Thule Society

Thule Society

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The Thule Society originally the Studiengruppe für germanisches Altertum ("Study Group for Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 Antiquity"), was a German occult
Occult
The word occult comes from the Latin word occultus , referring to "knowledge of the hidden". In the medical sense it is used to refer to a structure or process that is hidden, e.g...

ist and völkisch group in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, named after a mythical northern country
Thule
Thule Greek: Θούλη, Thoulē), also spelled Thula, Thila, or Thyïlea, is, in classical European literature and maps, a region in the far north. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway. Other interpretations...

 from Greek legend. The Society is notable chiefly as the organization that sponsored the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
German Workers' Party
The German Workers' Party was the short-lived predecessor of the Nazi Party .-Origins:The DAP was founded in Munich in the hotel "Fürstenfelder Hof" on January 5, 1919 by Anton Drexler, a member of the occultist Thule Society. It developed out of the "Freien Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten...

 (DAP), which was later reorganized by Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 into the National Socialist German Workers' Party (Nazi Party). According to Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw
Ian Kershaw
Sir Ian Kershaw is a British historian of 20th-century Germany whose work has chiefly focused on the period of the Third Reich...

, the organization's "membership list...reads like a Who's Who of early Nazi sympathizers and leading figures in Munich", including Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Walter Richard Hess was a prominent Nazi politician who was Adolf Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party during the 1930s and early 1940s...

, Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

, Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

, Julius Lehmann, Gottfried Feder
Gottfried Feder
Gottfried Feder was an economist and one of the early key members of the Nazi party. He was their economic theoretician. Initially, it was his lecture in 1919 that drew Hitler into the party.- Biography :...

, Dietrich Eckart
Dietrich Eckart
Dietrich Eckart was a German journalist and politician, together with Adolf Hitler one of the early key members of the Nazi Party and a participant of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.-Biography:...

 and Karl Harrer
Karl Harrer
Karl Harrer was a German journalist and politician, one of the founding members of the "Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" in 1919, the party that soon would become the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei .Harrer was also a member of the Thule Society, which gave him the task of founding a...

. However, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke B.A. , D.Phil. is a professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter and author of several books on esoteric traditions....

, an expert on the Thule Society, finds that while Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess had been Thule members, other leading Nazis had only been guests of the Thule or entirely unconnected with it. There is no evidence that Hitler ever attended the Thule Society.

Origins


The Thule Society was originally a "Germanic study group" headed by Walter Nauhaus, a wounded World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 veteran turned art student from Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

 who had become a keeper of pedigrees for the Germanenorden
Germanenorden
The Germanenorden was a völkisch secret society in early 20th century Germany...

 (or "Order of Teutons
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

"), a secret society
Secret society
A secret society is a club or organization whose activities and inner functioning are concealed from non-members. The society may or may not attempt to conceal its existence. The term usually excludes covert groups, such as intelligence agencies or guerrilla insurgencies, which hide their...

 founded in 1911 and formally named in the following year. In 1917 Nauhaus moved to Munich; his Thule-Gesellschaft was to be a cover-name for the Munich branch of the Germanenorden, but events developed differently as a result of a schism in the Order. In 1918, Nauhaus was contacted in Munich by Rudolf von Sebottendorf
Rudolf von Sebottendorf
Rudolf Freiherr von Sebottendorff was the alias of Adam Alfred Rudolf Glauer , who also occasionally used another alias, Erwin Torre. He was an important figure in the activities of the Thule Society, a post-World War I German occultist organization that influenced many members of the NSDAP...

 (or von Sebottendorff), an occultist and newly elected head of the Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

n province of the schismatic offshoot, known as the Germanenorden Walvater of the Holy Grail. The two men became associates in a recruitment campaign, and Sebottendorff adopted Nauhaus's Thule Society as a cover-name for his Munich lodge of the Germanenorden Walvater at its formal dedication on 18 August 1918.

Beliefs


A primary focus of Thule-Gesellschaft was a claim concerning the origins of the Aryan
Aryan
Aryan is an English language loanword derived from Sanskrit ārya and denoting variously*In scholarly usage:**Indo-Iranian languages *in dated usage:**the Indo-European languages more generally and their speakers...

 race. In 1917 people who wanted to join the "Germanic Order", out of which the Thule Society developed in 1918, had to sign a special "blood declaration of faith" concerning the lineage:
"The signer hereby swears to the best of his knowledge and belief that no Jewish or coloured blood flows in either his or in his wife's veins, and that among their ancestors are no members of the coloured races."


"Thule
Thule
Thule Greek: Θούλη, Thoulē), also spelled Thula, Thila, or Thyïlea, is, in classical European literature and maps, a region in the far north. Though often considered to be an island in antiquity, modern interpretations of what was meant by Thule often identify it as Norway. Other interpretations...

" (: Θούλη) was a land located by Greco-Roman geographer
Geographer
A geographer is a scholar whose area of study is geography, the study of Earth's natural environment and human society.Although geographers are historically known as people who make maps, map making is actually the field of study of cartography, a subset of geography...

s in the furthest north (often displayed as Iceland). The term "Ultima Thule" (: most distant Thule) is also mentioned by the Roman poet Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 in his pastoral poems called the Georgics
Georgics
The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present...

. Although originally Thule was probably the name for Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

, Virgil simply uses it as a proverbial expression for the edge of the known world, and his mention should not be taken as a substantial reference to Scandinavia
Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

.

They identified Ultima Thule, said by Nazi mystics to be the capital of ancient Hyperborea, as a lost ancient landmass in the extreme north: near Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

 or Iceland
Iceland
Iceland , described as the Republic of Iceland, is a Nordic and European island country in the North Atlantic Ocean, on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Iceland also refers to the main island of the country, which contains almost all the population and almost all the land area. The country has a population...

. These ideas derived from earlier speculation by Ignatius L. Donnelly that a lost landmass had once existed in the Atlantic, and that it was the home of the Aryan race
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

, a theory he supported by reference to the distribution of swastika
Swastika
The swastika is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either right-facing form in counter clock motion or its mirrored left-facing form in clock motion. Earliest archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization of Ancient...

 motifs. He identified this with Plato's Atlantis
Atlantis
Atlantis is a legendary island first mentioned in Plato's dialogues Timaeus and Critias, written about 360 BC....

, a theory further developed by Helena Blavatsky, an occultist during the second part of the 19th century.

Activities


The Thule Society attracted about 250 followers in Munich and about 1,500 in greater Bavaria
Bavaria
Bavaria, formally the Free State of Bavaria is a state of Germany, located in the southeast of Germany. With an area of , it is the largest state by area, forming almost 20% of the total land area of Germany...

. Its meetings were often held in the luxury Hotel Vierjahreszeiten (: Four Seasons Hotel) in Munich.

The followers of the Thule Society were, by Sebottendorff's own admission, little interested in occultist theories, instead they were interested in racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

 and combating Jews and Communists
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

. Nevertheless, Sebottendorff planned and failed to kidnap the Bavarian socialist prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

, Kurt Eisner
Kurt Eisner
Kurt Eisner was a Bavarian politician and journalist. As a German socialist journalist and statesman, he organized the Socialist Revolution that overthrew the Wittelsbach monarchy in Bavaria in November 1918....

, in December 1918. During the Bavarian revolution
Bavarian Soviet Republic
The Bavarian Soviet Republic, also known as the Munich Soviet Republic was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in form of a council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed...

 of April 1919, Thulists were accused of trying to infiltrate its government and of attempting a coup. On 26 April the Communist government in Munich raided the Society's premises and took seven of its members into custody, executing them on 30 April. Amongst them were Walter Nauhaus and four well-known aristocrats including Countess Heila von Westarp, who functioned as the group's secretary, and Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis
Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis
-Titles and styles:*22 August 1888 – 30 April 1919: His Serene Highness Prince Gustav of Thurn and Taxis-Ancestry:-References:...

 who was related to several European royal families. In response, the Thule organised a citizens' uprising as White troops entered the city on 1 May.

