The Religious Roots of Alcoholics Anonymous
and the Twelve Steps
Chapter 16: What is Fascism?
How fascist was Frank Buchman?
Fascism was a revolt against reason in the name of the senses.
== Stephen Eric Bronner A Rumor About The Jews; Reflections on Antisemitism and the
Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,
The very core of fanaticism is its indifference to things of the mind.
== Dr. Herbert Hensley Henson, The Bishop of Durham
Quoted in The Group Movement, 2nd Ed., Oxford University Press, p. 4., and The Groups Movement, by the Most Rev. John A. Richardson,
Milwaukee: Morehouse Publishing Co., 1935, p. 40.
You might be led to that goal [a spiritual experience, the union with God]
by an act of grace or through
a personal and honest contact with friends, or through a higher education of the
mind beyond the confines of mere rationalism.
== Carl G. Jung
in his letter to Bill Wilson,
quoted in Bill W., Robert Thomsen, pages 362-363.
[The Oxford Group recruiters] Ebby and Shep C. were now asking him
[Bill Wilson] to give up the one attribute
of which he was the most proud, the one quality that set a man above
the animals — his inquiring, rational mind. And they wanted him to
give this up for an illusion. Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ernest Kurtz, page 18, and Bill W., Robert Thomsen, pages 213-214.
All fascists are not of one mind. There are those who give the orders,
and those who take them.
== Dialog from the anti-Nazi 1930s movie Watch On The Rhine,
Director Herman Shumlin, Screenplay by Dashell Hammett
One of the most-read takes on fascism comes from Italian philosopher and novelist Umberto Eco in an essay for the New York Review of Books titled "Ur-Fascism." Eco emphasizes the extent to which fascism is ad hoc and opportunistic. It's "philosophically out of joint," he writes, with features that "cannot be organized into a system" since "many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanacticism."
With that said, it is true that there are fascist movements, and it's also true that when you strip their cultural clothing — the German paganism in Nazism, for example — there are common properties. Not every fascist movement shows all of them, but — Eco writes — "it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it." Eco identifies 14, but for this column, I want to focus on seven.
They are: A cult of "action for action's sake," where "thinking is a form of emasculation"; an intolerance of "analytical criticism," where disagreement is condemned; a profound "fear of difference," where leaders appeal against "intruders"; appeals to individual and social frustration and specifically a "frustrated middle class" suffering from "feelings of political humiliation and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups"; a nationalist identity set against internal and external enemies (an "obsession with a plot"); a feeling of humiliation by the "ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies"; a "popular elitism" where "every citizen belongs to the best people of the world" and underscored by contempt for the weak; and a celebration of aggressive (and often violent) masculinity.
Did Frank Buchman really "believe in" Nazism?
That depends on what you think Nazism was. If you think it was
just a totalitarian program of killing all of the Jews, and everybody
else whom Hitler didn't like, and conquering all of Europe,
then the answer is "No, not likely."
Buchman wasn't as viciously evil as the Nazis. He was evil, all right.
Deceiving people in the name of God is one of the lowest, most disgusting,
crimes on Earth, but the Nazis still managed to invent something far
But if you think Nazism was something else, like an idealistic
fascist philosophy actually intended to improve the world,
then the answer is "Yes."
In an email, Dr. Paul Diener explained in detail:
That Buchman showed affinities to the Nazi movement was
well recognized by contemporary experts. For example,
Reinhold Niebuhr — one of the most
respected American theologians of the 20th Century
— knew the Oxford Group movement well. He declared:
"a Nazi social philosophy has been a covert presupposition
of the whole Oxford Group enterprise from the very
beginning." (R. Niebuhr, 1940,
"Hitler and Buchmanism",
Christianity and Power Politics, NY, Scribners, p. 160)
George Orwell also knew the Oxford Groups well. He
observed its spread in upper-class British society. He
also explicitly labeled the Oxford Groups 'fascist' (see
Vol. II of his Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters, page
265. The original essay was published in 1943).
Orwell was already highly respected by the late
Thirties, but his reputation is greater today. Most
political scientists would now rank Orwell as one of the
truly penetrating thinkers of his era.
Ragge is wrong when he says Buchman's fondness for
Hitler should not be stressed. This is of special
interest. The reason is that Buchman — a native
German-speaker — traveled in Europe often in the 1920s. Of
particular note are Buchman's visits to Bavaria, where he
was a houseguest with the Hanfstaengl family.
The Hanfstaengls were upper-class Bavarians, and the
family had long been active in the international art trade.
The son — Ernst 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl — is particularly
Putzi's mother, though resident in Bavaria with her
husband, was American. She was from the elite New England
family, the Sedgwicks (two of her ancestors were generals
in the Revolutionary War).
[Ed: Actually, they were Union Generals in the US Civil War.]
Putzi himself was fluent in
English, and attended and graduated from Harvard. Buchman
may have come to know the family through his work with
American elite university students in the 1920s, though the
topic has never been researched, so far as I know (great
Ph.D. dissertation material here).
Anyway, in the early 1920s, when Buchman was visiting
with the Hanfstaengls, they often had another house
visitor: young Adolf Hitler. Hitler had become something
of a curious hero for the Bavarian elite, and the
Hanfstaengls particularly made an effort to introduce him
into 'better' society, and polish his manners.
Garth Lean tells us that Buchman 'may' have met Hitler
personally in the early 1920s, at the Hanfstaengls. Again,
the matter simply has not been researched.
On the day of the 'Beer Hall Putsch', Hitler fell and
dislocated his shoulder. It was Putzi Hanfstaengl who
helped him into a car to make his getaway, to the
Hanfstaengl home. The Hanfstaengls remained supporters
during the 'lean years' of Weimar prosperity. When the
depression hit, and Hitler gained power, Putzi became his
foreign press secretary (though he later broke with the
Nazis and emigrated to the U.S.).
