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In 2012, while browsing the website of the ultranationalist party Greek Golden Dawn for a story, I stumbled upon the photo of a woman wrapped in a blue silk sari looking at a bust of Hitler, superimposed against a dramatic sunset.
What was this Hindu-looking woman doing on the page of an openly racist party that wants to expel all foreigners from Greece?
At that moment I filed it somewhere in my head as a curiosity. Until the rising tide of the extreme right in Europe and the United States returned to throw the name of Savitri Devi .
Today, it is not difficult to find references to his books in neo-Nazi forums, especially “The Lightning and the Sun” – where it is argued that Hitler was an avatar, that is, an incarnation, of the Hindu god Vishnu- ya “Oro in the crucible” “ , which urges true believers to trust in the resurgence of National Socialism.
The far-right American website Counter-Currents also hosts an extensive online archive of his life and work.
And their opinions are also reaching a wider audience thanks to leaders of the Alt-Right movement such as Richard Spencer and Steve Bannon , until recently the chief strategist of President Donald Trump and founder of Breitbart News.
Both Spencer and Bannon, and in general the entire Alt-Right, have retaken their vision of history as a cyclical battle between light and darkness , a theory shared with other fascist mystics of the twentieth century.
While in the radios of the extreme right one can also hear d metal bands thundering on the Kali-iuga, the age of darkness announced by the Hindu mythology that Savitri Devi believed Hitler was destined to finish.
But who was this woman and why are her ideas resurfacing today?
Attracted towards Hitler
Despite the sari and her name, Savitri Devi was European, the daughter of an English mother and a Greek-Italian father born in the French city of Lyon in 1905 as Maximiani Portas.
And, since childhood, he despised all forms of egalitarianism: “A girl li n da is not equal to an ugly girl , “ he told an interviewer sent by Ernst Zundel Holocaust Denier in 1978.
Conquered by Greek nationalism, it arrived in Athens in 1923, together with the thousands of refugees displaced by the disastrous military campaign of Greece in Asia Minor at the end of the First World War.
Savitri blamed the Western allies for the humiliation of Greece and for what she considered were unjustly punitive conditions imposed on Germany by the Treaty of Versailles.
From their perspective, both Greece and Germany were victims who had been denied the legitimate aspiration to unite all their people in a single territory.
This, combined with a strong anti-Semitism that he claimed to have learned in the Bible, made him identify very early on as a National Socialist.
Hitler was the leader of Germany but, for Savitri, his desire to eradicate the Jews of Europe and return the “Aryan race” to his legitimate position of power also made him his “Fuhrer”.
Like the anti-Semitic thinkers of the eighteenth century, Savitri blamed the Judeo-Christians for having done away with the glory of Greece and the old mythical utopia of the Aryans .
And in 1930 he traveled to India in search of a living version of Europe’s pagan past, convinced that the caste system had preserved them pure and untainted (an idea shared by the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who also visited India in the 1970s).
Nazism and Hinduism
A European woman traveling alone in fourth class was so rare that the colonial authorities put her under surveillance, but Savitri showed no greater interest for the British in India until the Second World War, when he shared information about them with Japan.
In contrast, he learned several local languages, married a Brahmin – whom he considered an Aryan, like her – and forged an elaborate synthesis of Hindu myths and Nazism in which Hitler was presented as “a man against time” destined to end with the Kali-iuga and start a new era of Aryan supremacy.
In Calcutta of the 1930s, Savitri worked for the Hindu Mission, today a silent neighborhood temple that in those days was a center of missionary activity and Hindu nationalism.
The politicization of the religious communities of India during the British rule had helped the growth of the Hindutva movement , which argued that the Hindus were the true heirs of the Aryans and India an essentially Hindu nation.
And Savitri offered his services to the director of the Mission, Swami Satyananda, who like many Indians before independence shared his admiration for Hitler and let her mix Nazi propaganda with his Hindu nationalist discourse.
At that time he traveled throughout the country giving talks in Hindi and Bengali and spicing up his lessons on Aryan values with quotations from Mein Kampf (My Struggle) .
But in 1945, devastated by the fall of the Third Reich, Savitri returned to Europe to work for its restoration and his arrival in England is described in his book “Long Whiskers and the Two-Legged Goddess”, a childhood fable whose heroine is a Nazi Cat lover , like her.
The heroine, Heliodora, “had no human feelings” in the ordinary sense of the expression, “he wrote. “Since her early childhood, she had been too deeply moved by the way men treat animals … to have sympathy for people who suffered because they were Jewish.”
Savitri always made it clear that he preferred animals to humans and, like Hitler, he was a vegetarian.
He also saw the world from a great distance, becoming more interested in what he thought were the deep patterns of nature than in human lives.
In 1948, Savitri managed to enter occupied Germany where he distributed thousands of flyers reading: “One day we will rise up and we will succeed again … Wait with hope! Heil Hitler!”
Years later she would declare that she was glad to have been arrested by the British occupation authorities because that brought her closer to her Nazi “comrades”.
During her time in prison, cut short thanks to the intervention of her husband through the Indian government, she became very close to a former guardian of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp sentenced for war crimes.
“A beautiful woman, a blonde about my age,” he described.
Savitri’s sexuality has been the subject of speculation .
His marriage to Asit Mukherjee was supposedly celibate because they did not belong to the same caste.
And the Nazi financier Francoise Dior, niece of the famous designer, claims to have been her lover.
Death and resurrection
Towards the end of his life Savitri Devi returned to India , where he seemed to feel most at home.
There he devoted himself to taking care of the cats of his quiet neighborhood of Delhi, feeding them each morning with bread and milk and dressed in gold jewelry traditionally worn by married Hindu women.
Savitri, however, died in England, in the house of a friend, in 1982.
It is said that his ashes were buried, with fascist honors, along with those of the American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell.
And although in India her name has been almost completely forgotten, the Hindu nationalism that she embraced and helped promote is on the rise, to the concern of her nephew, veteran leftist journalist Sumanta Banerjee.
“In her book ‘A Warning to the Hindus’, published in 1939, she recommended that they cultivate ‘a spirit of organized resistance.'” The target of this resistance was the Muslims, whom she saw as a threat to Hindus. that same fear is alive today,“explains Banerjee.
In addition, Hindutva is also the official ideology of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata, which holds that Muslims and seculars have weakened the Hindu nation.
Modi party spokesmen condemn the violence , but the disorders that led to the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodyha in 1992 and the current wave of attacks – sometimes fatal – against Muslims and opponents tells a different story.
While, in the United States, racism, anti-communism and the conviction of the fundamentalist Christians that the apocalypse is approaching, they have also paved the way for the flirtation of the far right with their occult prophecies that mix Hinduism and Nazism.
And there, as in India, the fear of the ruling majority to lose power has served as an effective recruiting tool.
“Since the middle of the Obama administration, the most important factor in the minds of those who joined the Tea Party is the idea that whites were being displaced, ” says researcher and writer Chip Berlet, for whom that has helped swell the rows of extreme right and white supremacist groups.
And the works of Savitri Devi are already part of the history of both Hindu nationalism and the European and American extreme right, since their eccentric writings contain -if filters and without censorship- all of their key ideas .
Ideas like that humans can be divided into “races” that must remain separate, that some groups are superior to others and have more rights, that those groups are under threat and that the dark times we are living will only end when they regain power and take us back to a mythical golden age.