Synopses & Reviews
Hitler’s Nazi Party, at its evil roots, embraced a bizarre interpretation of ancient European paganism, blending it with fragments of other traditions from sources as diverse as tenth-century Saxon warlords, nineteenth-century spiritualism, and early-twentieth-century fringe archeology. Even the swastika, the hated symbol of Nazism, had its roots in ancient symbolism, its first recorded appearance carved into a mammoth tusk twelve thousand years before Hitler came to power.
At the heart of the evil was Hitler’s “witch doctor,” Heinrich Himmler, and his stranger-than-fiction cult, the deadly SS. The mundanely named Schutzstaffel, literally “protective squadron,” was the very essence of Nazism, and their threatening double lightning bolt was one of the most dreaded symbols of the Third Reich. With good reason: what the SS was truly protecting was the ideology of Aryan superiority.
Hitler’s Master of the Dark Arts is the first history of the SS and its leader to focus on the mystical cult aspects of the organization. It follows Himmler’s transformation of the SS from a few hundred members in 1929 to over fifty thousand black-uniformed Aryans by the mid-1930s. Concurrent with its expansion and its eventual independence from the brown shirts of the SA, Himmler infused the Black Knights with a mishmash of occult beliefs and lunatic-fringe theories that would have been completely laughable—except that they were also used to justify the Final Solution.
Heinrich Himmler was a Nazi’s Nazi—the head of the ruthless SS and the driving force behind the Final Solution. How did Himmler, known for a weak stomach and self-conscious of his poor eyesight and slight physical stature, become one of the most feared men in history? Bill Yenne traces Himmler’s rise through the ranks in the 1920s alongside Adolf Hitler, his appointment as Reichsführer SS in 1930, and his increasing influence and power in the Reich in the 1940s.
Although Himmler looked like a henpecked husband from central casting, he saw himself as the reincarnation of Heinrich I, first king of the Germans. He delved deeply into German folklore and mythology, picking up anything that elevated the German peoples above others. His occult beliefs and his increasing power under Hitler led, perhaps inevitably, to the grim reality of the death camps. His dark power came to a fitting end when, captured by Allied soldiers as the Reich collapsed, he followed his hero Hitler in suicide, biting into a cyanide capsule developed by one of the mad Nazi doctors of Dachau.
At the heart of the evil of Nazism was Hitler’s “witch doctor,” Heinrich Himmler, and his peculiar and deadly organization with the mundane name Schutzstaffel, literally “protective squadron.” Undoubtedly you know them better as the feared SS, the very essence of Nazism. Their threatening double lightning bolt is perhaps the most dreaded symbol of the Third Reich.
The facts of the SS’s origins are truly stranger than fiction. If you thought Raiders of the Lost Ark was an inspired Hollywood fiction, think again. Hitler's Master of the Dark Arts reveals the hidden “truths” of the SS in full and morbidly fascinating detail.
About the Author
Bill Yenne is the author of three dozen works of biography and historical nonfiction, including many books on military and aviation history. His previous books about combat aviation include Superfortress: The B-29 and American Airpower in World War II (written with legendary U.S. Air Force commander General Curtis E. LeMay), The Story of the Boeing Company, and The American Aircraft Factory in World War II. Most recently, he has written B-52 Stratofortress: The Complete History of the World's Longest Serving and Best Known Bomber. He currently lives in San Francisco, California.