The Magical World of
Heinrich Himmler

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The origins of our modern image of witches is the witch in Hansl and Gretel, one of the best known fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. A century later, the National Socialists began to mystify Germany's past, and with it, witches. They no longer saw witches as the embodiment of evil, but as the archetypal wise Germanic woman, who was, even then, supposedly persecuted by the Church and Jews.

The Nazis therefore established a secret task force to research witches, headed by Heinrich Himmler, creating a massive archive of medieval witches, judges, hangmen, methods of torture and execution. The SS researchers wanted to prove that witches celebrated an ancient “Aryan” religion, which they wished to revive for their own purposes.


How Himmler fell under the spell of witches

The SS leader Heinrich Himmler was so obsessed with witchcraft that he looted 140,000 books on the subject from libraries across Europe and set up a unit to investigate and publicize the issue.

The scope of Himmler's strange fascination has been disclosed in a book by a team of historical researchers in Germany. When a Poznan librarian stumbled on the witchcraft library in a baroque palace in Lower Silesia, he noted that several books had been marked on pages where tortures were described. He assumed that the SS chief was studying torture techniques.

However, the authors, led by Sönke Lorenz, a Tübingen academic, argue that Himmler was trying to prove that the persecution of witches in the 17th century represented a kind of Holocaust of the German race carried out by the Roman Catholic Church. "The witch-hunting cost the German people hundreds of thousands of mothers and women, cruelly tortured and executed," Himmler is quoted as saying. The authors believe that he deployed his SS teams to discover traces of an old Germanic culture that survived the witch-hunts.

The SS compiled a card index of 33,846 cases of burnings in Germany and as far afield as India and Mexico, in an attempt to prop up Himmler's thesis.

His interest in the occult may have begun in 1928 when, as a chicken farmer, he married Margarete Boden, a Prussian landowner's daughter who dabbled in homoeopathy, mesmerism and herbalism. In 1929, Hitler appointed him head of his 300-strong bodyguard, the black uniformed Schutzstaffel (SS). Eventually Himmler, a fanatical racial ideologist, stood at the head of a huge repressive machine including not only the SS, the Waffen SS and the Gestapo, but also the supervision of concentration camps. He oversaw the Lebensborn project aimed at creating a Nordic super race.

Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Reich Security Service, reported to his boss in 1939 that he had discovered the case of a witch called Margareth Himbler, burnt in Germany in 1629. The similarity of names encouraged Himmler's interest in rehabilitating German witches. The SS Amt VII, concerned with churches, Freemasons, liberals, emigrés and Marxists, was expanded to include witches.

The ultimate aim was to publish a series of short books highlighting individual German witches and restoring some of their lost glamour. By April 1942 the project had at least a dozen themes, including "economic effects of witch trials" and "the intellectual foundation of the witch complex". Seminars sponsored by the SS earnestly discussed the biological implications for the German race of killing so many women.




In the 17th century most of those accused of witchcraft were post-menopausal women, and most of their accusers were married women of child-bearing age. The demographic situation in Germany in the Early Modern period was  situated on a knife edge between over and under population. Many of the inhabitants had to delay marriage to conserve scarce resources; thus the future of the community lay with those women who were child-bearing wives. The infertile, such as elderly women, were thought to envy their status, and to pose a threat. Sexual desire on the part of non-fertile women was seen as somehow contrary to nature, and to pose a threat to communal fertility. This, and perhaps general generational tensions, led to such women being denounced by neighbours and sometimes by their own families. Cruelty and sexual violence was shown in many such cases, but even today we see many shocking examples of ‘elder abuse’.

Under pressure from torture, or perhaps because they came to believe in the accusations made against them, the accused would make confessions centred around not so much scholarly notions of the Sabbat, but from fantasies constructed from their daily lives.

During the Thirty Years War in Germany in the late 17th Century, when chaos, famine and misery abounded, 60,000 people were burned at the stake for "witchcraft" and sorcery.

Both Catholics and Protestants persecuted supposed witches and sorcerers. The last witch to be burned in Europe perished in Switzerland in 1782.




According to Heinrich Himmler, Reich Leader of the SS in a speech to SS Group Leaders, February 18 1937:

...We must be clear about this, that the movement, the world-view can only have existence if it is carried by women, because men comprehend all things by logical reasoning, whereas the woman grasps things with her emotion.  The largest blood-sacrifices in the persecution of heretics and witches were made by the German woman and not by the man.  The "Pfaffen" [German derogatory term for clerics] knew exactly why they incinerated 5,000 to 6,000 women, because those clung emotionally to old knowledge and the old doctrine and because they wouldn't let themselves be changed emotionally and knew instinctively, while the man had already switched over logically and rationally: "There is no purpose in resisting.  We are being submerged politically, I give in, I'll let them baptise me."

[Source: Bundesarchiv, Koblenz, NS 19/422]

It is curious that this chapter in history is not researched well enough to find much supporting information that agrees even approximately with Himmler's quote of the number of women burned at the stake.  Their number would have included anyone who could be "proven" to be an opponent to the Roman Catholic Church and Church doctrine, not just "witches" but in the majority heretics.

Other estimates ranged from 45,000 to 9.5 million victims that were put to death during the persecutions of the middle ages, with the lower numbers coming from the more reputable sources.  It must be acknowledged that even though most of the sources agree that is was primarily women who were put to death, most of them also made the point that the majority of the victims were not witches but rather heretics, in other words: alleged or real political enemies of the establishment.  Some identify that men comprised, depending on country, 50 percent (France) to 90 percent (Iceland) of the victims.

However, there is something that may give the number quoted by Himmler considerable credibility.

Today the Church is accused of being responsible for the persecution and sentencing of several million "witches" (the numbers mentioned range from 6 to 9 million).  A research institute was especially created during the Third Reich for the purpose of obtaining evidence desired for the destruction of the Church.  In the search for material, 154 archives and libraries were researched and considerably lower numbers were found:  For Germany, the number is considerably less than 100,000, and for all of Europe the number is more likely to be 500,000 than one million.

Here are some of the other claims:

In the German area (that would have included all German-speaking jurisdictions) estimates range from 100,000 to 500,000 [victims of all kinds].  Historians assume that the count of the victims in all of Europe goes into the millions.

The opinions are divided on how many people fell victim to this collective insanity.  [Estimates for all of Europe range from 500,000 up to 9.5 million].  At any rate, it was most certainly a considerable number.  However, it should make those who are promulgating the picture of a general persecution of witches that was ordered and authorized from the top down pause to think that in Rome and in all of Catholic Italy there was virtually no persecution of any witches.

The persecution of the witches, which approximately took place from 1450 - 1792 (in all of Europe) demanded millions of victims, although only 200,000 of the cases were documented.  The apex of the mania was between 1625 and 1630.   During these five years almost 1/20th of the European population was burned at the stake.

All of those quotations and citations have in common that none of them provide references to sources that can be researched, and to be true, Himmler himself didn't provide a reference to any specific source in his speech either.  However, one must wonder why someone who assigned a whole government division to ferreting out information that would be damaging to the Church managed to come up with a figure of only 5,000 to 6,000 women who were executed in Germany during the persecution of the witches.

It would almost make one think that today's propaganda is better at telling the Big Lie than it was when it was just in its infancy during the Nazi era.