Erik Jan Hanussen

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Erik Jan Hanussen
Hermann Steinschneider

(1889-06-02)2 June 1889
Vienna, Austria-Hungary
Died25 March 1933(1933-03-25) (aged 43)
Berlin, Germany
Occupation(s)publicist, charlatan, clairvoyant performer, hypnotist, mentalist, occultist, and astrologer

Erik Jan Hanussen, born Hermann Steinschneider (2 June 1889 – 25 March 1933), was an Austrian Jewish publicist, charlatan and clairvoyant performer. Acclaimed in his lifetime as a hypnotist, mentalist, occultist and astrologer, Hanussen was active in Weimar Republic Germany and also at the beginning of Nazi Germany. He is said to have instructed Adolf Hitler in performance and the achievement of dramatic effect.[1]

Early years[edit]

Although Hanussen claimed to be a Danish aristocrat, he was in fact a Moravian Jew, born as Hermann (Herschel Chaim) Steinschneider.[2] Hanussen's father, Siegfried Steinschneider (1858–1910), was an actor and caretaker of a synagogue who married Antonie Julie Kohn, a singer, in Vienna, Austria.[citation needed]

Hanussen's parents traveled constantly through Austria and Italy with acting and musical troupes, taking Hanussen with them.[3]


At the age of 21, Hanussen became a chief reporter for the newspaper Der Blitz[4]: 207  He was later drafted into the army during World War I.[4]: 207  During this time, he used mentalism to entertain the other troops. In 1917, he adopted the name Erik Jan Hanussen (also written as Erik van Hanussen) and joined a circus.[4]: 208  He soon wrote two booklets dealing with subjects including telepathy, clairvoyance, and mind-reading, which he labelled as fraudulent practices.[4]: 208  However, he later treated these practices as genuine and claimed to have supernatural abilities.[4]: 208 

Hanussen performed a mind reading and hypnosis act at La Scala in Berlin that catapulted him to stardom.[4]: 209  At his height, he enjoyed the company of Germany's military and business elite, also becoming close with members of the SA ("Brownshirts"). It is claimed he was a supporter of the Nazis despite his Jewish ancestry, which was an open secret. Hanussen converted from Judaism to Protestantism in order to join the Nazi Party.[5] He also published anti-Semitic propaganda.[5]

Stories abound of meetings between Hanussen and Hitler, including an encounter shortly before the election of November 1932, during which Hanussen taught Hitler his crowd control techniques of using gestures and dramatic pauses.[6] Hanussen was also quite close to other important Nazi officials, to whom he had often lent money, including Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff, Karl Ernst and Friedrich Wilhelm Ohst.

Dr. Walter C. Langer, a psychoanalyst, prepared a psychological profile of Hitler for the Office of Strategic Services in 1943. The profile included a reference to Hanussen: "...during the early 1920s Hitler took regular lessons in speaking and in mass psychology from a man named [Hanussen][7] who was also a practicing astrologer and fortune-teller. He was an extremely clever individual who taught Hitler a great deal concerning the importance of staging meetings to obtain the greatest dramatic effect."[1]

In 1931 Hanussen purchased a Breslau printing firm and began publishing an occult journal, Hanussen Magazin and Bunte Wochenschau, a popular bi-weekly Berlin tabloid which included astrological columns.[8] He used the proceeds from his publishing ventures and stage shows to purchase a mansion which became known as "The Palace of the Occult", which he renovated and turned into a luxurious interactive theatre for fortune telling games. Guests would sit around a large circular table and place their palms on glass with symbols lit from beneath; the room lights would be lowered in a séance-like fashion; and various gimmicks would highlight Hanussen's dramatic verbal presentation of prophecies to the guests. He predicted events in the lives of the individuals present, but controversy arose when he predicted the future of Germany. He became successful, was always in demand in various venues, and had a full-time valet.

