s Land’ to see if the artillery had done its work were usually mangled.
The heavy shelling put communications out of commission and messengers were now stationed not only at regimental headquarters, but also at the front.
Still, no matter how bad the bombardment or how thick the fighting, the messenger’s job was to keep the front lines and headquarters linked.
During attacks the storm troops, with messengers on their heels, followed so closely behind advancing artillery shelling that it was expected that 5% of the attacking forces would be killed by their own shells.
Hitler’s job had become more dangerous than ever.
By the end of summer the British had built up their forces to nearly one million men and were determined to break the Germans.
On Sept 23 they launched a massive artillery and gas bombardment south of Le Bassee along a five mile front in coordination with a French offensive further to the south.
After two days of bombardment the British went forward at 6:30 in the morning.
By evening they had overrun the German first line along the whole five mile sector.
That night the artillery bombardment was so intense in Hitler’s sector around Le Bassee,* that the “English shelling” soon had communications with the front lines and regimental headquarters severed. 
Since no runners were at the front, or had been lost, Hitler and a companion were sent forward to find out what was going on.
Somehow they got through and reported back that their lines had been cut and a British attack in force was expected.
Although the barrage continued without letup, Hitler was sent out again to inform the other detachments what was coming.
The German second line held that night and the next morning the British broke before a German counter-attack.
For the next few days the battle wore on as the Germans tried to retake what little they had failed to reclaim, and the British died for what little they had taken.
When the heavy fighting began to die away in October, 50,000 British soldiers lay dead and maimed along with 20,000 Germans.
The French, however, continued with their offensive further south.
Hitler and his Regiment, consequently, were shifted to Arras.
From Arras south to Champagne, the French pressed their attack.
In Hitler’s sector the French attempted to take a strong point in the German line known as Vimy Ridge but were stopped in their tracks.
Vimy Ridge,” Hitler observed, was dotted with “scars … shell-holes and all.”
When the French offensive finally petered out early in November, 190,000 Frenchmen and 120,000 Germans were added to the casualty list.
Again, Hitler survived both battles without a scratch.
After one year in the front lines Hitler had cheated death on numerous occasions.
In 1914 Hitler had been standing in a dugout when the arrival of four officers caused the place to be overcrowded forcing Hitler and three companions to step out for awhile and wait.
We had been waiting there for less than five minutes,” Hitler wrote his lawyer friend, “when a shell hit the dugout … killing or wounding the rest of the staff.”
In another incident Hitler related how he was eating his dinner with several other soldiers when: “Suddenly a voice seemed to be saying to me, ‘Get up and go over there.’ It was so clear and insistent that I obeyed mechanically as if it had been a officer’s order. I rose at once to my feet and walked twenty yards along the trench, carrying my dinner in its tin-can. I then sat down to go on eating, my mind once more at rest. Hardly had I done so when a flash and deafening roar came from the part of the trench I had just left. A stray shell had burst over the men where I had been sitting, everyone was killed.
Even Hitler’s fellow soldiers noted his charmed life, and some believed that if they stayed around Hitler, “nothing will happen.”
After one notable attack which left the regiment decimated, one of Hitler comrades turned to him and declared: “Man, there’s no bullet made with your name on it!
A telephone operator at regimental headquarters would later relate another incident::

It was the day when the Brits attacked and we no longer had any communications to the front. No telephone functioned, the heavy fire had torn all cables, courier dogs and messenger pigeons no longer returned, everything failed, so Adolf had to dare it, and carry a message out in danger of his life. We all said to each other – he won’t come back ! – but he came back in good condition, and could give the regiment important information about everything.

Considering the death toll among the troops of W.W.I, Hitler’s “charmed life” was notable.
When Ernst Junger, as well as other writers, referred to the young men of W.W.I as a “generation destined for death,” it was not idle chatter.
Half of the French males who were of military age (twenty to thirty-two) in 1914 were killed during the war.
The German toll was little better, and Hitler’s regiment “achieved a mournful immortality.” Casualties in Hitler’s regiment, severe from the start of the war, mounted steadily.
The chances that a 1914 volunteer of the List Regiment would be killed or maimed was almost guaranteed.
Because of replacements, Hitler’s Regiment, which consisted of 3600 men in 1914, suffered 3754 killed before the war ended.
Mass burials of whole and partial corpses became commonplace.
Thousands of other recruits lost limbs, parts of torsos, sight, hearing and also their minds. “Thus it went on year after year,” Hitler would later write, “but the romance of battle had been replaced by horror.”
Living under the constant threat of death, all the men in the front lines continued to wrestle with their fears.
The soldiers lived under a network of arching shells where uncertainty and hopelessness reigned.
When a shell was heard coming in, all they could do was seek some kind of shelter for they did not know, nor could they determine, exactly where it would fall.
Soldiers came to see that no place was safe.
Men sitting in “bomb-proof” dugouts could be smashed into fragments, while another caught in the open could survive a two day bombardment.
For a soldier to keep his sanity he had to overcome his fear of death.
Depending on his point of view, each put his life in the hands of chance, providence, destiny, fate or God.
Every soldier came to believe in fate, and eventually that made him indifferent.
War was seen as a cause of death – like cancer, tuberculous, influenza or dysentery.
Deaths in the trenches were merely more frequent, more varied, more terrible.
Always present, however, was the terror of dying, but most overcame their fear of death.
After witnessing the horrors of war for over a year, Hitler describes the period when he was finally able to cross a mental barrier, and put aside his fear of death:

By the winter of 1915-16, this struggle had for me been decided. At last my will was undisputed master. If in the first days I went over the top with rejoicing and laughter, I was now calm and determined. And this was enduring. Now fate could bring on the ultimate tests without my nerves shattering or my reasons failing.’

As the war dragged on, Hitler, now a hardened soldier, felt that the civilians understood nothing of the agony of trench warfare.
The Western Front became a world of its own, and Hitler began to find it hard to communicate with civilians back home.
He answered his mail less and less, and received few letters and packages from home.
When one of his comrades asked if there wasn’t anyone to send him packages of food or items, Hitler answered: “No, only a sister, and heaven knows where she is by this time.”
But when the baker, Franz Heilmann (who Hitler befriended in Munich), sent him another food package, Hitler sent a note thanking him, but insisting that he send no more packages.
The war changed men and many soldiers went through periods where memories of former times became haunted and did not awaken pleasure so much as sorrow.
One of the officers who conversed with Hitler when he had painted the mess, stated later that he felt Hitler “was a serious person who obviously had been through quite a lot in life.”*
As the holidays approached, Hitler’s mates noticed that he became very withdrawn.
For three days he hardly spoke a word and took on “extra duty – particularly at Christmastime.
When his friends tried to cheer him up he would abruptly walk away. “I almost wept for him,” Mend would later write, “I thought; ‘The poor devil is going through plenty....'”
When his comrades offered him some of their food or other items they received from home, Hitler declined stating he could not repay the favor.
Then his friends took up a collection which would enable him to buy extra items from the kitchen mess, but he refused to except it.
Once the holiday was over however, Hitler became cheerful again and even smiled about comments on his silence during the holiday.
There can be little doubt that Hitler, with all the death around him, was still haunted by the death of his mother.
By the beginning of 1916 the trench systems had become thicker and now extended miles and miles behind the front line.
In many instances the front line was expected to be overrun and was held by fewer men while the second and third lines were made stronger since they were easier to reinforce.
The areas now targeted for bombardment by attacking forces extended along long and deep “belts.”
Both sides in the conflict built and perfected heavier and heavier “trench artillery” designed to hurl larger and larger “aerial torpedoes” containing great amounts of high explosives.
Their curved trajectories were effective against not only trenches but also reinforced pillboxes and even deep concreted dugouts.
Many of the shells were capable of penetrating two feet of protective concrete, six feet of earth and another two feet of concrete.
After causing tremendous damage with their weight and speed they were given a “second life” by means of a delayed fuse which would kill and maim those who had come to remove those previously killed and maimed.
The area above ground was continually reshaped into unrecognizable moonscapes.
During the bombardments, trenches ten feet deep disappeared, some little by little, others in a flash.
Soldiers dug deeper and deeper into the earth with the entrenching shovels nearly every man carried with him.
After a barrage lifted, the soldiers left alive quickly dug themselves out of their holes and used the huge craters created by the shelling for cover.
When linked by hastily dug temporary ditches, the craters made a fair substitute for the elaborate trench systems just destroyed.
Machine guns were quickly set up and the attacking forces were cut to pieces.
The deadlock continued and casualties soared.
The German High Command decided that Verdun, a strong point in the French defenses, would be the next point of attack.
In preparation for the attack the High Command ordered six major “feint” attacks to be carried out during January and the first weeks of February in order to draw French and British attention from Verdun.
Hitler’s Regiment, which had been shifted north, took part in the ruse.
At Verdun the Germans began, along a thirty mile front, one of the greatest mass attacks of the war.
Although Verdun had no real significance as a military object, prestige was at stake.
The French took up the call: “They shall not pass.”
Just as it became impossible to convince the French leaders that Verdun was not worth saving, it became impossible to convince the German leaders it was not worth taking.
Nearly 2,000,000 troops on both sides were thrown into the battle.
As attack followed counter-attack the slaughter continued for months.
During the fighting over 6300 shells were fired by the two sides every hour.*
The fighting at Verdun continued into June.
The French position became desperate when the Germans began to nibble their way forward. In an attempt to draw German troops and material away from Verdun, the British, with French support, decided to open a “great” offensive centred in the region of the Somme.
The British had been planning the attack for months and had moved up a large number of heavy guns and stockpiled acres and acres of artillery shells.
A fortune would be fired away – the cost of many of the larger shells was enough to raise a child, or send a youth to college, for a year.
Although the British commanders had air superiority in much of the area, their habit of keeping their troops “on their toes” with constant raids, alerted the Germans to the huge British build-up  The Sixth German army, the Bavarian (one of the two field armies in the area), had prepared an elaborate network of deep trenches linking concreted dugouts and shelters.
Troop strength was brought up, and Hitler and his regiment were ordered to the village of Fromelles, southwest of Lille, to take part in the battle.
On the eve of our setting out for the battle of the Somme, we laughed and made jokes all night,” Hitler would later state.
In my unit, even at the worst time there was always someone that would make us laugh.”
The British, while aware they had lost all possibility of surprise, were confident of victory.
The German trenches were not to be bombarded, but obliterated.
Besides thousands of regular artillery field pieces, the British had over 450 super heavy guns. Some were able to fire a shell 18 inches in diameter carrying nearly a ton of high explosives and metal.
It would be Neuve Chapelle all over again, but instead of mounting a 35 minute bombardment against a short front, the British would bombard seventy miles of the German lines, from Ypres to the Somme, for five days.
From the Somme southward the French would bombard twenty miles of the German lines.
It would be the fiercest artillery bombardment of the war up to that time.
Then, at the planned moment, the bombardment would lift along certain sections of the line and go into its “rolling barrage” phase moving slowly deeper into German territory.
The British and French hoped that their infantry would simply advance behind, clearing up the “few surviving Germans.”
In the preliminary bombardment that opened the battle in late June, the British and French fired over 40,000 shells ever hour in hopes of pulverizing the Germans and their defences.
As the shells came raining down on the German positions, the land itself seemed to burst open and flash.
As far as the eye could see fountains of mud, iron and stone filled the sky.
Gas moved across the land and filled the valleys and meadows.
Talk was impossible for one could not be understood.
Men huddled in their shelters as exploding shells cleared away the earth protecting them. Trenches disappeared. Dugouts vanished. Screams were heard between the explosions. Where men had sat only lumps of flesh and bits of uniform remained.
In the deeper shelters, old and battle-hardened troops peered through their masks at one another and shook their heads.
They all had heard the story of the French regiment at Verdun which fled under a heavy bombardment.
Suddenly, at 9:30 in the morning on July 1, the bombardment lifted along a twenty-eight mile section of the front where the French and British lines met.
As the curtain of fire fell behind them, German soldiers, who only moments before seemed ready to crack, sprung into action.
There was now something to do other than wait for death.
On an 18 mile front, from the Somme River north to Gommecourt, the survivors clambered out of their shelters to greet thirteen British divisions, over 150,000 men, who began to cross No Man’s Land in a solid line.
On a ten mile front from the Somme south, the Germans prepared to greet 50,000 French soldiers who were crossing in a similar fashion.
As German front line troops took up defensive positions, messengers hurried to the rear, passing through the curtain of fire, to inform their regimental headquarters that the attack had begun in their sector.
Though the French advanced with “acceptable losses,” the British were torn to pieces.
The Germans had constructed some shelters 40 feet deep and new armoured machine gun emplacements had been strategically located so as to put attacking forces in a murderous cross fire.
When the British bombardment lifted, not only were many of the German machine gunners still alive but many of their armoured machine gun emplacements were still usable 
Where their fortifications had been destroyed the machine gunners set up their guns in the same areas that had been “scientifically” chosen earlier.
The British had also concentrated most of their heavy shelling on the German trenches, and the wire protecting the German line was uncut in many places.
Where it was cut, the ground was so heavily pitted with shell craters that an orderly and speedy advance was impossible.
As the British picked their way through the wire, the German machine gunners opened up with a murderous spray. British troops fell by the thousands.
Many were literally cut in half; the top part of their bodies tangled up in the wire while the bottom part lay on the ground.
Within a short time the German messengers did their job and German artillery shells began falling on and behind the attacking British making it as unsafe for them to retreat as it was to go forward.
Nearly 20,000 British soldiers were killed or seriously wounded in the first two hours.
At the small village of Gommecourt alone, 1,000 British troops died along a 1,000 yard sector of the line.
Before the day was over the British suffered nearly 60,000 causalities – 40,000 seriously wounded and 20,000 dead.
Although the British had made some small gains in a few areas, they did not attempt to exploit the areas but ordered more uniform attacks along the whole line.
For the next two weeks the battle continued with nearly the same results.
The British pounded the German lines until it seemed nothing could be alive.
But, when the shell fire lifted off the German trenches, men, like ghosts, appeared from out of the ground.
As the British troops charged, German artillery, machine guns, rifles, hand grenades, mines, gas and bayonets thinned out their ranks until the inertia of the attack was blunted and it finally collapsed.
A British “success” was measured in ”yards.
The German Generals showed no more ingenuity than the British and demanded that every yard of territory lost be retaken.
With German artillery shells leading the way, counter-attacks were launched.
So it went back and forth until the German losses began to approach those of the British.
After two weeks the only noticeable gain the British had achieved was along a five mile section of their line north of the Somme River where they linked up with the French.
With little else to show for their losses, the British decided to “exploit” the area.
On the morning of July 14, 20,000 British troops delivered a major assault after a bombardment that lasted only a few minutes.
They consequently took the Germans by complete surprise.
The British advanced over a mile capturing a five mile sector of the German second line.
It appeared it would be a cake walk to break through the third line.
It was the moment that all British generals of W.W.I had dreamed of.
At seven o’clock in the evening, the British began sending in wave after wave of mounted cavalry. Horses, high off the ground with men on them, offered easy targets.
Most of the horses and men were mowed down by German machine guns. “The wonder was that any came back alive.”
While the dreamed-of breakthrough was disappearing in a pool of human and animal blood, the British launched attacks and bombardments all along the front to prevent German reinforcements from relieving the area.
Anything flammable was burnt black all along the front to a depth of four miles. The effects of the endless gas clouds were felt over seven miles behind the front lines.

