The Nazi Séance: The Strange Sto­ry of The Jew­ish Psy­chic in Hitler’s Circle

Arthur J. Magida
  • Review
By – May 16, 2012

The sto­ry of Erik Jan Hanussen (pseu­do­nym), a Jew­ish psy­chic pop­u­lar in pre-World War II Ger­many, lends cre­dence to the say­ing that truth is stranger than fic­tion. The sto­ry of Hanussen’s rise and fall serves as the vehi­cle for an explo­ration of the polit­i­cal, cul­tur­al, and eco­nom­ic cli­mate in Berlin, as well as high-rank­ing Nazi func­tionar­ies’ fas­ci­na­tion with the occult. Dur­ing Hitler’s rise to pow­er Berlin was a city drenched in pro­pa­gan­da, intrigue, esca­lat­ing vio­lence, and over­whelm­ing fear.

Hanussen was a gift­ed observ­er with keen pow­ers of con­cen­tra­tion, able to read” body lan­guage and facial expres­sions. He was an expert magi­cian. He built his own rep­u­ta­tion by bom­bast, or self-pro­mo­tion, clev­er­ly play­ing on the dis-equi­lib­ri­um of the time — as did Hitler. Hanussen’s mind read­ing dis­plays were the­atri­cal and aid­ed sur­rep­ti­tious­ly by asso­ciates in the audi­ence. He was high­ly intel­li­gent, resource­ful, and charm­ing, and cul­ti­vat­ed the peo­ple who could enhance his stature and secu­ri­ty.

This detailed recount­ing takes read­ers behind the scene into the life of a Jew­ish man in pre­war Ger­many who was attempt­ing to be Hitler’s court Jew” and there­by ensure his own safe­ty. The extent of Hanussen’s rela­tion­ship with Hitler remains unclear; as the author says, “.… his­to­ry is messy.“

This book explores the often repeat­ed rumor of Hitler’s obses­sion with and depen­dence upon the occult. A com­ple­men­tary read­ing choice to The Nazi Seance is In the Gar­den of Beasts by Erik Larssen. Notes, preamble. 

Nao­mi Kramer is a retired read­ing con­sul­tant teacher who devel­oped cur­ricu­lum for using lit­er­a­ture to edu­cate chil­dren and adults in the his­to­ry of the Holo­caust. She is a docent and edu­ca­tor at the Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al and Tol­er­ance Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter of Nas­sau County.

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