In the last days of 1932, Hitler was contemplating suicide.....

Released from prison in 1924 after the Beer Hall Putsch got him a light sentence for what was, after all, high treason, his Mein Kampf a best-seller, and his Nazi Party back and stronger than ever, he nonetheless was losing ground in the Reichstag. Hindenberg - the much-respected and very popular President of the Republic - was not pleased with the rough-and-tumble crowd that seemed to compose Hitler's voting bloc, and various ministers were conspiring against Hitler to keep him out of government altogether.

In 1932, they were succeeding. Hitler was facing a crucial election. Members of the Nazi Party were in danger of defecting to other political organizations. His own trusted disciples were dividing the Party into warring factions that could not be controlled

And on Halloween night - the pagan Sabbat of Samhain - his mistress Eva Braun shot herself.

Although Eva survived what the doctors would later characterize as a serious suicide attempt, Hitler himself knew he was politically dead. It appeared as if he had lost the will to fight, and he began to speak more and more of his own death. He entered the political campaign a distracted, depressed leader who seemed unable to hold his fractious Party together. They lost heavily in the Reichstag five days later - losing seats to the hated Communists - and the press began publishing the Party's obituary.

At this nadir of his career, he turned to an old friend whom he had met years earlier, in 1926, in Berlin. This was Erik Jan Hanussen, a famous astrologer and master of several occult disciplines who had - it was said - taught Hitler everything from the body language and gestures to use in public speaking to what friends and associates he should cultivate.

The Viennese Hanussen - whose real name was Herschel Steinschneider, the son of a Jewish vaudeville performer - began his career as what Americans call a "carny," doing odd jobs in a travelling circus, until he began his own newspaper and threatened to publish vile things in it about people he knew unless they paid up! This small-time blackmailer soon became interested in hypnosis and mediumship and published several books on the subject, eventually becoming the darling of the international socialite set, a man who never failed to entertain at parties but who also provided more serious assistance to those of his hosts who needed a horoscope drawn up or a spell cast. He dyed his hair blond to fit his new persona as a Danish aristocrat, and dived into the frantic, heady atmosphere of the early 1930's Berlin competing with astrologers, clairvoyants, and mediums of every description. Although he had never cast Hitler's astrological chart before, now in the late days of 1932 with Hitler morose and on the verge of doing himself damage, Hanussen erected his natal and probably a transit or progressed chart and appeared before Hitler with an eerie prognosis.

Hanussen told his host that there were good times ahead, but that a few "obstacles" remained that had to be eliminated. The implication was oddly surreal. The "obstacles" were not actual people or circumstances. Instead Hanussen claimed, Hitler was the victim of some sort of hex or magical spell.

History has not recorded who might have been responsible for this, and it is possible that all Hanussen knew - or claimed - was that "evil occult influences" were around Hitler, causing him to lose his edge. We may fantasize about a lodge of German magicians, summoning angelic forces to thwart the attempts of Hitler and his Nazi Party to gain power in Germany. We may wonder if a witch or sorcerer - operating alone in some mountain fastness of the Obersalzberg, perhaps - was casting a spell against Hitler for something as relatively trivial as a broken promise or unrequited love, and thereby altering the course of European history forever. We will certainly never know the actual dimensions of this baneful influence around the F�hrer, but the outcome of Hanussen's meditations was nothing short of spectacular.

In order to rid himself of this evil spell, he said, one would have to go to Hitler's hometown.

At the time of the full moon.

At midnight. In a butcher's backyard.

And remove a mandrake from the ground.

Now a mandrake is the man-shaped root famous throughout European folklore for its occult and medicinal properties. According to some traditions, one had to stop one's ears with cloth or cotton before pulling the root from the earth, as it would emit a piercing scream that would shatter the eardrums. A dog was sometimes used to pull the root from the earth as the magician kept his hands clasped around his own ears. The resulting shriek - it is said - normally killed the dog.

The mandrake is also known for its powers as an aphrodisiac, and as an amulet of protection. We must assume that Hanussen was thinking of this last property in connection with Hitler. Also, the significance of the butcher's yard should not be ignored: such a place would have given the surrounding earth the peculiar quality of a veritable Teutonic orgy of blood, dismemberment, death, and pain, which would have a mystically absorbed by the root itself.

Hanussen decided to perfrom the necessary rituals himself and set off for Hitler's birthplace in Austria, returning on New Year's Day 1933 with the amuletic root and with a prediction: that Hitler's return to power would begin on January 30, a date roughly equivalent to the pagan Sabat of Oimelc: one of the four "cross-quarter" days of the witches' calendar.

