The eternal return of Nazi nonsense:
Savitri Devi's last writings
Dr Koenraad Elst
Special Introductory Comment. Dr. Jim Saleam
The following article, authored by an expert in the study of neo-fascism and neo-nazism, was regarded by the Radnat editors as essential reading in any assessment of Savitri Devi and her place in neo-nazism. It is noted this piece debates the function of occultism in the German Nazi movement. It is observed that the French revolutionary-nationalist writers mentioned below discount the role of the occult - as does Dr. Elst. It might be better put that it was some of the mythic components of the ariosophical movement (particular notions of race and history) which penetrated into the world-view of Hitler and other leading Nazis, rather than its occultist rite and pseudo-mysticism. Such an argument would sustain Roger Griffin's concept of a fascism containing a "mythic core". It might refine why it was that Nazism contained a persistent imperialist anti-Slavic element and why official Nazism was imprisoned within a world-view of illusion about Germanic strength over other peoples - only if we concede these ideas were present at the formation of the core mythology. Whatever! The following article does much to break the perverse myth surrounding Devi, something which has served as part of the concoction we call neo-nazism.
Among the numerous publishing houses in Paris, there is a fringe-rightist one called Avatar. Its name (Sanskrit avatâra = "divine incarnation") and publishing policy are inspired by Julius Evola, d. 1971, the Italian "integral traditionalist" aristocrat who worked for the SS research department Ahnenerbe ("ancestral heritage") and who dabbled in Oriental lore as part of his esotericist musings. Avatar Editions has its nominal legal headquarters outside Dublin, Ireland, apparently to avoid problems with France's draconian anti-racist and anti-revisionist laws. One of its ongoing projects is a series of booklets called Cahiers de la Radicalité, under the Evolian motto: "Be radical, have principles, be absolute, be that which the bourgeoisie calls an extremist: give yourself without counting or calculating, don't accept what they call 'the reality of life' and act in such a way that you won't be accepted by that kind of 'life', never abandon the principle of struggle."
The second booklet in the series is Le National-Socialisme et la Tradition Indienne, ("National-Socialism and Indian Tradition") by the French-Greek lady Savitri Devi Mukherji, née Maximiani Portas (born Lyons, 8h45 a.m., 30 Sep. 1905, died Sible Hedingham, Essex, shortly after midnight, 22 Oct. 1982), a republication of two of her last papers, now otherwise hard to find. The first one, L'Inde et le Nazisme, from ca. 1978, resumes parts of her autobiography, Souvenirs et Réflexions d'une Aryenne ("Memories and Reflections of an Aryan Lady", written in 1969-71 and privately published, Delhi 1976). The other, Hitlérisme et Hindouïté, is the French translation of "Hitlerism and the Hindu World", originally published in The National-Socialist, #2, end of 1980. The book further includes a homage to Savitri Devi from 1978 by Vittorio de Cecco; and new scholarly introductions by the rightist-traditionalist intellectuals Claudio Mutti, a political scientist specialized in Hungarian and Rumanian nationalisms and a convert to Islam; and Christian Bouchet, a law scholar by training but mainly a researcher on religion and "Tradition".
1. Critics and believers
There is a considerable distance between Mutti's and Bouchet's critical accounts of the relation between Nazism, India and "esotericism", and the exalted, fanciful accounts by de Cecco and Savitri Devi. Thus, the latter two have totally lapped up the twin myths of the "esoteric" Thule-Gesellschaft, of which Hitler's older friend Dietrich Eckart had attended some meetings, as (1) a profound vehicle of ancient secret knowledge, and as (2) an influential body with a deep impact upon Nazi thought and politics. Bouchet, by contrast, affirms that "the fairy-tales about this esotericism are very largely later inventions which only gained a certain trendiness after the end of World War 2", and that "the Thule Society was nothing at all, or close to" (p.91). Mutti explains how these myths were invented and propagated during the Nazi era by Thule founder Baron Rudolf von Sebottendorf, real name Adam Glauer, who tried to claim a role as the Führer's original mentor in the then successful Nazi movement (p.21-22). A second source of the same tendency, though with opposite motives, was ex-Nazi exile Hermann Rauschning, who tried to feed the foreign press a sensational "insider" account of Hitler as an occultist weirdo.
Both men were shameless liars. Sebottendorf (cited here in evidence by Savitri Devi on p.96), Freemason, Turkish national by choice and wounded veteran on the Turkish side of the second Balkan war (1912-13), was one of those typical occultist conmen with false academic and nobility titles, though his initiation into Turkish Sufism may have been genuine. He was exposed and denounced as a self-serving myth-monger by other Thule and Nazi insiders immediately upon the publication of his book Bevor Hitler kam ("Before Hitler Came", 1934). Rauschning's book Gespräche mit Hitler ("Conversations with Hitler", 1939) remained in use as a popular source about Hitler's alleged temperamental and religious eccentricities until the 1980s, both among neo-Nazis like Savitri Devi (citing it here on p.63, and numerous times in her autobiography) and anti-Nazis like Bernard-Henri Lévy (L'idéologie française, 1980), as well as among the whole crowd of sensationalist confabulators like Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier (Le matin des magiciens, 1960; The Morning of the Magicians, 1971) or Trevor Ravenscroft (The Spear of Destiny, 1972). Around the time of Savitri Devi's death, Rauschning's account was definitively exposed as spurious, e.g. he was shown not to have been present at most of the private conversations on which he claimed to "report". Contemporary histories of the Nazi period have expunged it from their bibliographies, and Mutti (p.21) correctly dismisses it as "totally unfounded". Savitri Devi's reliance on Rauschning illustrates how, contrary to the belief common among her neo-Nazi admirers, she really had no direct contact with any important Nazi insiders who could have informed her on the inspiration, occult or otherwise, behind Nazism. In her writings, she herself does little to promote this belief: apart from making tall claims about Nazism being part of an esoteric tradition and the germ of a new solar religion with Hitler as its prophet, she doesn't really try to establish credibility by means of claiming direct initiation into the remainders of Nazi esotericism nor even by means of some clever name-dropping. In asserting her beliefs about Nazism, she openly presumes and supposes, she cites the communist opinion or invokes anonymous third-hand sources. She had missed the whole Nazi period in Germany and her contacts after the war had been limited to third-rank Nazi followers, not including a single witness to any secret or inner workings of the Nazi apparatus (or even worse for the veracity of her account, the occasional high-ranking Nazis she met were equally unaware of any esoteric lineage underlying their political movement). She was so poorly informed that she didn't even see through a totally fraudulent account like Rauschning's.
