Völkisch movement

The völkisch movement (German: völkische Bewegung, "folkish movement") was the German interpretation of a populist movement, with a romantic focus on folklore and the "organic", i.e.: a "naturally grown community in unity", characterised by the one-body-metaphor (Volkskörper) for the entire population during a period from the late 19th century up until the Nazi era.


The term völkisch (pronounced [ˈfœlkɪʃ]) derives from the German word Volk (cognate with the English "folk"), corresponding to "ethnic group" of a population and people, with connotations in German of "people-powered". According to the historian James Webb, the word also has "overtones of 'nation', 'race' and 'tribe'".[1] The term völkisch has no direct English equivalent, but it could be rendered as "ethnonationalistic", "racial-nationalistic" or "ethno-racialist".

The völkisch "movement" was not a unified movement but "a cauldron of beliefs, fears and hopes that found expression in various movements and were often articulated in an emotional tone", Petteri Pietikäinen observed in tracing völkisch influences on Carl Gustav Jung.[2] The völkisch movement was "arguably the largest group" in the conservative revolutionary movement in Germany.[3] However, like "conservative-revolutionary" or "fascist", völkisch is a complex term ("schillernder Begriff").[3] In a narrow definition it can be used to designate only groups that consider human beings essentially preformed by blood,[3] i.e. by inherited characteristics.

The defining idea, which the völkisch movement revolved around, was that of a Volkstum (literally "folkdom", with a meaning similar to a combination of the terms "folklore" and "ethnicity"). Volkstümlich would be "populist", or "popular", in this context.

Origins in the 19th century

The völkisch movement had its origins in Romantic nationalism, as it was expressed by early Romantics such as Johann Gottlieb Fichte in his Addresses to the German Nation published during the Napoleonic Wars, from 1808 onwards, especially the eighth address, “What is a Volk, in the higher sense of the term, and what is love of the fatherland?", where he answered his question of what could warrant the noble individual's striving "and his belief in the eternity and the immortality of his work", by replying that it could only be that "particular spiritual nature of the human environment out of which he himself, with all of his thought and action ... has arisen, namely the people from which he is descended and among which he has been formed and grown into that which he is".[4]

The movement combined sentimental patriotic interest in German folklore, local history and a "back-to-the-land" anti-urban populism with many parallels in the writings of William Morris. "In part this ideology was a revolt against modernity", Nicholls remarked.[5] The dream was for a self-sufficient life lived with a mystical relation to the land; it was a reaction to the cultural alienation of the Industrial revolution and the "progressive" liberalism of the later 19th century and its urbane materialist banality. Similar feelings were expressed in the US during the 1930s by the populist writers grouped as the Southern Agrarians.

The völkisch movement, as it evolved, sometimes combined the arcane and esoteric aspects of folkloric occultism alongside "racial adoration" and, in some circles, a type of anti-Semitism linked to exclusionary ethnic nationalism. Many völkisch movements included anti-communist, anti-immigration, anti-capitalist and anti-Parliamentarian ideas. Over time, völkisch ideas of "national community" (Volksgemeinschaft) came more and more to exclude Jews.

Before and after World War I

A number of the völkisch-populist movements that had evolved during the late 19th century in the German Empire, under the impress of National Romanticism, developed along propagandistic lines after the German defeat in World War I, and the word "the people" (Volk) became increasingly politicized.

The same word Volk was used as a flag for new forms of ethnic nationalism, as well as by international socialist parties as a synonym for the proletariat in the German lands. From the left, elements of the folk-culture spread to the parties of the middle classes.[6] But whereas Volk could mean "proletariat" among the left, it meant more particularly "race" among the center and right.

Although the primary interest of the Germanic mystical movement was the revival of native pagan traditions and customs (often set in the context of a quasi-theosophical esotericism), a marked preoccupation with purity of race came to motivate its more politically oriented offshoots, such as the Germanenorden (the Germanic or Teutonic Order), a secret society founded at Berlin in 1912 which required its candidates to prove that they had no "non-Aryan" bloodlines and required from each a promise to maintain purity of his stock in marriage. Local groups of the sect met to celebrate the summer solstice, an important neopagan festivity in völkisch circles (and later in Nazi Germany), and more regularly to read the Eddas as well as some of the German mystics.[7] This branch of the völkisch movement quickly developed a hyper-nationalist sentiment and allied itself with anti-semitism, then rising. One of the most important völkisch organizations after World War 1 was the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund.

Another völkisch movement of the same time was the Tatkreis.

