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Rudolf Hess

Was Rudolf Hess an Anthroposophist? Opponents of Anthroposophy, especially by those given to anti-fascist crusades, state plainly that he was, as though it were established beyond doubt. Others in turn have cited these opinions, thinking them established fact. However, a factual basis for claiming so does not exist. In fact, a careful check of the relevant historical documents tells quite a different story. Below I have translated an article on the subject by Uwe Werner, author of Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus (Anthroposophists during the Time of National Socialism).

Was Rudolf Hess an Anthroposophist?

By Uwe Werner
(Translated by Daniel Hindes)

My investigations, which are supported predominantly by primary sources (see my book Uwe Werner, Anthroposophen in der Zeit des Nationalsozialismus, München 1999) lead me to the following conclusion:

Rudolf Hess was not an Anthroposophist and had no sympathy for Anthroposophy. He did show an interest in biodynamic farming and - to a limited degree - aspects of Waldorf Education, inasmuch as they could be separated from the influence of Anthroposophy. When Heydrich was signing the ban of the Anthroposophical Society on November 1st, 1935, Hess supported the measures in a note to Himmler dated November 19th, 1935 with the words: "da dieser Tage mit Recht gegen Reste der Anthroposophie vorgegangen wird ..." ("That these days it is properly justified to proceed against the remainder of Anthroposophy...").

There are two reasons that it has been subsequently suspected that Hess had something to do with Anthroposophy: first, the reputation of Hess' department as a "soft" spot in the regime, to which people could go to appeal the actions of the Party or get a hearing for other complaints, and second because of the slander of a bitter opponent of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy, the University of Tübingen professor Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, a personal acquaintance of Himmler.

Contact by Anthroposophists to Hess' Department

In the first years of the Nazi regime Hess still had considerable power. As "Deputy of the Führer" he had the authority to give directions to anyone in the Party, indeed he even obtained the rank of Minister with the right to veto all laws. Anyone could turn to Hess' department with their appeals, and many people did. In the early years Hess' department contributed significantly to the illusion that the brutality and destructive forces of the Nazi regime were excesses and one could also expect "good" things from the Nazis.

Hess was a believer in natural healing and natural, vegetarian nutrition. When the biodynamic farmers were attacked by proponents of chemical fertilizers and the Nazi Minister of Economics in Thüringen signed a ban on biodynamic products (15 November 1933) they decided, on the advice of and with help from the landscape architect Alwin Seifert, to turn to Hess for help. Siefert was not interested in Anthroposophy, but was sympathetic to the plight of the biodynamic farmers. He had designed and built the garden of Hess' villa in Munich and had access there.

Siefert approached Hess, and Hess expressed a willingness to listen to the biodynamic farmers. A 30-minute meeting in Berlin resulted. Hess decided that polemic should be set aside and first scientific investigations should be set up to test the efficacy of these methods of farming. This came to pass. The tests were run over the course of four years, and the results were so overwhelming that finally (1939/40) Richard Walther Darré too became interested. He was sidelined by Himmler; Himmler was convinced that had found a healthy form of nutrition for his SS.

Himmler and Hess, otherwise the greatest opponents in internal power struggles, had - like other leaders among the Nazis - this in common concerning Anthroposophy: they saw it as an occult-mystical movement and distrusted it sometimes to the point of hate, yet they were interested in certain things that came out of Anthroposophy - "methods" such as biodynamic farming and - to a limited degree - Waldorf education. For that reason they wanted the "methods" explicitly conditional on their separation from actual Anthroposophy.

The second and last direct encounter between an Anthroposophist and Rudolf Hess happened in 1934 and lasted exactly 3 minutes. Elizabeth Klein, a representative of the Dresden Rudolf Steiner School met Hess in a waiting room of the Brown House - the central Nazi party building in Munich. When Hess asked her what was special about he Waldorf schools she answered that the Waldorf schools had the same relationship to education as biodynamic farming had to agriculture. This was the only contact with Hess. Beyond this Klein convinced one of Hess' private secretaries, Alfred Leitgen, of the advantages of Waldorf pedagogy. From Leitgen came the support for the Waldorf Schools, support that was not able to prevent their being closed, but did prolong the process to some degree.