It seemed an outrageous prediction but - after a series of bizarred coincidences and half-baked conspiratorial machinations on the part of his opponents - Hitler went from washed-up political has-been to Chancellor of Germany with dizzying speed in thirty days and, on January 30, 1933 he assumed power.

Hanussens's impossibly optimistic prediction came true to the day.

That was not the end of Hanussen's ability to predict the future, however, for on February 26 of that same year - during a seance held that evening at his own lavishly furnished "Palace of Occultism" on Lietzenburger Strasse and attended by Berlin's movers and shakers - he predicted that the Communists in Germany would attempt a revolution, signaled by the destruction (by fire) of an important government building.

The next day, the Reichstag was in flames and Hitler had all the excuse he needed to go from Chancellor of Germany to Fuhrer of the Third Reich. European history had been changed forever, and once more the Society Seer was right on target. But, six weeks later in April of 11933, Hanussen would be dead: murdered in a forest outside Berlin by agent or agents unknown. There was speculation that Hitler ordered the execution since Hanussenn "knew too much" or perhaps might even have had connections to the Communist Party (hence his accurate prediction of the Reichstag fir; some mediums and psychics - Hannussen was no exception - are known to "enhance" their abilities by gathering intelligence on their clients ahead of time or by bugging the rooms in which seances are held, etc. In fairness, however, no amount of dirty tricks could have explained Hanussen's accurate prediction of Hitler's enormous success in January).

Another version had it that Hanussen's murder enraged the F�hrer, and that he ordered the death sentence for its perpetrators, like Karl Ernst, who was executed during the R�hm purge with a bewildered "Heil Hitler" on his lips. Another story, that SA leader Count Wolf Heinrich von Helldorf had Ernst arrest and murder Hanussen because the count owed him money, is also current. Hanussen was said to have thrown orgies at the count's Wannsee villa, where attractive young ladies - usually "actresses" - were thrown into hypnotic trances and made to mime orgasms.

The count was a rather degenerate sort who went through money like Schnapps, and wound up owing a great deal to Hanussen, who carried the count's markers with him wherever he went. Needless to say, the markers were never found (which either proves that the count killed Hanussen and removed the IOU's from the body, or that the story is completely fictitious and never happened; take your pick).

And then, of course, Hanussen's father was Jewish, which would have been reason enough to execute the inordinately influential seer. Unfortunately we will never know what happened, for Hannusen died as he had lived: the Count St. Germain of Weimar and early Nazi Germany, a complete and compelling mystery.

Peter Levenda
Unholy Alliance: A History of Nazi Involvement with the Occult

Perhaps America will one day go fascist democratically, by popular vote.
~William L. Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich)

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
~George Santayana (1863�1952), U.S. philosopher, poet.

Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
~Martin Luther King, jr.

How Hitler Became a Dictator

Whenever U.S. officials wish to demonize someone, they inevitably compare him to Adolf Hitler. The message immediately resonates with people because everyone knows that Hitler was a brutal dictator.

But how many people know how Hitler actually became a dictator? My bet is, very few. I�d also bet that more than a few people would be surprised at how he pulled it off, especially given that after World War I Germany had become a democratic republic.

The story of how Hitler became a dictator is set forth in The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, by William Shirer, on which this article is based.

In the presidential election held on March 13, 1932, there were four candidates: the incumbent, Field Marshall Paul von Hindenburg, Hitler, and two minor candidates, Ernst Th�lmann and Theodor D�sterberg. The results were:

Hindenburg 49.6 percent
Hitler 30.1 percent
Th�lmann 13.2 percent
D�sterberg 6.8 percent

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, almost 70 percent of the German people voted against Hitler, causing his supporter Josef G�bbels, who would later become Hitler�s minister of propaganda, to lament in his journal, �We�re beaten; terrible outlook. Party circles badly depressed and dejected.�

Since Hindenberg had not received a majority of the vote, however, a runoff election had to be held among the top three vote-getters. On April 19, 1932, the runoff results were:

Hindenburg 53.0 percent
Hitler 36.8 percent
Th�lmann 10.2 percent

Thus, even though Hitler�s vote total had risen, he still had been decisively rejected by the German people.