That evening, the shelling was so devastating in the Fromelles sector that no one ventured to stick his head out of his hole.
All regimental field telephones were out. Hitler and another runner were sent out to deliver messages, according to their officer, “in the face of almost certain death.”
The barrage was so intense that every step forward was an act of suicide.
After diving, crawling, running, dodging and taking advantage of every shell hole and ditch, Hitler returned dragging along the other man who “collapsed from exhaustion.”
The officers were surprised and amazed that they returned alive.
On July l9, the Battle of Fromelles intensified and the area became a howling waste.
No place was safe and the life of a dispatch runner was “measured in hours rather than days.”
During one of the barrages the shell fire was so heavy that it was believed no single runner could get through.
It soon became commonplace to send off as many as six runners with the same message assuming “five would probably be wounded or killed.”
All through August the British continued their attacks with paralysing losses and with little to show for their effort except the gains made in coordination with the French.
The dream of forcing the Germans back along the whole British front was forgotten.
Hundreds of thousands of troops had been consumed.
Lacking sufficient battle worthy formations, the British shifted most of the heavy fighting along side the French.
Still hoping to gain something, the British set their sights on the town of Bapaume.
By sheer weight of artillery and men the British and French stumbled forward until they had extended their advances to four miles in some places.
Determined to break through the German line and reach Bapaume the British decided to unleash a surprise on the Germans.
Forty-five heavy artillery towing tractors, code named “tanks,” had been converted into “landships.”
With their caterpillar treads, armored plating and mounted machine gun, they would, it was hoped, provide the infantry with the close support needed to break through.
On Sept. 15 the tanks went forward.
Only a dozen got near the German line, but because of their surprise effect, and the fact that machine gun bullets failed to stop them, a few penetrated the German line.
Before the day was over, however, they were all disabled.
Undaunted, the British continued to pound the German lines and the Germans hammered back in their turn.
Every day in “the fight of man against man,” as Hitler called it, thousands of men were killed or wounded.
As the shells decimated the troops, fresh regiments were herded into the area.
On Sept 25 Hitler and his Regiment were brought south, and thrown into the midst of the heaviest fighting south of Bapaume.
Some of Germany’s best divisions were fighting in the sector and “compared with them,” Hitler would later state, “we felt we were the rawest of recruits.”
By now Bapaume itself had become an unrecognisable flaming abyss.
Hitler would later comment:
When we went into the line in 1916, south of Bapaume, the heat was intolerable. As we marched through the streets, there was not a house, not a tree to be seen; everything had been destroyed, and even the grass had been burnt. It was a variable wilderness.’
Because of the constant shifting of the front lines, and the heavy artillery bombardments, wired communications between regimental headquarters and the front lines were non-existent  Through the chatter of machine guns, the roar of exploding shells, the hum of shell fragments alive in the air, and the groans of suffering men, Hitler shuttled back and forth. “Then I saw men falling around me in thousands,” Hitler later stated. “Thus I learned that life is a cruel struggle, and has no other object but the preservation of the species. The individual can disappear, provided there are other men to replace him.
Even an arch-patriot like Hitler was appalled by the senseless losses.
Like many of his fellow recruits he slowly came to believe that the old leadership that he once thought so highly of, was failing them.
Hitler astonished a comrade by stating: “I would make the leaders responsible for these men who have fallen.”*
There would be few men who fought on the Somme who would ever wash away the memory of what occurred there.
Although Hitler had already fought in nearly 20 battles, and would fight in 20 more, nearly ten years later he would describe the Battle of the Somme as “more like hell than war.”
Although Hitler had been in the thick of the fighting on the Somme, the only injury he received was a minor shell splinter to the face.
On the night of October 7, 1916, however, his name was added to the casualty list.
During a rolling barrage of British artillery in the vicinity of Le Barque (two miles south-west of Bapaume) a shell landed near the spot where he and his fellow messengers were huddled waiting to run messages.
They were blown into a heap and Hitler survived with a serious wound to the left thigh.
What is strange,” Hitler would later say, ” is that at the moment of being wounded one has merely the sense of a shock, without immediate pain. One thinks that nothing important has occurred. The pain begins only when one is being carried away.”
Hitler did not want to leave his regiment and attempted to convince his superior to keep him at the front,  however, he was evacuated to a field hospital six miles behind Bapaume at Hermies. 

Die Völkisch Bewegung und Pangermanismus – The Völkisch Movement and Pan-Germanism

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Die Völkisch Bewegung und Pangermanismus

Wappen Deutscher Bund

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Wappen von Österreich

Austria in the late 1800s was the product of three major political changes.

These changes consisted in the exclusion of Austria from the German Confederation, the administrative separation of Hungary from Austria, and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in the “Austrian” or western half of the empire.”

\Wappen Heiliges Römisches Reich
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The German Confederation had been created by the Congress of Vienna to replace the Holy Roman Empire, and lasted from 1815 to 1866; it consisted of a union of 39 German states, with 35 monarchies and four free cities.

Its main organ was a central Diet under the presidency of Austria, however, the establishment of the confederation failed to meet the aspirations of German nationalists, who had hoped for a consolidation of these small monarchies into a politically unified Greater Germany.

Preußisch-Österreichischen Krieg
Otto Eduard Leopold,
Fürst von Bismarck,
Herzog von Lauenburg

As a step towards the ascendancy of Prussia over Austria and the unification of Germany under Prussian dominance, Otto von Bismarck provoked the Austro-Prussian War in June 1866, using the dispute over the administration of Schleswig-Holstein as a pretext.

Preußisch-Österreichischen Krieg

In this conflict, also known as the Seven Weeks’ War, Prussia was allied with Italy, and Austria with a number of German states, including Bavaria, Wurttemberg, Saxony and Hanover.
Prussia easily overcame Austria and her allies.

Austria was excluded from German affairs in the Treaty of Prague (23 August 1866).
The war notwithstanding, Bismarck considered Austria a potential future ally, and so avoided unnecessarily weakening the state, settling for the annexation of Hanover, Hesse, Nassau, Frankfurt and Schleswig-Holstein.
(These moderate peace terms were to facilitate the Austro-German alliance of 1879.)

Wappen des Norddeutschen Bundes
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The war resulted in the destruction of the German Confederation, and its replacement with the North German Confederation under the sole leadership of Prussia.

The defeat of Austria was an additional blow to German nationalism: Austrian Germans found themselves isolated within the Habsburg Empire, with its multitude of national and ethnic groups.
A look at the political divisions within the empire will give some idea of the extent of its multiculturalism.
Wappen der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

They included: Austria; the kingdoms of Bohemia, Dalmatia and Galicia-Lodomeria; the archduchies of Lower Austria and Upper Austria; the duchies of Bukovina, Carinthia, Carniola Salzburg and Styria; the margraviates of Istria and Moravia; the counties of Gorizia-Gradisca, Tyrol and Vorarlberg; the crownland of Austrian-Silesia; Bosnia-Hercegovina; Lombardy (transferred to Italy in 1859), Modena (transferred to Italy in 1860), Tuscany (transferred to Italy in 1860) and Venetia (transferred to Italy in 1866); and the town of Trieste.
Fears that the supremacy of the German language and culture within the empire would be challenged by the non-German nationalities resulted in a conflict of loyalties between German nationality and Austrian citizenship.
This in turn resulted in the emergence of two principal nationalist movements: volkisch nationalism and the Pan-German movement.
The second major change was the Ausgleich (‘Compromise’) of 1867, whereby the Habsburgs set up the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary.
The intention was to curb the nationalist aspirations of Slavs in both states, inspired by Slavs in the Ottoman Empire (including Serbs, Montenegrins and Albanians) who had taken advantage of the Turkish decline to establish their own states.

König-Kaiser Franz Josef
König-Kaiser Franz Josef

The former revolutionaries (of 1848) – German and Magyar – became de facto “peoples of state”, each ruling half of a twin country united only at the top through the König-Kaiser – (King-Emperor) and the common Ministries of Foreign Affairs and of War’, however,  the Ausgleich only served to make matters worse.

There was no chance that the German-speaking elite could impose its culture throughout Austria, let alone extend it to the whole of the Dual Monarchy, after all, ‘Austria was a Slav house with a German facade’.
In practice the three ‘master races’ – the Germans, the Magyars, and the Galician Poles – were encouraged to lord it over the others.

Wappen des Königreichs Ungarn
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Wappen des Königreichs Böhmen
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The administrative structures were so tailored that the German minority in Bohemia could hold down the Czechs, the Magyars in Hungary could hold down the Slovaks, Romanians, and Croats, and the Poles in Galicia could hold down the Ruthenians (Ukrainians).

So pressures mounted as each of the excluded nationalities fell prey to the charms of nationalism.
The Ausgleich resulted in aspirations towards autonomy among a number of groups within the Austro-Hungarian Empire; the empire as a whole was home to eleven major nationalities: Magyars, Germans, Czechs, Poles, Ruthenians, Slovaks, Serbs, Romanians, Croats, Slovenes and Italians.

Wappen von Mähren
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The largest and most restless minority consisted of about 6.5 million Czechs living in Bohemia, Mähren (Moravia) and Austrian Silesia, however, their desires for autonomy were constantly frustrated by the Hungarian determination to preserve the political structure established by the Ausgleich.
German nationalism had been frustrated on two main occasions in the first half of the nineteenth century: at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and after the revolutions of 1848.

As a result of this slow progress towards political unification, Germans increasingly came to conceive of national unity in cultural terms.
This tendency had begun in the late eighteenth century, when writers of the pre-Romantic ‘Sturm und Drang’ movement had expressed the common identity of all Germans in folk-songs, customs, and literature.

Moritz von Schwind – ‘Rose’ 1847

An idealized image of medieval Germany was invoked to prove her claim to spiritual unity, even if there had never been political unity.

This emphasis on the past and traditions conferred a strongly mythological character upon the cause of unification.
The exclusion of Austria from the new Prussian-dominated Reich had left disappointed nationalists in both countries.
Hopes for a Greater Germany had been dashed in 1866, when Bismarck consolidated the ascendancy of Prussia through the military defeat of Austria, forcing her withdrawal from German affairs.
The position of German nationalists in Austria-Hungary was henceforth problematic.
In 1867 the Hungarians were granted political independence within a dual state.
The growth of the Pan-German movement in Austria in the following decades reflected the dilemma of Austrian Germans within a state of mixed German and Slav nationalities.
Their programme proposed the secession of the German-settled provinces of Austria from the polyglot Habsburg empire and their incorporation in the new Second Reich across the border. 

Die österreichische Anschluß – Hitler betritt Wien

Such an arrangement was ultimately realized by the Anschluß of Austria into the Third Reich in 1938.

The idealised, romantic image of a rural, quasi-medieval Germany suffered under the programme of rapid modernisation and industrialisation undertaken by the Second Reich.
For many, who saw their traditional communities destroyed by the spread of towns and industries, the foundations of their mystical unity had become threatened.
In addition, these anti-modernist sentiments resulted in the rejection of both liberalism and rationalism, while paradoxically hijacking the scientific concepts of anthropology, linguistics and Darwinist evolution to ‘prove’ the superiority of the German race.

Archetypal Jew
Blue-eyed, Blond-haired and Tall 

A set of inner moral qualities was related to the external characteristics of racial types: while the Aryans (and thus the Germans) were blue-eyed, blond-haired, tall and well-proportioned, they were also noble, honest, and courageous.

The Darwinist idea of evolution through struggle was also taken up in order to prove that the superior pure races would prevail over the mixed inferior ones.
Racial thinking facilitated the rise of political anti-Semitism, itself so closely linked to the strains of modernization.
Feelings of conservative anger at the disruptive consequences of economic change could find release in the vilification of the Jews, who were blamed for the collapse of traditional values and institutions.
Racism indicated that the Jews were not just a religious community but biologically different from other races.

The Volkisch Movement and Pan-Germanism

The fears and aspirations of German nationalists led to the formation of two highly influential movements, Völkisch nationalism and Pan-Germanism.

The intention of the Völkisch movement was to raise the cultural consciousness of Germans living in Austria, particularly by playing on their fears for their identity within the provinces of mixed nationality in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

The word Völkisch is not easy to translate into English, containing as it does elements of both nationalism and a profound sense of the importance of folklore.

The main principles of Völkisch thought were the importance of living naturally (including a vegetarian diet – Lebensreform); an awareness of the wisdom of one’s ancestors, expressed through the appreciation of prehistoric monuments; and an understanding of astrology and cosmic cycles.
The ideas of the Völkisch movement were propagated through educational and defence leagues called Vereine.

In 1886, Anton Langgassner founded the Germanenbund, a federation of Vereine, at Salzburg under the banner of Germanic Volkstum (nationhood).
The Vereine were particularly popular amongst young people and intellectuals; such was their popularity, in fact, that an unsettled Austrian government dissolved the Germanenbund in 1889, although it re-emerged in 1894 as the Bund der Germanen, and  by 1900, as many as 150,000 people were influenced by Völkisch propaganda.

Ancient Teutonic Gods

The followers of the Völkisch movement believed the troubles of the industrial order – the harshness, the impersonality, the sharp dealing, the ruthless speculators – would only be exorcised by a return to Ur-Germanism, to the German community, the ancient Teutonic gods, and a Germanic society unsullied by inferior, foreign intrusions.
Nations might endure such foreign elements, but a Volk was an organic unity with a common biological inheritance.
The culture-bearing Volk of the world, incomparably superior among the races, was the German; therefore, the only proper function of a German state was to administer on behalf of the Volk; everything international was inferior and to be rejected.

Zurück in den Boden
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

A sound economy would be based on agriculture rather than on industry with its international, especially Jewish influences; and in religion, a German God would have to replace the Jewish God.
Völkisch ideology was propagated through a number of publications, one of the most forthright of which was the satirical illustrated monthly Der Scherer, published in Innsbruck by Georg von Schonerer (1842-1921), a leader in the movement, whom Davidson describes as ‘antiCatholic, and anti-Semitic.
One Catholic paper, Die Tiroler Post, wrote in 1906 that the goal of the Jew was world domination, while another, the Linzer Post, defended anti-Semitism as no more than healthy self-preservation.
If the Völkisch movement attempted to raise German national and cultural consciousness, Pan-Germanism operated in a more political context, beginning with the refusal of Austrian Germans to accept their exclusion from German affairs after the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. 

Friedrich Ludwig Jahn 

The movement originated among student groups in Vienna, Graz and Prague, which were inspired by earlier German student clubs (Burschenschaftern) following the teachings of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn (1778-1850).
Jahn, a purveyor of Völkisch ideology, advocated German national unity, identity and romantic ritual.
These groups advocated ‘kleindeutsch’ (or ‘little German’) nationalism, which called for the incorporation of German Austria into the Bismarckian Reich.

Georg Ritter von Schönerer

Georg von Schonerer’s involvement with Pan-Germanism transformed kleindeutsch nationalism from a nebulous ‘cult of Prussophilia’ into a genuine revolutionary movement. Following his election to the Reichsrat in 1873, Schonerer followed a progressive Left agenda for about five years, before making demands for a German Austria without the Habsburgs and politically united with the German Reich.
Schonerer’s Pan-Germanism was not characterised merely by national unity, political democracy and social reform – its essential characteristic was racism, ‘that is, the idea that blood was the sole criterion of all civil rights’.
When the Austrian government decided in 1895 that Slovene should be taught in the German school at Celje in Carniola, and two years later the Austrian premier, Count Casimir Badeni, ruled that all officials in Bohemia and Moravia should speak both Czech and German (thus placing Germans at a distinct disadvantage), the flames of nationalism were once again fanned throughout the empire.
The result was that the Pan-Germans, together with the democratic German parties, followed a strategy of blocking all parliamentary business, which in turn led to violent public disorder in the summer of 1897.

Wappen von der
römisch-katholischen Kirche
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

By this time, Schonerer had identified an additional enemy in the Catholic Church, which he regarded as inimical to the interests of Austrian Germans.
The episcopate advised the emperor, the parish priests formed a network of effective propagandists in the country, and the Christian Social party had deprived him of his earlier strongholds among the rural and semi-urban populations of Lower Austria and Vienna.
The association of Catholicism with Slavdom, and the Austrian state could further be emphasised, Schonerer believed, by a movement for Protestant conversion; this was the origin of the slogan ‘Los von Rom’ (‘Away from Rome’).

Los von Rom – Lutheran Cross
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The movement claimed approximately 30,000 Protestant conversions in Bohemia, Styria, Carinthia and Vienna between 1899 and 1910, although it was not at all popular among either the Völkisch leagues or the Pan-Germans, who saw it as ‘a variation of old-time clericalism’. 
For that matter, the Protestant Church itself was rather dissatisfied with Los von Rom, and felt that its profound connection of religion with politics would make religious people uneasy.
By the same token, those who were politically motivated felt religion itself to be irrelevant.
By the turn of the century, Pan-Germanism could be divided into two groups: those who, like Schonerer, wanted political and economic union with the Reich, and those who merely wanted to defend German cultural and political interests within the Habsburg empire.
These interests were perceived as being radically undermined, not only by the Badeni language decrees, but also by the introduction in 1907 of universal male suffrage.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This could only exacerbate the growing German-Slav conflict within the empire, and was one of the main factors in the emergence of the racist doctrine of Ariosophy.
In 1853-55, Arthur de Gobineau had written an essay on the inequality of races, in which he had made claims for the superiority of the Nordic-Aryan race, and warned of its eventual submergence by non-Aryans.
This notion, along with the ideas about biological struggle of Social Darwinism, was taken up at the turn of the twentieth century by German propagandists who claimed that Germans could defend their race and culture only by remaining racially pure.
The Völkisch nationalists and Pan-Germans found further inspiration in the work of the zoologist Ernst Haeckel who, in 1906, founded the Monist League to spread his racist interpretation of Social Darwinism.
Seven years earlier, Haeckel’s colleague, Wilhelm Bolsche, had written a book entitled Vom Bazillus zum Affenmenschen (From the Bacillus to the Apeman), in which he had described the ‘naked struggle for dominance between the zoological species “Man” ‘ and ‘the lowest form of organic life (microscopic organisms)’.
This ‘struggle for dominance’ was to have a profound effect upon the development of German anti-Semitism in the early years of the twentieth century.
Hitler would later express his own anti-Semitism in these biological terms.

German Theosophy

The revival of Germanic mythology and folklore in Austria in the last two decades of the nineteenth century was of enormous importance to the development of  Völkisch esotericism and cosmology, yet it must he viewed in the context of a much wider occult revival that had been taking place in Europe for about one hundred years.
The central concepts of what would become Western occultism, such as Gnosticism, Hermeticism and the Cabala, which originated in the eastern Mediterranean more than 1,500 years ago, had been largely banished from Western thought by the scientific revolution of the seventeenth century.

Die Geheimlehre
German Theosophy
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This brings us to the emergence of Theosophy in the 1880s.
The prime mover behind Theosophy was Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891).
Her extensive research into the spiritual traditions of the world led to the publication of what is now considered her magnum opus, ‘Die Geheimlehre’ – (The Secret Doctrine), which organizes the essence of these teachings into a comprehensive synthesis.
Blavatsky’s other works include ‘Isis Unveiled’, ‘The Key to Theosophy’ and ‘The Voice of the Silence’.

‘Isis Unveiled’

Well-known and controversial during her life, Blavatsky was no stranger to criticism. Some authors have questioned the authenticity of her writings and the validity of her claims, while others have praised them.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky

According to Blavatsky, humanity in its present form is the fifth root race of Earth, which is itself passing through the fourth cosmic round.
The first root race were completely non-corporeal beings, the second race were the Hyperboreans, who lived on a lost polar continent. the third root race were the Lemurians, who had the misfortune to occupy the lowest point in the seven-stage cycle of humanity.
For this reason, the Lemurians, who lived on a now-sunken continent in the Indian Ocean.


The fourth root race were the Atlanteans, who possessed highly advanced psychic powers and mediumistic skills.
Gigantic like the Lemurians and physically powerful, the Atlanteans built huge cities on their mid-Atlantic continent.

Vril Emblem
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Their technology was also highly advanced, and was based on the application of a universal electro-spiritual force known as ‘Fohat’ – similar, it seems, to the ‘Vril’.
Unfortunately for the Atlanteans, although they were intelligent and powerful, they were also possessed of a childlike innocence that made them vulnerable to the attentions of an evil entity that corrupted them and caused them to turn to the use of black magic.
This was to result in a catastrophic war that led to the destruction of Atlantis.
The fifth root race, from which white races today are descended, was the Aryan race.
In addition Theosophy placed a heavy emphasis on the importance of reincarnation, and the concept of hierarchy.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Through reincarnation, the movement’s followers could imagine themselves to have participated in the fabulous prehistory of humanity in a variety of magical, exotic and long-lost locations, while feeling assured that their souls were on a definite upward trajectory, heading for spiritual salvation and ultimate unity with God.
Of equal importance to the cosmic scheme were hierarchy and elitism.
As mentioned earlier, the Hidden Masters were enlightened beings who had decided to remain on Earth to guide the rest of humanity towards spiritual wisdom.
This concept, along with Blavatsky’s own claim to hidden occult knowledge, is clearly based on the value of authority and hierarchy.
Indeed, this value is illustrated by the fate of the Lemurians, whose miscegenation caused their fall from divine grace.


The central tenets of Theosophy offered a way for people in the late nineteenth century to maintain their religious faith (or, at least, their faith in the existence of some form of spirituality in the cosmos) while simultaneously accepting the validity of new theories, such as evolution, that threatened to undermine their previously held world view, however, for many people in Europe and America, scientific rationalism, rapid industrialisation and urbanisation presented another threat to their long-established way of life.
As an antidote to the fears and uncertainties of modern life, Theosophy was particularly readily accepted in Germany and Austria.
It was also well suited to the German protest movement known as Lebensreform (life reform).


This movement represented a middle-class attempt to palliate the ills of modern life, deriving from the growth of the cities and industry.
A variety of alternative life-styles – including herbal and natural medicine, vegetarianism, nudism – (Nacktkultur) and self-sufficient rural communes – were embraced by small groups of individuals who hoped to restore themselves to a natural existence …
Theosophy was appropriate to the mood of Lebensreform and provided a philosophical rationale for some of its groups.
Interest in Theosophy increased in Germany with the founding of the German Theosophical Society on 22 July 1884 at Elberfeld.

Wilhelm Hubbe-Schleiden
Eliphas Levi
(Alphonse Louis Constant)

Blavatsky and Olcott were staying there at the home of Marie Gebhard (1832-1892), a devotee of occultism who had corresponded frequently with the famous French occultist and magician Eliphas Levi (Alphonse Louis Constant) (c. 1810-1875). 
Its first president was Wilhelm Hubbe-Schleiden, then a senior civil servant at the Colonial Office in Hamburg. Hubbe-Schleiden, who had travelled extensively throughout the world and was a keen advocate of German colonial expansion abroad, was instrumental in gathering the isolated Theosophists scattered throughout Germany into a consolidated German branch of the society.

‘Die Sphinx’

Hubbe-Schleiden also did much to increase occult interest in Germany through the founding in
1886 of his periodical ‘Die Sphinx’, a scholarly blend of psychical research, the paranormal, archaeology and Christian mysticism from a scientific viewpoint.
As such it was firmly Theosophical in tone, and included contributions from scientists, historians and philosophers.
Another great populariser of scientific occultism in Germany was Franz Hartmann (1838-1912), who had also led a highly eventful life in Europe and the Americas, following a number of careers such as soldier, doctor, coroner and mining speculator.
Already interested in Spiritualism, Hartmann was converted to Theosophy after reading ‘Isis Unveiled’, and decided to travel to Adyar to meet Blavatsky and Olcott in 1883.
So impressed was Blavatsky with him that she appointed him acting president of the Theosophical Society while she and Olcott travelled to Germany to start the branch there. Hartmann remained there until 1885.
Hartmann went on to found the occult periodical ‘Lotusbluthen’ (Lotus Blossoms), which ran from 1892 to 1900 and was the first German publication to feature the Hakenkreuz – (swastika) on its cover.
(In eastern mysticism, the swastika is a symbol with many positive connotations.)

Charles Leadbeater
Annie Besant

The increased public interest generated by this periodical prompted a number of German publishers to issue long book series dealing with a wide range of occult and esoteric subjects, including the work of Annie Besant and Charles Leadbeater who took over the Theosophical Society on Blavatsky’s death in 1891.
The German branch of the society had been dissolved in 1885 when the Theosophists left India, but was replaced by a new society founded in Berlin in August 1896 as a branch of the International Theosophical Brotherhood in America, with Hartmann as president.

Metaphysische Rundschau
Franz Hartmann

Also on the executive committee was one Paul Zillmann, who founded the monthly ‘Metaphysische Rundschau’ (Metaphysical Review) and who would later publish the works of the Ariosophists.
By 1902, German Theosophy, which had hitherto suffered from internecine rivalry, became far better coordinated under the two main centres at Berlin and Leipzig.

Rudolf Steiner
Hugo Vollrath

In 1906, a Theosophical Publishing House was founded at Leipzig by Hugo Vollrath, a disciple of Hartmann, possibly to counter the new influence in occult circles of Theosophist Rudolf Steiner, whose mystical Christian stance did not endear him to Annie Besant whose own outlook was firmly Hindu.
(Steiner would later leave and form his own Anthroposophical Society in 1912.)
The Theosophical Publishing House produced a large number of occult magazines and book series, in competition with other publishers such as Karl Rohm, Johannes Baum and Max Altmann who had turned their attention to this potentially lucrative field.
The public interest in occultism quickly grew in Vienna, which already had its own tradition of esotericism and interest in paranormal phenomena.
New occult groups were founded, including the ‘Association for Occultism’, which had its own lending library, the ‘Sphinx Reading Club’ and the ‘First Viennese Astrological Society’.
In fact, it was in Vienna that the seeds of Germanic occult racism were most liberally sown.
The public disquiet at economic change, scientific rationalism and rapid industrialisation and the threat they appeared to pose to traditional ‘natural’ ways of life was palliated not only by occultist notions of the centrality and importance of humanity within the wider cosmos (of the essential meaningfulness of existence), but also by the volkisch ideology that assured Germans of the value and importance of their cultural identity.
This combination of culture and spirituality was expressed most forcefully through the doctrine of Ariosophy, which originated in Vienna.


Guido von List

Ariosophy constituted a mixture of racist volkisch ideology and the Theosophical concepts of Madame Blavatsky.
The two principal personalities behind Ariosophy were Guido von List (1848-1919) and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954).

Guido von List was born in Vienna, to a prosperous middle-class family. 
List dreamed of the reunification of Austria with Germany, and hated both Jews and Christians for the attacks he perceived them to have made upon German culture, spirituality and territorial rights.
A journalist by trade, List also wrote novels about the ancient Teutons and the cult of Wotan, whose hierarchy he came to call the Armanenschaft, a name derived from his spurious interpretation of a Teutonic myth.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

List’s codification of his beliefs regarding the ancient and racially pure Teutons led to a profound interest in the symbolism of heraldry and the secrets allegedly contained in the runic alphabet, an interest that included the mystical significance of the Hakenkreuz.

By 1902, as a result of a period of enforced inactivity following a cataract operation that left him blind for eleven months, List had devoted much thought to the nature of the proto-Aryan language he believed was encoded in the ancient runes.
His occult-racist-mystical theories, including an exposition on the Aryan proto-language, did not find particular favour with the Imperial Academy of Sciences in Vienna, which returned without comment a thesis he had sent, nevertheless, the anti-Semitic elements in German and Austrian society began to take note, and in 1907 a ‘List Society’ was formed to provide financial aid in his researches.

Carnuntum – Heidentor

For many Austrian and German occultists of the time, List’s historiography and archaeology provided a scientific basis for both racism and extreme nationalism, and enabled the German Volk to trace their ancestry back to the splendour and racial purity of the ancient Teutons.
In List’s view, the Old Norse poems of Iceland, Norway, Denmark and Sweden, the Eddas, were actually chronicles of the myths of the ancient Germans.
The Eddas were composed of songs, manuals of poetry and works of history telling the story of the ancient Teutonic pantheon of gods and the numerous secondary divinities who were their cohorts.
In the Eddas, Wotan (whose name derives from the word in all Germanic languages meaning fury, and which in modern German is wuten, to rage) was the god of war, whom dead heroes met in Valhalla.


It was Wotan who gained an understanding of the runes after being wounded by a spear and hanging from a tree for nine nights, and who related the eighteen runic spells that held the secrets of immortality, invincibility in battle, healing abilities and control of the elements.
In Norse legend, the runes are not only a system of writing but also possess an inherent magical power.

List, therefore, was a pioneer of rune occultism, since he was the first to link the runes of a certain written series with Wotan’s runic spells.
List attributed a specific individual rune to each of Wotan’s verses, adding occult meanings and a summary motto of each spell.
The central tenet of Wotanism was the cyclical nature of the Universe, which proceeded through a series of transformations
This cyclical cosmology was a primal law and represented the presence of God in Nature. Since Man was part of the cosmos, he was bound by its laws and thus required to live in harmony with the natural world.
A close identity with one’s folk and race was reckoned a logical consequence of this closeness to Nature.

Universal Whisk
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

List also utilised Theosophical concepts in his development of Ariosophy, in particular those of Max Ferdinand Sebaldt von Werth who wrote extensively on Aryan sexuality and racial purity.
Sebaldt believed that the Universe was whisked into being by god, and that its fundamental nature was one of the interaction of opposites, such as matter and spirit, and male and female. Aryan superiority could therefore only be achieved through a union of racially pure opposites
 In September 1903, List published an article in the Viennese occult periodical ‘Die Gnosis’ that drew heavily on this idea, referring to ancient Aryan cosmology and sexuality.
The phases of this cosmology were illustrated with variations on the Hakenkreuz  the symbol of the Sun, that List used to denote the unconquerable and racially pure Germanic hero.

List was also heavily influenced by legends of lost civilisations and sunken continents, such as the fabled lands of Atlantis and Lemuria, and by the theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky.

Madame Blavatsky

Theosophical, derived from the ‘Secret Doctrine’ also formed the basis of his ‘Die Religion der ‘Ario-Germanen” (1910), in which he devoted considerable space to the cosmic cycles which had inspired Blavatsky’s concept of cosmological cycles.
List identified the four rounds of fire, air, water and earth with the mythological Teutonic realms of Muspilheim, Asgard, Wanenheim and Midgard, which were tenanted respectively by fire-dragons, air-gods, water- giants and mankind.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

These realms lie at the centre of the Nordic creation myth.
Wotanist doctrine held that the natural evolutionary cycle of the Universe was from unity to multiplicity and back to unity.
The first stage of this evolution (unity to multiplicity) was represented symbolically by anticlockwise triskelions.
The second stage (multiplicity back to the unity of the godhead) was represented by clockwise and upright symbols. In this scheme, the Ario-German was seen as the highest possible form of life, since he occupied the zenith of multiplicity at the outermost limit of the cycle.


Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels

Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, founded the occult magazine ‘Ostara’, and created the Order of the New Templars in 1907.
Like his mentor List, Liebenfels had a middle- class Viennese upbringing.

Burg Werfenstein

Liebenfels chose as a headquarters for the Order of the New Templars a ruined castle, Burg Werfenstein, perched on a cliff on the shores of the River Danube between Linz and Vienna.
He was concerned with the idea of the struggle between the ‘blond’ Aryan race (characterised by creativity and heroism) and the dark ‘beast-men’ (untermensch), who were consumed with lust for blonde women, and who were bent on the corruption of human culture.

‘Ostara’ – Goddess of Spring

Two years earlier, Liebenfels had established the periodical ‘Ostara’ (named after the pagan goddess of spring) that called repeatedly for the restoration of the ‘blond race’ as the dominant force in the world.
This could only be achieved through racial purity, and the destruction of socialism, democracy and feminism.
These racist concerns led Liebenfels to conceive of founding a chivalrous order based on the monastic and military orders of the Crusades, which naturally resulted in an intense interest in the Order of the Knights Templar.

Richard Wagner Parsifal
Richard Wagner – Lohengrin

This interest was fuelled by the medieval Grail Romances, which were at the time enjoying a widespread popularity due to their treatment by Richard Wagner in his operas (‘Lohengrin’ and ‘Parsifal‘).
To Liebenfels and many of his contemporaries, such romances were significant in their painting of the Grail Knights as searchers after sublime and eternal values: this view provided a powerful antidote to the modern world, with its rampant industrialisation and materialism
In 1913 Liebenfels published a short study, in which the grail was interpreted as an electrical symbol pertaining to the ‘pan-psychic’ powers of the pure-blooded Aryan race.

The quest of the Templeisen for the Grailwas a metaphor for the strict eugenic practices of the Templar knights designed to breed the anticipated ‘god-men’. 
The early activities of the ONT revolved around festivals and concerts, with hundreds of guests being shipped in by steamer from Vienna.
They were routinely reported in the press, thus ensuring a wider audience for Liebenfels and the racist ideas presented in Ostara. Membership of the ONT was naturally restricted to those who could prove that they were of pure Aryan blood and who would vow to protect the interests of their (racial) brothers.

‘Theozoologie – oder die Kunder
von den Sodoms-Afflingen
und dem Gotter-Elektron’
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Two years before he founded the Ordo Novi Templi  Liebenfels had published a book entitled ‘Theozoologie oder die Kunder von den Sodoms-Afflingen und dem Gotter-Elektron’ (Theo- zoology or the Lore of the Sodom-Apelings and the Electron of the Gods).
Liebenfels divided his book into two sections, the first dealing with the origin of humanity in a race of beast-men (Anthropozoa).
In his view of antiquity, Liebenfels utilised new scientific discoveries such as radiation and radio waves, which at that time had a powerful hold on the public imagination.
Liebenfels applied these discoveries in his description of the gods, which held that they were not really gods at all, but higher forms of life (Theozoa) who possessed fantastic mental faculties including telepathy (which was actually the transmission of electrical signals between the brains of the Theozoa).
Through the millennia, these god-men gradually lost these faculties through miscegenation with the beast-men, until their telepathic sense organs became atrophied as the pineal and pituitary glands of modern humanity.

Liebenfels based this work, in part, on the research of the zoologist Wilhelm Bolsche (1861-1939), who in turn was inspired by Theosophy.

Wilhelm Bölsche (2 January 1861, Cologne, Rhenish Prussia – 31 August 1939, Schreiberhau, Riesengebirge) was a German author, editor and publicist. Bölsche was born in Cologne. He studied from 1883 to 1885 philosophy, art history and archaeology in Bonn and moved 1885 to Berlin. His publishing of “Das Liebesleben in der Natur“ (The Love Life in Nature) in 1898 was the key for creating modern fact books in Germany. Boelsche also initiated with Wilhelm Schwaner (1863 – 1944) a prequel of the first German folk high school, the “Freie Hochschule Berlin” in 1902 and was an important instigator for the “Lebensreformbewegung” (Humanistic naturalism – key note: “Back to Nature”) in Germany. Boelsche wrote for ‘Freie Volksbühne’ (Drama for the People) and edited the most important cultural history review of the day, “Freie Bühne“ (Free Stage) and popularized his free-thinking theories – especially the innovating school of Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel in dozens of  books and series released by “Kosmos-Verlag“ in Stuttgart, collaborating with the Berlin artist Heinrich Harder.