Hanfstaengl wrote an interesting — if not entirely
trustworthy — volume of memoirs, and also some magazine
articles (e.g., 1943, "I Was Hitler's Closest Friend",
Buchman was a 'close friend' of Putzi and the
Putzi Hanfstaengl at far left, Adolf Hitler, and his entourage, campaigning for the
Presidency of Germany in 1932. (Is it just my crazy imagination, or an optical illusion, or do they all look like demons from Hell?)
It is correct, however, to say that emphasis should
not be placed ONLY on Hitler, or on National Socialism, or
even on only the protofascist formations which existed in
Germany in the the first half of last century (Nazism was
not the only protofascist/fascist formation in that
country). It is also unwise, and counterproductive, to
toss around the term 'fascism' in a loose way.
'Fascism' is a technical term. Historians recognize
the 'fascist tradition' as something uniquely modern. Some
seeds of what would become fascism are discernible in the
French Revolution. But movements recognizable as fully
'protofascist' do not really appear until the very end of
the 19th century.
We have monographic descriptions of hundreds of
protofascist movements, and also a great many descriptions
of overtly fascist political movements. Only three of
these movements took power on their own, of course — in
Italy, Germany, and Japan (not all experts count the
Japanese case as 'fascist'; some see it as a military
regime merely influenced by its fascist allies).
I am no expert in this field, and am not trained as a
contemporary historian, nor as a European-area specialist.
I have been reading in this literature for some time,
though. There is no doubt that it is germane.
All protofascisms and fascisms shared, it seems, two
characteristics: 1) they were all quasireligious,
'spiritual' movements, and, 2) they were all 'health and
medicine' movements, which blended ideas of bodily purity
with radical-reactionary politics.
"It is this secularized religiosity, expressed in the
conception of politics as a crusade to eliminate evil from
the world, which was to find its purest expression in
fascism." (N. O'Sullivan, 1983, Fascism, London: J.D.
Dent, p. 44).
In protofascist formations, like the German
Wandervogel youth movement, "Most abstained from smoking
and drinking. . . . the new morality was for the chosen
community who, by definition, would be pure and devoted"
(H. Pachter, 1982, Weimar Etudes, p. 19). The Nazis were
later successful in attracting former Wandervogel into
their ranks (Ibid.:22).
The literature on 'health and life-reform' in
protofascist and fascist movements is much too extensive
for me to review here. Certainly, everyone who posts to
this service needs to read Robert Proctor's work on the
Nazi anti-alcohol and anti-tobacco campaigns (the Nazis
were the very first government in the world to mount a
crusade against tobacco).
[See: Robert Proctor, The Nazi War On Cancer.]
Buchman, by the way, is not the only 'friend' of AA to
have ties to fascism. William James was in close contact
with Italian protofascists early in the last century, men
such as Papini. (See, Wm James, 1906, "G. Papini and the
Pragmatist Movement in Italy", Journal of Philosophy, 3, p.
340). These men later funneled into the Italian Fascist
Party (see W. Adamson, 1993, Avant-Garde Florence: From
Modernism to Fascism, Harvard). Mussolini himself cited
James as an important influence, and central to the Fascist
vision (see A. Revesz, 1926, "Fascism's Indelible Mark on
History", Sunday Times, April 11, p. 15, for the Mussolini
quote). But it was not just the Italian fascists who
admired James, he was admired in Germany, and in Britain
amongst Mosley's UBF
[Union of British
Fascists], and amongst American fascists, etc., etc.
Jung, too, was a protofascist. (This is a fact that
continues to scandalize 'Jungians', though they don't seem
to draw the obvious conclusion - they THEMSELVES have
fascistic tendencies.) The material here is, again,
voluminous. In the 1930s,
Jung charged that Jews and women
were similarly devious, and went on to remark that 'the
Aryan unconscious has a higher potential than the Jewish"
(see the article in Collected Work, vol. 10, p. 157-173).
In 1935, Jung was in Berlin lecturing on 'archetypes', and
contrasting the 'German' and the 'Jew'; he received
wonderful reviews in the Nazi press. He went on Radio
Berlin in 1933, praising Hitler. And on and on. (See J.
Masson, 1988, "Jung Amongst the Nazis", in Against
Therapy, pp 94-123; also, G. Cocks, 1991, "The Nazis and
C.G. Jung", in Lingering Shadows, Ed. by A Maidenbaum and
In the above cited article, Cocks remarks:
"European anti-Semitism was not usually racist in the
Nazi sense; rather, the interwar fascist movement
capitalized on a more general cultural movement against
materialism that often characterized the Jews as 'lacking
'Spiritual', mystical medicine is at the very heart
of the fascist cultural phenomenon. And so are
quasireligious taboos which 'purify' the fallen, and heal
the hole in their souls...
Paul Diener ([email protected]), in a letter to the
mailing list [email protected], Jan 28, 2002.
Indeed. And let us not forget that Nazism always had a
mystical / religious / superstitious side to it, as well as
a health-oriented aspect.
Adolf Hitler was an astrology nut and a fan of the occult.
There is a voluminous documentation of that. James Almasy
and Eric Jan Hanussen were busy casting Hitler's horoscope,
and Hitler was routinely consulting with "psychics" and
Adolf Hitler was also a health enthusiast —
he was a non-smoking, non-drinking
vegetarian. In fact, Hitler was the first major national
leader to push an extremely strong anti-tobacco campaign.
Hitler wanted all of his Hitlerjugend ('Hitler Youths')
clean, strong, healthy, and tobacco-free, out on the sports field
or hiking through the mountains,
getting some healthy exercise and fresh air.