Münchener Beobachter newspaper


In 1918, the Thule Society bought a local weekly newspaper, the Münchener Beobachter
Münchener Beobachter
The Münchener Beobachter was a völkisch newspaper edited by Rudolf von Sebottendorf. In the course of 1920 it became the official Nazi organ, becoming the Voelkischer Beobachter. , and remained the leading Nazi party newspaper until 1945....

(Munich Observer), and changed its name to Münchener Beobachter und Sportblatt (Munich Observer and Sports Paper) in an attempt to improve its circulation. The Münchener Beobachter later became the Völkischer Beobachter
Völkischer Beobachter
The Völkischer Beobachter was the newspaper of the National Socialist German Workers' Party from 1920. It first appeared weekly, then daily from February 8, 1923...

(: People's Observer), the main Nazi newspaper. It was edited by Karl Harrer
Karl Harrer
Karl Harrer was a German journalist and politician, one of the founding members of the "Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" in 1919, the party that soon would become the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei .Harrer was also a member of the Thule Society, which gave him the task of founding a...

.

Deutsche Arbeiterpartei


On 5 January 1919 Anton Drexler
Anton Drexler
Anton Drexler was a German right-wing political leader of the 1920s, known for being Adolf Hitler's mentor during his early days in politics.-Biography:...

, who had developed links between the Thule Society and various extreme right workers' organizations in Munich, together with the Thule Society's Karl Harrer, established the Deutsche Arbeiterpartei
German Workers' Party
The German Workers' Party was the short-lived predecessor of the Nazi Party .-Origins:The DAP was founded in Munich in the hotel "Fürstenfelder Hof" on January 5, 1919 by Anton Drexler, a member of the occultist Thule Society. It developed out of the "Freien Arbeiterausschuss für einen guten...

 (DAP), or German Workers' Party. Adolf Hitler joined this party later in the same year. By the end of February 1920, the DAP had been reconstituted as the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (NSDAP), or National Socialist German Workers' Party, generally known as the "Nazi Party".

Sebottendorff had by then left the Thule Society, and never joined the DAP or the Nazi Party. Dietrich Bronder (Bevor Hitler kam, 1964) alleged that other members of the Thule Society were later prominent in Nazi Germany: the list includes Dietrich Eckart
Dietrich Eckart
Dietrich Eckart was a German journalist and politician, together with Adolf Hitler one of the early key members of the Nazi Party and a participant of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.-Biography:...

 (who coached Hitler on his public speaking
Public speaking
Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners...

 skills and had Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

dedicated to him) as well as Gottfried Feder
Gottfried Feder
Gottfried Feder was an economist and one of the early key members of the Nazi party. He was their economic theoretician. Initially, it was his lecture in 1919 that drew Hitler into the party.- Biography :...

, Hans Frank
Hans Frank
Hans Michael Frank was a German lawyer who worked for the Nazi party during the 1920s and 1930s and later became a high-ranking official in Nazi Germany...

, Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, Karl Haushofer
Karl Haushofer
Karl Ernst Haushofer was a German general, geographer and geopolitician. Through his student Rudolf Hess, Haushofer's ideas may have influenced the development of Adolf Hitler's expansionist strategies, although Haushofer denied direct influence on the Nazi regime.-Biography:Haushofer belonged to...

, Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Walter Richard Hess was a prominent Nazi politician who was Adolf Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party during the 1930s and early 1940s...

, Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 and Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

. Historian Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke
Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke B.A. , D.Phil. is a professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter and author of several books on esoteric traditions....

 has described this membership roll and other, similar claims as "spurious" and "fanciful", noting that Feder, Eckart and Rosenberg were never more than guests to whom the Thule Society extended hospitality during the Bavarian revolution of 1918
Bavarian Soviet Republic
The Bavarian Soviet Republic, also known as the Munich Soviet Republic was, as part of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the short-lived attempt to establish a socialist state in form of a council republic in the Free State of Bavaria. It sought independence from the also recently proclaimed...

, although he has more recently acknowledged that Hess and Frank were members of the Society before they came to prominence in the Nazi Party. It has also been claimed that Adolf Hitler himself was a member. Evidence on the contrary shows that he never attended a meeting, as attested to by Johannes Hering's diary of Society meetings. It is quite clear that Hitler himself had little interest in, and made little time for, "esoteric" matters. (See also Hitler's Nuremberg speech of 6 September 1938 on his disapproval of occultism.)