On June 1, 1932, Hindenberg appointed Franz von Papen as chancellor of Germany, whom Shirer described as an �unexpected and ludicrous figure.� Papen immediately dissolved the Reichstag (the national congress) and called for new elections, the third legislative election in five months.

Hitler and his fellow members of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, who were determined to bring down the republic and establish dictatorial rule in Germany, did everything they could to create chaos in the streets, including initiating political violence and murder. The situation got so bad that martial law was proclaimed in Berlin.

Even though Hitler had badly lost the presidential election, he was drawing ever-larger crowds during the congressional election. As Shirer points out,

In one day, July 27, he spoke to 60,000 persons in Brandenburg, to nearly as many in Potsdam, and that evening to 120,000 massed in the giant Grunewald Stadium in Berlin while outside an additional 100,000 heard his voice by loudspeaker.

Hitler�s rise to power

The July 31, 1932, election produced a major victory for Hitler�s National Socialist Party. The party won 230 seats in the Reichstag, making it Germany�s largest political party, but it still fell short of a majority in the 608-member body.

On the basis of that victory, Hitler demanded that President Hindenburg appoint him chancellor and place him in complete control of the state.

Otto von Meissner, who worked for Hindenburg, later testified at Nuremberg,

Hindenburg replied that because of the tense situation he could not in good conscience risk transferring the power of government to a new party such as the National Socialists, which did not command a majority and which was intolerant, noisy and undisciplined.

Political deadlocks in the Reichstag soon brought a new election, this one in November 6, 1932. In that election, the Nazis lost two million votes and 34 seats. Thus, even though the National Socialist Party was still the largest political party, it had clearly lost ground among the voters.

Attempting to remedy the chaos and the deadlocks, Hindenburg fired Papen and appointed an army general named Kurt von Schleicher as the new German chancellor. Unable to secure a majority coalition in the Reichstag, however, Schleicher finally tendered his resignation to Hindenburg, 57 days after he had been appointed.

On January 30, 1933, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler chancellor of Germany. Although the National Socialists never captured more than 37 percent of the national vote, and even though they still held a minority of cabinet posts and fewer than 50 percent of the seats in the Reichstag, Hitler and the Nazis set out to to consolidate their power. With Hitler as chancellor, that proved to be a fairly easy task.

The Reichstag fire

On February 27, Hitler was enjoying supper at the G�bbels home when the telephone rang with an emergency message: �The Reichstag is on fire!� Hitler and G�bbels rushed to the fire, where they encountered Hermann G�ring, who would later become Hitler�s air minister. G�ring was shouting at the top of his lungs,

This is the beginning of the Communist revolution! We must not wait a minute. We will show no mercy. Every Communist official must be shot, where he is found. Every Communist deputy must this very day be strung up.

The day after the fire, the Prussian government announced that it had found communist publications stating,

Government buildings, museums, mansions and essential plants were to be burned down... . Women and children were to be sent in front of terrorist groups.... The burning of the Reichstag was to be the signal for a bloody insurrection and civil war.... It has been ascertained that today was to have seen throughout Germany terrorist acts against individual persons, against private property, and against the life and limb of the peaceful population, and also the beginning of general civil war.

So how was G�ring so certain that the fire had been set by communist terrorists? Arrested on the spot was a Dutch communist named Marinus van der Lubbe. Most historians now believe that van der Lubbe was actually duped by the Nazis into setting the fire and probably was even assisted by them, without his realizing it.

Why would Hitler and his associates turn a blind eye to an impending terrorist attack on their national congressional building or actually assist with such a horrific deed? Because they knew what government officials have known throughout history � that during extreme national emergencies, people are most scared and thus much more willing to surrender their liberties in return for �security.� And that�s exactly what happened during the Reichstag terrorist crisis.

Suspending civil liberties

The day after the fire, Hitler persuaded President Hindenburg to issue a decree entitled, �For the Protection of the People and the State.� Justified as a �defensive measure against Communist acts of violence endangering the state,� the decree suspended the constitutional guarantees pertaining to civil liberties:

Restrictions on personal liberty, on the right of free expression of opinion, including freedom of the press; on the rights of assembly and association; and violations of the privacy of postal, telegraphic and telephonic communications; and warrants for house searches, orders for confiscations as well as restrictions on property, are also permissible beyond the legal limits otherwise prescribed.

