Friday, April 7, 2017

Eric Kurlander's "Hitler's Monsters": Book Review

Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich
This Florida-based historian bases his investigation of the supposed supernatural in Nazi Germany on archival research, vast documentation, and a determination to produce a calm, focused, and sober study of an inevitably sensational topic. He seeks a "post-revisionist" balance to recent claims diminishing or explaining by other means the reasons so many under the Nazi regime sought guidance through "border sciences" of paranormal, Thule-obsessed, and other dodgy speculation.

In this galley, no index was provided. Looking at his admittedly impressive list of sources, one is aware of Eric Kurlander's steady ability to explain such arcane and often disturbing lore and its applications. Spot-checking, for instance, I was surprised not to find any mention of Julius Evola, as his role playing off or even against the German interpretations of esoteric theory is well-known. But within the borders of his narrower topic, this professor provides a surprisingly readable guide. Coming to this as a newcomer, wary of special pleading, instead Hitler's Monsters offers balance.

That is, Prof. Kurlander achieves a combination of the distance from the events that enables reflection, and a firsthand ability to handle primary sources which many who attempt to make claims about this subject cannot support, given their lack not only of the language, but the historical acumen. The "supernatural" takes in much, and astrology, paganism. Ario-centered myth-making, witchcraft are expanded to include "miracle weapons," "supernatural partisans," and unfortunately "racial science" as supporting experimentation, resettlement, and of course mass genocide.

Nearly every paragraph contains superscriptions to the documentation. There a few endnotes elaborate on the text proper. The care taken by Kurlander is evident. With so many continuing to challenge historical veracity on this emotive episode, this caution and meticulous defense from the work of previous colleagues is welcome. It's a valuable contribution to the study of pseudo-science, far-fledged theories, insistent fabrication, and ultimate devastation. Not the kind of power results the Reich wanted to achieve, but the kind it kept churning out in apocalyptic rhetoric and frenzied schemes, even as the enemy closed in around its own borders. Werewolves, vampires, and pre-modern cosmology all played dark roles.

Out of this "supernatural imaginary," as Kurlander calls this plethora of sinister powers, an appeal beyond anti-semites, fascists, and "racist imperialists" enveloped a broader support base. This is crucial to understand, for without clear economic solutions or political policies, Kurlander concludes, the Nazi party came to and maintained its rule by blurring the problems of social and economic reality with this concocted dust of mass media manipulation. Rather than forces unseen, the dictatorship drew upon illiberal conceptions which survived the end of the Reich. As we see...
(Amazon US 4/2/17)

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