Alfred Neubauer, a famous motor racing team manager, refers to Hanussen in his autobiography, Speed Was My Life (first published in English in 1960). In the chapter 'A Prophecy Comes True', he describes a prediction made by Hanussen before the race at AVUS in Germany in May 1932. While at the Roxy Bar with other drivers, Neubauer challenged Hanussen to predict the winner of the following day's race. After some 'leg pulling', Hanussen wrote two names on a piece of paper, which he folded, and put in an envelope. This was placed in the custody of the barman. He had strict instructions that it be left unopened until after the race. Hanussen announced, 'One of us at this table will win tomorrow, another will die. The two names are in this envelope.' During the race, driver Prince George Christian of Lobkowicz was killed, and Manfred von Brauchitsch won. After the race, Neubauer states he opened the envelope and found those names inside. Several days later, a Berlin newspaper reported that Hanussen had urged the German Automobile Club to persuade Prince Lobkowicz not to take part in the race, but Club officials had taken no action.

Reichstag fire and assassination[edit]

Predicting the Reichstag fire, a decisive event that allowed recently appointed Chancellor of Germany Adolf Hitler to seize absolute power in 1933, was Hanussen's most famous feat of clairvoyance.[9] It also was possibly a miscalculated use of inside information that led to his death shortly thereafter.[10]

Hanussen was assassinated on 25 March 1933,[11] probably by a group of SA men,[12] and was hastily buried in a field on the outskirts of Berlin, near Stahnsdorf.[13] He was potential competition to Hermann Göring and Joseph Goebbels for the attention of their Führer, which may also have led to his murder. Hanussen's body was discovered over a month later. There are unsubstantiated claims that he may have been involved in the Reichstag fire, hypnotizing and directing Marinus van der Lubbe, the convicted arsonist, to commit the act.[14]

Erik Jan Hanussen is buried in the Südwestkirchhof, Stahnsdorf, near Berlin.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Hanussen's daughter, Erika Fuchs Steinschneider, was born to his first wife Theresia Luksch in 1920.[16] After their separation, Theresia resettled with her young daughter in Merano, Italy where Theresia eventually met, married, and later divorced Mr. Fuchs, heir to a brewing company.[citation needed]

Hanussen was possibly survived by a son born in 1922 to a mistress. The son, Gerhard Belgardt, was placed in an orphanage and survived the war. He later gained some fame by performing as a clairvoyant, calling himself Hanussen II.[citation needed]

In fiction[edit]




  • El mentalista de Hitler (2016), a "historical noir" novel written in Spanish by the Uruguayan author Gervasio Posadas, closely based on Erik Jan Hanussen's true biography.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b A Psychological Profile of Adolph Hitler Archived 2010-08-29 at the Wayback Machine; see also Walter C. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report, p. 40, New American Library (1972).
  2. ^ Gordon, Mel: "Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant". Feral House, 2001, p. 249. ISBN 0922915687
  3. ^ Magida, p. 18.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Randi, James (1992). Conjuring. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-08634-2. OCLC 26162991.
  5. ^ a b Randi, James (1995). An encyclopedia of claims, frauds, and hoaxes of the occult and supernatural: decidedly sceptical definitions of alternative realities. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-15119-5.
  6. ^ See generally John Toland, Adolf Hitler, p. 218, Anchor Books edition (1992), originally published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. (1976).
  7. ^ The name in the quote is "Hamissen." This is apparently a typographical error, since in the same sentence the name is subsequently spelled correctly two times as Hanussen. In the 1972 reprint of the document by New American Library, the name "Hanussen" is spelled correctly. See Walter C. Langer, The Mind of Adolf Hitler: The Secret Wartime Report, p. 40, New American Library (1972).
  8. ^ Gordon, Mel: "Hitler's Jewish Psychic". "Guilt & Pleasure" (3). Roger Bennett, Summer 2006
  9. ^ Kurlander, Eric (2017). Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich. Yale University Press. pp. 92–3.
  10. ^ Kurlander, p. 105.
  11. ^ Gordon, Mel: Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant Feral House, 2001, p. 249. ISBN 0922915687.
  12. ^ Kurlander, p. 101.
  13. ^ John Toland, Adolf Hitler, p. 962, Anchor Books edition (1992), originally published by Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. (1976).
  14. ^ Gordon, Mel: "Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant". Feral House, 2001, p. 242
  15. ^ Magida, pp. 215-217.
  16. ^ Steinschneider, Phil: Steinschneider Genealogy. Accessed 2008-02-13
  17. ^ Hypnose, IMDB
  18. ^ Der ratselhafte Tod, IMDB
  19. ^ Truitt, Brian (24 December 2021). "Spoilers! How 'The King's Man' sets up a future prequel, rise of an evil historical villain". USA TODAY. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  20. ^ Cremona, Patrick (4 January 2022). "The King's Man end credits scene explained". Radio Times. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
  21. ^ Official website: Palace of the Occult (interactive play)
  22. ^ El mentalista de Hitler (Hitler’s Clairvoyant). Editorial Suma de Letras, Spain. 2016. ISBN 978-8483658734.


