Welcome to the sixth installment in my examination of the legendary Thule Society. Part one of this series was geared toward dispelling some popular misconceptions of Thule (i.e. Vril forces, UFOs, etc) while part two broadly outlined some of the individuals, groups and movements that influenced Thule. The third installment was an extensive breakdown of the background of Thule's founder, Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorff, with a special emphasis on his occult studies in the Near East prior to World War I.
With part four I finally began to address Thule in earnest, mainly focusing on its early days. With the fifth installment I made a digression to broadly outline the Freecorps movement that sprang up in Germany following the nation's disastrous defeat in WWI. The Freecorps were reactionary paramilitary groups raised by the fledgling Weimer Republic and wealthy individuals to combat the spread of communism in Germany following the Russian Revolution. Eventually many of the premier Freecorps became involved with various secret orders, most notably the Germanenorden (which was detailed a bit in part two), the parent organization from which Thule derived. Thule itself would also play a key role in establishing the Freecorps as well, and practically at the onset of the German Revolution.
|Freecorp men in action|
"On Saturday evening, 9 November 1918, there was a 'musical rehearsal' in the Thule rooms. During the previous forty-eight hours there had been a bloodless revolution in Bavaria. The Wittelsbach royal family had made a hasty and ignominious flight, the wartime government had resigned, and the Soviet Workers' and Soldiers' Consuls had assumed authority. The Bavarian revolution preceded that in Berlin by two days and was headed by a bohemian Jewish journalist. Kurt Eisner had been prominent as a pacifist and the leader of the Independent ('minority') Social Democrats in Munich. He had played an important part in the anti-war strikes of January 1918 for which he was gaoled until October. Against the background of domestic collapse in the defeated country he proclaimed a Socialist Republic, assuming the premiership and ministry of foreign affairs in a cabinet consisting of both 'majority' and 'minority' socialists. The members of the Thule Society, in common with others on the political right-wing in Munich, were dumbfounded by these unexpected and traumatic events. Germany was defeated, the Kaiser and ruling princes were abdicating, while republics were proclaimed by Jewish socialists. The volkisch fatherland for which they had fought so long and hard had vanished overnight.
"It was in response to this disaster that Sebottendorff delivered an impassioned oration to the Thule that evening. The alleged text betrays a striking mixture of monarchical, anti-Semitic and ariosophical sentiment:...
"... [Yesterday we experienced the collapse of everything which was familiar, dear and valuable to us. In the place of our princes of Germanic blood rules our deadly enemy: Judah. What will come of this chaos, we do not know yet. But we can guess. A time will come of struggle, the most bitter need, a time of danger... As long as I hold the iron hammer [a reference to his Master's hammer], I am determined to pledge the Thule to the struggle. Our Order is a Germanic order, loyalty is also Germanic. Our god is Walvater, his rune is the Ar-rune. And the trinity: Wotan, Wili, We is the unity of the trinity. The Ar-rune signifies Aryan, primal fire, the sun and the eagle. And the eagle is the symbol of the Aryans. In order to depict the eagle's capacity for self-immolation by fire, it is coloured red. From today on our symbol is the red eagle, which warns us that we must die in order to live.]
"Sebottendorff's references to the Ar-rune... and the mystical resurrection of the eagle, which should become the militant symbol of the Aryans, are evidence of an unmistakable Listian influence. In 1908 List had claimed that the Ar-rune denoted the sun, the primal fire, the Aryans and the eagle, while also alluding to the death and resurrection of the eagle as a specifically Germanic symbol of rebirth. He also described the trinity of Wotan, Wili, and We in his Germanic-theosophical cosmology of 1910. The name Thule may also be traced to ariosophical inspiration. The term derived from the name given to the northernmost land discovered by Pytheas in about 300 B.C. Sebottendorff identified his 'Ultima Thule' as Iceland; as the supposed outpost of Germanic refugees in List's works, this country held an eminent position in the Armanist doctrine. Exhorting Thule members to fight 'until the swastika arises victoriously out of the icy darkness,' Sebottendorff closed his speech with a racist-theosophical poem written by Philipp Stauff. On the basis of this fustian rodomontade and its ariosophical mumbo-jumbo, one might be tempted to dismiss both Sebottendorff and the Thule Society. However, Sebottendorff subsequently emerges as an important organizer of the nationalist reaction to the Eisner government and the succeeding Communist Republics at Munich in journalistic, military and political fields. Ariosophy had found a leader in the counter-revolution."