George Mosse examined völkisch literature in 1966 and identified some of the more "respectable" and centrist channels through which these sensibilities flowed: school texts that transmitted a Romantic view of a "pure" Germanic past, the nature-oriented German Youth Movement, and novels with an ideally ruthless völkisch hero, such as Hermann Löns' Der Wehrwolf (1910).

Not all folkloric societies with connections to Romantic nationalism were located in Germany. The Völkisch movement was a force as well in Austria.[8] While the community of Monte Verità ('Mount Truth') which emerged in 1900 at Ascona, Switzerland, is described by the Swiss art critic Harald Szeemann as "the southernmost outpost of a far-reaching Nordic lifestyle-reform, that is, alternative movement".[9]

Influence on Nazism

The völkisch ideologies were influential in the development of Nazism. Indeed, Joseph Goebbels publicly asserted in the 1927 Nuremberg rally that if the populist (völkisch) movement had understood power and how to bring thousands out in the streets, it would have gained political power on 9 November 1918 (the outbreak of the SPD-led German Revolution of 1918–1919, end of the German monarchy).[10] Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf (My Struggle): "the basic ideas of the National-Socialist movement are populist (völkisch) and the populist (völkisch) ideas are National-Socialist." Nazi racial understanding was couched in völkisch terms, when Eugen Fischer delivered his inaugural address as Nazi rector, The Conception of the Völkisch state in the view of biology (29 July 1933).[11] The Thule Society was founded on 17 August 1918 by Rudolf von Sebottendorff with the original name of Studiengruppe für Germanisches Altertum (Study Group for Germanic Antiquity), and disseminated anti-republican and anti-Semitic propaganda. Karl Harrer, the Thule member most directly involved in the creation of the DAP in 1919, was sidelined at the end of the year when Hitler drafted regulations against conspiratorial circles, and the Thule Society was dissolved a few years later.[12] The völkisch circles handed down one significant legacy to the Nazis: In 1919, Thule member Friedrich Krohn designed the original version of the Nazi swastika.[13]

In January 1919, the Thule Society was instrumental in the foundation of the Deutsche Arbeiter-Partei (German Workers' Party, or DAP), which later became the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP), commonly called the Nazi Party. Thule members or visiting guests that would later join the Nazi Party included Rudolf Hess, Alfred Rosenberg, Hans Frank, Gottfried Feder, Dietrich Eckart and Karl Harrer. Notably Adolf Hitler never was a member of the Thule Society and Rudolf Hess and Alfred Rosenberg were only visiting guests of the Thule Society in the early years before they came to prominence in the Nazi movement.[14] The Münchener Beobachter (Munich Observer), owned by Sebottendorff, was the press organ of another small nationalist party and later became the Völkischer Beobachter (People's Observer). The Thule Society had no members from the top echelons of the party and Nazi officials were forbidden any involvement in secret societies so the connection of völkisch ideologies with the NSDAP can be overstated. According to Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, an imaginative mythology has grown up around the supposed influence of the Thule-Gesellschaft within the Nazi Party.

See also


  1. ^ James Webb. 1976. The Occult Establishment. La Salle, Illinois: Open Court. ISBN 0-87548-434-4. pp. 276–277
  2. ^ Petteri Pietikäinen, "The Volk and Its Unconscious: Jung, Hauer and the 'German Revolution'". Journal of Contemporary History 35.4 (October 2000: 523–539), p. 524
  3. ^ a b c Hans Jürgen Lutzhöft (1971) Der Nordische Gedanke in Deutschland 1920–1940 (Stuttgart. Ernst Klett Verlag), p. 19.
  4. ^ John Rosenthal (22 April 2005). "The Ummah and das Volk: On the Islamist and 'Völkisch' Ideologies ". Transatlantic Intelligencer. Accessed 7 September 2010
  5. ^ A. J. Nicholls, reviewing George L. Mosse, The Crisis in German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich in The English Historical Review 82 No. 325 (October 1967), p 860. Mosse was characterised as "the foremost historian of völkisch ideology" by Petteri Pietikäinen 2000:524 note 6.
  6. ^ George L. Mosse, The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins of the Third Reich (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 1966 sees this in the context of a broader revolt against modernity, contrasting healthy rural life with the debased materialism of city culture.
  7. ^ "The Swastika and the Nazis". Intelinet.org. Archived from the original on 23 April 2010.
  8. ^ Austrian manifestations were surveyed by Rudolf G. Ardelt, Zwischen Demoktratie und Faschismus: Deutschnationales Gedankengut in Österreich, 1919-1930 (Vienna and Salzburg) 1972, not translated into English.
  9. ^ Heidi Paris and Peter Gente (1982). Monte Verita: A Mountain for Minorities. Translated by Hedwig Pachter, Semiotext, the German Issue IV(2):1.
  10. ^ Calvin.edu
  11. ^ Franz Weidenreich in Science New Series, 104No. 2704 (October 1946:399).
  12. ^ Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 150, 221
  13. ^ Hitler, Adolf (1943). Mein Kampf. Houghton Mifflin Company. p. 496.
  14. ^ Goodrick-Clarke 1985: 149, 201


