Man against Time: Savitri Devi and the Hitler Avatar
By Jyotika Mansata
In exploring India’s connections to National Socialism or response to the Holocaust, not much academic work has been done on Savitri Devi. While Savitri Devi (originally Maximiani Portas) herself was not an Indian but of French-Greek descent, what is important to consider is the influence India and Hinduism had and the role it played in her philosophy.
Savitri Devi first decided to come to India in 1932, while writing her doctoral thesis. Having been influenced by National Socialist ideas since the Putsch of 1923, Savitri Devi saw India as the only land whose religion proclaimed Aryans to be the foremost race. Hinduism as a religion was, in her view, perfectly compatible with the weltanschauung of National Socialism, and she hoped to preach National Socialism to the Indians (or at least the Aryan Indians). India at the time, however, was still under the British rule, under whose influence the country had become infected, and thus was not Aryan anymore. Her first works in English (A Warning to the Hindus and The Non-Hindu Indians and Indian Unity), therefore, were about Hindu nationalism and were directed against the British and towards promoting unity among Indians so that they could gain their independence from the British. It was in India that Savitri Devi started working for the Hindu Mission and met its founder, Swami Satyananda. As Savitri Devi herself did not fully identify as a Hindu, but as a National Socialist, her lectures for the Hindu Mission were tinged with National Socialist fervour. She would quote from Mein Kampf and from Alfred Rosenberg’s The Myth of the Twentieth Century in order to reassure the Indian people that there was a movement in Europe which upheld and protected original Aryan values. Savitri Devi also relates a conversation with Swami Satyananda where he told her that he considered Hitler to be a reincarnation of the god Vishnu, and that she could talk about Hitler as much as she liked as long as it was from the Indian perspective.
This idea of Hitler being an avatar of Vishnu is featured prominently in Savitri Devi’s philosophy. Her philosophy was deeply connected to the notion of cyclical time and the Succession of Ages, which, though not a feature found only in Hinduism, was retained best by this tradition. Savitri Devi saw the world as a cyclic succession from pristine perfection (or the Satya Yuga) to a period of chaos (or the Kali Yuga). The Ancients, though aware of technical progress, did not believe in progress as a whole. There was no simple progression from good to bad, but an endless, inevitable cycle from perfection to chaos, which then itself brought about a new age of perfection and truth once again. This cyclical evolution was inevitable and the only thing one could do was to wait for the One (whom the Hindus knew as Kalki, the tenth and final avatar of Vishnu), who would bring about this age of truth. Despite Savitri Devi identifying completely as a National Socialist, it might seem surprising that Hitler isn’t seen as the embodiment of the Kalki avatar. In fact, Hitler is seen as the penultimate avatar of Vishnu. His defeat in the Second World War proved that he was not the man who would deliver the world from the Dark Ages, but was the forerunner of the one who would achieve this feat. Hitler was a ‘Man against Time’, who was able, unlike the leaders of his time, to perceive the vision of the Golden Age that was yet to come. As a Man against Time, Hitler was intensely aware of everything that was wrong in the world around him and felt that it was his duty to destroy and change them in a radical way, and to build everything anew. For Savitri Devi, Hitler’s very position as a Man against Time necessitated that his values and way of seeing the world be completely different from his own contemporaries and the world he lived in.
Despite his position as a Man against Time, Hitler’s role in Savitri Devi’s philosophy is not as the one who would bring about the age of truth and perfection. For Savitri Devi, what was far more important, and went far beyond the role of Hitler was the National Socialist Idea. This Idea not only pre-dated Hitler or the Nazi Party but was, “in its essence, as old as the oldest contact and first clash between the Germanic race and the outer world…the expression of the collective will of the race to survive and rule.” This concept of an ancient National Socialist Idea that was older than Germany and the Aryan race itself was impossible to separate from the afore-mentioned cyclic concept of time. Despite Hitler’s importance as a Man against Time, he was to lead the German people in not the final, but the penultimate phase of the Struggle for Truth. While National Socialism’s true evolution did begin with the leadership of the Fuhrer, the National Socialist Idea did not start nor end with Hitler and the Nazi Party.
The cyclic concept of time also played a role in Savitri Devi’s views on Jews and the Holocaust. To her, Jews were the instruments of the Dark Age, intent on de-racialising humanity. By essence, Jews belonged to a group that spread counter-truths, counter-values, and were the chosen people of the Powers of Decline. On the subject of the Holocaust, Savitri Devi claimed to have been taken in by the propaganda of the occurrence of the Holocaust for decades until 1977, when she read Arthur Butz’s book, The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: “I believed it as the damn fool I probably was. I believed it all. The six million Jews. I believed the lie for years and decades.” Even before expressing complete disbelief in the Holocaust, she voiced her opinion that the order to mercilessly eliminate the enemies of National Socialism and the ‘final solution of the Jewish problem’ did not necessarily mean the total annihilation of the Jews but simply their expulsion from the German lebensraum. With her turn towards animal rights after the Second World War, Savitri Devi seemed not to care about the experiments and atrocities committed by the Nazis on the Jewish people, as long as none were committed on animals. She even approved of the fact that scientific experiments were being carried out on humans and not animals.
Savitri Devi’s ideas combined Hindu theological concepts with National Socialism to give birth to a brand of Esoteric Hitlerism that is being talked about and disseminated by alt-right websites and thinkers even today. Her ideas seem to provide a basis for white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups for the eventual rise of fascist ideologies yet again.
Jyotika Mansata is a student at Presidency University, and is currently in her final year of a Master’s programme in History (Honours).
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