In this context both reports by Baeumler were drafted, one concerning the Waldorf Schools, from which Hess directed the establishment of 2 or 3 state-supported test schools, in which anthroposophical teachings were to be replaced by Nazi-approved pedagogy and loyal and teaching staff. The other report was about the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, in which Baeumler worked out the opposing nature of Anthroposophy and National Socialism. Baeumler allowed Steiner's purely philosophical works to continue to be published. Through the complicity of two resistance members of the Office of Banning of the Propaganda Ministry, Hugo Koch and Heinrich Gruber, Steiner's works were allowed to be printed again in 1939.

In all of these endeavors it was clearly the goal of the Anthroposophists only to wrest such concessions as were absolutely necessary to allow their institutions to survive. Hess was kindly and had an open ear for petitions from all possible directions. But he was utterly ignorant of Anthroposophy. There were no attempts on the part of Anthroposophists to educate Hess on Anthroposophy, and there were no opportunities to do so had they wanted to.

The Claims of Jakob Wilhelm Hauer

That Hess has never the less been connected with anthroposophy in later times can be traced back, on the one hand, to a lack of attention to the above-mentioned details. For example Anna Bramwell, who bases her argument on such tenuous connections (Darré) presents no source material to support her position (See my book Anthroposophists during the Nazi Regime, pages 296 and 336). How many more such "anthroposophists" would exist if you become an anthroposophist simply by enjoying Demeter-brand vegetables! Since that is the limit of Hess' connection.

The work of Jakob Wilhelm Hauer is much more responsible for creating the rumors from which these purported facts originate.

Hauer had opposed Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposophy since 1921. In the 1920's he founded a "German Belief-Movement" which he hoped would be raised to the status of National Socialist State Religion. As a member of the SS-Secret Police, he had already in February 1934 delivered a decisive warning, the phrasing of which was partially incorporated in the formulation of the actual ban against the Anthroposophical Society.

As Hess flew to England on May 10th, 1941 Hauer immediately wrote - between May 13th and 16th - three letters to Heinrich Himmler, in which he presented Hess, who had some sympathy towards Anthroposophy, as a victim of Anthroposophists. These Anthroposophists had received Hess in England and used suggestive techniques on him. "I must again draw attention to the fact that I have warned for years about this Anthroposophy. I have been opposing it for decades. And it is terrible that this spiritual pestilence has been allowed to run rampant among the German people for so long that it has been able to shake the foundations or our empire." (Hauer to Himmler on May 13th, 1941).

Hauer's spin on the situation was accepted, since it preserved Hess' appearance for the Nazi's: Hess was not personally responsible for his actions; rather he had fallen under the suggestive influence of the Anthroposophists. In the following weeks Hauer was called multiple times to Berlin. Within the Reichssicherheitshauptamt[1] he prepared a significant offensive against internal opponents - the occult movements - that had to be stamped out before the Russian Offensive (of June 22nd, 1941). The Gestapo action which took place on June 9th,1941 was directed at least partially against Anthroposophists and the priests of the Christian Community. Some of them felt that their subsequent release from prison was thanks to help that came indirectly from the circle of opposition centered around Admiral Canaris, Oberst Oster and Carl Langbehn.

Claims concerning Hess' purported interest in Anthroposophy fail to take into consideration the circumstances at the time, and have their origin entirely, in my opinion, in Hauer's thesis, which was naturally known within the SS's security forces. Even Schellenberg, in preparing the Action of June 9th, 1941, could only have heard of it there, presumably directly from Hauer. That it is used today by opponents of Anthroposophy in order to demonstrate Anthroposophy's purported Nazi connections by way of Hess is factually incorrect, negligent, and a gross falsification of history. 

January 2001
Uwe Werner


[1] RHSA - the Department of Homeland Security, a division of the SS

 

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