(The Occult Roots of Nazism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pgs. 144-146)
"The Thule Society may well have the distinction of founding Germany's first Freikorps, the Thule Combat League (Thule Kampfbund), on November 10. The weapons provided by Thule associate Julius Lehmann, a leading publisher of eugenic and Pan-German literature, transformed Thule's rooms in the Four Seasons into an armory. The Society became a deadly lending library for all volkisch radicals, even nonmembers. Sebottendorff wrote of providing pistols and ammunition to Hans Steigler, a volkisch author who opened a Munich printing shop and headed an obscure club called Urda.
"Thule's activities aroused some suspicion, it's cover story of being an innocent study group notwithstanding. By Sebottendorff's account, Thule's offices were searched for weapons in December 1918 by the Schutzwehr, an ostensibly pro-Republican Freikorps commanded by Alfred Seiffertitz. Later, Seiffertitz's force conspired with the Thule Combat League in the unlucky Palm Sunday Putsch on April 13, 1919. Sebottendorff's favorable references to Seiffertitz indicate early linkage between Thule and Schutzwehr. One authority maintains that the state railroad official Friedrich Knauff, who later headed the Thule Society after Sebottendorff's departure, was a go-between for the two groups. In his memoirs Sebottendorff claims to have returned on intuition to the Four Seasons in time for the Schutzwehr's arrival. The incident was described in slapstick terms, with guns concealed under the eyes of the security force. It is not unlikely that Seiffertitz scheduled the search with Sebottendorff ahead of time. Despite the Schutzwehr's inability to discover weapons, Sebottendorff was taken into custody. Playing the card of his Turkish citizenship, Sebottendorff secured a speedy release.
"The Combat League tried to arrest Eisner on December 4, 1918, as he spoke at a public hall in the resort community of Bad Aibling, where Sebottendorff maintained a residence. Sebottendorff suggested that two Social Democrats in Eisner's cabinet, Interior Minister Erhard Auer and Justice Johannes Timm, sympathized with the plot. It is possible that Thule intended to proclaim Auer prime minister after seizing Eisner. Sebottendorff held out hope from the first days of the Bavarian revolution that an understanding could be reached with Auer. On November 9, 1918, the Beobachter pointed to a speech Auer had recently made to his Bavarian party congress, proving 'that there is a strong current within the Social Democrats into the volkisch mainstream. It is up to us to use this current...'
"Eisner was unshaken by Sebottendorff's intended coup; indeed, it was little more than a scuffle. The Bad Aibling adventure was led by Sebottendorff and one of his Thule initiates, Lt. Hermann Sedlmeiser, a young Bavarian officer who had served in the same regiment as Hitler and would found the Freikorps Schaefer in 1919 before settling down as the owner of a Munich cafe. A fifteen-man Combat League detachment accompanied them to carry out Eisner's arrest.