Liebenfels believed that the only way for Germans to reclaim their ancient godhood was by preventing the pollution of pure Aryan blood.
The second section of Liebenfels’s book concerned the redemption of the Aryan people, who had been corrupted by the promiscuous activities of the other races of Earth.

Vien juden

This idea of the Aryan struggle against the pernicious vices of other races in effect replaced the traditional Judaeo-Christian concept of the struggle between good and evil.
List’s and Liebenfels’s ideas remained just that: ideas.
Many of their followers became more and more restless and dissatisfied with their lack of action against the perceived threat to the Aryan race from the various inferior beings with whom they were forced to share their nation, in particular the Jews, who were blamed for the perceived evils of urbanisation, industrialisation and the threat to the traditional rural way of life of the Aryan peasant-hero.
Many came to believe that the time for scholarly theorising was past, that the time for direct action had come.

The Germanenorden

Theodor Fritsch

In May 1912, a meeting was held at the Leipzig home of Theodor Fritsch.
At this meeting were approximately twenty prominent Pan-Germans.
Their purpose was to found two groups to alert Germans to the dangers to small businesses they perceived as arising from the influence of Jewish business and finance.


These groups were known as the Reichshammerbund and the Germanenorden (Order of Germans).
Born on 28 October 1852, Fritsch, the son of Saxon peasants, had trained as a milling engineer, and had edited the ‘Kleine Muhlen-Journal’ (Small-Mills Journal).
In common with other activists of the time, his anti-Semitism arose principally from a fear of rapid industrialisation, technology and mass production, driven by international Jewish influence, and the threat it posed to small tradesmen and craftsmen.
In spite of his political leanings, Fritsch decided against becoming a candidate for either of the two German anti-Semitic parties, the Deutsch-Soziale Partei and the Antisemitische Volkspartei, which had been established at Bochum in 1889, since he did not believe that anti-Semitism would prove successful in the Reichstag.

Reichstag – Berlin

Fritsch’s conviction in the ineffectiveness of parliamentary anti-Semitism proved to be correct. 
When more than one party existed after the Bochum conference, their competition led to a reduction in the number of successful anti-Semitic candidates at the Reichstag elections.
In addition, the merging of the two parties in 1894 as the Deutsch-Soziale Reformpartei resulted in a significant reduction in anti-Semitism in favour of an appeal to more conservative and middle-class economic interests

Houston Stewart Chamberlain
Comte Vacher de Lapouge

At this time, in the mid-1860s, racist writers such as the French aristocrat Comte Vacher de Lapouge, and the Germanised Englishman Houston Stewart Chamberlain, were influenced by biology and zoology, and were concentrating more on scientific studies of race.
It was these writers who identified the Jews as the greatest threat to the supremacy of the Aryan race, and backed up their ideas with reference to physical characteristics such as hair and eye colouring, and the shape of the skull.
For de Lapouge, Jews were more pernicious than any other race because they had insinuated themselves so completely into European society, while Chamberlain in particular did much to popularise mystical racism in Germany. 

‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’

Beyond the Aryan racial stereotype (tall, blond, blue-eyed) Chamberlain affirmed the existence of a special ‘race soul’ that created a more imaginative and profound spirit in Aryans.

Tall, Blond, Blue-Eyed
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The ultimate anti-Aryan, and most bitter racial foe was the Jew.
Chamberlain combined Social Darwinism with racism, and thus emphasized an endless racial struggle on behalf of the purity of Aryanism and against Jews and lesser peoples, including Slavs and Latins.

‘Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts’ – (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century, 1899) was the best-selling work by Houston Stewart Chamberlain. In it he advances various racist and especially völkisch antisemitic theories on how he saw the Aryan race as superior to others, and the Teutonic peoples as a positive force in European civilization and the Jews as a negative one. Chamberlain was a germanophile who adopted German citizenship, and wrote most of his works in German (on numerous subjects, from biographies to biology).

Houston Stewart Chamberlain (September 9, 1855 – January 9, 1927) was an English author of books on political philosophy, natural science and son-in-law of the German composer Richard Wagner. He later became a German citizen. In December 1908, twenty-five years after Wagner’s death, Chamberlain married Wagner’s daughter, Eva von Bülow. Chamberlain’s two-volume book, Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (The Foundations of the Nineteenth Century), published in 1899, became one of the many references for the pan-Germanic movement of the early 20th century, and, later, of  völkisch racial policy.

In order to fulfil his ambition to create a powerful anti-Semitic movement outside the ineffectual parliament, Fritsch founded a periodical called the ‘Hammer’ in January 1902.
By 1905, its readership had reached 3,000.
These readers formed themselves into ‘Hammer-Gemeinden’ (Hammer-Groups), changing their name in 1908 to ‘Deutsche Erneuerungs-Gemeinde’ (German
Renewal Groups).


Their membership was interested in anti-capitalist forms of land reform designed to invigorate the peasantry, the garden city movement, and Lebensreform.
The Reichstag elections of January 1912 saw a humiliating defeat for Conservatives and anti- Semites, who lost 41 of their 109 seats, while the Social Democratic Party increased their seats from 43 to 110. 
In the Hammer, Fritsch favourably reviewed a violently anti-Semitic book entitled ‘Wenn ich der Kaiser war !’ (If I were Kaiser!) by the chairman of the Pan-German League, Heinrich Class, and decided that the time was right to act in the formation of an anti-Semitic organisation that would not be subject to the control or influence of any party.
As already stated, at the meeting in Fritsch’s Leipzig home on 24 May 1912 two groups were established: the Reichshammerbund, which combined all existing Hammer-Groups, and the ‘Germanenorden’, whose secret nature reflected the conviction of anti-Semites that Jewish influence in public life could only be the result of a secret international conspiracy, and as such could only be combated by a secret group whose members’ names would be withheld to prevent enemy infiltration.
Germanenorden lodges were established throughout Northern and Eastern Germany that year, and called for the rebirth of a racially pure Germany from which the parasitic Jews would be deported.
By July, lodges had been established at Breslau, Dresden, Konigsberg, Berlin and Hamburg. 
By the end of 1912, the Germanenorden claimed 316 brothers.
The main purpose of these lodges was to monitor Jewish activities; in addition, lodge members aided each other in business dealings and other matters.
The Germanenorden was heavily influenced by the doctrines of Ariosophy.
Any German wishing to join the order was required to supply details of hair, eye and skin colour, and also had to prove beyond any doubt that they were of pure Aryan descent.
Anyone suffering from a physical handicap was barred from membership.
Ariosophy also inspired the emblems used by the Order.

Curved-Armed Thule Hakenkreuz,

From the middle of 1916 the official Order newsletter, the ‘Allgemeine Ordens-Nachrichten’, began to display on its front cover a curved-armed Hakenkreuz, superimposed upon a cross … Although the swastika was current among several contemporary volkisch associations in Germany, it was through the Germanenorden and the ‘Thule Society’, its successor organization in post-war Munich, that this device – the Hakenkreuz, came to be adopted by the National Socialists.

First World War – 1914-1918

With the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the Germanenorden began to suffer problems, both with membership and finance.
Many members of the Order were killed in action, and the Orders chief, Hermann Pohl, feared that the war would ultimately result in its destruction.
At that time, Pohl’s leadership abilities were coming under attack from several high-ranking members, who were becoming tired of the emphasis he placed on ritual and ceremony.
The Germanenorden was then headed by General-major Erwin von Heimerdinger.
Following the schism of 1916, the Germanenorden became seriously weakened, with many members confused as to its status (many assumed that it had been disbanded), however, the end of the war in November 1918 saw attempts to revive its fortunes and influence.
Grand Master Eberhard von Brockhusen believed that the Order would benefit from a constitution, which he succeeded in establishing in 1921, which provided for a complex organization of grades, rings, and provincial citadels (Burgen) supposed to generate secrecy for a nationwide system of local groups having many links with militant volkisch associations.
In the post-war period, the Germanenorden’s verbal violence was transformed into violent activities against public figures.

Matthias Erzberger

The new Republic was, of course, despised as a symbol of defeat, and it was the Germanenorden that ordered the assassination of Matthias Erzberger, the former Reich Finance Minister and head of the German delegation to Compiegne (one of the November criminals) who had signed the armistice.
His killers, Heinrich Schulz and Heinrich Tillessen, had settled in Regensburg in 1920, where they met Lorenz Mesch, the local leader of the Germanenorden.
Since they had become interested in volkisch ideology after the end of the war, and were heavily influenced by its propaganda, the Order chose them to assassinate Erzberger, which they did in August 1921.
From 1921, the Germanenorden became the focus for right-wing and anti-Semitic sentiments in the hated Weimar Republic.
When Rudolf von Sebottendorff joined Hermann Pohl’s breakaway Germanenorden Walvater in 1917, the seed of the legendary Thule Society was sown.

The Thule Society


The mythology surrounding the Arctic realm of Thule has its origins in another myth, that of Atlantis.
Although the lost continent of Atlantis was held for centuries to have existed in the Atlantic Ocean beyond the Pillars of Hercules, this view was challenged in the late seventeenth century by the Swedish writer Olaus Rudbeck (1630-1702) who claimed that the lost civilisation, which had conquered North Africa and much of Europe 9,000 years before, had actually been centred in Sweden.

Jean-Sylvain Bailly

This notion was taken up in the mid-eighteenth century by a French astronomer and mystic named Jean-Sylvain Bailly (1736-1793) who came to the conclusion that the great achievements of civilisations such as Egypt and China were the result of knowledge inherited from a vastly superior antediluvian culture that had resided in the far North.
According to Bailly, when the Earth was younger, its interior heat was much greater, and consequently the North Polar regions must have enjoyed a temperate climate in remote antiquity.


Combining this idea with his belief that such climates are the most conducive to science and civilisation, Bailly identified Rudbeck’s Atlanteans with the Hyperboreans of classical legend. 

Nordic Physique
(tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed)

The placing of this high civilisation in the far north resulted in the Nordic physique (tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed) being seen as the ultimate human ideal.
The origin of the Völkisch concept of Thule and the Thule Society can be traced to Guido von List, Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels and Rudolf von Sebottendorff (1875-1945).

SS Emblem

As we have seen, in 1907, Liebenfels founded the ritualistic Order of the New Templars, which was undoubtedly the prototype for Heinrich Himmler’s SS (Schutzstaffel).

Madame Blavatsky

Liebenfels was an avid student of Madame Blavatsky, who developed the notion that humanity was descended from a series of ‘Root Races’ that had degenerated throughout the millennia from a pure spiritual nature to the crude and barbarous beings of the present.
According to Blavatsky, the origin of the anthropoid apes could be explained as the result of bestiality committed by the Third Root Race of humanity with non-humans
Liebenfels in effect adapted this concept, claiming that the non-Aryan races were the result of bestiality committed by the original Aryans after their departure from the paradise of their northern homeland, a lost continent he called Arktogaa (from the Greek, meaning ‘northern earth’ – Thule).

Guido von List

These ideas found favour with Guido von List, like Liebenfels a native of Vienna, who was instrumental in the development of the lkisch movement.
This movement was characterised by a love of unspoiled Nature, vegetarianism, ancient wisdom, astrology and earth energies.
List had already played a crucial role in the founding of the secret Germanenorden, whose aim was to counter what its members saw as the corruption by Jewry of German public life that was clearly the result of a secret international conspiracy.
The Germanenorden was still active during the First World War, publishing a newsletter and placing advertisements in newspapers inviting men and women ‘of pure Aryan descent’ to join its ranks.


It was in response to one of these advertisements that Rudolph von Sebottendorff met the leader of the Germanenorden, Hermann Pohl.
Sebottendorff had originally intended to be an engineer; however, having failed to complete his studies at the Berlin-Charlottenburg Polytechnic, and thus having little chance of qualified employment in Germany, he decided to go to sea.

In 1900, after service on a number of steamships, and an abortive career as a gold prospector in Western Australia, Sebottendorff made his way first to Egypt and then to Turkey, where he immersed himself in a study of the Turkish people, and cultivated an intense interest in occult science and ancient theocracies.
By 1916, Sebottendorff had settled in Bad Aibling, a fashionable Bavarian spa.
At their meeting in Berlin in September of that year, Sebottendorff learned of Pohl’s conviction that contamination by other races (particularly Jews) had robbed the Aryan race of its knowledge of magical power, and that this knowledge could only be regained through racial purity.
On his return to Bad Aibling, Sebottendorff immediately set about organising a recruitment campaign for the Germanenorden in Bavaria.
In 1918, Sebottendorff met an art student named Walter Nauhaus who had been badly wounded on the Western Front in 1914 and had been invalided out of the war.
Nauhaus shared Sebottendorff’s intense interest in the occult, and soon became an invaluable colleague in the Bavarian recruitment campaign for the Germanenorden.

Thule Gesellschaft

It was Nauhaus who suggested that the name of the order be changed from Germanenorden to Thule Gesellschaft (Thule Society), in order to ‘spare it the unwelcome attentions of socialist and pro- Republican elements’.
The ceremonial foundation of the Thule Society took place on 17 August 1918.

Hotel Vierjahreszeiten – Munich

The society met at the fashionable Hotel Vierjahreszeiten in Munich, in rooms decorated with the Thule emblem: a long dagger, its blade surrounded by oak leaves, superimposed on a shining, curved-armed swastika.
On the eve of the Armistice that signalled German defeat in the First World War, the Thule Society, appalled at the prospect of the Kaiser abdicating, not to mention the revolution in Bavaria which had seen the seizure of authority by the Soviet Workers and Soldiers Councils, held a meeting on 9 November 1918, at which Sebottendorff made an impassioned exhortation to his fellow Thuleans.
The Thule Society continued to meet at the Hotel Vierjahreszeiten, while Sebottendorff extended its influence from the upper and middle classes to the working classes via the use of popular journalism.
He achieved this by purchasing for 5,000 marks a minor weekly newspaper, published in Munich and called the Beobachter, in 1918.
Renaming the paper the ‘Munchener Beobachter und Sportblatt’ (Munich Observer and Sports Paper), Sebottendorff added sports features to attract a more youthful, working-class readership for the anti-Semitic editorials that had been carried over from the paper’s previous proprietor, Franz Eher.
(In 1920, the Munchener Beobachter und Sportblatt became the ‘Volkischer Beobachter’ – (The Racial Observer), which would later be the official newspaper of the NSDAP.)
On 26 April 1919, seven members of the Thule Society were captured by Communists and taken to the Luitpold Gymnasium, which had served as a Red Army post for the previous two weeks.

Countess Hella von Westarp

The hostages included Walter Nauhaus, Countess Hella von Westarp (secretary of the society) and Prince Gustav von Thurn und Taxis (who had many relatives in the royal families of Europe).
Four days later, on 30 April, the hostages were shot in the cellar of the Gymnasium as a reprisal for the killing of Red prisoners at Starnberg.

White Troops Entering Munich

The killing of the Thule Society members had the effect of catalysing a violent popular uprising in Munich that, with the aid of White troops entering the city on 1 May, ensured the demise of the Communist Republic.

Karl Harrer

In 1918, Sebottendorff had succeeded in extending the journalistic influence of the Thule Society to the working classes by asking a sports reporter on a Munich evening paper, Karl Harrer, who had an intense interest in Völkisch deology, to form a workers’ ring.

Anton Drexle

This small group met every week throughout the winter of 1918, and discussed such topics as the defeat of Germany and the Jewish enemy.

At the instigation of Anton Drexler, the workers’ ring became the ‘Deutsche Arbeiterpartei’ (German Workers’ Party) (DAP) on 5 January 1919.
In February 1920, the DAP was transformed into the ‘National Socialist German Workers’ Party’ (NSDAP).
By that time, the party had already been taken over by an army ‘BIldungs Offizier’ , whose orders had been to lead and enlarge it, – and he soon became its President.
His name was Adolf Hitler.

The Edda Society

Guido von List and his followers believed that the Icelandic Eddas were chronicles of the ancient Aryans.

Rudolf John Gorsleben

List’s occult-historical system was elaborated upon by Rudolf John Gorsleben (1883-1930), a playwright and journalist, who was born in Metz and grew up in Alsace-Lorraine (annexed by the German Reich in 1871).
In this environment, in which people’s loyalties were divided between France and Germany, Gorsleben was exposed to Pan-German nationalism and succeeded in tracing his ancestry back to a fourteenth-century noble family in Thuringia.

German Troops in the Middles East – 1914-1918

At the outbreak of the First World War, Gorsleben fought first in a Bavarian regiment and then in a unit attached to the Turkish army in Arabia.
When the war ended he went to Munich, where he became involved with the Thule Society and right-wing politics.
During an eventful three years, Gorsleben became Gauleiter of the South Bavarian section of the Deutschvolkischer Schutz-und Trutzbund, an anti-Semitic group that was competing with the early NSDAP.
He formed associations with right-wing figures such as Julius Streicher, who would later edit the NSDAP newspaper ‘Der Sturmer’, and Lorenz Mesch, the Germanenorden chief who had been instrumental in the assassination of Erzberger.

Julius Streicher (12 February 1885 – 16 October 1946) was born in Fleinhausen, Bavaria, one of nine children of the teacher Friedrich Streicher and his wife Anna (née Weiss). He worked as an elementary school teacher like his father, and in 1909 he began his political career, joining the German Democratic Party. He would later claim that because his political work brought him into contact with German Jews, he “must therefore have been fated to become later on a writer and speaker on racial politics.” In 1913 Streicher married Kunigunde Roth, a baker’s daughter, in Nuremberg. They had two sons, Lothar (born 1915) and Elmar (born 1918).

Streicher joined the German Army in 1914. He won the Iron Cross and reached the rank of lieutenant by the time the Armistice was signed in November, 1918.

Through his periodical ‘Deutsche Freiheit’ (German Freedom) – later renamed ‘Arische Freiheit’ (Aryan Freedom) – Gorsleben disseminated his occult ideas, which centred upon the concept of racial purity and the reactivation of the occult powers that every Aryan possessed but which had become atrophied.
With these magical powers once more at their fullest, the Aryan would hold complete sway over the processes of nature, and would thus be in a position to dominate and rule the world.
He reiterated the völkisch notion that racial mixing was not only detrimental to the superior partner but also that a female could be tainted merely by intercourse with a racial inferior, and that all subsequent offspring, even if conceived with a racial equal, would likewise be tainted.
With regard to the Eddas, Gorsleben believed that the Scandinavian runes contained an inherent magical power that provided those who understood their significance with a spiritual conduit through which could flow the force that drives the Universe itself.
By far the most powerful was the ‘hagall rune’, since within it could be found hidden all the other runes.

Hagal Rune

In addition, Gorsleben was perhaps the first occultist to promote the magical significance of crystals, which he considered to be three-dimensional projections of the runes.
According to this theory, the spirit of every human individual can be correlated to a specific type of crystal that can be apprehended through the faculty of mediumship.
In November 1925, Gorsleben founded the ‘Edda Society’ in the medieval town of Dinkelsbuhl in Franconia.
The treasurer of the society was Friedrich Schaefer, an associate of Karl Maria Wiligut, who would come to exert a great influence upon Heinrich Himmler.

Edda Gesellschaft

When Gorsleben died from heart disease in August 1930, the Edda Gesellschaft was taken over by Werner von Bulow (1870-1947), who had designed a ‘world-rune-clock’ which illustrated the correspondences between the runes, the zodiac, numbers and gods.
Bulow also took over the running of Gorsleben’s periodical, and changed its name from ‘Arische Freiheit’ to ‘Hag All All Hag’, and then ‘Hagal’.
Although the primary intention of the Edda Society was to conduct research into the ancient Aryan religion through the interpretation, via the runes, of Norse mythology, the history of the lost Atlantean civilisation and the numerous prehistoric monuments of Europe, it nevertheless declared its allegiance to National Socialism in 1933, stating in an article in ‘Hagal’ that the rise of National Socialism was occurring in accordance with universal laws.

Karl Maria Wiligut

‘Hagal’ also included material on the ancestral clairvoyant memories of Karl Maria Wiligut, which were felt to be of extreme significance to an understanding of the ancient occult heritage of the Germanic people.

Siegfried Adolf Kummer

In 1927, Siegfried Adolf Kummer (b. 1899) founded a rune school called ‘Runa’ at Dresden. ‘Runa’ concentrated on the practice of ritual magic, including the drawing of magic circles containing the names of the Germanic gods, and the use of traditional magical tools.

Siegfried Adolf Kummer (born 1899, date of death unknown) was a German mystic and Germanic revivalist. He is also most well known for his revivalism and use of the Armanen runes row. In 1927, Kummer founded a “runic school” called ‘Runa’, associated with the summer school ‘Bielatal Bärenstein’ of Georg and Alfred Richter. The runic exercises, comparable to the “runic gymnastics” of Marby, runic dancing and runic songs were taught. Kummer held that
As a we now can receive various waves by means of a radio device, so the German by means of runic exercises and dances can regulate the influx of invisible ethereal cosmic waves. Those who dismiss this as impossible will never be able to detect thought waves, because they are in disharmony with the cosmic All, and are impeded by racially foreign blood.”

During these rituals, the names of runes were called out, and rune shapes were traced in
the air as an aid to the magical process.

Weimar Republic

The defining element in the occultism practised in Germany and Austria in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the perceived evil and corruption of the modern world, particularly that of the despised Weimar Republic with its stench of defeat, weakness and decadence.
For people like List, Liebenfels, Sebottendorff and their followers, the future of humanity lay not in industrialisation, urbanisation and international finance (which they saw as causing the destruction of traditional, rural ways of life and the brutalisation of their ancestral homelands) but in the resurgence of ancient Aryan culture and the maintenance of racial purity.
For the Aryans were heirs to a fabulous mystical legacy stretching far into prehistory, all the way back to the lost realms of Atlantis, Hyperborea and Thule.
From out of the mists of time shone this lost ‘Golden Age’ of giants and god-men endowed with fantastic, superhuman abilities but who had been subsumed through miscegenation with inferior races – and were now gone.
The volkisch occultists hoped, through their activities, to forge a magical and cultural link with these lost times, and through racial segregation re-establish the global hegemony of the Aryan Übermensch (Superman).

Nietzsche und die deutsche Politik

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
In the halls of orthodox academia, his reputation precedes him.
His name is Friedrich Nietzsche.
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (15 October 1844 – 25 August 1900) was a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer. He wrote several critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Enraptured by his vitriolic hatred for Christianity and enshrinement of moral anarchism, academia has consistently defended Friedrich Nietzsche as one of history’s “misunderstood” philosophers.
Cribbing from the standard litany of apologetics, many argue that Adolf Hitler somehow “misrepresented” or “distorted” Nietzsche’s ideas.
Is this genuinely the case ?
Of course, during their migration from abstraction to tangible enactment, ideas can become contaminated by any number of factors.
To be sure, internal contention among adherents, the personal idiosyncrasies of individual analysts, and the manifestly unpredictable nature of reality itself makes an idea’s journey towards tangible enactment very problematic.
Yet, was Nietzscheism’s journey toward tangible enactment so bastardized by Hitler that it was virtually unrecognizable ?
Was National Socialism nothing like the concepts that Nietzsche had in the mind ?
Again, only an examination of the delicate segues between abstraction and tangible enactment can answer this question.

Hitler und Frau Förster-Nietzsche – Wiemar

In ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, William Shirer recounts Hitler’s frequent visits to the Nietzsche Archive in Weimar, and his meetings with Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846 – November 8, 1935), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894. Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Nietzsche-Archiv in Weimar

Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen. The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years. Friedrich Nietzsche’s mental collapse occurred in 1889 (he died in 1900), and upon Elisabeth’s return in 1893 she found him an invalid whose published writings were beginning to be read and discussed throughout Europe.

Nietzsche und seine Schwester

Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche took a leading role in promoting her brother, especially through the publication of a collection of Nietzsche’s writings under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power). In 1930, Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche, became a member of the NSDAP. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the Nietzsche Archive received financial support and publicity from the government, in return for which Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche bestowed her brother’s considerable prestige on the régime.

Admittedly, Hitler was enthralled by the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer – to the extent that he carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) in his backpack throughout his sojurn in the trenches in the Great War – and undoubtedly Schopenhauer was a precursor to Nietzsche.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’. His faith in “transcendental ideality” led him to accept atheism.

Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung
‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann.
Schopenhauer used the word “will” as a human’s most familiar designation for the concept that can also be signified by other words such as “desire,” “striving,” “wanting,” “effort,” and “urging.” Schopenhauer’s philosophy holds that all nature, including man, is the expression of an insatiable will to life. It is through the will that mankind finds all their suffering. Desire for more is what causes this suffering.
For Nietzsche, the reading of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ aroused his interest in philosophy. Although he despised especially Schopenhauer’s ideas on compassion, Nietzsche would admit that Schopenhauer was one of the few thinkers that he respected, lauding him in his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator 1874), one of his ‘Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen’ (Untimely Meditations).
Commenting on Hitler’s veneration for Nietzsche, Shirer writes:
William Shirer

There was some ground for this appropriation of Nietzsche as one of the originators of the Nazi Weltanschauung.