  • Dohe, Carrie b. Jung's Wandering Archetype: Race and Religion in Analytical Psychology. London: Routledge, 2016.
  • Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas. 1985. The Occult Roots of Nazism: The Ariosophists of Austria and Germany 1890-1935. Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press. ISBN 0-85030-402-4. (1992. The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology. New York: New York University Press. ISBN 0-8147-3060-4)
  • Kurlander, E. 2002. "The Rise of Völkisch-Nationalism and the Decline of German Liberalism: A Comparison of Liberal Political Cultures in Schleswig-Holstein and Silesia 1912–1924", European Review of History 9(1): 23-36. Abstract
  • Mosse, George L. 1964. The Crisis of German Ideology: Intellectual Origins Of The Third Reich. New York: Grosset & Dunlap.
  • Stern, Fritz. 1961, 1963. The Politics Of Cultural Despair: A Study In The Rise Of The Germanic Ideology. Berkeley: University of California Press.

External links

Albrecht von Graefe (politician)

Albrecht von Gräfe, often Anglicized as Graefe (1 January 1868 – 18 April 1933), was a German landowner and right-wing politician active both during the German Empire and the Weimar Republic. Although never a member of the Nazi Party he was an early associate of Adolf Hitler and for a while appeared a credible rival for the leadership of the overall Völkisch movement.

Artaman League

The Artaman League (German language: Artamanen-Gesellschaft) was a German agrarian and völkisch movement dedicated to a Blood and soil–inspired ruralism. Active during the inter-war period, the League became closely linked to, and eventually absorbed by, the Nazi Party.

Artur Dinter

Artur Dinter (27 June 1876 in Mulhouse – 21 May 1948) was a German writer and Nazi politician.

Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund

The Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund (English: German Nationalist Protection and Defiance Federation) was the largest, most active, and most influential anti-Semitic federation in Germany after the First World War, and one of the largest and most important organizations of the German völkisch movement during the Weimar Republic (1918-1933), whose democratic-parliamentary system it unilaterally rejected. Its publishing arm put out some of the books that greatly influenced the opinions of those who later organized the Nazi Party, such as Heinrich Himmler, and after the Bund folded (c. 1924) many of its members eventually joined the Nazis.

The Schutz- und Trutzbund used as its symbols a blue cornflower and a swastika, and according to Peter Padfield its motto was "Wir sind die Herren der Welt!" ("We are the masters of the world!"). Not a single German source can be found which confirms this motto, which in fact is a verse from the song "Der mächtigste König im Luftrevier" (i.e. The mightiest king in the skies.) According to Ulrich Sieg the motto was Deutschland den Deutschen ("Germany for the Germans").


Folkish may refer to:

Folk culture, in the sense "of the common people; traditional, sophisticated, yet unconventional"

Völkisch movement of German ethnic nationalism

Neo-völkisch, an ethnocentric current in Germanic neopaganism

Friedrich Lange (journalist)

Friedrich Lange (born 10 January 1852 – 26 December 1917) was a German journalist and political activist with the Völkisch movement. Seeking to move beyond existing romantic nationalism, Lange sought to build a wider nationalist ideology on the German political right by marrying anti-Semitism to other economic and social issues. He would prove an influential figure for groups that followed.

German Völkisch Freedom Party

The German Völkisch Freedom Party (German: Deutschvölkische Freiheitspartei, or DVFP) was a National Socialist and anti-Jewish political party of Weimar Germany that took its name from the Völkisch movement, a populist movement focused on folklore and the German Volk.

The DVFP was founded on December 16, 1922, when Wilhelm Henning, Reinhold Wulle and Albrecht von Graefe broke from the German National People's Party (DNVP). Leading right-wing figures such as Ernst Graf zu Reventlow, Artur Dinter and Theodor Fritsch joined the party on its foundation. Many members of the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutzbund joined the DVFP after the former was banned.