"A counterrevolutionary manifesto was hastily printed for the occasion at the shop of Klaus Eck's anti-Semitic newspaper, the Meisbacher Anzeiger. Although published in the small Upper Bavarian town of Miesbach, the paper would soon gain notoriety throughout Germany for its 'violence and vulgarity.' A getaway car waited outside the hall in Bad Aibling to spirit the captive Eisner to the mountains, where he would be kept 'until the new government was formed.' Thulists circulated through the neighborhood on bicycles, encouraging the peasants to attend Eisner's speech, for Sebottendorff anticipated support from the rural population. He did not anticipate the presence of a strong contingent of radical leftist workers from nearby towns. The Combat League lost heart, and the coup fumbled in it's opening moments."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 108-110)
"At the time the Soviet Republic was proclaimed, the Combat League was divided in two detachments, operating separately and unaware of the other. The first detachment, including Eching and the other agitation centers, was commanded by 1st Lt. Heinz Kurz, who went on to earn a doctorate in philosophy before joining the SS as an officer. It was primarily a recruiting depot for Freikorps Epp, whose commander, Col. Franz Ritter von Epp (1868-1946), was a grim-visaged, steel-helmeted figure who had formally served with the Bavarian Life Guards. Epp led the most prominent of the Bavarian Freikorps, whose main depot was the former army training grounds at Ohrdruf in neighboring Thuringia. Freikorps Epp was founded in January 1919 at the behest of Ebert's war minister, Gustav Noske. Initially numbering seven hundred men, Freikorps Epp became the spearhead of Hoffmann's military forces. Epp recruited several members of Thule, including Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess, both destined for prominence in the Nazi movement. Epp later joined with the Nazis (1928) and was appointed governor of Bavaria after 1933.
"The Combat League's second detachment acted as Thule's self-styled 'intelligence service.' It was commanded by Lt. Edgar Kraus, the seventeen-year-old son of Augsburg's state prosecutor and a resourceful leader, despite his youth. According to Sbottendorff, the commander of the Bavarian Red calvary was an agent of the service, and virtually every Soviet unit and committee was infiltrated by Kraus's men. Thule operatives usually acted as stenographers and clerks. Every evening the spies brought their reports to the Four Seasons, where the information was correlated and dispatched to Bamberg via Augsburg on the night train. Urgent information was telephoned to Bamberg. It would not occur to the Reds to sever or monitor phone lines until after the failed Palm Sunday Putsch. Kraus's detachment also waged a campaign of sabotage against the Reds by disabling automobiles and planes at the Schleissheim airfield. Sebottendorff admitted that some of his own agents were susceptible to the lure of leftist ideology, explaining that his 'whole power of persuasion was often necessary' to keep them from straying. It was an acknowledgment that many Germans, disoriented by recent events and the collapse of political and economic stability, were willing to lend one ear to the far left and the other to the far right if either provided compelling explanations for the bitter present and the promise of a better future. Sebottendorff also claimed that his intelligence service helped spirit out of Munich the gold reserves at the Reichsbank and the Prussian legation, but the assertion cannot be confirmed."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 123-125)
"Demonstrations by Munich's unemployed turned violent in the early weeks of January 1919, and the new year was greeted by other politically motivated exchanges of gunfire. One of the most curious episodes of leftist Bavaria was the so-called Sailor's Putsch on February 19. Marching at the head of six hundred seamen who had recently arrived from Wilhelmshaven, Sailor 1st Class Conrad Lotter, a member of the soldiers' soviet, led the coup. His forces seize the Landtag, the railroad station, and the telegraph office, arresting Munich's army commandant and police president. A brief shoot-out between Lotter's men and Eisner loyalists on the Bahnhofplatz took the life of a streetcar passenger. Suddenly, at the insistence of the Social Democratic ministers, his force retired, declaring that their action had been 'an error.' There was talk of Krupp financing for the aborted coup. Lotter was arrested and spent a few months in Stadelheim prison.
"Auer had brought Lotter and his sailors to Munich on the pretext of using them to maintain order. The minister was widely accused of stage-managing the affair; though his role in the putsch was never proven, the password of the rebellious sailors was 'Auer.' A member of the Thule Combat League, Lt. Edgar Kraus, helped Lotter engineer the coup attempt. Oddly, Sebottendorff never mentioned the incident in his memoirs.