Had not the philosopher thundered against democracy and parliaments, preached the will to power, praised war and proclaimed the coming of the master race and the superman – and in the most telling aphorisms ?

William Lawrence Shirer (February 23, 1904 – December 28, 1993) was an American journalist, war correspondent, and historian, who wrote ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’, a history of the Third Reich that has been read by many, and cited in scholarly works for more than 50 years.
‘Magnificent Blonde Brute’

Indeed, the commonalities are numerous.

Perhaps the most interesting of these was Nietzsche’s adoration for “the magnificent blonde brute, avidly rampant for spoil and victory“.
While Nietzsche also referred to the “masters” (i.e., noble men, rulers, etc.) as “blond beasts,” this “blond brute” was something different.
He was Nietzsche’s superman, the ‘Übermensch’.
Of course, many apologists for Nietzsche argue that the criterion for defining the ‘Übermensch‘ was neither racial nor hereditary, however, Nietzsche frequently espoused eugenic concepts, suggesting that he did invest significant value in race and hereditary.
For instance, consider the following social mandate set forth by Nietzsche:
Society as the trustee of life is responsible to life for every botched life that comes into existence; and as it has to atone for such lives, it ought consequently to make it impossible for them ever to see the light of day: it should in many cases actually prevent the act of procreation, and may, without any regard for rank, descent, or intellect, hold in readiness the most rigorous forms of compulsion and restriction, and, under certain circumstances, have recourse to castration … ‘Thou shalt do no murder,’ is a piece of ingenuous puerility compared with ‘Thou shalt not beget!!!’ … The unhealthy must at all costs be eliminated, lest the whole fall to pieces.”
Automatically, the astute reader will recognize the traditional themes of eugenics: Malthusian demands for the prohibition of procreation among certain populations.

Thomas Robert Malthus

Thomas Robert Malthus (13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834) was a British cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography. Malthus became widely known for his theories about change in population. His ‘An Essay on the Principle of Population’ observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible. He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: “The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man“.

Nietzsche asserts that eugenical regimentation should be implemented with no regard for “rank, descent, or intellect“, and he insists that there is an “unhealthy” population that “must at all costs be eliminated“.
Undoubtedly Nietzsche fear that such “dysgenics” would interbreed with those of healthier stock. Remember, Nietzsche’s remarks are made in conjunction with procreation, inferring that he believes in a definite connection between hereditary and the “unhealthy.”
Moreover, Nietzsche’s bestowal of primacy upon the social “whole” shows his collectivist, or völkisch concerns.
Hitler shared such ideas, as is evidenced by his virtual deification of the collective in ‘Mein Kampf‘:
The sacrifice of personal existence is necessary to secure the preservation of the species“.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

While Fascism and National Socialism are only superficially similar, Fascism is a derivation of the Italian word fascio, which is translated as “bundle” or “group.”

National Socialism (a racialist variant of fascism) is derivative, in some respects, of such ideas.
Nietzschean concept of the “human herd” therefore is a societal paradigm that subordinates the individual to the collective.
Nietzschean philosophy comprises an ideational continuum binding Hitler, Socialism and nationalism together.
It is, however, paradoxical that Nietzsche harshly criticized socialism.
Yet, his ideas harmonized well with Socialism, whether disseminated on the popular level, or in a more complex and rarefied level in völkisch ideology.

Benito Mussolini

Interestingly, Mussolini, who was responsible for Fascism in Italy, read Nietzsche extensively.

In 1938, Hitler bequeathed a copy of Nietzsche’s ‘Collected Works’ to Mussolini on the Brenner Pass. Although socialism clearly was not the apple of Nietzsche’s eye, its inherent collectivism synchronized very well with the doctrine of the “human herd.”
In addition to the continuity of political and social thought that pervaded völkisch socialism, Nietzsche also provided a religious component.
The infamous declaration, “God is dead,” is but a segue for the introduction of a ‘new god’.
This god has had numerous manifestations, as is evidenced by the following delineation by W. Warren Wagar:
‘Nineteenth-and early twentieth-century thought teems with time-bound emergent deities. Scores of thinkers preached some sort of faith in what is potential in time, in place of the traditional Christian and mystical faith in a power outside of time.
Hegel’s ‘Weltgeist’, Comte’s ‘Humanite’, Spencer’s ‘organismic humanity’ inevitably improving itself by the laws of evolution, Nietzsche’s doctrine of ‘superhumanity’, the conception of a finite God given currency by J.S. Mill, Hastings Rashdall, and William James, the ‘vitalism’ of Bergson and Shaw, the ’emergent evolutionism’ of Samuel Alexander and Lloyd Morgan, the theories of ‘divine immanence’ in the liberal movement in Protestant theology, – all are exhibits in evidence of the influence chiefly of evolutionary thinking, both before and after Darwin, in Western intellectual history.
The faith of progress itself – especially the idea of progress as built into the evolutionary scheme of things- is in every way the psychological equivalent of religion.’

Walter Warren Wagar 

Walter Warren Wagar (June 5, 1932 Baltimore, Maryland – November 16, 2004 Vestal, New York), better known as W. Warren Wagar, was an American historian and futures studies scholar.

Nietzsche’s Ubermensch was but one more link in this ideational chain.
The thematic continuity is a religious faith in humanity’s evolutionary ascent towards apotheosis.
This is by no means new.
This doctrine of transformationism dates back nearly 6,000 years, finding its crucible in Mesopotamia.
It was the religious doctrine promulgated by the ancient Babylonian, Egyptian and Hellenistic Mystery cults.
Masonic scholar W L Wilmshurst verifies this contention: “This – the evolution of man into superman – was always the purpose of the ancient Mysteries“.

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst

Walter Leslie Wilmshurst (22 June 1867 – 10 July 1939) was an English author and Freemason. He published four books on English Freemasonry and submitted articles to The Occult Review magazine.

It comes as little surprise that Nietzsche viewed the gods of the Bacchic and Dionysian Mysteries so favorably.
They embodied his religious faith in humanity’s emergent deity.
Likewise, Hitler adhered to the religion of ‘apotheosized man’.
Hermann Rauschning

In Hitler Speaks, Hermann Rauschning quotes Hitler as having declared:

In his coming kingdom of deified humanity, the Führer envisioned a system where the “god-man” justifiably ruled the “mass of lower humanity”.
This was in many ways derivative of Nietzsche’s racialist vision for the future.
In ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (The Will to Power), Nietzsche declares:
A daring and ruling race is building itself up… The aim should be to prepare a transvaluation of values for this new man, – most highly gifted in intellect and will. This man – and the elite around him will become the ‘lords of the earth‘”.
Again, Nietzsche is speaking about a specific ‘rasse’ race.
The racialist context is obvious and incontrovertible.
Of course, Nietzsche’s prophecy would become central to Hitler’s ultimate objectives.
Shirer writes:
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

Such ideas from one of Germany’s most original minds must have struck a responsive chord in Hitler’s mind. At any rate he adopted them for his own. “Lords of the Earth” is a familiar expression in ‘Mein Kampf’.

Nietzsche’s apologists argue that the philosopher’s anti-nationalism was irreconcilable with National Socialism‘s fervent nationalist rhetoric.
Indeed, Nietzsche “even toyed with the idea of European union and world government“.
Yet, so did Hitler !
In fact, Hitler confessed that his ostensible nationalism was but the means to just such an end:
“I had to encourage ‘national’ feelings for reasons of expediency; but I was already aware that the ‘nation’ idea could only have a temporary value. The day will come when even here in Germany when what is known as ‘nationalism’ will practically have ceased to exist. What will take its place in the world will be a universal society of masters and overlords.”
So Adolf Hitler was, in actuality, an internationalist and a globalist.
Hitler was only taking Nietzsche’s philosophy to its logical conclusion: a world oligarchy governed by a supranational Aryan elite.
Nietzsche was an elitist and his aristocracy was the ‘Übermensch‘, which represented the pinnacle of evolution.
Gnostic Scrolls

At this evolutionary plateau, the ‘Übermensch’ would “overcome” his own humanity.

For both Nietzsche and Hitler, this post-human condition represented godhood.
Inherent in this belief are Nietzsche’s Gnostic tendencies.
The triumph of the ‘Übermensch‘ over humanity reiterates the Gnostic theme of man as a higher being fettered by a corporeal prison (i.e., the body).
Nietzsche’s own version of Gnosis (revelatory experience) is the “transvaluation of values,” and the enthronement of self as the final moral authority.
In a Gnostic context, Nietzsche’s concept of  self-deification is analogous to the transformation of man’s sensate being.
In a Nietzschean context, Gnosticism‘s ” immanentized eschaton” becomes the governance of the “lords of the earth.
Not surprisingly, Hitler shared Nietzsche’s Gnostic views

Das Kloster von Lambach
Lambach Hakenkreuz

No doubt, these inclinations were related to  Hitler’s attendance at Benedictine Abby in Lambach.

Adorned by the occult symbol of the swastika, the Abby was little more than a Gnostic Mystery school.
The average German who was not initiated into esoteric culture was incapable of recognizing the semiotic Gnosticism that pervaded the Abby.
Lanz von Liebenfels

In addition, of course, there is Hitler’s own reading of Liebenfel’s Ostara, and his involvement in the Thule Gesellschaft.

The Third Reich, therefore, represented an attempt to “immanentize the eschaton“, and tangibly enact Nietzsche’s own Gnostic realm of the Übermensch.
Shirer, like many scholars, claims that Nietzsche was never an anti-Semite.
Yet, Nietzsche considered Christianity as inextricably linked with Judaism, and derisively called the Jews a “nation of priests“.
Nietzsche’s hatred for the so-called “priestly caste” is well-known, – a historical fact evidenced by his own writings.

Nietzsche und Hitler
Thule Gesellschaft
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

This is highly suspicious, to say the least.

If Nietzsche were not an anti-Semite, he certainly did very little to prevent his work from being interpreted as such.
Replete with bitter rebukes and accusations leveled directly at the Jewish people, it would be extremely easy for an anti-Semite to find all the justification needed for his beliefs.
It is time for Nietzsche enthusiasts to acknowledge the parallels between their idol and the development of völkisch ideology.
For some, Nietzsche shall remain a “misunderstood” and “distorted” philosopher.
For those who recognize the ideational continuity between Nietzsche and Hitler, Nietzsche can be seen a significant and welcome precursor of the völkisch philosophy of the Third Reich.

click below for a full biography, more images and resumes of Nietzsche’s major works
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

The Enigma of Hitler – Léon Degrelle

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

 Léon Degrelle

The mountains of books that have been written about Hitler  based on blind hatred and ignorance do little to describe or explain this enigmatic individual. How, I ponder, do these thousands of disparate portraits of Hitler in any way resemble the real man ? 
People have come to accept a fiction, repeated a thousand times over, as reality.
Yet they have never seen Hitler, never spoken to him, never heard a word from his mouth.
The very name of Hitler immediately conjures up a grimacing devil, the fount of all of one’s negative emotions.
Like Pavlov’s bell, the mention of Hitler is meant to dispense with substance and reality.
In time, however, history will demand more than these summary judgements.

