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Savitri Devi Mukherji
Portrait of Savitri Devi, 1937
Maximiani Julia Portas
30 September 1905
|Died||22 October 1982 (aged 77)|
|Alma mater||University of Lyon|
|Occupation||Teacher, author, political activist|
|Spouse(s)||Asit Krishna Mukherji|
Savitri Devi Mukherji (born Maximiani Julia Portas, French: [mak.si.mja.ni pɔʁ.tɑ]; 30 September 1905—22 October 1982) was a French-born proponent of Nazism who served the Axis powers by committing espionage on the forces of the Allies of World War II in India. She was later a leading member of the Nazi underground during the 1960s.
Savitri was a proponent of a synthesis of Hinduism and Nazism, proclaiming Adolf Hitler to have been sent by Providence, much like an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. She believed Hitler was a sacrifice for humanity which would lead to the end of the Kali Yuga induced by the Jews, who she felt were the powers of evil.
Her writings have influenced neo-Nazism and Nazi occultism. Rejecting Judeo-Christianity, she believed in a form of pantheistic monism; a single cosmos of nature composed of divine energy-matter. Within neo-Nazism, she promoted occultism, ecology, and the New Age movement, and more contemporaneously, she has influenced the alt-right. She also influenced the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano. In 1982, Franco Freda published a German translation of her work Gold in the Furnace, and the fourth volume of his annual review, Risguardo (1980–), was devoted to Savitri Devi as the "missionary of Aryan Paganism".
Savitri was an associate in the post-war years of Françoise Dior, Otto Skorzeny, Johann von Leers, and Hans-Ulrich Rudel. She was also one of the founding members of the World Union of National Socialists.
Born as Maximiani Julia Portas in 1905 in Lyon, Savitri Devi was the daughter of Maxim Portas, a French citizen of Greek and Italian ancestry and an English woman, Julia Portas (née Nash). Maximine Portas was born two and a half months premature, weighing only 930 grams (2.05 pounds), and was not at first expected to live. She formed her political views early. From childhood and throughout her life, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights. Her earliest political affiliations were with Greek nationalism.
Portas studied philosophy and chemistry, earning two master's degrees and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Lyon. She next traveled to Greece, and surveyed the legendary ruins. Here, she became familiar with Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of swastikas in Anatolia. Her conclusion was that Ancient Greeks were Aryan in origin. Her first two books were her doctoral dissertations: Essai-critique sur Théophile Kaïris (Critical Essay on Theophilos Kairis) (Lyon: Maximine Portas, 1935) and La simplicité mathématique (Mathematical Simplicity) (Lyon: Maximine Portas, 1935).
In 1932, she travelled to India in search of a living pagan Aryan culture. Formally adhering to Hinduism, she took the name Savitri Devi ("Sun-rays Goddess" in Sanskrit). She volunteered at the Hindu Mission as an advocate against Judeo-Christianity, and wrote A Warning to the Hindus to offer her support for Hindu nationalism and independence, and to rally resistance to the spread of Christianity and Islam in India. During the 1930s, she distributed pro-Axis propaganda and engaged in intelligence gathering on the British in India. She claimed that, during World War II, she enabled Subhas Chandra Bose (leader of the Axis-affiliated Indian National Army) to make contact with representatives of the Empire of Japan.
World War II
During World War II, Devi's connection to the Axis powers led to a clash with her mother, who served with the French Resistance during the German occupation of France. In 1940, Devi married Asit Krishna Mukherji, a Bengali Brahmin with Nazi views who edited the pro-German newspaper New Mercury. During 1941, Devi chose to interpret Allied military support for Greece, against Italian and German forces, as an invasion of Greece. Devi and Mukherji continued to gather intelligence for the Axis cause. This included entertaining Allied personnel, which gave Devi and Mukherji an opportunity to question them regarding military matters. The information gathered was passed on to Japanese intelligence officials and contributed to attacks on Allied airbases and army units.
Post-war Nazi activism
After World War II, she travelled to Europe in late 1945 under the name Savitri Devi Mukherji as the wife of a British subject from India, under a British Indian passport. She stopped briefly in England, then visited her mother in France, and then travelled on to Iceland where she witnessed the eruption of Mount Hekla. She then returned to England, before travelling to Sweden where she met with Sven Hedin.
On 15 June 1948 she took the Nord-Express from Denmark to Germany, where she distributed many thousands of copies of handwritten leaflets encouraging the "Men and women of Germany" to "hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist!" She recounted her experience in Gold in the Furnace (which was re-edited and released as Gold in the Furnace: Experiences in Post-War Germany to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of her birth).
Arrested for posting bills, she was tried in Düsseldorf on 5 April 1949 for the promotion of Nazi ideas on German territory subject to the Allied Control Council, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. She served eight months in Werl Prison, where she befriended her fellow Nazi and SS prisoners (recounted in Defiance), before being released and expelled from Germany. She then went to stay in Lyon, France.