More importantly, she never ever divulges any Nazi teachings worthy of being called esoteric, or otherwise philosophical or religious or profound. It is like with the Nazi expedition to Tibet, as reported in detail by Christopher Hale (Himmler's Crusade, The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition into Tibet, Bantam Press, London 2003): you turn page after page, curious to learn all the esoteric secrets that the Nazi occultists are supposed to have exchanged with the Tibetan mystics, and all you get is racialist skull measurements, swastikas and the dreary details of a difficult journey through snow and ice. Myth-mongers like Savitri Devi may explain this as the result of the secrecy to which esotericists are sworn, but it's simply obvious that nothing is reported because there was nothing to report in the first place.
At any rate, nothing in her writings establishes her as some kind of authority on Nazi history or on the putative philosophical essence of Hitlerism. This status has only been accorded to her ca. 1970 by the German-Canadian neo-Nazi publisher Ernst Zündel and by the Chilean neo-Nazi diplomat Miguel Serrano. The whole of her "information" on the alleged esoteric dimension of Nazism could have been written by anyone vaguely familiar with the then-available popular lore on the subject.
2. Paganism, Christianity and their Nazi-secular synthesis
Instead of claiming any privileged access to inside sources, which is the least you could have expected from an "esoteric" account, Savitri Devi bases her belief in a deeper layer of Nazism on quasi-logical suppositions made from her armchair, e.g.: "It is at least logical to think that it was the Ahnenerbe which was, within Hitler's Black Order [= the SS] the depository of the Tradition" (p.32); and on generally-available rumours or snippets of information, often true but hardly consequential or mysterious, e.g.: "The nature of the [Ahnenerbe's] investigations reveals a distinct interest in esoteric matters. Thus, it studied the symbolism of the harp in Ireland; the survival of genuine Rosicrucianism, i.e. groups of initiates still in possession of the full tradition of the Knights Templar, (…) reconsidered the Bible and the Kabbala, trying to draw out their hidden meaning and especially wondering about the role of number symbolism in either." (p.32-33) Note that Rosicrucianism, the Knights Templar, the Bible and the Kabbala all belong within the Judeo-Christian rather than in any Pagan worldview. She admits that "Christianity and even Judaism, like all religions or philosophies somehow linked to the Tradition, contain a part of the esoteric truth" (p.33). This is the standard view among esotericists and traditionalists, and may be contrasted with the position of activist Hindus and of some neo-Pagan ideologues, who emphasize and possibly exaggerate not the commonalities but the antagonism between the Prophetic-monotheistic (self-described as "Abrahamic") and the "Pagan" worldviews. As we shall see, even in what remains of a religious dimension of Nazism, legitimate Germanic Heathenism was completely overshadowed by nostalgic quasi-Christian romanticism, fanciful post-Christian innovations and purely secular-nationalistic motifs. Indeed, by Savitri Devi's own account, naked German nationalism was always a bigger concern of the Ahnenerbe than all religious or esoteric flights of fancy combined. She relates how Heinrich Himmler, in his "only reference to the Ahnenerbe" in public, devoted his speech to praising his archaeologists' discovery in East Prussia of plural layers of Germanic forts, "refuting the common opinion that East Prussia had once been Slavic" (p.34). Of course, the Balto-Slavic character of the East Prussia region before the 12th century is well-established and this archaeological finding cannot have altered that, except through a wrong chronology (this was well before Carbon-14 dating) or a wilful misinterpretation in a German-narcissistic sense. In looking back on the confrontation between the German and the Balto-Slavic elements in and around East Prussia, Christian sympathies are with the German colonizers led by the Teutonic Knights, who, fresh from the Crusades in Palestine, imposed Christianity; whereas neo-Pagan sympathies are with the natives who defended the last stronghold of European Paganism and even managed to keep some Pagan traditions alive under the Christian regime. Himmler's sympathies clearly were not a matter of Pagan versus Christian, but simply of German versus foreign. Yes, he sympathized with the Saxon resisters massacred in AD 782 by Charlemagne for refusing baptism, but they were Germans resisting the ambitions of a European ruler who belonged as much to Belgium and France as to Germany; by contrast, he didn't care a fig for the Baltic Pagans massacred by the thoroughbred Germans of the Teutonic Order.
(As an aside, please note the anti-Slavic thrust in Himmler's speech and in the general Nazi scheme of things, which envisioned the take-over and ethnic cleansing of most Slavic territories up to the Urals for colonization by German warrior-farmers. The Slavs are as "Aryan" as the Germans in any then-common sense of the term. They obviously speak an Indo-European language, they are white, they have an equally large percentage of fair-haired and blue-eyed people, they are on average as tall and robust as the Germans, if not more. In the German experience, Slavs were less dynamic, so that Slavic rulers in Russia and the Balkans often imported German colonists to cultivate difficult soil; yet the Russian colonization of North Asia and even Alaska must stand as a most spectacular instance of "Aryan" expansion, unmatched in scope by any German achievement. The Nazi treatment of the Slavs, such as the antagonization of the initially welcoming Ukrainians by bullying German occupation forces, or the spurning for two precious years of the collaboration offers by captive Russian general Vlassov, belies the claim by Nazi sympathizers that theirs was a "pan-Aryan" movement. Petty German nationalism directly conflicted with any vision of an "Aryan" project, and may well have cost the Germans their victory in WW2.)
In the same speech, Himmler reportedly also announced the restoration and upkeep of cultural centres devoted to "German greatness and the German past". (p.34) So, even the most "esoteric" department of the Nazi movement still put secular concerns first. In one of her rare references to Ahnenerbe mastermind Himmler, she fails to quote any occultist statement from the horse's mouth or even to imply any deeper philosophical concern beyond sheer nationalist vanity.
Admittedly, among the German heritage sites, she claims Himmler included one that is beloved of astrologers, geomancers and occultists of all stripes, the Externsteine, a curiously shaped rock formation apparently of natural origin but widely believed to have been a cultic site, a "German Stonehenge". But here again, we find a problem of interpretation. Historically speaking, the site was of course never devoted to German self-celebration (unlike the nearby Hermannsdenkmal, the giant statue of Hermann/Arminius who defeated the Romans) but to a solar or stellar cult, universal par excellence; undeterred by the sobering facts, Himmler and Savitri Devi posthumously turned it into a nationalist monument. Now consider what happened there under the care of the "esoteric" Ahnenerbe (p.34): "On the summit of the highest rock, in the place of the ancient golden Irminsul ['grand pillar' representing the Cosmic Tree] uprooted in 772 by the soldiers of the same Christian conqueror [Charlemagne], fluttered henceforth, victorious and liberating, a symbol of the reconciliation of all the contrasting aspects of German history in the consciousness of its profound unity, the red-white-black swastika flag of the third Reich."
