In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones has to battle a group of Nazis, who are intent on finding the Ark of the Covenant and exploiting the power within. While the story seems to be fantasy at best – especially considering that Nazism was officially nonreligious – there may be more truth to it than meets the eye. The Nazis were obsessed with esoteric beliefs, especially the occult. Some historians have even suggested that the occult formed the foundation of the Nazi movement. Both during the era of the Third Reich and in the time since, people have had a lot to say about Hitler and his associates dabbling in occultic practices.
Nazi symbology is replete with images and symbols from Eastern religions. For example, though the swastika is synonymous with the Nazi regime, it is actually derived from Sanskrit and has long been associated with well-being and good fortune among many different cultures, including Indian Hindus and Buddhist. In fact, the word “swastika” is Sanskrit and means good luck, well-being, or good existence. It is one of many symbols that was usurped by the Nazis, possibly because of its links with esoteric religion and occultic practices that had made their way into Europe.
One of the top Nazi officials was Heinrich Himmler, the man in charge of the dreaded SS, and Himmler was known to engage in the occult. He followed the paganism of pre-Christian Germany, something that was strongly associated with the German nationalism of the Nazi regime, and actively involved with black magic. He tried to practice necromancy, the magical art of raising people from the dead, and frequently heald seances to try to contact the dead. The center of his occultic life was a place called Wewelsburg Castle, in the black forests of northern Germany. Here, he and many other Nazi officials engaged in their occultic practices.
After Himmler took over Wewelsburg Castle, he tried to establish it as an SS training ground. This effort ultimately proved unsuccessful, so he used it to train SS officers in much more narrower areas: namely, Medieval folklore, pre-Christian Germanic history, genealogy (to propagate the Aryan myth of German descent, which has long since been refuted), and participate in teaching and carrying out black magic. Wewelsburg Castle had a scientific library, which made the work done there look like it had a solid, factual basis. Because of Himmler and his beliefs, the occult was at the heart of much of SS activity during the years of the Third Reich.
In addition to being used as a research center, Wewelsburg was at the center of archeological excavations in the northern part of Germany. A team of SS scientists used archeology to try to understand pre-Christian and Medieval German history better to further buttress the Nazi worldview. Their findings and the claims resulting from them, many of which cannot be independently substantiated, were used to build up the library at Wewelsburg further. They were also used to educate the people in the nearby villages about the Nazi worldview and its allegedly historical and scientific bases.
However, in addition to all of these things, Heinrich Himmler tried to position Wewelsburg Castle so that it would symbolically be at the center of the world. His purpose was simple: he believed that a giant apocalyptic battle would be fought in the vicinity and wanted to use black magic to ensure victory for the Nazi regime. Himmler’s infatuation with sorcery and occultic practices definitely added a colorful flavor to the regime’s ideology. As the leader of the SS, he was a close friend and confidante of the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, and thereby shaped the views of the entire Nazi party.