Uwe Werner

Questions have arisen in recent times as to the connection which Rudolf Hess, "Substitute of the Leader" and Minister under Hitler, might have had to anthroposophy. Primary sources indicate that Hess was indeed an opponent of anthroposophy: in a letter to Himmler of November 19, 1935, Hess expressed his support of the November 1, 1935 prohibition of the Anthroposophical Society in Germany with the words " that these days action is rightfully being taken against the remains of Anthroposophy" (91). A letter from Ilse Hess written in 1984 (see below), confirms this conclusion: "my husband was not the least bit interested in anthroposophy."

The later supposition that Hess was in some way connected with anthroposophy had two interrelated sources. The first was the reputation of Hess's office as a "soft" spot in the regime, where one could register complaints against Party regulations and other matters - an opportunity which was taken by members of the Bio-dynamic and Waldorf movements, where they received a limited degree of conditional support.

The second source was the slander of an aquaintance of Himmler's and vehement opponent of Rudolf Steiner and Anthroposphy, the Tübingen Professor Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, whose allegation that Hess had fled to England as a result of having been taken over by the "suggestive methods" of the anthroposophists were intended to encourage Himmler to initiate more active efforts to eradicate anthroposophists from the National Socialist State. Hauer's allegations appear to be the source of later rumors with regard to Hess's relation to anthroposophy, including those of Schellenberg.


Hess maintained a substantial degree of power in the early years of the Nazi regime. As Stellvertreter des Führers ("Substitute of the Leader", i.e., of Hitler) in the National Socialist Party, and Minister in the Nazi government, Hitler granted him the right to issue orders with respect to all areas of the National Socialist Party, as well as veto power on all laws issued in Germany. When government-internal or citizen complaints were appealed to him, Hess possessed the power to act immediately upon his judgement. 

An adherent of natural healing methods, a vegetarian, and supporter of efforts to develop natural, non-chemical methods of agriculture, Hess's office became known as the "soft" spot in the regime, with whom more "hard"-line members (such as Heinrich Himmler, Reinhard Heydrich, and Martin Bormann) often took issue. Often lending what his wife later called a "protective hand" ("schützende Hand") to those oppressed by Party policies, Hess's office contributed to Hitler's cause by promoting the illusion, during the early years of National Socialist rule, that the brutalities and destructive acts of the Nazis were exceptions to the rule: that ultimately, "good" was to be expected from the National Socialist Party.

When bio-dynamic farmers were prohibited from further advertisement of their products by the Minister of Economy in Thuringen on November 15, 1933, they appealed to Hess's office. They were supported in their appeal by landscape architect Alwin Seifert, a non-anthroposophist who valued the ecological advantages of bio-dynamic farming, and who knew Hess through having designed the garden of Hess's villa in Munich. A forty-five minute hearing was arranged for January 14, 1934; Hess commissioned a scientific investigation of the productivity and nutritional quality of the vegetable products. The results of the studies, carried out over three years, were so convincing as to stimulate the interest of other Nazis in bio-dynamic agriculture in 1939/40.

Richard W. Darré, Minister of Nutrition and Agriculture, tried to protect bio-dynamic methods within the National Socialist State; Himmler disputed, wishing to implement the techniques specifically to enhance the nutritional quality of the nourishment of his SS officers. Hess's wife needed no scientific proof to appreciate the quality of bio-dynamic vegetables: in a letter to a friend of January 24, 1934, she confided that she wished to help convince Hitler to permit bio-dynamic farming by "serving him up a big bowl of those potatoes" the next time he came for dinner (89). 

In all cases, it should be emphasized that when the Nazis took interest in bio-dynamic agriculture, their interest arose from their recognition of the nutritional and ecological quality of the products; as to Rudolf Steiner and the "world-view" associated with the farming methods, the Nazis maintained the vehement antipathy reflected in the Party policy. 

Hess's support for bio-dynamic farming encouraged anthroposophists to appeal to him for help with regard to the closing of Waldorf Schools. Through Hess, Alfred Bauemler received the commission to carry out reports on Waldorf Schools and on Rudolf Steiner's work. Shortly after the conclusion of Bauemler's reports - which recognize distinct advantages of Waldorf Pedagogy while precisely defining the contradictory nature of anthroposophy and National Socialist Ideology - Hess expressed his stance on the issue in a letter of January 14, 1938 to Minister of Education Bernhard Rust: 

The entire spiritual/intellectual disposition of the Waldorf Schools rests upon the Anthroposophy of Dr. Rudolf Steiner. It is, however, impossible that in our national socialistic state, any school exist which founds itself in anything other than the national socialistic world view... What the Commission recognized, however... is that apart from the world-view which is held at the school, there are doubtlessly worthwhile pedagogical principles which are followed... I would, for this reason, support a solution which would allow the particular pedagogical uniqueness of these schools to be preserved, but at the same time would give the security that the world view and attitude of the school is no longer, from the point of view of National Socialism, to be tolerated (222).