If the Third Reich aimed at a restoration of ancient Germanic Heathenism, as some Christian polemicists now claim, then the logical thing to do would have been to restore the ancient Heathen symbol, the Irminsul, in its very own place of pride. Instead, the Reich authorities, even that segment most associated with claims of Pagan revivalism, the Ahnenerbe, preferred to replace it with the modern secular symbol of the German state and race. This was in line with the Nazi regime's basic secularism: guaranteeing freedom of religion within certain limits, but keeping the state free of religious references or commitments.
Thus, still at the level of public symbolism, the Waffen-SS didn't name its units and weaponry after Heathen gods (the way India has an Agni missile and her soldiers use "Hara Hara Mahadeva" or "Sat Sri Akal" as rallying-cries, or the way Israel has its Merkavah tank, after the Kabbalistic chariot of Yahweh), but after characters from German history, e.g. the foreign volunteer legions were named after a person or event linking their respective countries of origin with Germany, such as Charlemagne for the French, Prinz Eugen for the Balkan ethnic-Germans or Langemarck (a Flemish WW1 battle site) for the Flemings. If Pagan gods is what you're looking for, try the British Navy in WW2, many of whose battle ships had names from Greek mythology, with one submarine even Germanically called Odin; or the American space programme with its Saturn and Apollo. The Nazis didn't replace the Christian religious salute "Grüss Gott" with a Heathen counterpart like "Grüss Wotan", but with the secular salute "Heil Hitler". Turn it any way you want, but Hitler was a secularist.
3. Savitri Devi's "traditionalism"
It is remarkable how Savitri Devi highlights the element of religious co-existence and synthesis in Nazi policy, the "reconciliation of all the contrasting aspects of German history in the consciousness of its profound unity". Just like Saint Paul said that there is no longer Greek nor Jew, slave nor freeman, since all are jointly saved in Christ, Hitler held that there are no longer believers nor unbelievers, Christians nor Pagans, noblemen nor commoners, since all Germans partake of their common German nationhood and racial superiority. All over Europe, the age of Christian decline had brought forth disgruntled ex-Christians who tried to get back at Christian obscurantism with anti-Christian fanaticism, typically focused in the liberal Masonic Lodges and later on in the Communist movement. Nazi Germany too had its share of pope-devouring anti-Christians, epitomized by the leaders of the "folkish" religious movement, General Erich Ludendorff and his wife Mathilde von Kemnitz. By contrast, Hitler, conscious of his position as national leader, kept away from extreme religious positions and tried to represent the synthesis of all the influences that had fostered the German soul.
Alright, maybe Christianity had been of foreign "Asiatic" origin (like Hinduism, which Ludendorff equally despised), and maybe it had become an obsolete irrational belief system, but it had shaped German identity, it had motivated Germans to great things, such as the Teutonic Knights' conquest of the then-Pagan Baltic region or the anti-Ottoman reconquests in the Balkans by Prince Eugen of Savoye. So, in Hitler's view, Germans should let these old religious quarrels be bygones, accept all tributaries to German identity as a heritage of history, and move on as a modern and united nation. Like Prussian king Friedrich II the Great and like Second Reich founder Otto von Bismarck, Hitler was a secularist who wanted to withdraw the nation's energies from religious pursuits, not by outlawing these after the Soviet model (except that he did outlaw all fringe associations devoted to neo-Pagan and other eccentric religions as foci of anarchic or pacifist threats to public order, though not their practice in private), but by promoting the nation as the alternative focus of devotion and the modern scientific temper as the key to practical this-worldly salvation. We may now frown upon the understanding of "science" as meaning the cold analysis and re-engineering of man by racialist Darwinism, but that was common enough then, outside as well as inside Nazi Germany. Meanwhile, to the extent that religion remained relevant, such as the "positive Christianity" enjoined in the Nazi Party charter, it should be patriotic and non-sectarian in spirit, too enlightened to ever get entangled again in the demographically wasteful religious violence of the forced Christianization, the Crusades, the witch burnings or the Thirty Years' War.
The folkish tendency and the syncretic "German Faith" movement too, in spite of their anti-Christian rhetoric, and like-minded religious hobbyists such as Heinrich Himmler, applied this pro-synthesis guideline in practice. In their construction of a "truly German spirituality", they incorporated Christian mystics and philosophers such as Meister Eckhart and Nicolaus Cusanus (who taught, in the 15th century already, that all religions are but fragmentary windows upon the same and fundamentally unknowable Godhead), along with the ancient Heathen seeress Weleda or the post-Christian visionary J.W. Goethe. This is an approach which modern Gandhian or Anglo-urban Hindus would call "secular".
It seems that Savitri Devi, in the last years of her life, from which both these republished papers date, had lost the anti-Christian fire of her prime and adopted this "secular" position that had also been Hitler's, viz. to reconcile the Pagan and Christian elements. She attributes to Hitlerism a "Pagan" (quote marks hers) component which she defines not as any actual god-cult which Christians would recognize as Pagan, but as the philosophical rejection of all sentimental "anthropocentrism" (p.35).
The identification of Paganism with non-anthropocentrism has a certain pedigree, viz. Nietzsche and his commentators describe pre-Socratic cosmology as "Pagan" when contrasting it with the human-centric Socratic concerns of ethics and epistemology. Yet this is semantically unsatisfactory, for it attributes anthropocentrism to philosophers like Socrates, and elsewhere Confucius and the Buddha, who by standard definition were Pagans; so Paganism cannot be the polar opposite of anthropocentrism. At any rate, in spite of this so-called Pagan element, she emphasizes that "there was never any question of rejecting or undervaluing anything in the German or European patrimony that did honour to the Aryan genius" (p.35). She appreciated that in religious matters, Hitler "was impartial just as any sage necessarily would have to be", so that he didn't hesitate to honour the anti-Pagan emperor Charlemagne, originator of the Reich idea. Hitler knew of the dissolving effect of Christianity upon Greco-Roman civilization (which he admired far more than the fairly primitive Germanic culture), but: "It mattered little what this religion had been, if it was the cement of a conquering Germanic empire and, later, the occasion for the well-known blossoming of the arts." (p.36) Like Nehru the estranged Hindu, Hitler the estranged Catholic could appreciate the role of religion, religion in general rather than any religion in particular, in the story of his country's greatness.
