Did the Nazis Confiscate Grimoires?

I’m making my way slowly through Stephan Bachter’s dissertation on German grimoires that I mentioned previously, and I came across a curious question.

Some German scholars have stated that grimoires – especially works such as the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, the Egyptian Secrets of Albertus Magnus, and the True Fiery Dragon – were at one time removed from the libraries of Germany. The main proponent of this position was Will-Erich Peuckert, a folklorist who worked at the University of Breslau until 1935, when the Nazis forced him from his position. Though forced to many years of hardship and the death of one son, it also meant that Peuckert was, after the war, one of the few surviving folklorists who had not been at the service of the Nazis. According to his account, after the flight of Rudolf Hess to England in 1941, the Nazis sought to destroy all occult literature available.

When looking over my resources on hand, I can find very little on the topic of Hess’s flight and its effect on occultists.  Bachter is very brief on that particular topic, citing some first-hand accounts but not referencing any broader program, edicts, or other documentation.  What’s likely the definitive work on the topic of Nazis and the paranormal, Goodrick-Clarke’s The Occult Roots of Nazism, does not mention the action at all.  There’s a little more in Unholy Alliance by Peter Levenda, which I prefer not to use due to the author’s little credibility problem.  Not even Levenda dealt with the actions taken against the books themselves.

This led me to wonder if this was not the work of Peuckert himself. We can assume a survivor of Nazi Germany might have some insight into its workings, especially into events that would otherwise have been lost. Yet Peuckert is not always a reliable witness. Johanna Jacobsen, a folklorist who made an extensive study of Peuckert, notes that he was given to confabulation, especially in accounts of sorcerous conflicts with rivals in love.

Still, I kept looking, finally turning up the following passage in Manvell and Fraenkel’s Hess:  A Biography:

Only one strange aspect of this strange affair remained to be enacted – Hitler’s purge of the astrologers… Most of the Aktion Hess arrests took place on 9 June 1941.  On 6-7 June Bormann had issued a decree to Gauleiters aimed not only against astrologers but faith-healers, fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, graphologists, and even Christian Scientists and Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophists – in fact, all practitioners in the medical or psychological sphere who might be described as unqualified practitioners, whether working professionally for money or as amateurs without gain.  All these people were held to be actual or potential enemies of the Reich… At the same time, their libraries were confiscated, and the circulation of occult literature was forbidden.

Thus, some action seems to have been taken to purge collections of occult books.  But to what extent did this occur?  Were the books themselves the targets (as the above suggests), or did the Nazi seizure of occultist and occult publisher assets lead indirectly to the vanishing of these works?  Do documents, and possibly even lists of books, exist to confirm this?  If anyone can shed some light on this, please let me know.

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 5:18 pm  Comments (15)  

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  1. Damn it. I had a book whose bibliography may have been useful and now I can’t find it. I really hate buying books twice. Maybe it’ll show up over the Yule season.

    I’ve not heard about Hess specifically. The stories I’ve heard and read are about various German occult groups being ‘outlawed’ as being nationalist competitors with National Socialism or because they were headed by people that Hitler/Himmler/Willigut had problems with. But I’m not really well versed on the subject other than what I read in Flowers and Moynihan’s book on Willigut and a few articles that I don’t have access to anymore.

    But, the following sources may or may not be helpful. I apologize if they aren’t helpful in regards to Hess…

    Glowka, Hans-Jurgen. ‘Deutsche Okkultgruppen 1875-1937’ Munich, ARW, 1981. (I don’t know of an English translation but this appears in a number of bibliographies regarding that time period.


    Howe, Ellic. “German Occult Organizations” in Richard Cavendish, ‘Encyclopedia of the Unexplained’ New York: McGraw Hill, 1974 pp. 89-92

    If there is decent documentation regarding Hess, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of it is only in German. The vast majority of global German/Germanic/Runic literature is only available in German (with French right behind it).

  2. There was definively something going on, documented or not. An old Master of the Chair of the biggest Freemasons Lodge in Hamburg once told & shwoed me that the SS trashed the walls there when it confiscated the building. They were searching for hidden (‘occult’) treasures in the walls. Plus, r4elevant books in the book shop and library of Eugen Grosche (Gregor A. Gregorius), founding father of the magical lodge “Fraternitas Saturni” were definitively confiscated.
    By the way, you can find something about the backlash and persecution against german astrologers (pretty close) in Ellic Howes Uranias Children.