"Builds Youth Hostels and Homes"
Hitlerjugend on the sports field
Hitlerjugend on a "march" through the forest.
Adolf Hitler addresses Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) at a Nuremberg Nazi Party Day rally
Hitler's Horoscope, cast by Maximilian Bauer
from Hanussen's Berliner Wochenschau #11, March 25, 1932.
("Hanussen's Berlin Weekly Outlook", an occult magazine)
See: Erik Jan Hanussen; Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant, Mel Gordon,
And Heinrich Himmler was a real nut about "spiritual" matters.
Peter Padfield notes that from late 1923 to early 1924,
Heinrich Himmler's reading included books on spiritualism, second sight,
astrology, telepathy, and the like.
Heinrich Himmler fancied himself the reincarnation of
an ancient Bavarian king, King Heinrich, returned to life to
fulfill a grand destiny.
Fascinated by tales of King Arthur and his knights, Himmler's "Camelot"
for his own knightly Order was the castle of Wewelsberg near
Paderborn in Westphalia. Having acquired it in 1934, Himmler had massive
reconstruction work done (paid for by his company "The
Society for the Protection and Maintenance of German Cultural Monuments")
— the labour came, of course, from the concentration camps.
The focal point of the castle was a huge round oak table with seating
for twelve of his senior Gruppenführers:
"They sat in high-backed chairs made out of pigskin, on each of which
was a silver disk on which the selected 'knight' had his name
engraved. Here the chiefs of the SS were compelled to sit in the company
of their Grand Master [Himmler] for hours of contemplation and meditation ...
Each 'knight' had his own quarters in the castle..."[Graber]
Beneath this room was a crypt containing pedestals where should one of
the "knights" die an urn containing his ashes [Graber] or his coat
of arms [Padfield] would be burnt. Vents in the ceiling would allow those
in the main hall to see the smoke rise or "the spirit ascend into a
type of Valhalla". [Graber]
Himmler's own private rooms in the castle were dedicated to the tenth-century
Saxon King Heinrich the first (also known as Henry the
Fowler) decked out in period fashion. According to Himmler's masseur,
Himmler believed he was the reincarnation of the king, although
Padfield notes that this sits uneasily with Himmler's ideas of life after
death (by physical transmission of blood in the clan). Himmler shared
his Christian name with the king, and may have felt he was an honorary
member of a royal clan. His father had been tutor to Prince
Heinrich of Bavaria, and the young Himmler was not only named for him
but was the Prince's godson.[Padfield] Whatever the case, at
midnight each July 2nd (the anniversary of the Saxon king's death) he
would apparently commune in silence with King Heinrich. [Graber]
Graber, G.S., History of the SS, Robert Hale, 1978
Padfield, Peter, Himmler: Reichsführer SS, Macmillan, 1990 THE NAZI NECROMANCER? The Magical World of Heinrich Himmler,
by Liam Rogers
Heinrich Himmler told his SS:
"Never forget we are a knightly order, from which we cannot withdraw, to which we
are recruited by blood."
An unrepentant widow of a senior SS officer, Frau Florentine Rost von Tonnigen, declared,
"Himmler was a man of vision and out of this vision came the Wewelsburg.
The SS is the true absolute elite of all that has been. The world today considers
us criminals, but there is no purer, more intense, and intellectually higher body
than the SS. Thank God there are still a few German people who know something
of the Wewelsburg."
The BBC TV program Hitler's Search for the Holy Grail
Also see the news
that Heinrich Himmler was a convert to Buchmanism:
He had just married Marge Conzersowo, a nurse in a fashionable Berlin clinic who had seen
through the science of medicine as practiced by the orthodox faculty.9
She interested Himmler in mesmerism, homœopathy, and herbal remedies. Himmler
with his agricultural diploma particulary liked herbs.
9. Evidence of Karl Gebhardt, in Bayle, Croix gammée ou caducée, p. 222.
It was widely reported towards the year 1935 that she had converted Himmler to the
— "the SS, alibi of a nation, 1922-1945", by Gerald Reitlinger (1957, Viking Press).
The Croix gammée ou caducée is the transcripts of the Nuremberg Nazi war crimes trials of
doctors who committed war crimes against Jewish prisoners. Karl Gebhardt was one of the defendants, and he
spoke about Heinrich Himmler's fascination with the occult and his participation in Buchmanism.
Heinrich Himmler had agents running all over Europe, looking for the Holy Grail.
The adventure movies Raiders of the Lost Ark and its
sequel Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade were
actually based on a tiny kernel of truth.
The Nazis really did want all of the old holy relics that they
could get their hands on.
Himmler established an office called the Ahnenerbe, whose job it was
to seek out antiquities and ancient relics, and they went on digs just as portrayed
in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Lanzinger: Hitler the Standard Bearer
Dr. Seuss ridiculed portraits of Adolf Hitler as a knight in shining armor, Dec. 23, 1941.
(Yes, it's really the same Dr. Seuss, the one who is famous for the
children's stories like The Cat in the Hat
and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
A little-known piece of historical trivia about Dr. Seuss
is that he was a political cartoonist before and during World War II.)
Himmler declared that the S.S. was a holy order, who, like Teutonic Knights
of Old, were on a Holy Mission to ennoble humanity by making the Aryan
race pure and supreme everywhere.
Both Hitler and Himmler even had portraits of themselves painted,
showing them as knights dressed in shining suits of armor.
They bandied about words like
"honor", "nobility", "spirituality",
and "purity", which may strike us as unbelievably hypocritical
today, but they believed them at the time.