In April 1953, she obtained a Greek passport in her maiden name in order to re-enter Germany, and she began a pilgrimage, as she called it, of Nazi "holy" sites. She flew from Athens to Rome then travelled by rail over the Brenner Pass into "Greater Germany", which she regarded as "the spiritual home of all racially conscious modern Aryans". She travelled to a number of sites significant in the life of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP (Nazi party), as well as German nationalist and heathen monuments, as recounted in her 1958 book Pilgrimage.
Savitri Devi became friends with Hans-Ulrich Rudel, and completed her manuscript of The Lightning and the Sun at his home in March 1956. Through his introductions she was able to meet a number of Nazi émigrés in Spain and the Middle East. In 1957 she stayed with Johann von Leers in Egypt as she traveled across the Middle East when returning home to New Delhi, including stops in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran, and Zahedan. In 1961 she stayed with Otto Skorzeny in Madrid.
Savitri Devi took employment teaching in France during the 1960s, spending her summer holidays with friends at Berchtesgaden. In the spring of 1961, while on her Easter holiday in London she learned of the original British National Party. This group emerged after the Second World War when a handful of former members of the British Union of Fascists took on the name. (The original BNP was absorbed quite quickly into the Union Movement – it is not directly connected with the present BNP.) She met with the British National Party president Andrew Fountaine. Beginning a correspondence with Colin Jordan, she became a devoted supporter of the National Socialist Movement.
In August 1962, Savitri Devi attended the international Nazi conference in Gloucestershire and was a founder-signatory of the Cotswold Agreement that established the World Union of National Socialists (WUNS). At this conference she met, and was greatly impressed by, George Lincoln Rockwell. When Rockwell became leader of WUNS, he appointed William Luther Pierce editor of its new magazine: National Socialist World (1966–68). Along with articles by Jordan and Rockwell, Pierce devoted nearly eighty pages of the first issue to a condensed edition of The Lightning and the Sun. Because of the enthusiastic response, Pierce included chapters from Gold in the Furnace and Defiance in subsequent issues.
After retiring from teaching in 1970, Savitri Devi spent nine months at the Normandy home of close friend Françoise Dior while working on her memoirs; although she was at first welcome, her annoying personal habits began to disrupt life at the presbytery (amongst other traits, she did not take a bath during her stay and chewed garlic continually). Concluding that her pension would go much further in India and encouraged by Françoise Dior, she flew from Paris to Bombay on 23 June 1971. In August she moved to New Delhi, where she lived alone, with a number of cats and at least one cobra.
Savitri Devi continued correspondence with Nazi enthusiasts in Europe and the Americas, particularly with Colin Jordan, John Tyndall, Matt Koehl, Miguel Serrano, Einar Åberg and Ernst Zündel. She was the first to claim to Zündel that the Nazi genocide of the Jews was untrue; he proposed a series of taped interviews (conducted in November 1978) and published a new illustrated edition of The Lightning and the Sun in 1979.
Animal rights activism
Devi was a pioneer in animal rights activism, and was a vegetarian from a young age and held ecologist views in her works. She wrote The Impeachment of Man in 1959 in India in which she declared her views on animal rights and nature. According to her, human beings do not stand above the animals; but in her ecologist views, humans are rather a part of the ecosystem and should respect all life, including animals and the whole of nature.
She always held radical views on vegetarianism and supported the death penalty for those who did not "respect nature or animals". She once broke into laboratories and took animals being held there, releasing them from being used in experiments. She believed that vivisection, circuses, slaughter and fur industries among others do not belong in a civilized society.
By the late 1970s she had developed cataracts and her eyesight was rapidly deteriorating. A clerk from the French embassy in India named Myriam Hirn looked after her, making regular house visits. She decided to leave India, returning to Germany to live in Bavaria in 1981 before re-moving to France in 1982.
She eventually died in 1982 in Sible Hedingham, Essex, England, at a friend's home. The cause of death was recorded as myocardial infarction and coronary thrombosis. She was en route to lecture in America at the invitation of Matt Koehl at the time. Devi's ashes were shipped to the American Nazi Party in Arlington, Virginia, where they were purportedly placed next to those of Rockwell in a "Nazi hall of honor".
|1935||Essai critique sur Théophile Kaïris||First doctoral thesis, on the life and thought of the Greek educator and philosopher Theophilos Kairis.|
|1935||La simplicité mathématique||A 500-page thesis on the nature of simplicity in mathematics. It included a discussion of Léon Brunschvicg and drew upon the work of George Boole, Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Henri Poincaré and Alfred North Whitehead.|
|1940 (written 1935–6)||L'Etang aux lotus (The Lotus Pond)||Impressions of India. A combination of travelogue and philosophical, cultural and political reflections.|
|1936||A Warning to the Hindus||ISBN 978-81-85002-40-8||Written to rally support for Hindu nationalism and independence, and to rally resistance to the spread of Christianity and Islam in India.|
|1940||The Non-Hindu Indians and Indian Unity||Promotes the idea that India must put aside social prejudice and communal hatred to create the political unity to achieve independence.|
|1946||A Son of God: The Life and Philosophy of Akhnaton, King of Egypt||ISBN 0-912057-95-5 and ISBN 0-912057-17-3||Detailing the life of the Egyptian monotheist (whom Sigmund Freud in Moses and Monotheism speculates was "Moses").|
|1951||Defiance||ISBN 0-9746264-6-5||Autobiographical account of her propaganda mission, arrest, trial and imprisonment in occupied Germany in 1949.|
|1952 (written 1948–9), reedited 2005||Gold in the Furnace||ISBN 978-0-906879-52-8 and ISBN 978-0-9746264-4-4||Conditions in post-war Germany.|
|1958 (written 1953–9)||Pilgrimage||Account of her pilgrimage to various National Socialist holy sites.|
|1958 (written 1948–56)||The Lightning and the Sun||ISBN 978-0-937944-14-1 (abridged)||A work synthesizing the Hindu philosophy of cyclical history with National Socialism. Contains biographies of Genghis Khan, Akhnaton and Adolf Hitler. Famous for the claim that Hitler was an avatar of the God Vishnu.|
|1959 (written in 1945)||The Impeachment of Man||ISBN 978-0-939482-33-7||Animal rights and ecology.|
|1965 (written 1957–60)||Long-Whiskers and the Two-Legged Goddess, or The True Story of a "Most Objectionable Nazi" and... half-a-dozen Cats||A fictionalized autobiography and memoir of her favorite cats.|
|1976 (written 1968–71)||Souvenirs et reflexions d’une aryenne (Memories and Reflections of an Aryan Woman)||A series of philosophical essays rather than a memoir, this is the most comprehensive statement of her philosophy.|
|2005||And Time Rolls on: The Savitri Devi Interviews||ISBN 978-0-9746264-3-7||1978 autobiographical interviews originally recorded in Calcutta.|
|2012 (written 1952–53)||Forever and Ever: Devotional Poems||Collection of devotional poems dedicated to Adolf Hitler.|
- "Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism", Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. NYU Press, 2000. ISBN 0-8147-3111-2, ISBN 978-0-8147-3111-6. pp. 6, 42–44, 104, 130–148, 179, 222
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas (2003). Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity. New York University Press. p. 88. ISBN 0-8147-3155-4. OCLC 47665567.
- "The new encyclopedia of the occult", John Michael Greer. Llewellyn Worldwide, 2003. ISBN 1-56718-336-0, ISBN 978-1-56718-336-8. p. 130-131
- "Politics and the Occult: The Left, the Right, and the Radically Unseen", Gary Lachman. Quest Books, 2008. ISBN 0-8356-0857-3, ISBN 978-0-8356-0857-2. p. 257
- Smith, Blake (17 December 2016). "Writings of French Hindu who worshipped Hitler as an avatar of Vishnu are inspiring the US alt-right". Scroll.in. Retrieved 10 January 2017.
- "Gods of the blood: the pagan revival and white separatism", Mattias Gardell. Duke University Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8223-3071-7, ISBN 978-0-8223-3071-4. p. 183
- "Christ, Faith, and the Holocaust", Richard Terrell. WestBow Press, 2011. ISBN 1-4497-0912-5, ISBN 978-1-4497-0912-9. p. 70-71
- Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1998). Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism. NY: New York University Press, ISBN 0-8147-3110-4
- "Savitri Devi: The mystical fascist being resurrected by the alt-right". BBC Magazine. 29 October 2017. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- "Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism, and the Politics of Identity", Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. NYU Press, 2003. ISBN 0-8147-3155-4, ISBN 978-0-8147-3155-0. p. 97-106
- Shrabani Basu, "The spy who loved Hitler" Rediff News (first published in Sunday magazine), March 1999, retrieved 6 November 2012.
- Greg Johnson, 2006, "Savitri Devi's Communist Nephews", savitridevi.org; (6 November 2012).
- Elst, Koenraad, The Saffron Swastika: The Notion of "Hindu Fascism", chapter V. "Savitri Devi and the "Hindu-Aryan Myth"" (New Delhi, India: Voice of India, 2001, 2 Vols., ISBN 81-85990-69-7).
- Gardell, Matthias, Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism, Duke University Press (2003, ISBN 0-8223-3071-7).
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth, and Neo-Nazism (New York University Press, 1998, hardcover: ISBN 0-8147-3110-4, paperback: ISBN 0-8147-3111-2).
- Goodrick-Clarke, Nicholas, Black Sun: Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity, "Savitri Devi and the Hitler Avatar", chapter 5 (New York University Press, 2002, hardcover: ISBN 0-8147-3124-4; reissue edition, 2003, paperback: ISBN 0-8147-3155-4).
- Kaplan, Jeffrey (editor), Encyclopedia of White Power: A Sourcebook on the Radical Racist Right, Altamira Press (2000, ISBN 0-7425-0340-2).
- Death by Dior: Françoise Dior, by Terry Cooper (Dynasty Press, 2013, ISBN 978-0-9568038-6-3)