Friedrich Hielscher (31 May 1902, Plauen, Vogtland – 6 March 1990, Furtwangen) was a German intellectual involved in the Conservative Revolutionary movement during the Weimar Republic and in the German resistance during the Nazi era. He was the founder of an esoteric or Neopagan movement, the Unabhängige Freikirche (UFK, "Independent Free Church"), which he headed from 1933 until his death.
Hielscher was born to Fritz Hielscher and Gertrud Hielscher née Erdmenger in Plauen, Vogtland, at the time part of the Kingdom of Saxony. Baptized Fritz Johannes, he later changed his name to Hans Friedrich and finally to Friedrich.
Hielscher joined a Freikorps in 1919. He left his unit in 1920 due to his refusal to participate in the 1920 Kapp-Putsch. From 1920 he studied law in Berlin, where he joined the schlagende Corps Normania Berlin and became politically active in the German People's Party.
Conservative Revolutionary movement
Hielscher's first publication was a 1926 essay in Ernst Jünger's nationalist journal Standarte-Arminius. His dissertation in law was about the term Selbstherrlichkeit in German legal tradition, accepted in 1928. Impressed by The Decline of the West, he contacted Oswald Spengler but was rejected. Beginning in 1928, Hielscher gathered a circle of followers around his person. He took over the editorship of Der Vormarsch from Jünger in 1928, a post he abandoned in the summer of 1929 in order to launch a journal of his own, titled Das Reich, which appeared from 1930 until 1933.
Hielscher's concept of Reich was inspired by Stefan George's belief in a "Secret Germany" (Geheimes Deutschland), a mystical and ethnic essentialist argument for a spiritual and cultural potential held by the German people and a German nation which existed in potentia but which had been prevented from realization in the history of the Holy Roman Empire.
Hielscher published his vision of an ethnic German Reich in a monograph in 1931. Here he argues against a racial or biologist definition of the German nation, emphasizing the cultural and spiritual character of his vision in contrast to the Blut und Boden ideology in völkisch nationalism.
Hielscher was a member of the Evangelical Church in Germany until 1924. In 1933, he founded the Unabhängige Freikirche ("Independent Free Church", UFK), a non-Christian religious institution designed to put into practice his theological ideas. The UFK combined panentheism with paganism and nationalism. In Hielscher's theology, God is external to the universe, or the universe contained within God. Within the universe are the "Twelve Divine Messengers" (zwölf göttliche Boten), six male and six female, identified with the pagan deities, specifically with the gods of Germanic paganism. Hielscher elaborates the personality of three out of these twelve deities in particular, describing them as "divine couple", also "king and queen", named Wode and Frigga, and the "god of Easter" (Ostergott), named Fro. The remaining nine Messengers are treated much more briefly, or not at all; they include Freya, Loki and Sigyn. The principles of his religious system are elaborated in twelve pamphlets (Leitbriefe) written in 1956/1957 and distributed to his adherents. This "pagan catechism" of Hielscher's were edited by Bahn (2009). The religious doctrine of Hielscher's UFK consists of a syncretism of monotheistic Christianity, panentheism as advocated by Goethe, and polytheistic reconstruction related to other currents of Germanic mysticism at the time (such as the groups led by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer and Ludwig Fahrenkrog).
Like other conservative thinkers of 1920s Germany, Hielscher was opposed to Nazism its biologistic racial theories. While his early writings were openly nationalist, he moved away from German nationalism after 1933 and participated in the underground German resistance.
Under the Nazi regime of 1933 to 1945, he advocated a clandestine approach to resistance, attempting to place his adherents in key positions where they could contribute to the ultimate downfall of the regime. Hielscher's UFK was not itself a cell of the German resistance, but several of its members were at the same time active in such. Via Franz Maria Liedig and August Winnig, the UFK was well-connected with the wider resistance movement. Hielscher convinced several of his followers to seek positions within the regime, including intelligence (Abwehr), military command, Ahnenerbe and police (SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt), from which positions they managed to protect some of those persecuted by the Nazi regime.
When Sievers was accused of war crimes at the Doctors' Trial at Nuremberg, Hielscher in turn interceded for him, stating that Sievers was part of his clandestine resistance. Sievers was nevertheless condemned to death and executed in 1948.
Hielscher was criticized by his own followers for his leadership, the failure of his concept of clandestine resistance, and his attempts to defend Sievers. Disillusioned, and disappointed with his failure to save Sievers from execution, Hielscher publicly announced his retirement from all political activities, resolving to restrict his efforts to the purely religious.
Life after 1945
After the war, Hielscher retired from all public office. He lived with his wife Gertrud in Marburg and Münnerstadt and from 1964 at the secluded Rimprechtshof near Schönwald in the Black Forest. He was the editor of the Deutsche Corpszeitung during the 1960s, where he published a number of essays on academic fencing. Hielscher continued to lead the UFK until his death in 1990.
- 1928, Die Selbstherrlichkeit: Versuch einer Darsterstellung des deutschen Rechtsgrundbegriffs, Vormarsch-Verlag, Berlin.
- 1931, Das Reich, Hermann & Schulze, Leipzig.
- 1954, Fünfzig Jahre unter Deutschen, Rowohlt, Hamburg 1954 (autobiography)
- 1959, Zuflucht der Sünder, Dionysos-Verlag Thulcke & Schulze, Berlin.
- Peter Bahn (ed.), Die Leitbriefe der Unabhängigen Freikirche, Telesma, Schwielowsee, 2009 (online recension).
- Ernst Jünger / Friedrich Hielscher. Briefwechsel, Klett-Cotta, 2005, ISBN 3-608-93617-3 (edition of correspondence with Ernst Jünger).
- Ina Schmidt, Der Herr des Feuers. Friedrich Hielscher und sein Kreis zwischen Heidentum, neuem Nationalismus und Widerstand gegen den Nationalsozialismus. SH-Verlag, Köln 2004, ISBN 3-89498-135-0.
- Peter Bahn, Friedrich Hielscher 1902 - 1990. Einführung in Leben und Werk, Verlag Siegfried Bublies, Schnellbach 2004, ISBN 3-926584-85-8.
- Peter Bahn, "The Friedrich Hielscher Legend: The Founding of a Twentieth-Century Panentheistic Church: and Its Subsequent Misinterpretations" in Moynihan and Buckley (eds), TYR, vol. 2 (2004), pp. 243–262.