  3. Thanks to Axel’s mentioning of the Fraternitas Saturni, I checked Flowers’ book on the subject and came up with this quote and source for the quote.

    Flowers, Stephen, “The Fraternitas Saturni” (3rd ed of what was previously called “Fire and Ice”) page 13

    “…and many groups thought to be of a subversive nature, from Communists to Masons, were suppressed. This began a process in which secret societies and occult orders of almost every kind began to be systematically suppressed. Most sources on the history of the FS state that the lodge was closed and banned in 1933.”

    The endnote at that point references:
    Hemberger, Adolf. ‘Organizationsformen, Rituale, Lehren und magische Thematiki der freimauerischen und freimauerartigen Bunde im deutschen Sprachraum Mitteleuropas. Teil I: Der Mystisch-Magische Orden Fraternitas Saturni.” Frankfurt/Main 1971.

    Again, another German source.

  4. Oh… and the next couple of paragraphs discuss what Axel mentioned: Gregorius’ Library and bookstore being closed and the contents confiscated.

  5. Thanks for your help, everyone. Let me dig a little deeper.

    I’d like to find out if there were specific Nazi edicts or decrees for rounding up occult books. They certainly had them for occultists – I have a translated one somewhere about – but I’m wondering if anything specifically relating to occult books, especially grimoires, exists.

    Overall, the effects of such a decree might not be noticeable on the surface. If the bookseller Eugen Grosche was prosecuted as an undesirable and his assets taken (as he was), an additional decree to confiscate and destroy occult literature might not be immediately visible in that process. Still, it might manifest itself in other ways elsewhere, such as the removal of such works from libraries without closing the libraries themselves, which is what Peuckert is claiming.

    I’m really looking for a particular atrocity in a time when atrocities were commonplace, and I’m not sure I’ll find one. Nonetheless, I’m interested in looking.

  6. I don’t have the reference, but I once read a newspaper article (online) about Hitler’s private library. The point was made that while the Nazis rounded up occult books and burned them, Hitler himself had an enormous collection of occult literature. So that would at least support the claim that they confiscated books on the subject.

  7. Dan,

    You’re likely thinking about the May 2003 article in the Atlantic Monthly, and I’m not certain it supports the point, as so many of the books therein were presentation copies.

  8. Hitler did have a collection of occult literature. Some very rare and interesting books were confiscated during the Reichs rule. Has anyone ever wondered why those books where of such importance to Hitler? The books are still in a collection somewhere, with ‘replicas’ burned to once again fool the people at that stage.

    There was a method to the madness.

    Out of sight, out of mind…. ‘burn’ the books and no one would start to look for something so valuable i.e. poking around where they shouldn’t.

    Outlaw the people who owns the works, and it makes it even more difficult to identify the material, and more difficult to stop any of the evil summoned from the books.

    He who wields the strongest weapons dictates. How about being in posession of books that describe different summoning techniques, which, if properly understood can strike anywhere anytime. Spells that can instantaniously kill an opposing commander. You need blood for these kinda things, and lots of it, hence the Jews and their Holocaust. A minority at the time they were a really easy target. It appears this failed, miserably at that.

    Why use occult and religious signs as everyday signs for your political party?

    Being in posession of books that describe technology different to our own opens up new avenues of world domination. The amount of research that took place in Germany at the time was massive. For some things you would need human test subjects, and once again the Jews came in handy.
    Who would miss one person, when the rest have been killed in gas chambers?

    This probably sounds like a faery tale to most people, but does make some sense during a war. Hitler stumbled upon something per chance, and it either scared the crap out of him or motivated him enough to start a world war.

  9. The comment above makes me think about the guy, author of Principia Discordia, whose name I can’t remember, whose autobiography spoke of the characters in his life. …In this autobiographical tale (of the JFK assasination from his perspective) one of the characters says, “Hitler should have stayed in the background and let his generals be the showpoint for the whole thing” …I remember thinking the same thing and then being amazed to see it in print. A body of such men, with the shadowy hint of der fuhrer behind them, may have done much more.

    But this raises another question: Isn’t war a ritual sacrifice? Don’t the victims march in time and don’t they dress themselves in uniforms for slef-sacrifice? But what if a group of generals were not wearing SS uniforms, but black robes?