Two weeks after the Reichstag fire, Hitler requested the Reichstag to temporarily delegate its powers to him so that he could adequately deal with the crisis. Denouncing opponents to his request, Hitler shouted, �Germany will be free, but not through you!� When the vote was taken, the result was 441 for and 84 against, giving Hitler the two-thirds majority he needed to suspend the German constitution. On March 23, 1933, what has gone down in German history as the �Enabling Act� made Hitler dictator of Germany, freed of all legislative and constitutional constraints.

The judiciary under Hitler

One of the most dramatic consequences was in the judicial arena. Shirer points out:

Under the Weimar Constitution judges were independent, subject only to the law, protected from arbitrary removal and bound at least in theory by Article 109 to safeguard equality before the law.

In fact, in the Reichstag terrorist case, while the court convicted van der Lubbe of the crime (who was executed), three other defendants, all communists, were acquitted, which infuriated Hitler and G�ring. Within a month, the Nazis had transferred jurisdiction over treason cases from the Supreme Court to a new People�s Court, which, as Shirer points out:

.....soon became the most dreaded tribunal in the land. It consisted of two professional judges and five others chosen from among party officials, the S.S. and the armed forces, thus giving the latter a majority vote. There was no appeal from its decisions or sentences and usually its sessions were held in camera. Occasionally, however, for propaganda purposes when relatively light sentences were to be given, the foreign correspondents were invited to attend.

One of the Reichstag terrorist defendants, who had angered G�ring during the trial with a severe cross-examination of G�ring, did not benefit from his acquittal. Shirer explains:

The German communist leader was immediately taken into �protective custody,� where he remained until his death during the second war.

In addition to the People�s Court, which handled treason cases, the Nazis also set up the Special Court, which handled cases of political crimes or �insidious attacks against the government.� These courts consisted of three judges, who invariably had to be trusted party members, without a jury. A Nazi prosecutor had the choice of bringing action in such cases before either an ordinary court or the Special Court, and invariably he chose the latter, for obvious reasons. Defense lawyers before this court, as before the Volksgerichtshof, had to be approved by Nazi officials. Sometimes even if they were approved they fared badly. Thus the lawyers who attempted to represent the widow of Dr. Klausener, the Catholic Action leader murdered in the Blood Purge, in her suit for damages against the State were whisked off to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where they were kept until they formally withdrew the action.

Even lenient treatment by the Special Court was no guarantee for the defendant, however, as Pastor Martin Niem�ller discovered when he was acquitted of major political charges and sentenced to time served for minor charges. Leaving the courtroom, Niem�ller was taken into custody by the Gestapo and taken to a concentration camp.

The Nazis also implemented a legal concept called Schutzhaft or �protective custody� which enabled them to arrest and incarcerate people without charging them with a crime. As Shirer put it:

Protective custody did not protect a man from possible harm, as it did in more civilized countries. It punished him by putting him behind barbed wire.

On August 2, 1934, Hindenburg died, and the title of president was abolished. Hitler�s title became F�hrer and Reich Chancellor. Not surprisingly, he used the initial four-year �temporary� grant of emergency powers that had been given to him by the Enabling Act to consolidate his omnipotent control over the entire country.

Accepting the new order

Oddly enough, even though his dictatorship very quickly became complete, Hitler returned to the Reichstag every four years to renew the �temporary� delegation of emergency powers that it had given him to deal with the Reichstag-arson crisis. Needless to say, the Reichstag rubber-stamped each of his requests.

For their part, the German people quickly accepted the new order of things. Keep in mind that the average non-Jewish German was pretty much unaffected by the new laws and decrees. As long as a German citizen kept his head down, worked hard, took care of his family, sent his children to the public schools and the Hitler Youth organization, and, most important, didn�t involve himself in political dissent against the government, a visit by the Gestapo was very unlikely.

Keep in mind also that, while the Nazis established concentration camps in the 1930s, the number of inmates ranged in the thousands. It wouldn�t be until the 1940s that the death camps and the gas chambers that killed millions would be implemented.

Describing how the average German adapted to the new order, Shirer writes:

The overwhelming majority of Germans did not seem to mind that their personal freedom had been taken away, that so much of culture had been destroyed and replaced with a mindless barbarism, or that their life and work had become regimented to a degree never before experienced even by a people accustomed for generations to a great deal of regimentation.... The Nazi terror in the early years affected the lives of relatively few Germans and a newly arrived observer was somewhat surprised to see that the people of this country did not seem to feel that they were being cowed.... On the contrary, they supported it with genuine enthusiasm. Somehow it imbued them with a new hope and a new confidence and an astonishing faith in the future of their country.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation