The best books on Nazism and the occult

Why am I passionate about this?

I would trace the genesis of Hitler’s Monsters to three distinct influences. The first was my childhood love of Golden, Silver, and Bronze Age comics––Batman, Superman, Captain America, The Avengers, The Fantastic Four––which, as illustrated by the Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, are replete with themes of Nazi occultism and border science. The second was a conversation with my thesis advisor early in graduate school, when he noted that he was advising a dissertation on German occultism (Science for the Soul). The third influence was observing the mid-2000s resurgence in rightwing populism across Europe and North America, seemingly fueled by recourse to esoteric and supernatural thinking. The rest, as they say, is history.


I wrote...

Book cover of Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich

What is my book about?

While Hitler’s personal interest in the occult was largely superficial, supernatural thinking was inextricable from the Nazi project. The regime enlisted esoteric doctrines and the paranormal, adopted elements of folkish paganism and Indo-Aryan mythology, sought miracle weapons and vestiges of Atlantis in reimagining German politics and society and recasting German science and religion. Based on eight years of research in a dozen German archives and libraries, Hitler’s Monsters reveals the rich yet complex and variegated relationship between Third Reich and the supernatural. Even as popular occultism and superstition were intermittently suppressed and outlawed, the Nazis drew upon a deep reservoir of supernatural thinking to gain power, shape propaganda and policy, and pursue their dreams of racial utopia and empire.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology

Eric Kurlander Why did I love this book?

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism is arguably the first scholarly monograph to take the relationship between occultism and Nazism seriously, providing a fascinating overview of the “secret Aryan cults” and “Ariosophic” beliefs that ostensibly influenced Nazi ideology.

While Goodrick-Clarke stops short of drawing a direct connection between prewar occult doctrines and Nazi policies during the Third Reich– indeed, his study concludes in 1935––no historian before or since has done as thorough a job, based on copious empirical research, of chronicling the eclectic and ubiquitous occult underground that helped shape the interwar folkish movement that produced Nazism.

By Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Occult Roots of Nazism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Reveals how Nazism was influenced by powerful occult sects that thrived in Germany and Austria almost fifty years before Hitler's rise to power
Over half a century after the defeat of the Third Reich, Nazism remains a subject of extensive historical inquiry, general interest, and, alarmingly, a source of inspiration for resurgent fascism around the world. Goodrick-Clarke's powerful and timely book traces the intellectual roots of Nazism back to a number of influential occult and millenarian sects in the Habsburg Empire during its waning years. These millenarian sects-principally the Ariosophists-espoused a mixture of popular nationalism, Aryan racism, and occultism to…


Book cover of A Demon-Haunted Land: Witches, Wonder Doctors, and the Ghosts of the Past in Post-WWII Germany

Eric Kurlander Why did I love this book?

Although there is no longer a shortage of scholarship on the occult or supernatural before 1945, Monica Black’s Demon Haunted Land is the first major history in English to investigate the afterlife of these cultural and intellectual traditions in the early years of the West German Federal Republic.

Beautifully written and based on extensive archival research, a Demon Haunted Land shows how witchcraft, the occult, and a belief in miracles played an important role, alongside democratic stabilization and the so-called “Economic Miracle”, in helping Germans work through the trauma of defeat and legacies of the Third Reich in a new postwar reality.

By Monica Black,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Demon-Haunted Land as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Evocative. . . . Epic. . . . Chock-full of colorful anecdotes and charismatic figures, A Demon-Haunted Land not only offers a brilliant rethinking of postwar German history, but also asks us to see the irrational as an integral part of modernity.” ―Boston Review

In the aftermath of World War II, a succession of mass supernatural events swept through war-torn Germany. A messianic faith healer rose to extraordinary fame, prayer groups performed exorcisms, and enormous crowds traveled to witness apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Most strikingly, scores of people accused their neighbors of witchcraft, and found themselves in turn hauled…


Book cover of A Science for the Soul: Occultism and the Genesis of the German Modern

Eric Kurlander Why did I love this book?

Corinna Treitel’s Science for the Soul did for the occult what Goodrick-Clarke’s Occult Roots of Nazism did for Ariosophy, providing the first comprehensive account of the wide array of occult doctrines and esoteric sciences that flourished in Germany and Austria at the turn of the twentieth century.

While she does include a chapter on occultism in the Third Reich, Treitel is careful not to blame occultism for Nazism, showing how Theosophy and Anthroposophy (the progenitors of Ariosophy), astrology, parapsychology, spiritualism, and other esoteric doctrines provided a socially and politically diverse group of Germans a range of alternative beliefs and practices to help make sense of a modernizing, post-industrial, “disenchanted” world.

One of the two best books, with Anne Harrington’s Reenchanted Science, on the history of German occultism and “border science”.

By Corinna Treitel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Science for the Soul as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Germany's painful entry into the modern age elicited many conflicting emotions. Excitement and anxiety about the "disenchantment of the world" predominated, as Germans realized that the triumph of science and reason had made the nation materially powerful while impoverishing it spiritually. Eager to enchant their world anew, many Germans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries responded by turning to a variety of paranormal beliefs and practices-including Theosophy, astrology, psychical research, graphology, dowsing, and spirit healing. No mere fringe phenomenon, the German occult movement had a truly national presence, encompassing hundreds of clubs, businesses, institutes, and publishers providing and…


Book cover of Between Occultism and Nazism: Anthroposophy and the Politics of Race in the Fascist Era

Eric Kurlander Why did I love this book?

An ideal complement to Goodrick-Clarke’s study of the links between Nazism and Ariosophy, Staudenmaier devotes his well-researched and comprehensive monograph to examining the relationship between fascism and Rudolf Steiner’s occult doctrine of Anthroposophy.

Like Goodrick-Clarke, Staudenmaier finds important points of ideological and sociological convergence between proponents of Anthroposophy and Nazism, including Waldorf Schools and biodynamic farming, but also highlights many instances of intellectual tension, political hostility, and persecution.

Just as importantly, Between Occultism and Nazism looks at the role of Anthroposophy in fascist Italy, providing an explicit comparative framework that is missing from most studies of Nazism and the occult. A must read for anyone interested in the “occult roots of Nazism” or the history of Western esotericism.

By Peter Staudenmaier,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Between Occultism and Nazism as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The relationship between Nazism and occultism has been an object of fascination and speculation for decades. Peter Staudenmaier's Between Occultism and Nazism provides a detailed historical examination centered on the anthroposophist movement founded by Rudolf Steiner. Its surprising findings reveal a remarkable level of Nazi support for Waldorf schools, biodynamic farming, and other anthroposophist initiatives, even as Nazi officials attempted to suppress occult tendencies. The book also includes an analysis of anthroposophist involvement in the racial policies of Fascist Italy. Based on extensive archival research, this study offers rich material on controversial questions about the nature of esoteric spirituality and…


Book cover of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Eric Kurlander Why did I love this book?

For those interested in a compelling work of fiction built loosely around Nazism and the occult, Michael Chabon’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is the perfect novel.

Whether it’s one of the protagonists, a young Jewish magician, escaping Nazi-occupied Central Europe in the coffin of the “Golem of Prague” or the eponymous cousins finding success with their own comic book series infused by contemporary esoterica, Kavalier & Clay evokes the world in which young, first and second generation Jewish immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe created the Marvel and DC superheroes and super(natural) villains, often allied with the Third Reich, that have defined our popular culture for the past eighty years. 

By Michael Chabon,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, 'The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay' is a heart-wrenching story of escape, love and comic-book heroes set in Prague, New York and the Arctic - from the author of 'Wonder Boys'.

One night in 1939, Josef Kavalier shuffles into his cousin Sam Clay's cramped New York bedroom, his nerve-racking escape from Prague finally achieved. Little does he realise that this is the beginning of an extraordinary friendship and even more fruitful business partnership. Together, they create a comic strip called 'The Escapist', its superhero a Nazi-busting saviour who liberates the oppressed…


You might also like...

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

Book cover of Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

Helena P. Schrader Author Of Cold Peace: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift, Part I

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

I first went to Berlin after college, determined to write a novel about the German Resistance; I stayed a quarter of a century. Initially, the Berlin Airlift, something remembered with pride and affection, helped create common ground between me as an American and the Berliners. Later, I was commissioned to write a book about the Airlift and studied the topic in depth. My research included interviews with many participants including Gail Halvorsen. These encounters with eyewitnesses inspired me to write my current three-part fiction project, Bridge to Tomorrow. With Russian aggression again threatening Europe, the story of the airlift that defeated Soviet state terrorism has never been more topical. 

Helena's book list on the Russian blockade of Berlin and the Allied Airlift

What is my book about?

Stopping Russian Aggression with milk, coal, and candy bars….

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians will starve unless they receive food, medicine, and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour, and children’s shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in the West. Until General Winter deploys on the side of Russia...

Based on historical events, award-winning novelist Helena P. Schrader delivers an…

Cold War: A Novel of the Berlin Airlift

By Helena P. Schrader,

What is this book about?

Fighting a war with milk, coal and candy bars....

In the second book of the Bridge to Tomorrow Series, the story continues where "Cold Peace" left off.

Berlin is under siege. More than two million civilians in Hitler's former capital will starve unless they receive food, medicine and more by air.

USAF Captain J.B. Baronowsky and RAF Flight Lieutenant Kit Moran once risked their lives to drop high explosives on Berlin. They are about to deliver milk, flour and children's shoes instead. Meanwhile, two women pilots are flying an air ambulance that carries malnourished and abandoned children to freedom in…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in occult, Nazism, and Germany?

11,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about occult, Nazism, and Germany.

Occult Explore 85 books about occult
Nazism Explore 220 books about Nazism
Germany Explore 483 books about Germany