Hitler was a man of peace in 1936,  a man of war from 1939
The first thing anyone noticed when he came into view was his small mustache.
Countless times he had been advised to shave it off, but he always refused: people were used to him the way he was.
He was not tall – no more than was Napoleon or Alexander the Great.
Hitler had deep blue eyes that many found fascinating and bewitching.
Some even said that there was an electric current that his hands were said to give off.
His face showed emotion or indifference according to the passion or apathy of the moment.
At times he was as though benumbed, saying not a word, while his jaws moved in the meanwhile as if they were grinding an obstacle to smithereens in the void.
Then he would come suddenly alive and launch into a speech directed at individual but, paradoxically, as though he were addressing a crowd of hundreds of thousands at Berlin’s Tempelhof airfield.
Then he became as if transfigured.
Even his complexion, otherwise dull, lit up as he spoke.
And at such times, to be sure, Hitler was strangely attractive, and as if possessed of magic powers.
Anything that might have seemed too solemn in his remarks, he quickly tempered with a touch of humor.
The picturesque word, the biting phrase were at his command.
In a flash he would paint a word-picture that brought a smile, or come up with an unexpected and disarming comparison.
He could be harsh, and even implacable in his judgments, and yet almost at the same time be surprisingly conciliatory, sensitive and warm.
After 1945 Hitler was accused of every cruelty, but it was not in his nature to be cruel.
He loved children.
It was an entirely natural thing for him to stop his car and share his food with young cyclists along the road. Once he gave his raincoat to a derelict plodding in the rain.
At midnight he would interrupt his work and prepare the food for his dog Blondi.
He could not bear to eat meat, because it meant the death of a living creature.
He refused to have so much as a rabbit or a trout sacrificed to provide his food.
He would allow only eggs on his table, because egg-laying meant that the hen had been spared rather than killed.
Hitler’s eating habits were a constant source of amazement to those around him.
How could someone on such a rigorous schedule, who had taken part in tens of thousands of exhausting mass meetings from which he emerged bathed with sweat, often losing two to four pounds in the process; who slept only three to four hours a night; and who, from 1940 to 1945, carried the whole world on his shoulders while ruling over 380 million Europeans: how could he physically survive on just a boiled egg, a few tomatoes, two or three pancakes, and a plate of noodles ? But he actually gained weight !
He drank only water.
He did not smoke, and would not tolerate smoking in his presence.
At one or two o’clock in the morning he would still be talking, untroubled, close to his fireplace, lively, often amusing.
He never showed any sign of weariness.
Dead tired his audience might be, but not Hitler.
Hitler’s most notable characteristic was ever his simplicity.
The most complex of problems resolved itself in his mind into a few basic principles.
His actions were geared to ideas and decisions that could be understood by anyone.
The laborer from Essen, the isolated farmer, the Ruhr industrialist, and the university professor could all easily follow his line of thought.
The very clarity of his reasoning made everything obvious.
His behavior and his lifestyle never changed even when he became the ruler of Germany.
He dressed and lived frugally.
During his early days in Munich, he spent no more than a mark per day for food.
At no stage in his life did he spend anything on himself.
Throughout his thirteen years in the chancellery he never carried a wallet or ever had money of his own.
Hitler was self-taught and made not attempt to hide the fact.
The smug conceit of intellectuals, their shiny ideas packaged like so many flashlight batteries, irritated him at times.
His own knowledge he had acquired through selective and unremitting study, and he knew far more than thousands of diploma-decorated academics.
I don’t think anyone ever read as much as he did.
He normally read one book every day, always first reading the conclusion and the index in order to gauge the work’s interest for him.
He had the power to extract the essence of each book and then store it in his computer-like mind.
he often talked about complicated scientific books with faultless precision, even at the height of the war.
His intellectual curiosity was limitless.
He was readily familiar with the writings of the most diverse authors, and nothing was too complex for his comprehension.
He had a deep knowledge and understanding of Buddha, Confucius, and Jesus Christ, as well as Luther, Calvin, and Savonarola; of literary giants such as Dante, Schiller, Shakespeare, and Goethe; and of analytical writers such as Renan and Gobineau, Chamberlain and Sorel.
He had trained himself in philosophy by studying Aristotle and Plato.
He could quote entire paragraphs of Schopenhauer from memory, and for a long time carried a pocked edition of Schopenhauer with him. Nietzsche taught him much about the willpower.
His thirst for knowledge was unquenchable.
He spent hundreds of hours studying the works of Tacitus and Mommsen, military strategists such as Clausewitz, and empire builders such as Bismarck. Nothing escaped him: world history or the history of civilizations, the study of the Bible and the Talmud, Thomistic philosophy and all the master- pieces of Homer, Sophocles, Horace, Ovid, Titus Livius and Cicero. He knew Julian the Apostate as if he had been his contemporary.
His knowledge also extended to mechanics.
He knew how engines worked; he understood the ballistics of various weapons; and he astonished the best medical scientists with his knowledge of medicine and biology.
The universality of Hitler’s knowledge may surprise or displease those unaware of it, but it is nonetheless a historical fact: Hitler was probably one of the most cultivated men of this century.
Many times more so than Churchill, an intellectual mediocrity; or than Pierre Laval, with his mere cursory knowledge of history; or than Roosevelt; or Eisenhower, who never got beyond detective novels.
Even during his earliest years, Hitler was different than other children.
He had an inner strength and was guided by his spirit and his instincts.
He could draw skillfully when he was only eleven years old.
His sketches made at that age show a remarkable firmness and liveliness.
His first paintings and watercolors, created at age 15, are full of poetry and sensitivity.
One of his most striking early works, “Fortress Utopia,” also shows him to have been an artist of rare imagination.
His artistic orientation took many forms.
He wrote poetry from the time he was a lad.
He dictated a complete play to his sister Paula who was amazed at his presumption.
At the age of 16, in Vienna, he launched into the creation of an opera.
He even designed the stage settings, as well as all the costumes; and, of course, the characters were Wagnerian heroes.
More than just an artist, Hitler was above all an architect.
Hundreds of his works were notable as much for the architecture as for the painting.
From memory alone he could reproduce in every detail the onion dome of a church or the intricate curves of wrought iron, indeed, it was to fulfill his dream of becoming an architect that Hitler went to Vienna at the beginning of the century.
When one sees the hundreds of paintings, sketches and drawings he created at the time, which reveal his mastery of three dimensional figures, it is astounding that his examiners at the Fine Arts Academy failed him in two successive examinations.
German historian Werner Maser, no friend of Hitler, castigated these examiners: “All of his works revealed extraordinary architectural gifts and knowledge. The builder of the Third Reich gives the former Fine Arts Academy of Vienna cause for shame.”
Impressed by the beauty of the church in a Benedictine monastery where he was part of the choir and served as an altar boy, Hitler dreamt fleetingly of becoming a Benedictine monk.
And it was at that time, too, interestingly enough, that whenever he attended mass, he always had to pass beneath the first swastika he had ever seen: it was graven in the stone escutcheon of the abbey portal.
Hitler’s father, a customs officer, hoped the boy would follow in his footsteps and become a civil servant.
His tutor encouraged him to become a monk.
Instead the young Hitler went, or rather he fled, to Vienna.
And there, thwarted in his artistic aspirations by the bureaucratic mediocraties of academia, he turned to isolation and meditation.
Lost in the great capital of Austria-Hungary, he searched for his destiny.
During the first thirty years of Hitler’s life, the date April 20, 1889, meant nothing to anyone.
He was born on that day in Branau, a small town in the Inn valley.
During his exile in Vienna, he often thought of his modest home, and particularly of his mother.
When she fell ill, he returned home from Vienna to look after her.
For weeks he nursed her, did all the household chores, and supported her as the most loving of sons.
When she finally died, on Christmas eve, his pain was immense.
Wracked with grief, he buried his mother in the little country cemetery: “I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief,” said his mother’s doctor, who happened to be Jewish.
In his room, Hitler always displayed a picture of his mother.
The memory of the mother he loved was with him until the day he died.
She had blue eyes like his and a similar face.
Her maternal intuition told her that her son was different from other children
She acted almost as if she knew her son’s destiny.
When she died, she felt anguished by the immense mystery surrounding her son.
Throughout the years of his youth, Hitler lived the life of a virtual recluse.
He greatest wish was to withdraw from the world.
At heart a loner, he wandered about, ate meager meals, but devoured the books of three public libraries.
He abstained from conversations and had few friends.
It is almost impossible to imagine another such destiny where a man started with so little and reached such heights.
Alexander the Great was the son of a king.
Napoleon, from a well-to-do family, was a general at twenty-four.
Fifteen years after Vienna, Hitler would still be an unknown corporal.
Thousands of others had a thousand times more opportunity to leave their mark on the world.
Hitler was not much concerned with his private life.
In Vienna he had lived in shabby, cramped lodgings, but for all that he rented a piano that took up half his room, and concentrated on composing his opera.
He lived on bread, milk, and vegetable soup.
But he never stopped painting or reading.
Landlords and landladies in Vienna and Munich all remembered him for his civility and pleasant disposition. His behavior was impeccable.
His room was always spotless, his meager belongings meticulously arranged, and his clothes neatly hung or folded.
He washed and ironed his own clothes, something which in those days few men did.
He needed almost nothing to survive, and money from the sale of a few paintings was sufficient to provide for all his needs.
Hitler had not yet focused on politics, but without his rightly knowing, that was the career to which he was most strongly called.
Politics would ultimately blend with his passion for art.
People, the masses, would be the clay the sculptor shapes into an immortal form.
The human clay would become for him a beautiful work of art like one of Myron’s marble sculptures, a Hans Makart painting, or Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
His love of music, art, and architecture had not removed him from the political life and social concerns of Vienna.
When Hitler later said that he had formed his social and political doctrine in Vienna, he told the truth.
Ten years later his observations made in Vienna would become the order of the day.
Thus Hitler was to live for several years in the crowded city of Vienna as a virtual outcast, yet quietly observing everything around him.
His strength came from within.
He did not rely on anyone to do his thinking for him.
Exceptional human beings always feel lonely amid the vast human throng.
Hitler saw his solitude as a wonderful opportunity to meditate and not to be submerged in a mindless sea.
In order not to be lost in the wastes of a sterile desert, a strong soul seeks refuge within himself.
Hitler was such a soul.

The lightning in Hitler’s life would come from the Word.
All his artistic talent would be channeled into his mastery of communication and eloquence.
Hitler would never conceive of popular conquests without the power of the Word.
He would enchant and be enchanted by it.
He would find total fulfillment when the magic of his words inspired the hearts and minds of the masses with whom he communed.
He would feel reborn each time he conveyed with mystical beauty the knowledge he had acquired in his lifetime.
Hitler’s incantory eloquence will remain, for a very long time.
The power of Hitler’s word is the key.

Did Hitler believe in God ?
He believed deeply in God.
He called God the Almighty, master of all that is known and unknown.
He acknowledged that every human being has spiritual needs.
The song of the nightingale, the pattern and color of a flower, continually brought him back to the great problems of creation.
No one in the world has spoke so eloquently about the existence of God.
He held this view not because he was brought up as a Christian, but because his analytical mind bound him to the concept of God.
Hitler’s faith transcended formulas and contingencies.
God was for him the basis of everything, the ordainer of all things, of his destiny and that of all others.

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013


 “At the age of twelve, I saw … the first opera of my life, Lohengrin. In one instant I was addicted.
My youthful enthusiasm for the Bayreuth Master knew no bounds.”

“When human hearts break and human souls despair, then from the twilight of the past, the great conquerors of distress and care, of shame and misery, of spiritual slavery and physical compulsion, look down and hold out their eternal hands to the despairing mortals. Woe to the people ashamed to grasp them !”

“He who would live must fight

And he who would not contend in this world of eternal struggle
Does not deserve to live.”

“I am founding an Order.
It is from the burgs that the second
stage will emerge – the stage of the Man-God, when Man will be the measure and centre of
the world. The Man-God, that splendid Being, will be an object of worship … But there are
other stages about which I am not permitted to speak …”

“It is my ultimate aim to perform an act of creation, a divine operation, the goal of a biological mutation which will result in an unprecedented exaltation of the human race and the appearance of a new race of heroes, demi-gods and god-men”.

“Creation is not finished. Man is clearly approaching a phase of metamorphosis. The earlier human species has already reached the stage of dying out…. All of the force of creation will be concentrated in a new species… which will surpass infinitely modern man….  “

“We shall rejuvenate the world.  This world is near its end.”

“Do you now appreciate the depth of our National Socialist Movement?  Can there be anything greater and more all comprehending?  Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything of it.  It is more even than religion; it is the will to create mankind anew !”

“All of the force of creation will be concentrated in a new species… which will surpass infinitely modern man…. “

“The new man is living amongst us now! He is here!…I will tell you a secret. I have seen the new man. He is intrepid and cruel. I was afraid of him.” 

“We are at the outset of a tremendous revolution in moral ideas and man’s spiritual orientation. A new age of the magic interpretation of the world is coming, an interpretation in terms of will and not the intelligence.”

“The real destiny of man is something the average man could not conceive and would be unable to stomache if given a glance.

Our revolution is the final stage in an evolution that will end by abolishing history.
My Party members have no conception of the dreams that haunt my mind or the grand design for the foundations that will have been laid before I die.
The world has reached a pivetol point and will undergo an upheaval which you unititated people cannot understand” 

“The old beliefs will be brought back to honor again.

The whole secret knowledge of nature, of the divine, the demonic.
We will wash off the Christian veneer and bring out a religion peculiar to our race.”

for more information see
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
‘And the Will lieth therin, which dieth not.
Who knoweth the mysteries of the Will and its vigour ?
For God is but a great Will pervading all things by the nature of its intentness.
Man doth not yield himself to the Angels nor to Death uterly, save only through the weakness of his feeble Will !’

Joseph Glanvill – (1636–1680)

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Click here for August Kubizek’s own fascinating account of his friendship with Adolf Hitler
 Hitler Mein Jugendfreund
(Hitler – My Boyhood Friend)

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013