World War I left Berlin, and all of Germany, devastated. Charlatans and demagogues eagerly exploited the desperate crowds. Fascination with the occult was everywhere—in private séances, personalized psychic readings, communions with the dead, and anxious attempts to know that there would be a positive future. In the early 1930s, the most famous mentalist in the German capital was Erik Jan Hanussen, a Jewish mind reader originally from Vienna who became so popular in Berlin that he rubbed elbows with high ranking Nazis. Especially close with the top Storm Troopers, Hanussen even advised Hitler.
Called “Europe’s Greatest Oracle Since Nostradamus,” Hanussen assumed he could manipulate some of the more incendiary personalities of his time just as he had manipulated his fans. He turned his occult newspaper in Berlin into a Nazi propaganda rag, outfitted Storm Troopers based in the capital, personally assured Hitler that the stars were aligned in his favor and predicted at a star-studded séance the infamous Reichstag Fire that would solidify the Nazis’ grip on Germany.
Seasoned with ruminations about wonder and magic (and explanations of Hanussen’s tricks), The Nazi Séance is a journey into a Germany descending into madness—aided by a “clairvoyant” Jew oblivious to the savagery of men who pursued a Reich they fantasized would last 1,000 years.
"An astonishing story, brilliantly told."
- Roger Moorhouse, author of Killing Hitler and Berlin at War
"Well written... Since there have been some exaggerated accounts of Nazi interest in the occult, it is refreshing to have this subject engaged in a thoughtful way."
- Gerhard Weinberg, eminent historian of Nazi Germany
"Hanussen (and his relation to Hitler) is one of the strangest enigmas of the pre-war era. Arthur Magida has done a great service in illuminating this figure of mystery—and the light his story reflects on the growing darkness surrounding him."
- Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and How the End Begins
“... a fascinating journey into the magical thinking of Hitler and his cronies, and the life of a Jewish conjuror who tried—and failed—the ultimate magic trick: to survive Nazi Germany as one of Hitler’s own.”
- Stephen L. Macknik & Susana Martinez-Conde, authors of Sleights of Mind: How the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals Our Everyday Deceptions
“In a history that reads like a novel, Arthur Magida gives us much more than a finely written and well-researched examination of the 'Nazi' Jewish psychic.”
- Lawrence Kushner, author of Kabbalah: A Love Story
“Magida's passion illuminates a thoroughly researched and engaging account of a momentous, sinister and, at times, tragicomic episode of German history.”
- Christopher Sandford, author of Masters of Mystery: the Strange Friendship of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini
“... is a chilling parable about the ultimate price paid by those who blindly allied themselves with brute power.”
- Mitch Horowitz, author of Occult America