Examples of Hitler's 'odd beliefs or magical thinking' abound in
his 'table talk', the turgid monologues which he inflicted each
night on his bored and exhausted entourage. Thus he believed he could
read other people's thoughts and exert magical control over them
and that he had a sixth sense that protected him from danger.
For example, having made a speech at the Party Beer-Cellar in
Munich just before the outbreak of the Second World War, something
suddenly prompted him to leave, instead of staying on to chat with
the Party faithful as was his custom. Within minutes of his departure
a bomb exploded, killing eight of the old comrades and injuring
scores of others. He seems to have experienced no such premonition
in March 1943 when a bomb was placed on the plane in which he flew
back to Berlin from the Eastern front, but the bomb failed to detonate.
A further attempt to assassinate him at an exhibition a few days
later also failed because, once again, he decided on impulse to leave
early. 'Who says I am not under the special protection of God?'
he exclaimed. An example of his magical thinking is his frequently
repeated declaration that he and Germany were mystically merged:
'I know that everything that you are, you are through me, and
everything that I am, I am through you alone!'
Of the 'unusual perceptual experiences' reported by Hitler, he
acknowledged that he heard voices like those which inspired Joan
of Arc: they told him to rescue the Fatherland from the Jews.
He also claimed that he had a vision of Wotan, the old German
war god, pointing to the East above the heads of the cheering
Viennese crowds at the time of Austrian Anschluss. Prophets, Cults, and Madness Anthony Stevens
and John Price, pages 97-98.
"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with
the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against
the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, 1999, page 65.
Likewise, David Pryce-Jones reported that "Hitler believed that he had been sent by
Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's fawning Minister of Propaganda, agreed:
Destiny has sent us this man [Adolf Hitler] so that we, in this time of great
external and internal stress, shall testify to the miracle. The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, William L. Shirer, page 1109.
So who is "Destiny", and how can I meet her? Is she the sister of that other popular cause
of momentous events, "Fate"?
Likewise, when he heard that President Roosevelt had died, another one of Adolf Hitler's
superstitious sycophants declared in an enthusiastic outburst of muddle-minded mysticism:
This was the Angel of History! We felt its wings flutter through the room.
Was that not the turn of fortune we awaited so anxiously?
== Count Schwerin von Krosigk The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich, William L. Shirer, page 1110.
Horoscope of the Nazi Party
See: Erik Jan Hanussen; Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant, Mel Gordon,
Richard Noll, in his biography of Carl G. Jung, wrote about the paganism that was popular
in Germany in the early twentieth century:
The youth organization of the Monistenbund — inspired and led by Haeckel
himself — sponsored sun-worshiping festivals each summer solstice. ...
Others wanted a Wagnerian twist to their Volkish neopaganism. They
gathered in bearskins and made ritual sacrifices of animals to Wotan, Thor,
Baldur, and other Teutonic deities. They studied the symbols of the ancient
Norse runes and took visionary journeys to meet with members of the ancient
spiritual brotherhood. There were dozens of groups like these, large and small.
They convinced themselves that they were chosen, like the grail knights in Wagner's
Parsifal, to seek and protect the Holy Grail — in this case, the spiritual
purity of Aryan Blood. The most famous of these was the Tannenberg Foundation of
General Erich Ludendorff, war hero and, later, a coconspirator in Adolf Hitler's
failed putsch in 1923. The symbol of Ludendorff's organization was the hammer
of Thor. Like many in German culture at the turn of the century, Ludendorff wanted
to eradicate Christianity and replace it with an Aryan faith. As one commentator
on the neopagan movement in Germany revealed, "In line with the Tannenberg
program for the restoration of the ancient Germanic religion, General Ludendorff,
accompanied by a few young men, would from time to time retire to the forests
near Munich, where a bonfire was lighted and a horse sacrificed in honor of Thor,
the god of Thunder."46
46. Paul Bramwell Means, Things That Are Caesar's: The Genesis of the
German Church Conflict (New York: Round Table Press, 1935), 166. The Aryan Christ: The Secret Life of Carl Jung,
Richard Noll, pages 116 and 305 (footnote).
Many other books verify what Diener was saying about 'Putzi' Hanfstaengl.
The most detailed is the book written by
Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl himself, called Unheard Witness, which
tells the story of Putzi's experiences with Adolf
Hitler. They met in Berlin, November 22, 1922, when Hitler gave a speech at
the Kindle Keller beer hall:
"Herr Hitler, my name is Hanfstaengl," I said. "Captain
Truman-Smith asked me to give you his best wishes."
"Ah yes, the big American," he answered.
"He begged me to come and listen to you and I can only say
I have been most impressed," I went on. "I agree with
ninety-five per cent of what you said and would very much like to
talk to you about the rest some time."
"Why yes, of course," Hitler said. "I am sure we shall
not have to quarrel about the odd five percent." He made a very
pleasant impression, modest and friendly. So we shook hands again and
I went home.
That night I could not go to sleep for a long time. My mind still
raced with the impressions of the evening. Where all our conservative
politicians and speakers were failing miserably to establish any
contact with the ordinary people, this self-made man, Hitler, was
clearly succeeding in presenting a non-Communist program
to exactly those people whose support we need.
On the other hand, I had not liked the look of those immediate
supporters I had seen. Rosenberg and the people around him seemed
to me distinctly dubious types. Then an aphorism of Nietsche floated
into my mind and provided consolation: "The first followers of
a movement do not prove anything against it." Unheard Witness, Ernst "Putzi"
Hanfstaengl, 1957, pages 37-38.
And the upper-class Hanfstaengl family did try to polish the uncouth bumpkin Hitler:
"I felt quite embarrassed in my blue suit," Hitler told me.
"The servants were all in livery and we drank nothing but champagne
before the meal. And you should have seen the bathroom, you can even
regulate the heat of the water." Unheard Witness, Ernst "Putzi"
Hanfstaengl, 1957, page 44.