    Anyway, I got here on a link from j. orlin grabbes site and wanted to comment on this fine blog. This particular subject is a vein which if tapped, will produce a wellspring of information. …IMO, the confiscated materials are in the possesion of the American fabians and they are weilding subtle witchcraft of a similar nature in America.

  10. […] this is an area that I know little about myself, and about which even less is known given that the Nazis might have destroyed many copies, but it seems there’s quite a vibrant tradition of Moses-books over in Germany that might be […]

  11. Dear People,
    do you have an informative video onthis topic.

  12. hello, can you get to the gist of some power points or objects

  13. I have been working on a paper on the Occult crack down in Nazi Germany. To aid in my research I put together a very rough time line. I will post it here for your commentary.
    Occult Crack Down in Germany/Occult purges.

    5/10/1933 first of the book burnings took place in Berlin and several other cities.
    The earlier the laws against the occult in Baveria were focused on stoping fraud under artical 54.
    1934 Anti-Witchcraft Act of 1934 (Anti Hexen)
    What was the Witchcraft act of 1934?
    How was it to be enforced?

    1934, Spring, Police chief of Berlin ordered thes ban on all fortune-tellers in the city. (Suster, 1981, 127)
    Police Presidents (Polizeipräsidenten)
    1933 – 1935 Magnus von Levetzow 1871 – 1939
    1935 – 1944 SA-Gruppenf. Wolf Heinrich Graf von Helldorf 1896 – 1944
    What was Levetzow’s edict?
    Were there reason(s) given,
    What were they?
    Why did this happen in the first place?
    When did this happen

    193? Confiscation of all occult books (Suster, 1981, 127)
    What were the names of the stores and their owners?
    What was taken?
    What happened to the shop owners who were shut down?
    When did this happen
    What was considered as an Occult book?

    1935 &39, Banning of all lodges and secret societies Conway (1968, 370-374), Howe (1968, 192ff), Levenda, (2005, 151)
    What were these groups:
    Zugehörigkeit von Beamten zu Freimaurerlogen,
    Anderen Logen oder logenöhulichen Organizationen
    Membership in the Offices of Freemason Lodges, other Lodges or Lodge like Organizations of the Reich’s Home Office of June 6, 1939 (II SB 2212/39-6190 a*)
    What happened to their memberships?

    1937, A stopping in the crack down (Suster, 1981, 127)
    Why did it stop in the first place?

    1937, Reprise of the occult purges this time the focus is on the pro-Nazi groups. (Suster, 1981, 127)
    Why did it start up again?
    Who were these groups?
    What happened to their memberships?

    1941 June 9th, Operation Aktion Hess. 300 and 1,000 occultists, psychics and astrologers were arrested under Hitlers direct orders. This was brought about by Roldolf Hess defection to England that May.
    What happened to them
    Which Camps were they sent to? Anyone specificaly?

    1941, Reprise of the purge in occupied areas

    4 July decree signed by Reinhard Heydrich, Webb (1976, 311, n.79)
    What was Heydrich’s decree?
    Who was rounded up-
    What happen to them?
    Was this a new one or a reprise of the 1937 purges?

    Conway, J. S. The Nazi Persecution of the Churches. London, 1968.
    Howe, Ellic Astrology: A Recent History Including the Untold Story of Its role in World War II, Walker & Co. New York, 1968.
    Levenda, Peter. Unholy Alliance : A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult. 2nd ed. New York: Continuum,
    Suster, Gerald . Hitler, The Occult Messiah. New York, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 1981.
    Webb, James The Occult Establishment La Salle, Il: Open Court Press, 1976.

  14. Laurie,

    I can’t give too much help, but have you added Goodrick-Clarke’s The Occult Roots of Nazism to your to your list? I’ve heard some questions about his work, but it’s probably more reliable than some of the other works on this list.


    • Yes I have read Goodrick-Clarke’s book. It one the best of a rather questionable lot. Most of these books are written for the popular market and thus do not have anything in the way of foot notes or in some cases bibliographies or any pretense to scholarship. Goodrick-Clarke seems to be unaware of Gerhart L . Weinberg’s work Guide to Captured German Documents part one 1952 part 2 1959 is very interesting in that it shows there is still a lot of material out there pertaining to the Nazis and the occult. Have you found any source documents like the anti-hexan laws or edicts? I find it interesting that no one has published any of them. These documents should clarify many of my questions. In Roland’s book Nazis and the occult, 2007, he makes a statement, about non Aryan occultism, but does not go on to define what this is.

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