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BOOK REVIEWS 659

Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult. By Peter


Levenda. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2003. 423
pp. $22.95.
Peter Levenda offers readers a thorough yet popular history of the occult
background and roots of the Nazi movement beginning in the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries. The author shows how various international oc-
cult groups had a profound influence on Nazi ideology before and during the
rise to power of Adolf Hitler and other members of the Third Reich in Ger-
many. Indeed, the Nazi appropriation of the occult was a bizarre blend of as-
trology, freemasonry, outright racism steeped in occultism or mysticism, and
popular European folklore. The book begins and ends with an autobiographi-
cal account of Levendas own daring attempt to track Nazis hiding in post-war
exile in a remote location in Chile in the late 1970s during the totalitarian Pi-
nochet regime. It also exposes the dangerous existence of neo-Nazi move-
ments and satanic groups in Europe as well as in the U.S., such as The White
Aryan Resistance Movement and the Christian Identity.
Levenda portrays Hitler and other prominent Nazis like Heinrich
Himmler, leader of the notorious SS or Gestapo, as dedicated believers and
practitioners of the occult. Some of the early writings on occultism had been
written and published by Madame Helena Blavatsky, a member of an interna-
tional organization called the Theosophical Society, whose most famous work,
The Secret Doctrine, was printed in 1888. Blavatskys theory was a rebuke of
both western religion, or Christianity, and Darwinism and all modern notions
of evolution. According to cultists like Blavatsky, science and modernism were
to blame for many of mans problems, including capitalism and technology,
and that this was in large part a Jewish phenomenon. The only wholesome
lifestyle was that of the peasant on his land, and the nave beliefs of the peo-
ple of the land, the paganus or pagans. Thus, Blavatskys writings proposed a
sort of rebirth of ancient pagan rituals, superstitions, and customs, such as the
lighting of bonfires on certain days sacred to pre-Christian calendars. Sensing
that people in Europe and in Germany were spiritually adrift in the wake of
Darwins assault on religion, Blavatsky gave evolutionary theory itself an im-
probable and mystical twist, positing that there was even a spiritual struggle
between races, with the inherent superiority of the Aryan race, somehow ar-
ranged in the long line of spiritual evolution. Her arguments for this, al-
though seemingly unscientific according to Levenda, were from carefully cho-
sen scientific authors in different fields such as archaeology and astronomy.
What mattered most, according to Levenda, regardless of the issue of
Blavatskys scholarship, was that her work itself was influential in its day. In-
deed, it was Blavatsky who first pointed out the occult significance of the
swastika, an ancient design revered in India and a word based in Sanskrit.
Furthermore, her initial hypothesis of a master race or a caste system of
races, was the rationale behind a number of Nazi projects, ranging from basic
anti-Semitism to medical experimentation on human beings, and, ultimately to
genocide and ethnic cleansing. Levenda is careful not to attribute the horrors

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660 JOURNAL OF CHURCH AND STATE
of Auschwitz, or of militaristic Nazism and other forms of fascism solely to The
Secret Doctrine and Madame Blavatsky. However, in Unholy Alliance, his re-
search into the causes and origin of Nazi belief in the occult is both plausible
and thorough, so readers come away from reading it with the feeling that the
connection between Nazism and the occult is very real.
Finally, Levenda makes another central argument in support of an even
deeper bond between racism itself and the occult, claiming that racism, in
modern Europe, had its roots firmly planted in occultism. Noting that racism
is an expression of irrational fears, Levenda concludes that the irrational often
finds a home in the milieu of primordial, preconscious archetypes that is the
environment of both religion and occultism (p. 47). Therefore, racism and
occultism, despite appearing to be strange bedfellows, often shared the same
believers, like Hitler, Himmler, and the SS High Guard. Suddenly, from
rather humble origins, these ideas put together became a lethal combination
on the world stage.
If viewed from the racist-occultist perspective, the Nazi attitude concern-
ing racial superiority can be best understood and one sees just how dangerous
this belief system became in the hands of twentieth century fanatics like Hit-
ler. Open-minded readers should find this book to be a fascinating look at an
underemphasized but key aspect of the Nazi movement in terms of its founda-
tional causes.
JIM LEWIS
BAYLOR UNIVERSITY
WACO, TEXAS


A Century of Genocide: Utopias of Race and Nation. By Eric Weitz.
Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2003. 360pp. $29.95.

Historian Eric Weitz traces themes of utopianism, racism, and nationalism
through four genocidal regimes. Allotting one chapter each to the notorious
Lenin/Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and Miloevic regimes, Weitz traces the specific
population politics to their historical conclusions.
Weitzs deconstruction of the concepts of race and nation are concise and
effective, demonstrating the fluidity and modernity of such understandings of
human differences. Notably absent from Weitzs book, however, is a clear
definition of or even sustained reflection upon the idea of utopia. Weitz
largely assumes his readers familiarity with utopia, and the assumption is
crippling for a reader not well-versed in utopian theory. Moreover, the reader
who is comfortable with the concept of utopia will be disappointed by the in-
frequency of actual applications of utopianism to these four regimes. For ex-
ample, Weitz alludes to the complex juxtaposition of optimism and pessimism
in these genocidal regimes without stating that such a paradox is inherently
utopian. The word utopia denotes both a region of happiness and perfection
and a region that exists nowhere. When nowhere is attempted somewhere,

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