Hess continues by recommending the closure of all but two to three "experiment" schools, while replacing important teachers with "trustworthy members of the party." His goal is thereby that the "worthwhile pedagogical achievements of these schools, freed from the teachings of anthroposophy be preserved and cultivated for the benefit of the students"(222).

It should be noted that this perspective contradicts the conclusion reached by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer three years earlier, in his internal report on anthroposophy of February 7, 1935: "Every undertaking and activity of anthroposophy necessarily arises out of the anthroposophical world view..." It might be added that most anthroposophists would agree on this point with Hauer, who continues, "The anthroposophical world view is in its most important points directly opposed to national socialism. Therefore, schools which are built out of the anthroposophical world view and led by anthroposohists mean danger to true German education..."(67).

The few short encounters which Hess had with anthroposophy were attempts made by anthroposophists to find means to sustain the existence of their institutions. Hess was good-natured and had an open ear for concerns arising from all possible corners, but had no interest - and no clue - in the field of anthroposophy (see letter from Ilse Hess below). Rudolf Hess and Heinrich Himmler may have otherwise been opponents in internal affairs, but they shared - along with other Nazi leaders - a mistrust or even hate of what they saw as a mystical-occult movement. Support and interest was strictly limited to the "methods" of bio-dynamic farming and Waldorf pedagogy, with the absolute exclusion of anthroposophy itself.


The fact that Hess's name was later brought in connection with anthroposophy originated in allegations by Jakob Wilhelm Hauer, put in writing a mere three days after Hess's flight to England. Professor of Religion in Tübingen and founder of a "German Belief-movement" ("deutsche Glaubensbewegung") in the 1920's - which he hoped to elevate to a national socialistic state religion - was one of the earliest (1921), most active, and most vehement opponents of Rudolf Steiner and anthroposophy. A member of the Secret Service of the SS, he issued a report on February 7, 1935 which declared the anthroposophical world-view to be "pacifistic and internationally oriented in every respect", and therefore "bluntly irreconcilable" with National Socialism: wording which was later adopted in the text of the prohibition of the Anthroposophical Society on November 1 of the same year (67).

On May 10. 1941, Hess fled to England, submitted himself to authorities, and was committed to imprisonment. Directly afterward, between the 13th and 16th of May, 1941, Hauer wrote three extensive letters to Heinrich Himmler which can be assumed to be the origin of later rumors regarding Hess's relationship to anthroposophy. 

He wrote: 

'In the course of my extensive researches, I came to the conclusion that Steiner was one of the greatest demonic seducers, a Cagliostro-type... And so I am now weighed down by the dreadful supposition that Rudolf Hess has fallen to this formidable devastation through Anthroposophy, and that this... is the primary cause of the despicable circumstances in which we now stand' (304). 

Hauer used this argument that Hess had fallen prey to the "suggestive methods" of the anthroposophists to convince Himmler of the need to "cleanse" Germany of thinking which conflicted with National Socialist ideology: "One can't wait until all economic and political problems have been solved before one addresses those of world-view: our opponents in world-view are constantly at work"(412). 

In the weeks following, Hauer was repeatedly called to Berlin as a "specialist" in anthroposophy, to prepare for the Gestapo Action of June 9, 1941, an action which aimed to eradicate all so-called occult movements, or "inner opponents" of National Socialism, before the attack on Russia of June 22, 1941. Anthroposophists and Christian Community priests were among those who were arrested, interrogated, imprisoned, or sent to concentration camps. 

Hauer's assertions of Hess's connection with anthroposophy served three purposes. First, they succeeded in intensifying Nazi hostility to their "inner opponents" including anthroposophists. Second, they allowed Hauer to promote himself to Himmler as "expert" opponent of anthroposophy in the regime. Thirdly, they also served to save Hess's face within Nazi ranks after the curious flight to England: Hess was portrayed as not personally responsible for his actions, but subject of anthroposophical "suggestive-artists" who could bring his soul "completely under their control"(411). 

Hauer's three letters and personal contact with Hauer are the only possible sources known today of later assertions that Hess was somehow involved with anthroposophy: Schellenberg's opinion must have arisen in contact with Hauer during the preparation for the action of June 9, 1941. It is on these dubious grounds that recent allegations of Hess's connection to anthroposophy stand.

The recent assertions by critics of anthroposophy that Hess and other Nazis were involved with anthroposophy distort the above-described nature of Hess's conditional support of bio-dynamic farming and Waldorf education. Moreover, these claims are based on sources which have their origin in the questionable opinions of Jakob Wilhelm Hauer. Other critics of anthroposophy, such as Anna Bramwell, have no primary sources to support their claims. 

To the contrary of these critic's allegations, anthroposophists tend to embrace the notion that the Nazis were correct in supposing, in the Society's prohibition of November 1, 1935, that "the activity of the Anthroposophical Society imposes the danger of injuring the National Socialist state"(76).