Wilhelm Laforce and Max Sesselmann (staff on the Münchener Beobachter) were Thule members who later joined the NSDAP.

Dissolution


Early in 1920 Karl Harrer was forced out of the DAP as Hitler moved to sever the party's link with the Thule Society, which subsequently fell into decline and was dissolved about five years later, well before Hitler came to power.

Rudolf von Sebottendorff had withdrawn from the Thule Society in 1919, but in 1933 he returned to Germany in the hope of reviving it. In that year he published a book entitled Bevor Hitler kam (: Before Hitler Came), in which he claimed that the Thule Society had paved the way for the Führer: "Thulers were the ones to whom Hitler first came, and Thulers were the first to unite themselves with Hitler." This claim was not favourably received by the Nazi authorities: after 1933, esoteric organisations (including völkisch occultists) were suppressed, many closed down by anti-Masonic
Freemasonry
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

 legislation in 1935. Sebottendorff's book was prohibited and he himself was arrested and imprisoned for a short period in 1934, afterwards departing into exile in Turkey.

Nonetheless, it has been argued that some Thule members and their ideas were incorporated into the Third Reich. Some of the Thule Society's teachings were expressed in the books of Alfred Rosenberg
Alfred Rosenberg
' was an early and intellectually influential member of the Nazi Party. Rosenberg was first introduced to Adolf Hitler by Dietrich Eckart; he later held several important posts in the Nazi government...

. Many occult ideas found favour with Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Himmler
Heinrich Luitpold Himmler was Reichsführer of the SS, a military commander, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. As Chief of the German Police and the Minister of the Interior from 1943, Himmler oversaw all internal and external police and security forces, including the Gestapo...

 who, unlike Hitler, had a great interest in mysticism, but the Schutzstaffel
Schutzstaffel
The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

 (SS) under Himmler emulated the structure of Ignatius Loyola's Jesuit order
Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

 rather than the Thule Society.

Conspiracy theories


Like the Ahnenerbe
Ahnenerbe
The Ahnenerbe was a Nazi German think tank that promoted itself as a "study society for Intellectual Ancient History." Founded on July 1, 1935, by Heinrich Himmler, Herman Wirth, and Richard Walther Darré, the Ahnenerbe's goal was to research the anthropological and cultural history of the Aryan...

 section of the SS, and due to its occult background, the Thule Society has become the center of many conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theory
A conspiracy theory explains an event as being the result of an alleged plot by a covert group or organization or, more broadly, the idea that important political, social or economic events are the products of secret plots that are largely unknown to the general public.-Usage:The term "conspiracy...

 concerning Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

. Such theories include the creation of vril
Vril
Vril, the Power of the Coming Race is a 1871 science fiction novel by Edward Bulwer-Lytton, originally printed as The Coming Race. Many early readers believed that its account of a superior subterranean master race and the energy-form called "Vril" was accurate, to the extent that some theosophists...

-powered Nazi UFOs
Nazi UFOs
In science fiction, conspiracy theory, and underground comic books, stories or claims circulate linking UFOs to Nazi Germany. These German UFO theories describe supposedly successful attempts to develop advanced aircraft or spacecraft prior to and during World War II, and further claim the...

.

Further reading

  • Gilbhard, Hermann. 1994. Die Thule-Gesellschaft. Kiessling Verlag. ISBN 3-930423-00-6.
  • Hale, Christopher. 2003. Himmler's Crusade: The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition into Tibet. London: Transworld Publishers. ISBN 0-593-04952-7.
  • Kershaw, Ian. 2001. Hitler 1889–1936: Hubris. Penguin. ISBN 0-14-013363-1.
  • Sklar, Dusty. 1977. The Nazis and the Occult. Dorset Press, New York. 188 pages. ISBN 0-88029-412-4.
  • Peter Lavenda.2007. Unholy Alliance. Continium Books, 401 pages. ISBN 0-8264-1409-5.