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Hitler's Priestess

Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism

Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 278
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  • Book Info
    Hitler's Priestess
    Book Description:

    In this window onto the roots and evolution of international neo-Nazism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke reveals the powerful impact of one of fascism's most creative minds. Savitri Devi's influence on neo-Nazism and other hybrid strains of mystical fascism has been continuos since the mid-1960s. A Frenchwoman of Greek-English birth, Devi became an admirer of German National Socialism in the late 1920s. Deeply impressed by its racial heritage and caste-system, she emigrated to India, where she developed her racial ideology, in the early 1930s. Her works have been reissued and distributed through various neo-Nazi networks and she has been lionized as a foremother of Nazi ideology. Her appeal to neo-Nazi sects lies in the very eccentricity of her thought - combining Aryan supremacism and anti-Semitism with Hinduism, social Darwinisn, animal rights, and a fundamentally biocentric view of life - and has resulted in curious, yet potent alliances in radical ideology. As one of the earliest Holocaust deniers and the first to suggest that Adolf Hitler was an avatar-- a god come to earth in human form to restore the world to a golden age - Devi became a fixture in the shadowy neo-Nazi world. In Hitler's Priestess, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke examines how someone with so little tangible connection to Nazi Germany became such a powerful advocate of Hitler's misanthropy. Hitler's Priestess illuminates the life of a woman who achieved the status of a prophetess for her penchant for redirecting authentic religious energies in the service of regenerate fascism.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-3853-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION: “Discovered Alive in India: Hitler’s Guru!”
    (pp. 1-6)

    The young German sat on the threadbare sofa listening to the words of the old woman before him. Through windows opening onto a balcony, shafts of dust-flecked sunlight shone into the darkened space of her humble, spartanly furnished room. Outside the strange, heady tumult of India resounded in the full glare of the midday heat. All around he could hear the street sounds and raucous, bustling squalor of this back alley in Delhi. Occasionally, her narrative was interrupted by the songs of the exotic birds she kept in her room and the young man was distracted by the sudden darting...

    (pp. 7-25)

    Savitri Devi was born Maximiani Portas on 30 September 1905 in Lyons. Her mother, Julia née Nash, came from Cornwall, one of two surviving daughters of one William Nash, an Englishman, who had married his first cousin. Her father was of mixed Mediterranean stock with an Italian mother from London and a Greek father who had acquired French citizenship on account of his residence in France.¹ Although Maximiani was a French national by birth, her early sympathies lay with Greece. Her father was a respected member of the sizeable Greek community in Lyons, and she enjoyed their company. Her given...

    (pp. 26-42)

    Leaving aside Schliemann’s Aryan swastikas, Maximiani Portas had long been attracted to the Orient by the poet Leconte de Lisle. Even in her early teens she had been thrilled by his evocation of the deified Aryan hero of India and the pride of the privileged godlike race:

    “Rama, son of Dasharatha, whom the Brahmins honour, Thou whose blood is pure, thou whose body is white,” Said Lakshmana, “hail, O resplendent subduer Of all the profane races!”¹

    Years later she would write that the music of these verses was destined, one day, after the failure of her great dreams in Greece,...

    (pp. 43-63)

    Savitri Devi regarded Hinduism as the only living Aryan heritage in the modern world. In her eyes, Hinduism was a powerful ally in her campaign to confront and oppose the Judaeo-Christian heritage and its casteless, egalitarian challenge to the Aryan tradition. But her Aryan-Nazi championship of Hinduism also interacted with domestic political movements in India between the wars. These movements were concerned with varieties of Hindu nationalism, conceived as an upper-caste strategy to unify and strengthen Indian society against the threat of other cultures (Islam and Christianity), while seeking to emulate the confidence and authority of the British. These movements...

    (pp. 64-76)

    Since the mid-i930s observers of the international scene could note that Italy, Japan, and Germany had each embarked on campaigns to extend their spheres of influence and to revise the balance of power in their favor. Italy attacked Abyssinia in October 1935, in order to create an East African empire including the Italian colonies of Eritrea and Somalia. In March 1936 Germany had occupied the Rhineland in a flagrant challenge of the Versailles Treaty; France and Britain stood by; the League of Nations merely expressed condemnation. Germany’s prominent military support for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, the creation of...

