Excuse us? News like this doesn’t exactly help to brighten up the week. According to a German historian, Mathias Tietke, who’s putting out a book on the subject, the Third Reich had a real interest in yoga and some S.S. death camp guards were even recommended to try the practice. In Tietke’s new book, Yoga In National Socialism, he tells how S.S. overlord Heinrich Himmler was fascinated with yoga, and manipulated it to justify the Holocaust, and the Nazi goal to attain ‘perfect spiritual insight and tranquility’.
It actually sounds like an interesting if not perverted and somewhat horrific story. As it turns out, middle and upper class Nazis were just as curious about Indian mysticism as the rest of the western world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Via Daily Mail:
During the Wiemar Republic, as the Nazis gained strength, yoga enjoyed a boom among a people weary of war, inflation, unemployment and misery.
More than 50 yoga books were published in the 1920’s in Berlin alone. And, as the Nazis corrupted most things they touched, so it was with yoga.
It was seized on by race experts in the party as being the pursuit of ‘Ayran’ people. Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, an S.S. captain and yoga expert, who influenced his chief Himmler and convinced him that ‘yoga can internally arm us and prepare us for the forthcoming battles.’
In 1937, four years after the Nazis attained power, the country’s first yoga centre opened up in Berlin and operated until it was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943.
The teacher who ran it had disciples in 50 German towns and cities, Himmler, obsessed as he was with hocus-pocus race theories and mysticism relating to his S.S. ‘supermen,’ carried around a German copy of the Bhagavad Gita with him wherever he went.
He regarded the ancient Sanskrit epic as being a blueprint for cruelty and terror, using it, said Tietke, to ultimately justify the Holocaust.
He wrote; “He identified himself and the SS with the old Indian Kshatriya caste and its publicised attitude of unscrupulous killing for one’s ‘higher purpose.’
Shudder up our spine. Maybe yoga has been used for bad and for good, as it’s evolved over the years, but at least we can find peace in the fact that yoga Nazis are the least of our worries now, especially when yoga’s being pushed to the Olympics. Besides the book, Tietke is planning an exhibition in Berlin later this year in the Gestapo museum called the Topography of Terror.
Now go give someone a hug.
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