After the Nazi Party was banned in 1924, the DVFP merged with many Nazis to form the National Socialist Freedom Movement, a move endorsed by Erich Ludendorff and encouraged by Graefe, who hoped to gain control of the far right as a whole. However this alliance was not a success and thus Graefe and Wulle reformed the DVFP as a rival to the Nazi Party in 1925.

Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch

Gregor Schwartz-Bostunitsch (December 1, 1883 – unknown) was a prominent figure in Nazi Germany. He was a German-Russian author in the völkisch movement and became SS-Standartenführer in 1944. His death is unclear.

Mathilde Ludendorff

Mathilde Friederike Karoline Ludendorff (born Mathilde Spiess; 4 October 1877 – 24 June 1966) was a German psychiatrist. Her third husband was General Erich Ludendorff. She was a leading figure in the Völkisch movement known for her esoteric and conspiratorial ideas. Together with Ludendorff, she founded the Bund für Gotteserkenntnis ‹See Tfd›(in German) (translated: Society for the Knowledge of God), a small and rather obscure esoterical society of theists, which was banned from 1961 to 1977.

National Socialist Bloc

National Socialist Bloc (in Swedish: Nationalsocialistiska Blocket) was a Swedish national socialist political party formed in the end of 1933 by the merger of Nationalsocialistiska Samlingspartiet, Nationalsocialistiska Förbundet and local National Socialist units connected to the advocate Sven Hallström in Umeå. Later Svensk Nationalsocialistisk Samling merged into NSB.

The leader of the party was Colonel Martin Ekström. The party maintained several publications, Landet Fritt (Gothenburg), Vår Kamp (Gothenburg), Vår Front (Umeå), Nasisten (Malmö) and Riksposten.

NSB differentiated itself from other Swedish National Socialist groups due to its liaisons with the Swedish upper class. NSB was clearly smaller than the two main National Socialist parties in Sweden at the time, SNSP and NSAP. Gradually the party vanished.

National Socialist Flyers Corps

The National Socialist Flyers Corps (German: Nationalsozialistisches Fliegerkorps; NSFK) was a paramilitary organization of the Nazi Party that was founded 15 April 1937 as a successor to the German Air Sports Association; the latter had been active during the years when a German air force was forbidden by the Treaty of Versailles. The NSFK organization was based closely on the para-military organization of the Sturmabteilung (SA). A similar group was the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK).

During the early years of its existence, the NSFK conducted military aviation training in gliders and private airplanes. Friedrich Christiansen, originally a Generalleutnant then later a Luftwaffe General der Flieger, was NSFK Korpsführer from 15 April 1937 until 26 June 1943, followed by Generaloberst Alfred Keller until 8 May 1945.

National Unity Party (Canada)

The Parti National Social Chrétien (English: National Social Christian Party) was a Canadian political party formed by Adrien Arcand in February 1934. The party identified with antisemitism, and German leader Adolf Hitler's Nazism. The party was later known, in English, as the Canadian National Socialist Unity Party or National Unity Party.

People's Republic

"People's Republic" is a title used by some sovereign states with republican constitutions. The term was initially associated with populist movements in the 19th century such as the German Völkisch movement and the Narodniks in Russia. A number of the short-lived states created during World War I and its aftermath called themselves people's republics. Many of these were in the territory of the former Russian Empire which collapsed following the Russian Revolution of 1917. Additional people's republics were created following the Allied victory in World War II. The term has become associated with countries adhering to communism, although its use is not unique to such states. A number of republics with liberal democratic political systems, such as Bangladesh and Algeria, adopted the title after popular wars of independence given its rather generic nature.


THG may refer to:

Tempelhofgesellschaft, a neo-völkisch movement

Tetrahydrogestrinone, an anabolic steroid

The Humble Guys, a 1990s IBM PC cracking group

Third Harmonic Generation, in nonlinear optics

The Hut Group, an e-commerce company

Hanover Insurance, NYSE symbol THG

The Hunger Games by Suzan Collins


The Tannenbergbund (German: [ˈtanm̩bɛɐ̯kˌbʊnt], Tannenberg Union, TB) was a nationalist German political society formed in September 1925 at the instigation of Konstantin Hierl under the patronage of the former German Army general Erich Ludendorff. Part of the Völkisch movement, it was meant to counteract the Stahlhelm paramilitary association as well as the reorganized Sturmabteilung (SA) of the Nazi Party. The TB failed to meet the goal of a far-right collective movement and sank into insignificance long before it was officially banned by the Nazi authorities in September 1933.