    (pp. 77-91)

    Mysterious Indian agents and their involvement in Western affairs have always offered rich material for European adventure stories. Wilkie Collins’sThe Moonstone(1868) described stealthy Hindus in Victorian London; Somerset Maugham included inAshenden(1928) the tale of an Indian spy working for the Germans in Switzerland during the First World War. The extraordinary career of Subhas Chandra Bose, the Indian nationalist leader with whom the Mukherji couple had political contact, shows how life can often surpass literature in terms of idealistic ambition, dramatic incident, and tragedy. The Mukherjis’ espionage for the Japanese in Burma was but one cell in...

    (pp. None)
    (pp. 92-108)

    “You cannot ‘de-nazify’ Nature!” protested Savitri Devi, when confronted by Allied policy toward the defeated Germans.¹ Her superhuman ideal of the proud, hard Aryan type was essentially rooted in a view of nature that was pantheistic, romantic, and rhapsodic. Some years before she wrote her outspoken Nazi books, she authored eulogies of nature that address the contemporary interests of Greens, anarchists, and the New Age. Her potential appeal to these modern dissidents lies in a cult of nature that rejects the centrality of man and man’s material convenience. Her book on the solar cult of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton involved...

    (pp. 109-125)

    The organic growth of religious custom and belief throughout the Indian subcontinent from its origins in the Vedas of the Aryan invaders over a period of four thousand years held great appeal for Savitri Devi. Hinduism appeared to her as a great rambling and unreformed paganism true to its ancient sources and untouched by the imposed monotheism and priesthoods of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. It has already been shown how greatly she revered the Aryans as the most youthful, strong, and beautiful race, the highest expression of nature in the historical world. Given the Vedic origins of Hinduism, it is unsurprising...

  13. 8 DEFIANCE
    (pp. 126-146)

    In May 1945 Europe lay in ruins. Because of the sustained Anglo-American bombing campaign since 1943, countless German cities were reduced to shells and rubble. Hitler’s reckless policy of “no surrender,” coupled with his wild hopes of miracle weapons, a falling-out among the Allies, or other freak reversal in the grinding defeat of the German armed forces had brought the war deep into the Reich. By the end, whole industries were destroyed; basic amenities and transport systems shattered; food and fuel scarce. The soldiers were demoralized, captured, or dead. The ragged civilian survivors searched for the missing amid a wasteland...

    (pp. 147-168)

    In August 1949 Savitri Devi returned to France satisfied she had at last borne witness to her Nazi faith. She spent the next three years, besides visits to England and Greece, in her old hometown Lyons, engaged in the writing of new pro-Nazi books. Within two years she had published under her husband's imprint in Calcutta two books devoted to her experiences in occupied Germany.Defiance(1950) was largely an autobiographical account of her last ill-fated propaganda mission, and her ensuing arrest, trial, and conviction for “maintaining the military and Nazi spirit in Germany.” The greater part of this book...

    (pp. 169-186)

    The complete and utter defeat of the Third Reich, the exposure of its crimes and atrocities, and the accompanying programs of denazification and reeducation of the German people combined to vilify Adolf Hitler and National Socialism throughout the Western world. After 1945, Savitri Devi had exchanged her former isolation in India for the marginal role of a die-hard Nazi agent in occupied Germany and elsewhere in Europe. In the late 1940s and early 1950s she was an obscure figure inhabiting a twilight world of bewildered Nazis filled with bitterness, revanchist ideas, and wild hopes of Hitler’s return. We have seen...

    (pp. 187-209)

    On leaving Spain, Savitri Devi returned to France and in January 1961 found a job as a supply teacher at Montbrison near Lyons. From here she followed Skorzeny’s advice and continued to keep abreast of the growth of international fascism. During that year the larger neofascist parties in Europe were moving toward a new International, and the National European Party was founded by a convention of Mosley’s Union Movement, the Deutsche Reichspartei, Jeune Europe, and the Movimento Sociale Italiano in Venice in March 1962. The National European Party clearly echoed Mosley’s new postwar “Euro-Fascism.” Its manifesto proposed the creation of...

  17. 12 LAST YEARS AND LEGACY: Nazis, Greens, and the New Age
    (pp. 210-232)

    Once again Savitri Devi lived in the tropical world of faraway India. This was the country to which she had first traveled in search of the Aryan race in 1932 and where she had remained, throughout all her hopes of the Third Reich, until 1945. Now she had returned as a sixtysix-year-old pensioner. New Delhi was planned by Sir Edwin Lutyens when the British moved their imperial capital from Calcutta to the northern plain in 1911. This spacious and gracious city of modern palaces, extensive parks, and broad avenues still bristled with old forts, towers, mosques, and temples recalling India’s...

    (pp. 233-250)
    (pp. 251-254)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 255-268)
    (pp. 269-270)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 271-271)