The Role of Secret Societies in the Rise of Hitler

FROM THE LECTURE SERIES: SECRET SOCIETIES

By Richard B. Spence, Ph.D., University of Idaho

Adolf Hitler is one of the most infamously influential men in modern history. He changed the course of history by raging World War II and for his racist ideas. Although there are heaps of documents, speeches, and statements about him, Hitler was a secretive man. It is believed that he was guided by secret forces that shaped his ideology and gave him power. Though he took advantage of many historical changes and chaotic situations at the time, it is possible that the secret societies had a great role in the making of Hitler.

Flag of the Order of the New Templars
The Flag of Order of New Templars was the first to use the Swastika image with an Aryanist connotation. (Image: Thespoondragon/CC BY-SA 4.0/Public domain)

Secret Societies in Unified Germany

The rise of Hitler can be traced back to the unification of German kingdoms in 1871. Although they were politically unified into a single empire, these regions remained culturally different. This is why plans were made to unify the Germans in cultural aspects too. For example, Richard Wagner composed the ring cycle by combining German and Scandinavian mythological stories and folktales.

Some attempts even involved the formulation of a German religion and a Germanic manifest destiny. Two devotees of such causes were two Austro-Germans who were the heads of small secret societies supporting Germanic racial mysticism. They were Jörg Lanz von Liebenfels, a racial theorist, and Guido von List, an occultist. Liebenfels believed that the Aryan race was created by divine aliens and that Germans were the only survivors of these alien deities in the purest form. To promote German racial consciousness, Liebenfels established a secret fraternity called the Ordo Novi Templi, or ‘New Templars’. He also published a magazine called Ostara. One of the readers of this magazine was a young, then unknown, Adolf Hitler.

This is a transcript from the video series Secret Societies. Watch it now, on The Great Courses Plus.

Guido Von List also dreamed of reviving Germanic paganism, worshiping warrior gods, and using magical scripts and symbols, including the swastika. His ideas generated a lot of secret societies including the Reichshammerbund, or ‘Reich Hammer League’ and the Germanenorden or ‘German Order’. These secret societies were all parts of bigger ones and each contained yet smaller groups. Because they had small numbers of members compared to the 60-million population of Germany, they didn’t have considerable influences on the public opinion in Germany. But their eventual contribution to the German destiny was that they served as the environment for the inception of Nazism.

Hitler with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment
Hitler (far right, seated) with his army comrades of the Bavarian Reserve Infantry Regiment 16 (c. 1914–18). (Image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1974-082-44/CC-BY-SA 3.0/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE/Public domain)

The Inception of Nazism and Secret Societies

The principal influence in the formation of the Nazi ideology was the First World War. The war led to the eradication of many ranks in Ariosophist orders, which were then replaced by more radical firebrands.

One of these men who eventually contributed to the rise of Hitler was Rudolf Von Sebottendorf. In search of money and spiritual enlightenment, he went to Turkey and entered a mystical Sufi brotherhood and then joined a masonic order associated with the Rite of Memphis-Misraim.

Learn more about The Freemasons.

He had close contacts with the young Turks. It was a revolutionary group that took over Turkey after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1908. One of the inceptors of the young Turks was Termudi, a Masonic Jew and Occultist, who was Sebottendorf’s sponsor. In a similar course of evolution as that of the Nazis, the young Turks also divided into extreme nationalist sects. They then committed the Armenian Genocide.

In 1913 Sebottendorf went back to Germany. He was so mysterious that there were rumors around him saying he worked for the German army or different intelligence services. He joined the Germanenorden, knowing from his experience in Turkey that a secret organization is a good place to spread propaganda and engage in a political conspiracy.

Learn more about The Illuminati.

The German army and the Germanenorden both had pro-war and anti-pacifist ideas. This could be a reason that he was associated with the German army to counteract the defeatism and pacifism that was emerging as a reaction to WWI.

Emergence of the Thule Society

He became the leader of the Germanenorden in Munich and changed its name to the Thule Gesellschaft, or ‘Thule Society’. It was named after an Aryan native land in the North Pole. The emblem that Sebotterndorf designed for the Thule society was a swastika with a dagger on it. The members looked like a group of eccentrics who talked about things like astrology and runes. But in reality, they were conspiring for political purposes.

Sebonttendorf went on to create ‘study society’ branches of the Thule, called the rings of Thule. One of these societies was one to replace Socialism and Bolsheviks. The name of the society was the political worker’s circle, which was the origin of the Nazi Party.

Common Questions about The Role of Secret Societies in the Rise of Nazism

Q: Who were the Young Turks?

The young Turks were a secret society and a revolutionary group that overthrew the Ottoman Empire. They divided into different factions some of which were extremists. One of these factions is responsible for the Armenian Massacre.

Q: What is the history of Nazism?

The role of secret societies is clear in the rise of Nazism. There were some secret societies that gave rise to Nazism. It all started with the unification of Germany in 1871.

Q: When did Germany become unified?

Germany became unified in 1871 with the eradication of the German Empire. Many German kingdoms and cities were unified through this unification, but they remained culturally independent.

Q: Who founded the Thule Society?

The founder of the Thule society was Rudolf Von Sebottendorf. He became the leader of the Germanenorden in Munich and changed its name to the Thule Gesellschaft, or ‘Thule Society’.

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