  • Bernauw, Patrick, Guy Didelez, and Mirjam Pressler. 1997. Brennende Sterne. Bindlach: Loewe.
  • Cziffra, Géza von. 1978. Hanussen, Hellseher des Teufels: d. Wahrheit über d. Reichstagsbrand. München: Herbig.
  • Frei, B. (1980) Der Hellseher: Leben und Sterben des Erik Jan Hanussen, Prometh-Verlag: Koln.
  • Gauding, Daniela. 2006. Siegmund Sische Breitbart: Eisenkönig, stärkster Mann der Welt: Breitbart versus Hanussen. Teetz: Hentrich & Hentrich.
  • Gordon, M. (2001) Hanussen: Hitler's Jewish Clairvoyant, Feral House. ISBN 0922915687.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1992. Manuale di lettura del pensiero: corso pratico in 12 lezioni. Roma: Edizioni Mediterranee.
  • Hanussen, Erik J. 1990. Der Untergang von New York: Roman. Köln: Smaragd-Verl.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1989. La notte dei maghi: autobiografia di un veggente. Roma: Edizioni Mediterranee.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1979. Unser zweites Leben. Klosterneuburg/Wien: Aktuell-Verlag. Spiritualist Zauberkünstler Oesterreich Deutschland.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1932. Berliner Woche (5-27: Erik Jan Hanussen's Berliner Wochenschau ; 28-40: Hanussens Bunte Wochenschau ; 41-44: Die Hanussen-Zeitung ; 45: Bunte Wochenschau ; 46. 47: Astropolitische Rundschau). Berlin: (Hanussen).
  • Eng, Peter, and Erik Jan Hanussen. 1930. Lache Medusa. Berlin: Gurlitt-Verl.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan, and Heinrich Wissiak. 1930. Der Leitmeritzer Hellseher-Prozess Hanussen; ausführliche Wiedergabe der sensationellen Gerichts-Verhandlung mit zahlreichen bisher unveröffentlichten Dokumenten. Teplitz-Schönau: Im Selbstverlage.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1930. Meine Lebenslinie. Berlin: Universitas.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1920. Schließen Sie die Augen! Brettelieder. Wien: Nestroy-Verlag.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1920. Das Gedankenlesen: Telepathie. Wien: Waldheim-Eberle.
  • Hanussen, Erik Jan. 1915. Was so über's Brettl ging Poetika aus Musentempeln, die ohne Vorhang spielen. Olmütz: Groak.
  • Kugel, Wilfried. 1998. Hanussen: die wahre Geschichte des Hermann Steinschneider. Düsseldorf: Grupello.
  • Magida, A. (2011) The Nazi Seance: The Strange Story of the Jewish Psychic in Hitler's Circle Palgrave Macmillan Books.
  • Müller, Delia. 2006. Das bittere Erbe: Erika Fuchs, Tochter des Hellsehers Hanussen, erzählt. Bolzano: Athesia Spectrum.
  • Palacios, J. (2005) Erik Jan Hanussen, la vida y los tiempos del mago de Hitler, Barcelona: Oberón.

External links[edit]