And Putzi was so involved with all of the early Nazi party members
and their doings that he was really lucky that he wasn't put into
Landsberg prison with the rest of them after the failed Beer Hall
Putsch, for being a co-conspirator. The whole gang half lived at
(Putzi, Goering, and other prominent Nazis fled to Austria and hid out
there until things cooled
And Putzi even confessed that he was guilty of taking
Harvard football fight songs and German folk
songs, and blending them together to make marching music for the Nazis.
Harvard was Putzi's alma mater; little did Harvard realize where their
American football education of the German aristocrat Ernst Hanfstaengl
It was on another occasion, at the house of Heinrich Hoffman, his
photographer friend, that I started playing some of the football
marches I had picked up at Harvard. I explained to Hitler all the
business about the cheer leaders and college songs and the
deliberate whipping up of hysterical enthusiasm. I told him about
the thousands of spectators being made to roar, "Harvard,
Harvard, Harvard, rah, rah, rah!" in unison and of the
hypnotic effect of this sort of thing. I played him some of the
Sousa marches and then my own "Falarah," to show how it
could be done by adapting German tunes, and gave them all that
bouyant beat so characteristic of American brass-band music. I
had Hitler fairly shouting with enthusiasm. "That is it,
Hanfstaengl, that is what we need for the movement, marvelous,"
and he pranced up and down the room like a drum majorette.
After that he had the S.A. band practising the same thing.
I even wrote a dozen marches or so myself over the course of the
years, including the one that was played by the brownshirt columns
as they marched through the Brandenburger Tor on the day Hitler
took over power. "Rah, rah, rah!" became "Sieg Heil,
Sieg Heil!" — that is the origin of it and I suppose I must
take my share of the blame. Unheard Witness, Ernst "Putzi"
Hanfstaengl, 1957, pages 52-53.
(Actually, Putzi, I think it was, "Har-vard! Har-vard!" becomes
"Sieg-Heil! Sieg-Heil!", and "Rah, rah, rah!" becomes
"Heil Hit-ler!". You have to get the beat right. :-) But I digress.)
Diana Guiness (nee Diana Mitford, later Lady Diana Mosley) and Putzi Hanfstaengl,
at the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Day Rally.
The Bavarian aristocrat and Harvard alumnus Putzi Hanfstaengl was a very early supporter
of Adolf Hitler. Putzi was bi-lingual and fluent in English because
his mother was an American
(as well as one of Frank Buchman's early Oxford Group members),
and his father was a Bavarian aristocrat, so Hitler put Putzi in charge of
foreign press relations. Putzi began inviting two of the Mitford sisters, Unity Mitford
and Diana Guiness (later Mosley), to the Nuremberg Nazi Party Day rallies in 1933.
But Putzi didn't like their style. Putzi described in his memoirs how,
at this 1934 rally, he had to use his handkerchief to wipe off
the extravagant make-up that the Mitford sisters wore, to bring them in line
with "Nordic womanhood", so that Hitler's sensibilities would not be
(Lady Diana commented in her autobiography that she didn't know why she looked
so pasty-faced in this photograph. Perhaps Putzi had really messed up her make-up.)
Hitler laughed when Unity later told him about that. He didn't seem to be offended
by anything that Unity did. He found her antics amusing.
Then Unity got her revenge on Putzi: She complained to Hitler that Putzi was such a stuffed
shirt and such a bore that they should play a joke on him. Hitler agreed.
They made Putzi believe that he was being exiled to the Spanish Civil War, and then
they shoved Putzi into an airplane, which took off.
The airplane only flew as far as Munich before landing and letting Putzi
out, but the prank totally unnerved Putzi, who complained that they were
conspiring to kill him, and he fled in a panic to Switzerland, never to return to Nazi
Unity actually did Putzi an immense favor there, quite accidentally.
By running when he did, Putzi entirely avoided
both World War II and complicity in the Nazi war crimes.
And he also avoided an untimely demise at the hands of the other Nazi leaders.
There really was a plot, among Hitler's inner circle, to get rid of Putzi.
Putzi was Jewish, and he was in direct competition with Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Minister
of Propaganda. And the SS and Gestapo leader Heinrich Himmler didn't like Putzi either.
(Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean that they aren't all out to get you.)
During the war, Putzi lived moderately comfortably in England, even though he was
interned for a while because of his German citizenship and Nazi past. Then the Americans
requisitioned him, and he ended up living in
the USA, in Washington DC, where he worked as an advisor to President
Roosevelt, as an expert on Hitler's personality.
After the war, Putzi retired in Germany, the only unscathed survivor of
Hitler's early inner circle.
Ken Ragge commented on Diener's letter:
Paul Diener wrote:
> Ragge is wrong when he says Buchman's fondness for Hitler should not be stressed.
What I wrote was:
> Actually, to mention Buchman's fondness for Hitler is a bit off
base — _any_ totalitarian leader was held in high regard by him
and his organization.
Leaving the inherent sarcasm of my statement aside, can you name _one_
non-Communist despot in power between the 1930's and Buchman's death in
the 60s that Buchman _didn't_ support? Was every non-Communist despot
No, not every despot is a fascist. The fascist political tradition is a
special and unique historical phenomenon. The word 'fascism' is best used
with care, as scholars who are experts in fascist studies use it.
Your statement seemed to imply that the Hitler-Buchman connection need not
be stressed and investigated. If this is your opinion, I differ. I think
it is worth keeping this connection in mind, and investigating it.