"In the confused weeks that followed, Thule offices were raided again and again. One search for anti-Semitic pamphlets was led by police president Pallabene. Tipped off by an informant in the Schutzwehr, Sebottendorff claimed he struck up an understanding with the police official by the end of the encounter. The two men agreed to share information. On another occasion, a Thulist hawking a satirical paper called Rote Hand (Red Hand) was pursued by leftist to the Four Seasons, where the assailants were beaten off by Combat Leaguers wearing the red armbands of the soviets. The Thule Society had not only infiltrated the ostensibly centrist Schutzwehr, but it had also made inroads into the Red Guards as well.
"Long-standing radical group stood beneath Sebottendorff's wide umbrella, taking advantage of his cover story and his financial generosity. The charismatic Sebottendorff augmented his own resources with a successful fund-raising effort among Bavaria's industrialists, nobility, landowners, and right-wing intellectuals. Among the organizations meeting at Thule's offices to conspire against Eisner, and whose personnel often merged into the Society, were Julius Lehmann's Munich branch of the Pan-German League, Hans Dahn's National Liberal Party, Franz Dannehl's chapter of the Reichshammerbund, Wilhelm Rohmeder's German School Association, and the Fahrenden Gesellen (Wandering Journeymen), a youth league dedicated to long hikes and communion with nature as part of its repudiation of bourgeois society. Gottfried Feder was a regular hangar-on at the Four Seasons. In Thule's offices, the poet and playwright Dietrich Eckart, to whom Hitler dedicated Mein Kampf, produced his mimeographed newspaper Auf gut deutsch (In Plain German) beginning in December 1918. Regular contributors to Eckart's paper included Feder and the young Baltic emigre Alfred Rosenberg, whose role as official philosopher for the Nazi Party resulted in the death sentence from the Nuremberg tribunal. Although angry at Sebottendorff for not paying for the printing of Auf gut deutsch (Sebottendorff claimed his resources were already spread thin by the Thule Society), Eckart also wrote for the Munchener Beobachter and by some accounts lavished high praise on Sebottendorff. Operating from the Four Seasons, in its guise as a sports paper, the Beobachter was the bulletin board for the activities of diverse rightist groups. The 'Thule Society was a state within the state, a collection point for all reactionaries.' Virtually all organized anti-left civilian resistance in Munich was traceable to Thule, which provided 'a sort of common leadership.'"
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhrssen, pgs. 111-113)
"Eisner had been assassinated on 21 February by Count Arco auf Valley, a young Jew resentful at his exclusion from the Thule who wished to prove his nationalist commitment. Disorder was henceforth endemic. A shaky coalition government was established by 'majority' Social Democrats under Johannes Hoffmann, but the cabinet was compelled to flee to Bamberg as the situation deteriorated in early April. On 6 April a group of anarchist intellectuals proclaimed the Bavarian Soviet Republic, inspired by the example of Bela Kun in Hungary, who had sent a wave of red inspiration up the Danube to defeated Austria and Germany. After this quixotic administration had fallen within a week, a more serious Communist band seized power on 13 April. Leadership was vested in the Russian émigrés Levine-Nissen, Axelrod, and Levien, who had been blooded in the 1905 Russian revolution. Their reign of terror was mitigated only by its inefficiency: violent decree followed decree; drunken soldiers of the 'Red Army' ran through the streets plundering and looting; schools, banks, and newspaper offices were shut."
(The Occult Roots of Nazism, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 148)
|Count Arco auf Valley|
"On April 13, the Schutzwehr, and ostensibly pro-Republic Freikorps commanded by Alfred Seiffertitz, a supporter of the Thule Society, staged the Palm Sunday Putsch in a bid to overthrow the Soviet regime from within Munich. The Schutzwehr broke into the former royal Residenz before dawn and arrested several members of the Central Soviet. Among those rounded up were the eccentric Foreign Commissioner Lipp and Erich Muhsam, a cabaret writer and essayist who had been part of the first Bavarian Soviet Republic's leadership, and would later die in the Nazi concentration camp. The coup was supported by Hoffmann and his comrade-in-arms, Schneppenhorst...