Moreover: "Whatever was eternal in the warrior religion of Wotan and Thor, and earlier in the immemorial Nordic religion of Heaven and Earth and their 'Son', which [Ahnenerbe co-founder] Dr. Hermann Wirth has studied, had to survive in Christian esotericism, and in esotericism in general. (…) The deep meaning of the ancient Irminsul, axis of the world, is basically not different from the Cross detached from all Christian mythology, i.e. from the story of Christ's suffering as a historical fact." (p.37) She even agreed to acknowledge the contribution of a German Jew, Martin Buber, to the work of the Ahnenerbe: "Why not, after all, if this Jew had attained a high degree of knowledge in 'pure metaphysics' and had no political activity?" (p.66) So, in a typical Traditionalist approach, both Germanic Paganism and Christianity, and even the Jewish Kabbala on which Buber was an expert, are now seen as but manifestations of the one perennial Tradition. This late conversion of Savitri Devi to inclusive Traditionalism probably explains why the Avatar publishing house chose to highlight these papers by republishing them.
4. Aryan invasion from the Arctic
In trying to establish a link between Hinduism and Hitlerism, Savitri plays exactly two cards, though by repetition they fill up quite a few pages. I do not mean the Swastika, which the Nazis hadn't borrowed from India in the first place. The symbol is widespread among cultures on all inhabited continents (as she herself admits, p.80), though the Nazis believed it was confined to Aryan cultures and those non-Aryan ones that had borrowed from them. It had been present in Europe for many centuries, not too prominently but sufficiently for making any borrowing from Asia superfluous. No, the two purported links are the caste system and the Aryan invasion theory (AIT).
This is not the place to speak out on the historical question whether the Indo-European languages originated inside or outside of India. In the latter hypothesis, they must have been imported into India. The most commonly accepted scenario in that case is that the "Aryans" brought the Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European language family with them when they invaded India in 1700 BC or thereabouts. The truth of this theory is totally unconnected to its political uses, but among the latter we must at any rate note the European racist use of it, both in the British-colonialist and in the Nazi scheme of things, as an instance of the expansion of the superior white race into the territory of inferior races.
Savitri Devi's alpha and omega on the AIT was Bal Gangadhar Tilak's book Arctic Home in the Vedas, Pune 1903. This version of the AIT went a little farther than most in that it specified the original homeland of the Indo-Europeans as the Arctic region, an unlikely wellspring of large population movements. It somehow didn't strike her as odd that in the intervening decades not a single independent scholar had come out with research findings supporting Tilak's theory. It is the only Indian pro-AIT source she ever quotes, in this book (p.39-40, p.79, p.96-97, plus her laudator de Cecco on p.12) and to my knowledge also in the whole of her writings, as a native echo to the European claim of an early Aryan colonization of India.
In building on Tilak's theory, she makes the rather silly mistake of uncritically accepting Tilak's voice as an independent Indian confirmation of the European belief in the Aryan invasion. In reality, Tilak didn't get this notion from his traditional Brahminical upbringing, for it doesn't figure in the Vedas and in Sanskrit literature at all. He had drunk from the same source as Savitri Devi, Hitler, the Indologists and all the other believers in the Aryan invasion theory, viz. the 19th-century philologists who had tried to make sense of the linguistic kinship between Europe and North India. Tilak had acted as a "native informer" helping Indologists in their research. Most famously, he had collaborated with the German scholar Hermann Jacobi in establishing a chronology for the Vedas. It is in this context that he imbibed the new-fangled notion of a Nordic homeland of the Proto-Indo-Europeans, whence they had expanded to all their historical areas of settlement including India.
Interiorizing this notion, Tilak then went on to develop fanciful interpretations of Vedic verses so as to make them fit the scenario of a non-Indian, indeed Arctic setting of the oldest layer of Vedic literature. Perfectly innocuous verses about the dawn or the seasons, always read in their natural meaning by one or two hundred generations of Brahmins, were suddenly contrived to reveal references to the Arctic. It is this highly artificial and totally untraditional reading of the Vedic hymns which became and remains the sheet-anchor of Aryan invasion lore in European far-rightist and new-rightist circles.
All through her life, Savitri Devi failed to notice how Tilak's theory remained without support from the legitimate keepers of Hindu tradition, the Vedic pandits, nor did she register the articulate opposition to the theory from Hindu nationalists such as Sri Aurobindo Ghose or Guru Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar. Though passing as an authority on India among her Western sympathizers, the fact is that she was hardly in touch with any consequential segment of Hindu society, whether the real traditionalists (of whom she seems to have sought out a few only when she heard of them praising Hitler, that too on the basis of very partial or plainly wrong information), the reformist Hindu nationalists, the Nehruvian modernizers or any other. As for the European scholars, they did teach one version or other of the AIT, arguing for the homeland status of the Danube or lower Volga region, or maybe Anatolia, but none of them located the Indo-European homeland in the Arctic.
Tilak was no authority on Indo-European expansion history, and likewise Savitri Devi was no authority on Hinduism, nor even on Hitlerism or esoteric philosophy or indeed anything of interest. It is simply tragic to see young people join internet discussion forums where they discuss the "work" and the "thoughts" of this once-bright woman who, suffering under the impact of the burning Indian sun, had transformed Hitler into an incarnation of the sun-god and enshrined such a flawed source as Tilak's misguided Arctic Home in the service of her Hitlercentric worldview. Come to think of it: what a sad and surrealistic buffoonery.
The second purported link between Hitler and Hinduism is the caste system. This is an endlessly recurring point in Savitri Devi's autobiography and in the present two papers. In the Euro-racist view, which she upheld even when it went out of fashion after 1945, the caste system was a racist institution resulting from the Aryan invasion. In a concern for their racial purity, the Aryan conquerors had imposed a prohibition on intermarriage with the natives, and this racist apartheid is what we know as the caste system.
During her lifetime, numerous scholarly and political publications have probed the underlying reasons for the institution of caste, and these have shown up a complex of causes and mechanisms far more diverse than and often also in direct conflict with the racist-invasionist explanation. But none of that ever registered in her mind.
