cover image Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth and Neo-Nazism

Hitler's Priestess: Savitri Devi, the Hindu-Aryan Myth and Neo-Nazism

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. New York University Press, $70 (280pp) ISBN 978-0-8147-3110-9

Goodrick-Clarke carefully outlines the life of Savitri Devi, a true believer who took Nazism beyond politics: she believed that Hitler was an avatar or god come to earth. Born Maximiani Portas to a Greek/Italian father and an English mother, Devi spent her early years in her native France and in Greece, but she was inexorably drawn to India and traveled there at 27. It was not the culture of India that drew Devi, but her belief that India represented the best of racial segregation. Once in India, she became interested in Hinduism and wed the Brahman A.K. Mukherji in a marriage of shared ideals that also happened to bolster her shaky legal status as a resident Nazi sympathizer. The couple worked on behalf of the Axis powers during the late 1930s and early '40s, with Devi claiming that Mukherji put militant nationalist Subhas Chandra Bose in contact with the Japanese authorities. But the most interesting material is on Devi's intellectual life. Sections on Devi's writings about Egyptian pharaoh Akhnaton, about animal rights, or on her belief that Hitler was an avatar, which includes a lengthy examination of the Hindu theory of cyclical history, provide understanding in ways that subsequent lists of her later travels cannot. Settling back in Calcutta in the 1960s, ""the aged Aryan Hindu prophetess"" became a guiding spirit of the international neo-Nazi movement. Although the writing is stiff and matter-of-fact, Goodrick-Clarke provides plenty of information and insight about this little-known but influential figure. (May)