Thursday, 17 July 2014

Prophet of the Third Reich

Psychic Erik Jan Hanussen leads
a seance in prewar Germany.
The Jewish-born mentalist improbably
became an advisor to Adolf Hitler.

Born to a family called Steinschneider, Erik Jan Hanussen arrived in decadent Berlin, and became the prophet of the Third Reich.
I first learnt of the existence of Erik Jan Hanussen from a magic manuscript by Bob Cassidy, a fabulous mentalist. The very peculiar tale, certainly more strange than fiction, was woven into a mentalist routine. I then looked into him and lo and behold his tale is a peculiar one.

"The story of Erik Jan Hanussen, the Viennese-Jewish psychic who befriended Adolf Hitler and became known as the “Prophet of the Third Reich,” is one of the most peculiar in modern European history. Few twentieth-century historians have acknowledged Hanussen as a factor in the dissolution of the Weimar Republic. That the Führer had engaged a wily Jewish clairvoyant might seem the stuff of mocking political fantasy or occult make-believe — but the story is true."
 "Hanussen’s yacht was the scene of lavish feasts, where drugs were offered that even sophisticated Berliners — who were quite familiar with the enchantments of cocaine — didn’t know about. Naked women and exotic boys performed shocking revues. Sometimes, after midnight, Hanussen demonstrated one of his specialties: his ability to hypnotize women into sexual frenzy and then sustained orgasm. A Swedish baroness, Barbara van Swieten, otherwise known on the nightclub circuit as La Jana, often hosted these events and sometimes acted as a willing participant. Even for a Berlin accustomed to debauched nighttime displays, Hanussen’s were considered phenomenal, over the top. 
"A debate over the veracity of Hanussen’s omnipotent powers was on every fashionable Berliner’s lips. But still he capitalized on public interest by purchasing a Breslau printing firm in 1931, and then launching an occult journal, Hanussen Magazin, and a biweekly tabloid, Bunte Wochenschau. Prominent writers and artists such as Gerhart Hauptmann, Hanns Ewers, and Conrad Veidt furnished pieces on their experiences with the paranormal. Thomas Mann, the leading novelist of the day, was a regular contributor. Subscribers were encouraged to apply for memberships in the Hanussen Society, where tickets to his stage productions were offered at a fifty percent discount. Clairvoyant workshops and discussion groups formed around the magazine, and its circulation rose into the hundreds of thousands. But as the psychic’s fortunes grew, Germany’s fell.  

The excerpts above are from a superb article by author and scholar Mel Gordon. The authority on the life and peculiar times of Hanussen. A well worth read.

For further reading there is an interesting article, if oddly presented, on the Steinschneider (Hanussens birth name) Family's Genealogical website.

This blog article by Chet Loggins is also great for its pictures and historical reproductions.

Mel Gordon talking about Erik Jan Hanussen, Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant. Unfortunately not available on Kindle, but here'a link to used copies.

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