"The Palm Sunday plan called for Schneppenhorst and his men to liberate Munich once Seiffertitz's Schutzwehr occupied key positions. Schneppenhorst gathered six hundred infantry, cavalry, and artillery for the operation at Ingolstadt, a city on the Danube thirty miles north of Munich. The propaganda aspect of the putsch was well planned. In the days before Palm Sunday, airplanes from Bamberg showered Munich with the following leaflet, which Sebottendorff claimed the Thule Society reprinted and distributed throughout the city...
"Seiffertitz's claim to represent the Munich garrison was spurious. He could count only on support of Thule Combat League units within the city. An alleged eyewitness account, an anonymous letter supposedly written by Seiffertitz himself, was critical of Thule's contributions to the coup. It claim that only a dozen Thulists arrived at the barricades. One of them was a captain 'in gala uniform! Patent leather riding boots, riding whip, monocle!' Sebottendorff claimed that his forces returned to headquarters after seeing the hopelessness of the situation, realizing that the loyalty of the Munich garrison to the Reds (or at least their indifference to the Whites) and the failure of Schneppenhorst's forces to advance doomed the adventure. Schneppenhorst claimed his trucks were stuck in the April mud. Others murmured that his plan had been sabotaged.
"Many soviet officials escaped arrest, warned by frantic phone calls from the wife of Erich Muhsam. After a five-hour gun battle, which began in the Marienplatz where the Schutzwehr was opposed by a crowd of armed workers, revolutionary sailors, and the pro-Red 1st Infantry Regiment, the Schutzwehr retreated through the railroad station. Enduring shelling by Red mortars, the counterrevolutionaries fled by train before the end of the night to Bamberg, taking with them some twenty officials arrested that morning. The Palm Sunday Putsch claimed more than twenty deaths and a hundred injuries."
(Hammer of the Gods, David Luhhssen, ps. 125-127)
Undeterred by the defeat of the Combat League, Sebottendorff was already engaged in founding a new Freecorp, the Freikorps Oberland, on April 16. By April 20 (the birthday of Adolf Hitler) he was already procuring supplies for the militia after having slipped out of Munich upon orders being issued for his arrest. The rest of the Thule were doing the same and with little difficulty given how thoroughly their intelligence services had infiltrated the Reds.
|insignia of Freikorps Oberland|
|the notorious Ehrhardt Brigade|
"After trying unsuccessfully to build a counter-revolutionary army at Bamberg, Hoffman was forced on 15 April to invite the aid of the Von Epp and other Free Corps, whose anti-Republican sympathies had previously led to their being banned in Bavaria. As the ring of White troops tightened around Munich, the Communists rated nationalist strongpoints within the city. They broke into the Thule premises on 26 April and arrested the secretary Countess Heila von Westarp and in the course of the day six more members were taken. The Red commandant Egelhofer proclaimed the next day that 'a band of criminals... of the so-called upper classes... arch reactionaries, agents and touts for the Whites,' had been captured. The hostages were taken to the cellar of the Luitpold Gymnasium, which had served as a Red Army post since mid-April. The seven Thule members and three other men were shot on 30 April as a reprisal for reports of the killing of Red prisoners by Whites at Starnberg. Four of the seven Thulists were titled aristocrats, including Prince Gustav von Thurn und Taxis, who was related to several European Royal families. Munich and the world looked on aghast."
(The Occult Roots of Nazism, Nicolas Goodrick-Clarke, pg. 148)The presence of a member of the House of Thurn und Taxis in Thule is most interesting. Thurn und Taxis remains one of the wealthiest of the old aristocratic families in Europe to this very day, with a strong base in Germany and Italy. Several members of Thurn und Taxis were members of the highly secrative 1001 Club, an organization concerned with "conservation" that was founded by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands (who notoriously founded the Bilderberg Group as well) and several other Europe aristocrats in 1971. The mysterious 1001 Club has been linked to the intelligence services of several Western nations as well as various reactionary elements the world over.
|the coat of arms of Thurn und Taxis|
The deaths of Thurn und Taxis and the other aristocratic hostages hastened the White advance. The Freecorps entered Munich on May 1, quickly dispatched of the remaining Red forces that hadn't already deserted, and unleashed a reign of terror that made the Luitpold Gymnasium massacre look like child's play.