As to Buchman's support for all 'despots', I think you underestimate
Buchman and his movement. The Buchmanites strongly attacked 'capitalism',
and demanded that big business be reformed. They vilified business leaders
who acted as 'despots'. Buchman also thought labor union 'bosses' were
despots, who manipulated the working man. Both business and union despots,
Buchman repeatedly insisted, needed to 'change'. This could happen if both
accepted the spiritual counselling of a God-controlled figure, such as
Buchman himself. Buchman also saw the hand of God as working in the New
Germany, as you know. Like Buchman, the Nazis were violently opposed to
despotic, exploitative 'capitalists'.
'Not individual greed, but common need' was the OG cry. (This was also
the cry in other fascist movements, and the Nazi Party adopted this as its
official motto). Buchman was opposed to despots who pursued 'individual
greed'. Buchman was a protofascist, not an old-style advocate of rapacious
dictators. Niebuhr and Orwell saw this clearly.
All fascist movements had, and have, a very real
reformist / revolutionary aspect. This accounts, in large part, for their
ability to attract followers. Fascisms promise some real reforms, and, in a
period of severe crisis, many middle-class persons of liberal persuasion
come to believe that ONLY fascist methods can achieve these needed reforms,
while still preserving their own class status.
Just as you misportray and misunderstand AA, so you misportray and
misunderstand the Oxford Groups. NEITHER of these movements is just an
oppressive regime, 'brainwashing' and bilking the innocent. Both movements
point to very real problems in society, and both offer solutions plausible
to many. In both movements, long-term affiliation is voluntary, though
exposure and early indoctrination is often coerced. Most important, neither
of these movements is unique. The Oxford Groups was only one of MANY
protofascist movements in the U.S. in the 1930s, and AA is only one of many
such movements today.
Also see the description of the characteristics of fascism in a letter,
Regarding Hitler and the Nazis,
Frank Buchman was basically so "politically naïve" (as sympathetic historians
have called it)
that he thought that an ideal world
government would consist of a bunch of Christian Fascist dictators
running all of the countries of the world (and, presumably, forcing
Buchmanism on all of the people of the world).
God would give the orders to the dictators, and then the dictators
would give the orders to the people. Hence, we would have one world
under God-control, simply, easily, overnight, and Frank Buchman
would be up there at the top, hanging out with the dictators,
and giving them advice and "Guidance".
Buchman said of his Oxford Group:
Its aim is a new social order under the dictatorship of the spirit of God... Inside Buchmanism; an independent inquiry into the
Oxford Group Movement and Moral Re-Armament,
Geoffrey Williamson, Philosophical Library, New York, c1954, page 147.
So Frank Buchman continued to visit Berlin and associate with the
highest-ranking Nazis, imagining
that they would soon be on their knees, begging God to fix their
moral shortcomings and defects of character...
Frank Buchman never recanted, or took back any of what he
said, or even hinted that it was
a mistake. He believed that he had spoken and acted under the
Guidance of God, and that Guidance was infallible, so there was no way
that he could or would take it back or amend
Of course not. In fact, fascism is not an undesired state of affairs
to Buchmanism; it is, rather, the logical goal of Buchmanism.
Two weeks after Buchman's Hitler-praising interview was published
in the New York World Telegram newspaper,
The Christian Century magazine printed this criticism of
Frank Buchman's remarks:
...Thus as plainly as it could be done Frank Buchman points to
fascism as the way out of our social difficulties.
Indeed the worst thing about a religion which undertakes to be
purely individualistic and to concern itself not at all as to the
way in which the corporate life of society is organized is that
it cannot succeed in that undertaking — it is forced to take a
political position, and its utter lack of understanding of
political realities predetermines what that position shall be.
Such a religion enters the social arena inevitably on the side of
reaction. God works through individuals it [Buchmanism] argues.
The way to make institutions good is to make the individuals
who run them good. The fewer these individuals are, the simpler
the operation. The only way to make a good government is to
convert the governors, and if there could be but one governor
dictating the policies of the nation under God's guidance, the
ideal type of state would have been achieved. Individualism in
religion thus leads by the straightest of roads to fascism in
It is not a question any more — if it ever was — of individual
religion versus the social gospel; it is a question of what social
gospel. Shall religion commit itself to a social ideal and program
based upon the naive assumptions of individualism or based upon
an intelligent understanding of the realities of man's collective
life? Shall it preach a social gospel of reaction or of construction?
No other alternative is in the long run possible.
The Oxford group movement is only following the logic of
its position when it declares for reaction.
Any dream of a "God-guided dictator" involves
the reality of waking to the cry, "Thank heaven for Hitler!" A God-Guided Dictator, The Christian Century,
53:1182-3, Sept. 9, 1936, pages 1182-1183.
The Foreign Minister of the Netherlands speaks at the League of Nations.
Frank Buchman is 2nd from right.
Notice how everyone else in the room was silently,
respectfully listening to the speaker who had the floor. Everyone but Frank Buchman,
that is. Frank was rudely speaking out of turn, expressing his own opinions to the
fellow on the far right, who appears to be trying hard to listen to the Foreign Minister.
"Unless the subject of the conversation is how great they are, Narcissistic vampires
will become visibly bored. One of the main reasons Narcissists wear expensive
watches is so they can look at them when someone else is talking." Emotional Vampires: Dealing with People Who Drain You Dry,
Albert J. Bernstein, Ph.D., page 136.
Reinhold Niebuhr, the eminent theologian who authored The Serenity Prayer
which is so popular in 12-Step circles,
also criticized Frank Buchman's remarks, stating
in The Christian Century magazine a month later:
On returning from Europe, Frank Buchman, Oxford group revivalist,
is quoted by a reputable New York paper as having said: "I
thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front-line
defense against the anti-Christ of communism...."
