Otto Höfler

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Otto Höfler (10 May 1901 – 25 August 1987, in Vienna) was an Austrian scholar of German studies. He was a student of Rudolf Much, and adopted Much's "Germanic Continuity Theory," which argued for continuity of ancient Germanic culture into present-day German folklore. His contributions center on studies of Germanic paganism, the continuation of Germanic cultural strata, sacral kingship and Männerbünde (secret societies) in a Germanic context, and Germanic historical phonology.


Otto Höfler came from a middle-class family with a right-conservative Catholic background. His father Alois was professor of philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Vienna, his mother, Auguste Dornhöfer, came from Bayreuth. His older brother Karl Höfler (1893-1973) was a botanist and plant physiologist and professor in Vienna, his younger brother Wolfgang (1905-1984) a chemist. After lecturing at the University of Uppsala in Sweden, he was appointed professor in Kiel from 1935 to 1938, in Munich from 1938 to 1945, and after World War II in Vienna from 1951 to 1971. Höfler was a friend of Jan de Vries and Georges Dumézil. He began studying German and Scandinavian studies in Vienna (1921).

Höfler published his professorial thesis of 1934, "Kultische Geheimbünde der Germanen" (Secret Cultic Societies of the Germanic Peoples) with volkisch publisher Moritz Diesterweg in Frankfurt. (Two volumes were projected but the second never appeared.) Its argument met with opposition from Friedrich von der Leyen [de] and Friedrich Ranke, but the book became a favorite of Heinrich Himmler's, and Höfler became a very active collaborator in Himmler's cultural project "Ahnenerbe" and a regular contributor to the magazine Germania. Höfler had been a member of the Nazi Students' Organization since 1922; in 1937 he joined the NSDAP, and he became a prominent National Socialist academic, overseeing the German translation of Vilhelm Grønbech's The Culture of the Teutons. In 1938 his treatment of "Germanic continuity" in the spirit of Much appeared as the lead article in the prestigious Historische Zeitschrift.

Despite his active party membership and support of the ideology of the SS, after the war Höfler was officially categorized as a "geistiger Mitläufer" ("intellectual fellow traveler"), an official category for people judged to have been neither actively involved with nor actively opposed to Nazi crimes.