Just briefly a few points so you get the idea. Caste and racism are two different things. In a caste society, two distinct racial groups with distinct origins and lifestyles, such as the American blacks and whites, would indeed be kept separate as non-intermarrying castes, thus preserving their racial and cultural identities. You see a spontaneous tendency to endogamy and group identity cultivation in multi-racial societies from Surinam to Singapore. In that sense, caste may have a racial component. The reverse, however, does not apply: not every two separate castes need be racially distinct. In Indian history, there are many cases where a single caste, biologically as homogeneous as humanly possible, splits up into non-intermarrying distinct castes because of long-term geographical separation, because of different professional vocations, because of one group's religious conversion, because one groups starts considering the other as somehow impure, or because one group chose the wrong side in a war.
Locating the origin of caste in a racial apartheid policy is entirely untenable, and this not only because the naked eye and the most recent genetic research show how the Indian population is a highly mixed racial continuum. A strong observance of caste taboos exists among the most remote populations of India, the hill tribes, as well as in the mutual relations between the lowest "un-Aryan" castes. When you consider that even the modern state in India fails to impose its laws in all corners of society, how could the Aryan invaders in India's Northwest have imposed the passionate observance of caste taboos on communities they never even encountered in person? This was simply beyond their mettle. Castes often came about as pre-existing tribes getting integrated in the expanding Vedic civilization with their group identities intact: tribal endogamy was preserved as caste endogamy. Regardless of their racial or geographical origins, castes were susceptible to considerable social mobility, not so much for the individual but for the community as a whole, e.g. by developing new economic sectors or by valiant participation in war. Vedic civilization acknowledges among its greatest spokesmen members of "backward" (or what Savitri Devi would call "un-Aryan") communities such as the Mahabharata's author Vyasa, the Ramayana's author Valmiki or the Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar. Its understanding of "Arya" is not as a racial nor even a linguistic term, but as a cultural term, a synonym for "Vedic", neither more nor less.
But none of that ever seems to have reached Savitri Devi's eye or penetrated her skull. This is my general criticism of the whole rightist, even the so-called new-rightist, understanding of Indian society and of the whole "Aryan" question: in their minds, time and the state of our knowledge seem to have stood still since the 1930s. They are emotionally satisfied with their worldview, so why let it get disturbed by new scholarly findings?
When encountering a certain enthusiasm for Hitler among traditional pandits (including one pandit Rajwade from Pune, quoted as predicting Hitler's defeat, p.58), she assumes readily that this is because they all see Hitler as an upholder of the caste order. But the only actual evidence to this effect is not a quotation from these scripture-hardened worthies, but a long presentation of a talk with her illiterate low-caste servant, the teenage boy Khudiram (p.74-78). In 1940, in the fish-market of Calcutta, he had picked up the perfectly false rumour that Hitler was going to enshrine the pro-caste and pro-martial scripture Bhagavad-Gita as the supreme law of the Reich. Now, sometimes the truth emanates from the mouth of an illiterate boy-servant, but it doesn't occur to Savitri Devi that she ought to verify this rumour and give her readers some better-documented reason to believe that Hitler had such plans; failing that, she ought to have conceded that the boy was simply mistaken. She implicitly does this by smiling about his Hitlerian enthusiasm, but that still leaves her without the first solid testimony for a Hitlerian connection to Hindu Dharma and the caste system.
For her own understanding of a common denominator between caste and Hitlerism, she doesn't get beyond a very general notion of "the fundamental inequality of the creatures, including the human individuals and races" (p.73). But in practice, the belief in this inequality was the norm worldwide until well after 1945, and even in theory, equality had only been enshrined as state policy in a minority of states and even there only in some respects. Hitler's enemies were just as convinced of the inequality between the sexes, the races and other classifications. Winston Churchill was an avowed racist presiding over a colonial empire full of racial discriminations, but he was not a Nazi. His country knew very steep class inequality even between native Britons, but it was not a Hitlerian society.
As for the Indian caste system, it did obviously imply a stern inequality between classes of citizens, but it did not tend to that for which Hitler's name is held in horror, viz. genocide. On the contrary, it has historically been a mechanism for resolving ethnic diversity which elsewhere might have resulted in conflict and massacre. Moreover, it was a self-structuring of civil society, never in need of control by a strong totalitarian state. No wonder, then, that what little she quotes from her orthodox Brahmin contacts fails to give explicit confirmation to her identification of Hitler as the champion of the caste system. It could hardly have been otherwise, considering that under British rule, the caste system was doing just fine and was not at all in need of salvation by Britain's enemies. The British respected caste identities, e.g. by organizing their British-Indian Army along caste lines. And this came naturally to them, because they had a soft version of the caste system within their own society. So, for caste, the Hindus didn't need Hitler, even if they were unaware that in his own society, Hitler was promoting equality between all Germans to the detriment of the old caste distinction between nobility and commoners. Savitri Devi does quote actual expressions of sympathy by traditional Hindus for Hitler, but the reasons for their Hitler sympathy seem rather to be the following.
Firstly, he was German, and Germany was the country of some leading Sanskrit scholars, including some in British employ such as Friedrich Max Müller. They had greatly contributed to India's glory in the now-dominant West, which in turn had restored some pride in Hindu tradition among the Hindus themselves. That the Germans, not just Hitler but the German nation, had adopted the Swastika as their national symbol, further endeared them to the Hindus. There is no trace of the reverse: the German public did not get particularly sensitized to India and Hinduism, much less to its national aspiration to freedom; after all, Nazism cultivated a mood of self-celebration, not one of gratitude to some exotic nation. And contrary to what some Hindus thought, the Germans hadn't borrowed the Swastika from India in the first place. As for Hitler, from Mein Kampf (1924) till his meeting with Subhash Bose in 1942 and his ungrateful comments on Bose's small Indian Waffen-SS contingent deployed in the defence of the German empire in 1945, he never concealed his contempt for Hindus, Buddhists and related "Asiatic mountebanks". But this information never seems to have reached India nor made an impact there. Savitri Devi, of course, totally ignores it.
Secondly, there were the well-known temporary political circumstances. Though Hitler wanted the best for the British empire, a magnificent instance of white rule over the coloured races, events forced him into the role of its principal adversary. Therefore, many Hindus welcomed him as the enemy of their enemy, hence their best friend. Savitri Devi seems to have had a blind eye for India's nationalistic aspirations, which hardly figure in her writings at all. She managed not to see that elephant in the room, essentially because she never thought anything wrong of British rule; her own mother happened to be of British origin.
Thirdly, Hitler was reputed to conform to certain Hindu ideals. As a "unifier" of Europe, he filled a slot similar to that of the chakravarti, the energetic king who would bring the whole of India under one sceptre. In his private life, he was a teetotaller, a vegetarian and officially a celibate. According to Hindu belief, these observances and especially the last one confer an enormous charisma. If all parties including the enemy conceded one quality to Hitler, it was certainly charisma. From there, it was but a small step to calling him a "realized soul", a jnâni or "knower" and what not.
In neo-Nazi circles, it is even claimed (here by Claudio Mutti on p.26), on the authority of one Sadhu Arunachala: A Sadhu's Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi (1994, p.52) that Ramana Maharshi (d.1950), indisputably one of the greatest Hindu yogis of the 20th century, had declared: "It is possible that Hitler is a jnâni, a divine instrument." If the account is true, Ramana's utterance sounds to me like the answer to a question posed by a visitor eager to hear a confirmation of his own idealization of Hitler: the sage did not commit himself to such a confirmation, but politely allowed that it was "possible",-- like most things. Note the difference with Savitri Devi's rendering of Ramana Maharshi's opinion: "Someone asked Ramana Maharshi (..) what he thought of Hitler. The answer was brief and simple: 'He's a jnâni', i.e. a sage (…)." (p.73) This is her word against Sadhu Arunachala's. Either the latter has rendered Ramana's words softer and more conditional in deference to the anti-Hitlerian mood of the times, or she has rendered his words more decisive and unconditional to satisfy her own ideological preferences.
If any Hindu sages have glorified Hitler, I wouldn't be too impressed that this proves anything one way or the other. I have the greatest regard for the higher states of mind cultivated by them, but I have also noticed that this still doesn't free them from the universal law that our judgments about things and people are conditioned by the quality of the basic information fed to us. If only a rosy picture of Hitler is communicated to some recluse practising his yoga in a cave undisturbed by newspapers, he may form an opinion that is only as accurate as the original information. In that case, we are dealing with a "circular argument of authority", where someone contrives to get the authoritative person to give as his own an opinion subtly spoon-fed to him.
6. A personal testimony
The last contributor to this book, and really its editor, is the French scholar Christian Bouchet, since his youth an "integral traditionalist" in the footsteps of that great will-o'-the-wisp Julius Evola. He starts out by telling his own story. As a student in the late 1970s, he was a "national-revolutionary" militant, anti-bourgeois and anti-American, marching in support of Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic revolution in Iran. In his rightist friends' little counter-culture, the heroes were traditionalist mastermind and Muslim convert René Guénon, Japanese homosexual pseudo-samurai novelist Yukio Mishima, German war veteran and pro/anti-Nazi writer Ernst Jünger, martyred Rumanian Iron Guard leader Corneliu Codreanu, and the German National-Bolsheviks of the 1930s. After graduating, Bouchet embarked on a trip to India for the winter 1980-81, where he paid several visits to the aged Savitri Devi in her posh South Delhi apartment.
We already mentioned that she abhorred anthropocentrism, preferring nature to culture and a beautiful cat to an ugly human being. Bouchet testifies how she took this preference quite literally. She lived in symbiosis with dozens of cats that drowned her apartment in the stench of their urine. When he invited her out to dinner in a restaurant, she had to sprinkle a whole bottle of Eau de Cologne on herself to conceal the odour.
One anecdotic event tells it all: "I was interested but nothing [about her] aroused my enthusiasm. Ideologically, Savitri Devi Mukherji's discourse belonged to the parodic and fantasmic type of neo-Nazism. At the human level, her conduct embarrassed me. Back then, poverty was rampant in India and there were many beggars and hungry children in the streets. Her teacher's pension may have been small by European standards, but for India her income was considerable. So, every day she bought sizable amounts of food. Next, she spent part of the afternoon cooking meat and fish. In the evening, she went out to distribute these to… the street cats! This indifference to human beings and this disproportionate concern for animals troubled and shocked me. They still do when I think back on them." (p.86-87)
Bouchet further testifies how he never met anyone interesting in her company, nor even any Indians, only Western ladies in their declining years, ideologically mostly in the orbit of the Theosophical Society. His conclusion from his stay in Delhi was that "in order to appreciate her work, it was necessary never to meet its author" (p.87). Before calling her ideologically disreputable, we must first of all acknowledge her as a bit of a mental case.
Finally, about the reason for his visit to Savitri Devi, Bouchet wants to set the record straight. According to the oft-cited British researcher Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (Hitler's Priestess, 1999; p.296 of the French translation La Prêtresse d'Hitler, 2000), Bouchet had been one of the "neo-Nazi pilgrims" flocking to her Delhi apartment after the publicity given to her by Ernst Zündel. In reality: "I knew nothing about this revisionist author, not even his very existence, before I went to India, and it is precisely at Savitri Devi Mukherji's place that I first discovered his writings." (p.84)
Seeing her was not even the purpose of his trip and also didn't look like an important experience in retrospect: "During that same journey in India, I was received in private audience both by the Dalai Lama - who was easily accessible, not having become a media icon yet -- and by Kalu Rinpoche [a key figure in the implantation of Tibetan Buddhism in the West], and it is these meetings which counted for me during that trip, not the ones I had with Savitri Devi." (p.84) This is clearly a case of a historian making deductions by "connecting the dots": Zündel drew attention to Savitri Devi, Bouchet went to see her, ergo Bouchet was merely heeding Zündel's call. As an informed guess, this type of reasoning tends to have a good probability rate, but facts happen to be another matter. Not to be too harsh, we must admit that historians and more so journalists frequently rely on this kind of deduction to fill the gaps in the chain of cause and effect. But Bouchet cannot be faulted for lambasting this slick deduction by Goodrick-Clarke at his own expense.
7. Don't trust Savitri Devi
Christian Bouchet dismisses Goodrick-Clarke as a "pseudo-historian" (p.83). That seems a bit exaggerated to me, if not downright unfair. I'd rather accept the criticism of those disappointed readers who object that Goodrick-Clarke's first major book, The Occult Roots of Nazism, belies its own promising title, possibly chosen by the publisher with an eye on its sales potential, by concluding (p.217) that the so-called occult roots of Nazism are only a myth. Some would clearly have preferred Goodrick-Clarke to uphold the myth rather than debunking it. On the other hand, it must be admitted that for a debunker of "Nazi occultism" fantasies, Goodrick-Clarke is strangely persistent and attached to this subject, on which he keeps churning out hefty volumes. To Bouchet, the explanation is that, apart from having struck gold in the material sense, Goodrick-Clarke is an "anti-fascist militant" (p.83) intent on turning the biography of Savitri Devi into a support for "his delirious ideas and his conspiratorial view of history which interconnects Hollywood-type neo-Nazis, partisans of Deep Ecology, New Agers, Animal Rights advocates etc." (p.92)
Now, to come to the contents of Bouchet's criticism of Goodrick-Clarke as a historian, he alleges that: "Goodrick-Clarke has dispensed with all research work and has merely relayed Savitri Devi's own sayings without analysing or criticizing them." (p.92, likewise p.87) The problem is that this single source, her autobiography, is not supported by any independent evidence, and that she can easily have refashioned her past: "For the period from her birth until after World War 2, we have to trust Savitri Devi Mukherji for her life story. However, it is obvious that she herself has arranged her biography a posteriori in order to harmonize it with the themes defended in her books." (p.88)
Yes, everyone carries a novel in his heart: his autobiography. In this case, the authoress had the motive, the means and the opportunity to refashion her pre-1945 life story, not just in her written autobiography but first of all in her informal self-introduction to all the people she met after returning to Europe in 1946. Bouchet's suspicion against an unverified and unconfirmed self-revelation is truly the kind of attitude we may expect from a serious historian. Let us look into a few details.
Bouchet points out several glaring contradictions and improbabilities. First of all, Savitri Devi's husband Asit Krishna Mukherji seems totally unknown outside his wife's autobiography, except in another second-hand book, viz. La Spirale Prophétique by Jean Parvulesco, which he dismisses as "delirious" and "in no case credible" (p.99). Though reportedly working for the Germans and the Japanese, first as a propagandist but during the war also as a spy, and this in Calcutta right under the nose of the British regional war command, he was never troubled by the British authorities. Now maybe he was just too clever for them, but then why is he never even mentioned in known sources about Allied vs. Japanese warfare? Why not in accounts about Subhash Chandra Bose, who Savitri Devi claims took some crucial advice from her husband? And why is the magazine he purportedly edited in 1935-37, the New Mercury, so hard to find?
Well, maybe we simply haven't searched hard enough? About the magazine, I can add that when writing The Saffron Swastika, I have tried in vain to locate it in the India Office Library in London and in several libraries and personal archives in Calcutta. I had only two days in Calcutta, and this was before the Indian libraries had computerized their data, so probably it would be easier now, if indeed copies of the magazine are extant there. Those in a position to help are welcome to do so.
Bouchet also mocks Savitri Devi's claim that already in 1938, A.K. Mukherji had eloquently spoken about the Thule society, which in reality had never been more than marginal and unimportant, and about Nazi esotericism, largely the figment of post-war confabulation. At this point, one explanation becomes inescapable: "It is evident and very clear that Savitri Devi Mukherji has 'arranged' her biography in order to construct herself a persona apt to shine in the tiny circle of neo-Nazism" (p.91). Next, Bouchet wonders how Savitri Devi can claim that Asit Krishna Mukherji was a "man of the most orthodox tradition", yet: "He marries a non-Indian, a casteless woman… In Indian culture no act is more anti-traditional and in conflict with orthodoxy!" (p.89) To this, a feeble but not altogether powerless answer might be that the case of a purely formal, chaste marriage is different. If the two had started a family together, it would have amounted to varna-sankara, "mixing of castes", but here they never set out to do so and even lived separately much of the time, effectively remaining a bachelor and a spinster. However, it remains fair to doubt that he was "most orthodox". Staying celibate without taking religious vows, like a Western bachelor, is not that rare in India, but it is certainly not orthodox.
Also, travelling abroad forces a Hindu to all kinds of compromises in lifestyle and is therefore avoided by the orthodox; Mukherji, by contrast, reportedly spent years in Europe and the Soviet Union as a student. I would simply conclude that Savitri Devi didn't fully know what she was saying when she used the term "orthodox".
Another serious contradiction is the one between the fiercely pro-caste views in her autobiography (written 1969-71) and her work in 1937-39 for the Calcutta-based Hindu Mission, a reformist movement which tried to counter the Christian missionaries in the tribal belt of what is now Jharkhand, the forested and hilly area just to the west of Calcutta. The underlying vision of the Hindu Mission, like that of other reformist groups such as the Arya Samaj and the Hindu Nationalist organizations Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was that all castes and tribes are equally part of Hindu society, and that they should be immunized against the Christian temptation by participating more fully in the Vedic tradition. Even if not going so far as to abolish caste altogether, there was an unmistakable anti-caste and egalitarian thrust in their programme.
Bouchet highlights this deep cleavage within Hindu revivalism: on the one hand the traditionalists who want to preserve the caste system, with Swami Karpatri's marginal and now defunct Ram Rajya Parishad as its only-ever political vehicle, and on the other the reformists who concluded long ago that caste had become a millstone around the neck of Hindu society and should be discarded. Among the latter tendency, he correctly counts the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), of which he notes the sympathy it has recently enjoyed in French rightist circles. He points out that they are falling for the same confusion as Savitri Devi (at least in her young days when working for the Hindu Mission), viz. to think that simply because an organization claims to work for the interests of the Hindus, it must be an upholder of ancient Hindu values such as the caste hierarchy: "Traditional and anti-Western, the BJP? National and rightist, undeniably, but this political self-positioning doesn't confer any particular qualification of traditionalism or anti-modernism. Just as the [anti-immigrant national-populist party] Front National is not the vector of Guénon's and Evola's ideas in France, so the BJP is not the Indian incarnation of the philosophia perennis." (p.97)
Bouchet correctly points out, also against claims by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and his Indian Marxist sources (p.100), that the reformist wing including V.D. Savarkar's Hindu Mahasabha sided with the British in WW2. It was the secular leftist Subhash Chandra Bose with his part-Hindu part-Muslim army who fought on the Axis side. Savitri Devi herself had already wryly noted the anti-Hitler positions of "Aryan" worthies such as the Arya Samaj movement and Sri Aurobindo, one-time editor of a periodical called the Arya. For the latter's case, she never seems to have seen the official statements issued by Aurobindo calling on the Indian National Congress to join the British war effort (as the Hindu Mahasabha had already done) and denouncing Hitler is the strongest terms. Instead, she wonders if these weren't mere rumours spread by his French-Jewish confidante Mira Alfassi (p.53), a convenient scapegoat. At any rate, the anti-Hitler stance of a cross-section of Hindu society, from pro-British loyalists to Hindu nationalists of various stripes, must have disappointed her. I surmise it may have been a factor in her breaking off all (c.q. never seeking any) contacts with Hindu reformists including the Hindu Mission and the Hindu Nationalist political parties.
To me, it seems likely that in 1937, Savitri Devi was not yet fully aware of this inter-Hindu antagonism. She enthusiastically accepted the role of anti-Christian preacher which the Hindu Mission offered her without fully realizing the contrast between this work and the pro-caste traditionalism to which she may already have been paying some lip-service. Her own explanation in her autobiography, however, is that she had simply been fooling both her tribal audience and her Hindu-reformist employers: she had merely wanted to "give the most backward and degenerate aboriginals a (false) Hindu consciousness" (Souvenirs et Réflexions, p.37) and "give them the impression" of being welcome in Hinduism on the basis of equality, purely for the sake of increasing the Hindus' numerical power, "not for the benefit of their own souls, which nobody cared about (and myself less than anyone)" (op. cit., p.39). She also claims that the Hindu Mission's leader Swami Satyananda had seen through her insincerity and told her to preach from the Hindu viewpoint and keep her private opinions to herself (op. cit., p.39).
All this would imply that she was also feigning a Hindu reformist position all through her booklet A Warning to the Hindus (Hindu Mission, 1939), which gained some popularity in Hindu nationalist circles. Though written at the height of Nazi Germany's popularity worldwide, the booklet is remarkably silent on the international situation, except for trivially mentioning that German and Japanese mothers instil patriotism in their children. This significant silence (which releases her Hindu readers from the chain insinuation of enthusiasm "for a pro-Nazi author, hence for Nazism") may then also be due to the restraining influence of her supervisors in the Hindu Mission; or it may reflect a genuine focus on serving Hindu society by promoting reform and the upliftment of the tribals.
For now, I'll leave it at registering this contradiction between her earlier and later positions without trying to decide whether she was being insincere in 1937 or insincerely claiming that earlier insincerity in 1970. It is at any rate significant for a certain type of mentality that she saw virtue in pleading insincerity.
8. In self-defence
Bouchet has read the chapter on Savitri Devi in my book The Saffron Swastika (Delhi 2001, esp. p.534-660). He slightly mocks my itinerary through "student Leftism" and "the New Age movement" to a position "favourable to the Hindu communalists" (p.102), but that's quite alright with me. I don't think too highly of my earlier beliefs either, but I have a right to my own life story. Among the few comments he offers in passing, the most important one is that, just like Goodrick-Clarke, I am said to have placed far too much trust in Savitri Devi's autobiography.
I accept that criticism, though not without pointing out a few mitigating facts. First of all, unlike Goodrick-Clarke, my book was not about Savitri Devi, but about a far broader subject, viz the hostile rhetoric of "Hindu fascism". In that context, I felt that I had to deal with the perfectly bizarre and unrepresentative case of Savitri Devi, because otherwise it would constitute a loophole through which the opposite side could still push the argument for a Hitler-Hindutva connection, seemingly exemplified by her. But it could not reasonably be expected of me that in such a sideshow, I would put in the same effort to trace biographical data as can be demanded from the writer of a proper biography.
All the same, I cannot seriously be accused of taking Savitri Devi's word for the truth of her self-presentation. Thus, I myself have pointed out (Saffron Swastika, p.600-604, "Racist distortion in Savitri Devi's mission"; p.637-640, "Doublespeak on caste") the contradiction between her reformist words and acts in 1937-39 and her later mockery of the same in her autobiography, an issue discussed above.
I have also taken the trouble of registering at least those outside testimonies that could be gathered without too much investment of time and money. Bouchet may dismiss as historically light-weight my record of the testimony by the man whose father rented out a room to A.K. Mukherji ca. 1940 (p.99), but I must note that he himself offers no similar personal testimonies at all, and that the one I have reported does contain information, or at least indications, which add to our picture of this enigmatic man, viz. in the sense of confirming his closeness to Axis representatives and in adding the troubling new information that he was a double-agent working for the British. The latter claim makes other pieces of the puzzle fall into place, e.g. why Mukherji was left such unfettered freedom even during the war, and how he could think of sending a plea to the British authorities in favour of his wife's release when she was arrested in Germany. It would have been a serious failing on my part if I had withheld that testimony. Moreover, I have not made any precocious claims of completeness or definitiveness for the scenario emanating from it. I cannot help it that it is as yet not confirmed by other similar testimonies, but incompleteness in the source material is one of the occupational frustrations inherent in the historian's job. The only solution is to hurry and interview what few witnesses are still alive and to dig deeper for documentary evidence.
Bouchet also objects to another piece of information I collected from multiple sources outside Savitri Devi's autobiography, viz. concerning her sex life: "Koenraad Elst, without basing his statements on any proofs whatsoever, puts forth the idea that Savitri Devi had been a bisexual woman of easy virtue (this when she has always affirmed that her marriage was chaste and that she remained a virgin all her life)" (p.100). So who is uncritically relying on Savitri Devi's own account now? Here again, I have considered it my duty to record what much information became available to me, even if I had no inclination to look for any further proofs,-- and I wonder what would have counted as "proof" in this matter. Several people who knew her in person have spoken to me about this to the same effect; I was in no position to pass judgment on the truth of their claim, but I had to mention it.
I can also report now that the credibility of this testimony has been increased slightly by the protest I received from one of the people concerned. Though I had never concealed I was collecting information about Savitri Devi for a book, and though I had not been asked to keep any secret, the person in question was angry that I had divulged such intimate information. Perhaps there was a generational misunderstanding: for a modern Westerner it is no longer shocking to learn that Mrs. X is "living her life" and exercising what Taslima Nasrin calls "the freedom of the vagina"; but for many people of Savitri Devi's generation, it was different. Well, sorry if I hurt anyone's sensibilities. At any rate, if my witness's testimony had not been sincere, i.e. if it had been a deliberate slur on her, I doubt that I would have received this protest.
My last word about the matter in The Saffron Swastika (p.573) was: "A different type of historian might like to pursue these details of Savitri Devi's life, at least if he moves fast enough to contact the witnesses before they leave this world." I am glad to report that an American historian has contacted me and introduced himself as just that kind of historian. I have given him what I had of references and source material, and I hope that he will come out soon with the definitive biography of Savitri Devi Mukherji. Meanwhile, the booklet just reviewed certainly adds to our understanding of the Aryan lady's ideological development and her reception in contemporary rightist circles.
Savitri Devi Mukherji: Le National-Socialisme et la Tradition Indienne, with contributions by Vittorio de Cecco, Claudio Mutti and Christian Bouchet, published in the series Cahiers de la Radicalité by Avatar-éditions, Paris/Dublin 2004.