In this interview the social philosophy of the Oxford group, long
implicit in its strategy, is made explicit, and revealed in all its
childishness and viciousness. This philosophy has been implicit in
Buchmanite strategy from the beginning. It explains the particular
attention which is paid by Mr. Buchman and his followers to big men,
leaders, in industry and politics. The idea is that if the man of power
can be converted, God will be able to control a larger area
of human life through his power than if a little man
were converted. This is the logic which has filled the
Buchmanites with touching solicitude for the souls
of such men as Henry Ford or Harvey Firestone and
prompted them to whisper confidentially from time
to time that these men were on the very threshold
of the kingdom of God. It is this strategy which
prompts or justifies the first-class travel of all the
Oxford teams. They hope to make contact with big
men in the luxurious first-class quarters of ocean
In other words, a nazi social philosophy has been a covert presupposition
of the whole Oxford Group enterprise from the very beginning.
We may be
grateful to the leader for revealing so clearly what has been slightly
hidden. Now we can see how unbelievably naive this movement is in its efforts
to save the world. If it would
content itself with preaching repentance to drunkards and adulterers
one might be willing to respect it as a religious revival
method which knows how to confront the sinner
with God. But when it runs to Geneva, the seat of the League of Nations,
or to Cleveland to the republican national convention,
or to Prince Starhemberg or Hitler, or to any seat of power,
always with the idea that it is on
the verge of saving the world by bringing the people who control
the world under God-control,
it is difficult to restrain the contempt one feels for this dangerous
This idea of world salvation
implies a social philosophy which is completely innocent of
any understanding of the social dynamics of a civilization.
Does Mr. Buchman really believe that the dictators of the modern
world create their dictatorships out of whole cloth?
He does not know, evidently, that they are the creatures more
than the creators of vast social movements in modern history.
The particular social forces which create dictatorships
are on the whole the decadent forces of a very sick society. Hitler and Buchman, Reinhold Niebuhr, The Christian Century,
53:1315-6, Oct. 7, 1936, page 1315.
Also see: Courage to Change, An Introduction to the Life and Thought of
Reinhold Niebuhr, June Bingham, page 202.
Indeed. Frank Buchman's ideas of how society works, and of how society
ought to work,
were quite different from most Americans' politics.
In an ideal Buchmanite "God-controlled" country, you would
not want democracy, a constitution, a congress, or a bill of rights.
Those things are just problems to Buchmanism, because they prevent
the most efficient and simple implementation of "God's Will".
To a Buchmanite, democracy is just the collective opinion of a bunch of
"insane" sinners who are not listening to the voice of God.
Who would want such fools interfering with the work of a God-guided man?
Imagine if the President of the United States came under
Congress and the Supreme Court might block his orders whenever
those orders seriously conflicted with the Constitution or the Bill
His success in enforcing "the Will of God" would depend
on the prevailing political climate — upon which politicians won
the last elections, and which political hacks had been appointed
to the Supreme Court.
There would always be a small chance that Congress or the Supreme
Court might actually rise up out of the cesspool of partisan politics
and really try to uphold,
preserve and defend the Constitution of the United States, just like
their oaths of office say. (Admittedly, not very likely, but it might happen.)
They might not help the President to
carry out "the Will of God", as he hears God dictating it to him.
In order to get the whole country completely, unquestionably, under
"God-control", it would also be necessary to "change" a
majority of the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the
Supreme Court, and get them all under God-control too.
But just about the time that we have accomplished all of that, more
elections will be held, and then we will have to "change" a
whole new crop of politicians, yet again.
And then we would need to go do the same things with all 50 of the
state governments, again and again...
Things would be so much simpler if we just had one strong
dictator who was under God-control, like a Jesus-loving
Adolf Hitler, ruling the entire country with absolute authority,
making everybody do "The Right Thing" all of the time...
Get Everyone Under God-control
Remember that Frank Buchman said, while he was thanking Heaven for giving us a man like Adolf Hitler,
... Human problems aren't economic. They're
moral and they can't be solved by immoral measures.
They could be solved within a God-controlled
democracy, or perhaps I should say a theocracy, and
they could be solved through a God-controlled Fascist
dictatorship. Hitler and Buchman, Reinhold Niebuhr, The Christian Century,
53:1315-6, Oct. 7, 1936, page 1315.
Also see: A God-Guided Dictator, The Christian Century,
53:1182-3, Sept. 9, 1936, page 1183.
Also see: The Mystery of Moral Re-Armament; A Study of
Frank Buchman and His Movement, Tom Driberg, 1965, pages 68-69.
That was basically what Frank Buchman's simplistic political thinking
Note that much of Frank Buchman's fascist philosophy rubbed off on
his follower, William G. Wilson, who later criticized people by writing:
William G. Wilson
How persistently we claim the right to decide all by ourselves
just what we shall think and just how we shall act. ...
We are certain that our intelligence, backed by willpower,
can rightly control our inner lives and guarantee us success in
the world we live in. This brave philosophy, wherein each man
plays God, sounds good in the speaking, but it still has to
meet this acid test: how well does it actually work?
One good look in the mirror ought to be answer enough for any alcoholic.
... The philosophy of self-sufficiency is not paying off. Plainly enough,
it is a bone-crushing juggernaut whose final achievement is ruin.
Therefore, we who are alcoholics can consider ourselves fortunate indeed. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,
William G. Wilson, pages 36-37.
According to Bill Wilson, you don't even have the right to decide all
by yourself just what you will think.
Thinking for yourself and taking care of yourself by using your own
intelligence and will power
is "playing God".
All of your actions are supposed to be dictated by God, Bill said,
so acting and thinking independently is usurping God's authority.
Acting independently, doing what you wish or doing what you think
is right, is going against "the Will of God".
