Herman Wirth (alternatively referred to as Herman Wirth Roeper Bosch, or Herman Felix Wirth or Hermann) (6 May 1885 Utrecht – 16 February 1981, Kusel) was a Dutch-German lay historian and scholar of ancient religions and symbols. He co-founded the SS-organization Ahnenerbe but was pushed later out by Heinrich Himmler.
Born in Utrecht on 6 May 1885, Wirth studied Flemish Dutch philosophy, literature, history and musicology at Utrecht and Leipzig, receiving his doctorate in 1910 from the University of Leipzig with a dissertation on the demise of the Dutch folk song. He then taught Flemish Dutch philosophy at the University of Bern.
In 1914, at the outbreak of World War I, Wirth volunteered for military service in the German army. However, due to his support for Flemish separatists in German-occupied Belgium he was dismissed from the service. In 1916, he was appointed by Wilhelm II as a professor (Titularprofessor). After the war ended, he founded a nationalist organization in the Netherlands.
Wirth then published a paper about the "Prehistory of the Atlantic Nordic race" (German: Urgeschichte der atlantisch-nordischen Rasse), which found appeal in völkisch circles. From October 1932, Wirth attempted to set up a Forschunsginstitut für Urgeschichte in Bad Doberan associated with a professorship at Rostock university, supported by the NSDAP state government of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Headed by Wirth, it was extremely controversial in professional circles as well as among noted NSDAP intellectuals. Due to a lack of funds and Wirth's expensive way of life, the institute folded within a year. The Hermann-Wirth-Gesellschaft, founded in 1928, also suffered.
After the rise to power of the NSDAP, he rejoined the party in 1934 and shortly thereafter became a member of the Schutzstaffel (SS, membership number 258.776). He was re-awarded his former NSDAP number (20.151) personally by Adolf Hitler.
In early summer 1933, friends within the NSDAP helped Wirth to be appointed to an extraordinary professorship without teaching responsibilities at the theological faculty of Berlin University. he also negotiated with the Prussian Ministry of Education about the establishment of an open-air museum Deutsches Ahnenerbe near Berlin. Wirth also re-founded his organization as Gesellschaft für germanische Ur- und Vorgeschichte, with assistance from the journalist and Nazi functionary Johann von Leers and the industrialist Ludwig Roselius. The latter had supported Wirth since the 1920s and paid for the publication of Der Aufgang der Menschheit.
Between 1933 and 1935, there was a large philosophical clash encouraged by the Nazi party between the churches, and neo-paganism supported by völkisch theories. Wirth was among those who tried to reinterpret Christianity in terms of ethnic Nordic origin of original monotheism. The free-thinking neo-pagans founded a supporting group in 1933, and included Wirth, Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, and until 1934 Ernst Bergmann and numerous ex-Communists.
In 1934, Wirth advanced plans to create an organization called Deutsches Ahnenerbe e.V. which was intended to host and exhibit his collection. Although he was supported by Roselius, the Verein was seemingly never set up. But von Leers hat brought Wirth into contact with Heinrich Himmler and Richard Walther Darré who were interested in Wirth's ideas. From 1935, sponsored by Himmler and Darré, Wirth co-founded and then headed the Ahnenerbe, which was to "research German ancestral heritage", of the SS. In 1937, Himmler restructured the Ahnenerbe, made Wirth the "Honorary President" with no real powers and replaced him as president with Walter Wüst. In 1938, Wirth also lost his department within the Ahnenerbe and in 1939 he lost his position as Ehrenpräsident.
Wirth was subsequently forced into exile along with other German mystics that did not support National Socialism. He continued his research with state-funded aid, but being excluded from both academic and Nazi circles, was not considered by anyone as part of the Nazi regime.
Post World War II
Although he continued to defend National Socialist principles, Wirth's teachings about "Urkulturen" found resonance in the evolving alternative scene, and in the 1970s gained support from North American native groups. In the late 1970s, politicians in Rhineland-Palatinate including the state government and delegates from Kusel supported a project to set up a museum to show Wirth's ethnographic collection in the tithe barn of Lichtenberg Castle.
Wirth died in 1981 in Kusel.
Wirth claimed that civilization is a curse that only a simpler way of life, as documented in archaeological findings and historical records, could lift. He has been criticized for romantic nationalism and Germanomania. He was also criticized by German scholars of his time, like Bolko von Richthofen, Gerhard Gloege, Arthur Hübner (de) and Karl Hermann Jacob-Friesen (de), for gullibly refusing to accept the scientific evidence that proved Ura Linda chronicle (a supposedly 6th–1st century BC chronicle of a Frisian family that he translated) a forgery.
Wirth placed the origins of European civilization on the mythological island of Atlantis, which he thought had been located in the North Atlantic, connecting North America and Europe. Its inhabitants supposedly were pure Aryans, influencing the cultures not just of Europeans but also of the natives of North America and the wider "Old World" beyond Europe. According to With, these Atlanteans worshipped a single deity whose aspect changed with the seasons and its son, the Heilsbringer. In their religion, priestesses played a key role. Wirth thought that both the Jewish and the Christian faith were perversions of this original religion. He considered himself a symbologist and thought the Germanic people to be direct descendants of these inhabitants of Atlantis. Researching the Germanic culture thus was a way of reconstructing the original culture of the ancients. All of this research was considered explicitly political as well as religious.
Wirth's ideas inspired the design of Haus Atlantis in the Böttcherstraße in Bremen. This was referred to in a speech by Hitler at the 1936 Reichsparteitag, in which he denounced the "Böttcher-Straßen-Kultur".
- Der Aufgang der Menschheit (Accession of Mankind), 1928
- Die Heilige Urschrift der Menschheit, 1931-1936
- Die Ura Linda Chronik (Ura Linda chronicle), editor, 1933
- Mahsarski, Dirk (2013), ""Schwarmgeister und Phantasten" - die völkische Laienforschung", in Focke-Museum, Bremen, Graben für Germanien - Archäologie unterm Hakenkreuz, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, pp. 50–56, ISBN 978-3-534-25919-9
- Die Missionsanstalt Hermannsburg und der Nationalsozialismus: der Weg einer lutherischen Milieuinstitution zwischen Weimarer Republik und Nachkriegszeit, Gunther Schendel, LIT Verlag Münster, 2008 pp.300
- Die Nation vor Gott. Zur Botschaft der Kirche im Dritten Reich. Editors Walter Künneth, Helmuth Schreiner, Berlin 1933
- Halle, Uta; Mahsarski, Dirk (2013), "Forschungsstrukturen", in Focke-Museum, Bremen, Graben für Germanien - Archäologie unterm Hakenkreuz, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, pp. 57–64, ISBN 978-3-534-25919-9
- Schenkel der Göttlichen. In: Der Spiegel. 40/1980 (29 September 1980)
- Kater, M. (1974). Das Ahnenerbe der SS 1935-1945: ein Beitrag zur Kulturpolitik Des Dritten Reiches, Studien zur Zeitgeschichte/Institut für Zeitgeschichte, Stuttgart, Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, pp.11-16 (as cited in Arnold, Bettina, Pseudoarchaeology and nationalism, a contribution in Archaeological Fantasies' (ed. Garrett G. Fagan), Routledge, 2006, ISBN 0-415-30593-4, p. 163
- Kater (1974), p.16 (as cited in Arnold (2006), p. 163)
- A full biography of Wirth exists in Joscelyn Godwin, Herman Wirth on Folksong, Tyr journal, Vol. 2.
- For further details of Wirth's life, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity.