The Nazi Witch Project

May 10, 2024

Within the shadows of Nazi Germany's occult obsessions lurked one of the strangest and most chilling historical revisionism efforts of the 20th century - the so-called Nazi “Witch Project” spearheaded by Heinrich Himmler. As the sinister architect of the SS and one of Hitler's most powerful henchmen, Himmler harbored an almost mystical fascination with the ancient Germanic pagan roots he believed formed the primordial foundation of the Aryan master race. His interest in witchcraft was not merely academic curiosity, but a deeply held conviction that the widespread persecution of alleged witches across medieval and early modern Europe represented a deliberate and systematic attack on indigenous Germanic pagan practices by the dual threats of Christianity and Judaism. To him, the thousands of individuals (primarily women) who were tortured and executed during the witch hunts were not practitioners of diabolical magic or devil-worship, but instead heroic martyrs, the last brave custodians of an ancient Aryan wisdom that had been systematically exterminated by the oppressive forces of the Church.

To investigate this controversial theory and reshape the historical narrative to suit his political agenda, Himmler launched the ambitious "Witch Project," a sprawling archaeological and archival mission that blended the veneer of academic research with the crude reality of pseudo-scientific quackery. By deploying the resources of the Nazi state to uncover supposed proof of this lost Aryan heritage, Himmler hoped to provide a powerful propaganda tool that could be used to justify the regime's most extreme policies and galvanize public support behind his vision of a racially pure Germanic utopia.


Resurrecting an Aryan Past

Even by the standards of Nazi pseudo-science, which frequently played fast and loose with the truth in its quest to provide intellectual cover for the regime's hateful ideology, Himmler's witchcraft obsession stood out as particularly unhinged. At its core lay a fervent belief that a racially pure form of Germanic paganism, untainted by the corrupting influences of Jewish and Christian thought, represented the authentic spiritual heritage of the Aryan people; a heritage that the Nazis were determined to resurrect and enshrine as the foundation of their twisted new world order.

Himmler was a co-founder of the Ahnenerbe, or Ancestral Heritage, along with other prominent Nazi ideologues like Richard Walther Darré and Richard Anders. As such, he played a central role in efforts to fabricate a new state cult that blended elements of reconstructed pagan rituals, occult symbolism, and pseudo-scientific racial theories into a toxic ideological brew. The Witch Project, with its promise of uncovering tangible evidence of a glorious pre-Christian Aryan past, was seen as a crucial component in this broader campaign of spiritual and historical manipulation.


Collecting Damning Folklore

To build his case against the conventional historical understanding of witchcraft as a heretical and anti-Christian phenomenon, Himmler established a special unit within the SS known as the H-Sonderkommando, or "Witch Special Command," in 1935. This shadowy group was tasked with assembling a comprehensive database on European witchcraft beliefs, practices, and prosecutions, drawing on a wide range of sources including trial records, folklore collections, museum archives, and rare book libraries from across the continent. 

Himmler's fanatical researchers scoured these materials for any shred of ambiguity or symbolism that could be twisted to support the notion of a hidden pagan resistance lurking beneath the surface of medieval and early modern Christian society. Every scrap of testimony about women gathering in secret to perform seasonal rituals or practice traditional healing arts was seized upon as a smoking gun, a sign of the enduring "ancient Aryan wisdom" that the forces of Judeo-Christian oppression had sought to stamp out through centuries of brutal violence and cultural genocide.

In Himmler's dark and distorted conception of history, the widespread popular image of witches as consorts of Satan, cavorting in intentional blasphemous mockery of Christian rites with acts like naked dancing under the full moon or brewing toxic herbal concoctions, was nothing more than a slanderous fiction, a deliberate fabrication by the Church to demonize and persecute those who dared to keep the flickering flame of traditional pagan beliefs alive in an increasingly hostile world. Far from being devil-worshippers or enemies of the true faith, these victims of the witch hunts were recast as heroic defenders of the Aryan race soul, martyrs whose destruction had been necessitated by the implacable advance of a sinister foreign religion that sought to sever the sacred bonds between the Germanic people and their ancestral gods.


Manufactured Findings and Faulty Methods

Himmler's team embarked on a reckless campaign of cherry-picking, distortion, and outright fabrication in their efforts to provide a veneer of scientific legitimacy to the Reichsführer's pet theories. The end result was a dizzying phantasmagoria of half-truths, decontextualized fragments, and tendentious misreadings, all carefully assembled to create the illusion of a cohesive narrative that would support Himmler's vision of an idealized Aryan past locked in an existential struggle with the forces of Judeo-Christian decadence. Inconvenient facts and counterexamples were simply ignored or waved away, while the flimsiest scraps of circumstantial evidence were transformed into incontrovertible proof through the alchemical power of ideological fervor.

In the final analysis, the Witch Project stands as a chilling case study in the toxic fusion of bad science and racial hatred that lay at the heart of the Nazi worldview. By weaponizing the tools of archaeology, folklore studies, and revisionist history in service of a genocidal agenda, Himmler and his cronies sought to twist the very fabric of European cultural memory to suit their own sinister ends.

At a time when other Nazi propagandists like Alfred Rosenberg were busy popularizing a vision of world history as an eternal racial struggle between the noble Aryan race and its various subhuman adversaries, Himmler's Witch Project represented an even more extreme and unhinged manifestation of this same toxic mentality. Not content merely to celebrate the supposed glories of Germanic cultural achievement, Himmler sought to recast the very experience of medieval European magic and witchcraft as a hidden chapter in victimized Aryan people by a foreign elite.

Ultimately, the Witch Project's descent into pseudo-historical madness and obsessive Aryan mythmaking reflects the profoundly corrosive and self-destructive nature of the Nazi ideology that spawned it. In this sense, the story of the Witch Project is not merely a bizarre footnote to the larger history of Nazi atrocities and mass murder, but a reminder of the vital importance of defending the integrity of the historical record against those who would seek to rewrite it in the service of their own dark agendas. It is also a stark warning about the ways in which those in positions of power and prestige are not always driven by sheer political ideology alone.

The public is not privy to what goes on in the shadows, but one thing is certain, suits, uniforms, and the costumes of the ruling class often hide the true intentions of those who wear them. This brings to light the unsettling reality that outer appearances and social status can be deceiving. The most unsettling beliefs about the supernatural and the most radical ideas that threaten societal harmony often come not from the stereotypical outsiders—such as the kids dressed in goth—but from seemingly benign figures cloaked in the trappings of conventional success. History reminds us to scrutinize beliefs and motives beyond superficial appearances because the real dangers may be hidden behind the distinguished facades of those we least suspect.






Arnold, Bettina. 2006. "'Arierdämmerung': Race and Archaeology in Nazi Germany." World Archaeology 38 (1): 8–31.

Behringer, Wolfgang. 2004. Witches and Witch-Hunts: A Global History. Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press.

Birkhan, Helmut. 2010. "Hexenforschung Aus Sicht Der Keltologie." In Hexenforschung Aus Österreichischen Ländern, edited by Heide Dienst, 131–48. Wien: LIT.

Cecil, Robert. 1972. The Myth of the Master Race: Alfred Rosenberg and Nazi Ideology. New York: Dodd, Mead.

Longerich, Peter. 2012. Heinrich Himmler. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Müller-Hill, Benno. 1988. Murderous Science: Elimination by Scientific Selection of Jews, Gypsies, and Others, Germany, 1933-1945. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Padfield, Peter. 1990. Himmler: Reichsführer-SS. New York: Holt.

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