You are "fortunate", Bill said, if alcohol destroys your ability to
think for yourself and take care of yourself.
Then you will have no choice but to just mindlessly obey the orders
of your sponsor, and let him do your thinking for you.
Bill Wilson also admired dictatorships, and after World War Two, bemoaned
the fact that they had gone out of fashion:
In A.A. there is active still another form of association, a form of which
the world is today in great doubt. It has its virtues, nevertheless,
especially for us of Alcoholics Anonymous: I am speaking of dictatorship.
In A.A. we have two dictators, and we profit and grow through both.
One is John Barleycorn, who is never very far from the elbow of each of us.
The other is the Father of Lights, who presides over all men.
God is saying to us, "Learn my will and do it." And John Barleycorn is saying
to each of us, "You had better do God's will or I will kill you!" Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age
William G. Wilson (1957), page 225.
Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Joseph Stalin had really given
dictatorships a bad name before and during World War Two,
but that didn't stop Bill Wilson from still admiring dictatorships as
a form of government (just as long as he got
to be the dictator). Other people may have had great doubts about the
virtues of dictatorships, but not Bill Wilson. He was keeping the faith,
and making sure that people could continue to "profit and grow"
through dictatorships in Alcoholics Anonymous.
"Follow the dictates of a Higher Power and you will presently
live in a new and wonderful world..."
The Big Book, 3rd Edition, William G. Wilson,
Working With Others, page 100.
Therefore we [AA] have the full benefits of the murderous political dictatorships of
today but none of their liabilities. Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age,
William G. Wilson, pages 105—106.
What benefits, and what liabilites?
Bill Wilson's secretary Nell Wing reported much the same thing —
that Bill Wilson declared in a 1956 letter to Father J. J. Hennessey, S.J., that
the General Service Conference and the Board of Trustees
were run on democratic principles, with the leadership obeying
the rank and file membership, but, Bill then wrote:
"Then, too we have a dictatorship — and how! God constantly says to us,
'I trust you will find and do my will.' John Barleycorn, always at our
elbow, says, 'If you don't conform, I'll kill you or drive you mad.'
So we have all the advantages and more, of the modern dictatorship."
Bill Wilson, quoted by his secretary in Grateful To Have Been There,
Nell Wing, page 22.
For Bill Wilson to be boasting of "all of the advantages
of the modern dictatorship" so soon after World War II was insane.
Joseph Stalin had murdered 35 million Russians with his reign of terror
and his purges, gulags in Siberia, and relocation and forced starvation of
millions of small farmers (in order to get their farms).
Benito Mussolini slaughtered an unknown large number of Ethiopians.
Then Adolf Hitler managed to get another 40 or 50 million people killed in WW II.
And then Bill Wilson came along and stupidly babbled about "all of
the advantages of the modern dictatorship."
Plus, we have to ask,
"What advantages?", and
"Advantages to whom?"
In most dictatorships, the dictator and his small inner circle of henchmen and
cronies are the only people who enjoy the advantages of the dictatorship,
while the vast masses of common people suffer immensely.
Bill Wilson just assumed that he deserved to be the dictator
and High Priest of Alcoholics Anonyous —
as the Big Book co-author Henry Parkhurst described it,
"The Grand Poohbah of Alcoholics Anonymous".
What made Bill qualified to be the dictator and High Priest?
Why was it such a 'great advantage' for Bill to be able to
order everybody else around,
and dictate the terms of their recovery, and
even their religious beliefs?
Yes, that is Bill's narcissistic delusions of grandeur, showing again.
Either that, or it's the clever con-man Bill Wilson, playing his mind
games on his victims again. I'll let you decide which it is.
...drinkers would not ... stand for the rather aggressive evangelism of the Oxford Group. ...
It was too authoritarian for them. In other respects, too, we
found we had to make haste slowly.
When first contacted, most alcoholics just wanted to find sobriety,
nothing else. They clung to their other defects, letting go only
little by little. They simply did not want to get "too good
too soon." Alcoholics Anonymous Comes Of Age,
William G. Wilson, pages 74-75.
Bill even said that alcoholics were so bad that they must be
tortured into doing the right thing:
Why all this insistence that every A.A. member must hit bottom first?
The answer is that few people will sincerely try to practice the A.A.
program unless they have hit bottom. For practicing A.A.'s remaining
eleven Steps means the adoption of attitudes and actions that almost
no alcoholic who is still drinking can dream of taking. Who wishes to
be rigorously honest and tolerant?
Who wants to confess his faults to another and make restitution for
harm done? Who cares anything about a Higher Power, let alone
meditation and prayer? Who wants to sacrifice time and energy in
trying to carry A.A.'s message to the next sufferer? No, the average
alcoholic, self-centered in the extreme, doesn't care for this
prospect — unless he has to do these things in order to stay
Under the lash of alcoholism, we are driven to A.A., and there
we discover the fatal nature of our situation.
Then, and only then, do we become as open-minded to conviction and
as willing to listen as the dying can be. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions,
William G. Wilson, page 24.
(Yes, the conviction that Bill mentioned there is Frank Buchman's
conviction, where you convict yourself
of all kinds of sins.)
And Bill Wilson wrote that
[A.A. members are] impersonally and severely disciplined
(A personal letter from Bill Wilson to Dr. Harry Tiebout,
9 Nov 1950, quoted in Not-God: A History of Alcoholics Anonymous, Ernest Kurtz, page 129.)
We saw we needn't always be bludgeoned and beaten into humility. Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, William G. Wilson, page 75.
By the way, notice the use of the "Preacher's We" there.
Bill Wilson did not believe that he needed to get beaten into submission
or whipped with "the lash of alcoholism" to make him more religious —
he thought that the other A.A. members needed it so that they would become
as "spiritual" as he was.