"On the morning of 1 May, while Socialists and Communist round the world celebrated international Labor day, the Freikorps entered Munich. They encountered almost no organized opposition. Most of the Red Guards had thrown away their weapons, torn off their armbands and melted away. The long columns of Freikorps soldiers arrogantly goose-stepped into the captured city, to be greeted by joyful middle-class and escstatic Catholic clergy, who promptly celebrated a Te Deum thanksgiving service and an open-air Mass for their liberators.
"A Freikorps squad moved into the Mathaser beer Hall, where Eisner had proclaimed his government and which had since become the HQ of the Communist workers' council, and guided it with flame-throwers. Only Egelhofer, with a few Red diehards, put up a last-ditch resistance in the area of the main railway station. After an artillery battle, Egelhofer attempted to flee in a car. He was stopped and immediately shot dead. He was luckier than one of his former government colleagues, Gustav Landauer. The anarchist philosopher and literary critic was found hiding in his friend Kurt Eisner's former home. He was brought to the Stadelheim prison by Freikorps soldiers who beat in his face with rifle butts and shot him in the head as he lay choking in his own blood. The former Commissioner for Public Education continued to breathe, causing the Sergeant in charge of the patrol to jest: 'The putrid thing has two lives,' before he pumped another bullet into the body. The boots of the Freikorps finally kicked and trampled the remaining life out of Laundauer. His battered body was left lying in the prison yard for two days.
"This killing was typical of many perpetuated by the Freikorps army, who made full and liberal use of Noske's license to do as they pleased in the conquered city. Angry at the loss of sixty-nine comrades during the re-conquest, the Freikorps gave full rein to their murderous instincts, until the White Terror outdid in horror the Red Terror that had preceded it and sickened even the Munich citizenry who had originally welcomed their liberators. The lead for the indiscriminate slaughter was given by the adjutant of the Lutzow Freikorps, Major Schulz, who told his officers: 'Anyone who doesn't understand that there is a lot of hard work to be done here, or whose conscience bothers him had better get out. It's a lot better to kill a few innocent people than to let one guilty person escape. You know how to handle it... shoot them and report they attacked you or tried to escape.' True to his promise, after his 'pep talk' Schulz sent one of his officers, Lieutenant Georg Polzing, to the town of Perlach outside Munich to terrorize the population. Polzing chose a dozen people, apparently at random, brought them back to the Hofbrauhaus – the famous Munich beerhall were Hitler launched his putsch in 1923 – and had them shot out of hand. Brought to trial seven years later in 1926, Polzing was acquitted of all charges, despite the fact that none of his victims have been Communists.
"The worst single atrocity occurred two days later, on 6 May, when a group of Catholic workmen belonging to a religious club, the St. Joseph Society, holding a regular meeting to discuss the innocuous subject of Education and Theater. This harmless gathering was suddenly disrupted by a Freikorps patrol led by a Captain Alt-Sutterheim who picked out thirty men and had twenty of them shot, beaten and bayoneted to death as 'Communist terrorists.'
"So many victims perished during the purge that Munich's harassed undertakers were overwhelmed and bodies were left to decay in the streets. Mass graves were dug and the carcasses were piled in. This makes the calculation of the number of victims difficult. The Freikorps themselves claimed 600 but this figure represents only the number of 'official' executions. 'Unofficial' murders totaled 1200, according to Freikorps propagandist Freidrich von Oertzen, and this figure is almost certainly an underestimate."
(A Brief History of the Birth of the Nazis, Nigel Jones, pgs. 155-157)
By May 7 Munich was described as "purified" to the Ebert government. This episode marked the high point of Thule, but hardly the end of his its influence. In the next installment we shall consider the influence Thule had on the Nazi Party and its fortunes after the Battle of Munich. Stay tuned.