The Tatkreis, or "Action Circle", was a Völkisch movement which existed during the era of the Weimar Republic. They followed the beliefs of most Völkisch movements but claimed the current republic "corrupt and sterile beyond repair" and called for "freedom and rebirth" in Germany. The Tatkreis used a combination of nationalism and 'revolutionary' Right-wing populism to generate passion within their ranks in a fashion that pre-dated Nazism and was no doubt an influence.

The Tatkreis called for an end to capitalism and promoted a neomercantilist ideology, a system which encourages exports and discourages imports, with a high level of state manipulation of the economy introducing high tariffs, and called for German self-sufficiency. This idea was easily received by the citizens of Germany, who lived in a time of depression after World War I. The middle-class craftsmen and shopkeepers were a majority in Germany and thus a key demographic.

At the end of the 1920s the Tatkreis was formed around the publication Die Tat ("Action"). Die Tat, edited by Hans Zehrer, produced a circulation of over 25,000 in 1933. After the rise to power of the Nazi Party the Tatkreis was dissolved, as were other political parties under Nazi rule. Even before this, the way the Nazi Party truly undermined the Tatkreis was by drawing from their membership, as both parties targeted the same types of followers.

Tradition und Leben

Tradition und Leben e.V. (TuL, "Tradition and Life"), is a monarchist organisation in Germany. It was registered in January 1959 in Cologne. Prior to that, a constitutional assembly took place in the autumn of 1958. Tradition und Leben provides a rallying point for all German royalists and supports all former German ruling houses.

Shortly after World War II, monarchists got together under the motto "Letters for Tradition und Leben." They followed partly the tradition of monarchist organisations and personalities from the time of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), especially the "Bund der Aufrechten," founded in November 1918, and partly the older German traditionalist Völkisch movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Tradition und Leben is thus linked with the oldest organisations of its kind and the most important in Germany.

The aim of Tradition und Leben is summed up by its motto: “We crown democracy!” indicating the desire for a modern, democratic kingdom. Members of Tradition und Leben believe that Germany should become a democratic parliamentary monarchy. Each June, the organization's representatives are among those who lay a wreath at former Kaiser Wilhelm's mausoleum at Huis Doorn, on the anniversary of his death. Doorn was his residence-in-exile in the Netherlands.

Tradition und Leben supports hereditary monarchy as the best guarantee for the performance of duty and the exercise of responsibility for the political well-being and the physical environment for each succeeding generation. Among other principles espoused by the organization are the following:

The principle of the separation of the head of state, parliament, and the executive.

Germany shall remain a federal state with monarchies and republics having equal rights under it. Dynasties should return to the throne in those German states where the people desire it. The interests of the Länder and the state are to be represented in a system of two houses.

Monarchy guarantees solidarity between state and land and thus strengthens the European idea.

The monarch represents the interests of the people, being unrelated to party politics, and promotes public welfare.

The monarchy shall support integration within Europe and play its part in peace and public welfare.

The aim of creating a modern and democratic kingdom shall be reached by peaceable means. Tradition und Leben guarantees this approach.

The rightful claimant is the head of the House of Hohenzollern, Georg Friedrich of Prussia.


The Volkshalle ("People's Hall"), also called Große Halle ("Great Hall") or Ruhmeshalle ("Hall of Glory"), was a huge domed monumental building planned by Adolf Hitler and his architect Albert Speer for Germania in Berlin. The project was never realized.

The word Volk had a particular resonance in Nazi thinking. The term völkisch movement, which can be translated to English as "the people's movement" or "the folkish movement", derives from Volk but also implies a particularly racial undertone. Before the First World War, völkisch thought had developed an attitude to the arts as the German Volk; that is, from an organically linked Aryan or Nordic community (Volksgemeinschaft), racially unpolluted and with its roots in the German soil of the Heimat (homeland).


The Volkstum (lit. folkdom or folklore, though the meaning is wider than the common usage of folklore) is the entire utterances of a Volk or ethnic minority over its lifetime, expressing a "Volkscharakter" this unit had in common. It was the defining idea of the Völkisch movement.

The term was coined by German nationalists in the context of Germany's "Freedom Wars", in marked and conscious opposition to the ideals of the French Revolution such as universal human rights. This sense of the word is now criticised in academia, though it is still in use in the protection of ethnic minorities and is a legal standard in Austria.


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