substudY "WORLD WAR ii"
Goebbels and Nostradamus - psychological warfare; The Hague, NL, 1940
- T.W.M. van Berkel -

Nederlandse versie

Translation of an article, originally published in: In Europa Atlas, VPRO, Hilversum, NL 


dr. P.J. Goebbels
dr. P.J. G

H.-W. Herwarth von Bittenfeld
H.-W. Herwarth 
von BIttenfeld

In late autumn 1939, dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, minister in Nazi-Germany of People's Enlightenment and Propaganda, was informed by a.o. his wife about the book Mysterien von Sonne und Seele, published in Berlin in 1922. In this book, the German Hans-Hermann Kritzinger quoted the comment which his compatriot Carl Loog in the previous year had given upon a prediction of the 16th century French physician/astrologer Nostradamus. According to Loog , Nostradamus had indicated that there would be crises in 1939 in England and Poland. The German invasion in Poland in 1939 and the subsequent declaration of war from England to Germany seemed to correspond with this suddenly so sensational comment by Loog.
By the end of November 1939, after a conversation with Hitler, Goebbels developed ideas to use the predictions of Nostradamus in order to undermine the morale of the people in neutral countries by taking advantage of their superstition. He ordered Hans-Wolfgang Herwarth von Bittenfeld, a retired lieutenant-colonel, who in World War I did pioneer work in the field of German propaganda and was full of hate against England, to write a Nostradamusbrochure. This brochure had to convince the people in the neutral countries that the German victory and the downfall of England were inevitable, since this was predicted by Nostradamus.
With the production and spread of this Nostradamusbrochure, Goebbels exceeded his orders. War propaganda was the privilege of the ministry of Foreign Affairs, to which Goebbels at the time of the German invasion in Poland had given up much of his territory. Further, his position was weakened since one of his love affairs got the proportion of a public scandal. Goebbels was eager to rehabilitate himself and to enforce the position of his ministry. With pleasure, he noted in his diary in July 1940 that everywhere, his Nostradamusbrochure was sensational and that nobody, not even the ministry of Foreign Affairs, knew that this brochure was produced by the Propaganda Ministry.


Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen?
Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen?

In April 1940, two of eight translated versions of the brochure which Herwarth von Bittenfeld by the end of 1939 had written, were published, a French version, produced and spread from Geneva, and a Dutch version, entitled Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen?, an illustrated, carefully produced brochure of 45 pages, printed and spread by the Vereenigde Grafische Bedrijven in The Hague, NL, owned by Arie Meijer Schwencke. On the cover, the name of Willem Johan Ort was printed, a bookseller/publisher, seated in The Hague. In 1936, he had celebrated that he was a bookseller for 25 years. In the following years, the activity of his company almost stopped. For a recompense of f 100,- for each brochure, he allowed Meijer Schwencke to mention his name on the cover of ten pro-German propaganda brochure which Meijer Schwencke was going to produce. Ort played a small, but active part in the spread of these brochures.
The pre-war edition of Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen? was 5.000 copies. After the capitulation of the Netherlands, the Ausland section of Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry ordered the production and spread of another 3.000 copies. In July 1940, the Raad van Voorlichting der Nederlandsche Pers, of which Meijer Schwencke was second in command, twice called upon Dutch newspapers to discuss Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen? extensively. The editors could order a copy of this brochure at Ort. By means of faked announcements, reviews and letters, the anti-British message of Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen? was discussed in a.o. Het Vaderland, the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad, the Zierikzeesche Nieuwsbode and the Heldersche Courant. The complete text of the second chapter of this brochure, in which the German victory upon England was announced, was published in two parts in De Gelderlander.



The reach of Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen? was quite enlarged by the newspaper articles, which coincided with the attack of Germany on England. Whether or not people in the Netherlands were intimidated by this propaganda, is not clear. As a counter-reaction, Servire publishers in The Hague, owned by the pacifist Carolus Verhulst, publihsed in 1941 the first, complete, Dutch translation of the "Prophecies of Nostradamus", made by mr. dr. Hendrik Houwens Post, a French teacher, who carried the translator's pseudonym mr. dr. W.L. Vreede. His book, unique in its kind, did not contain comments upon the predictions by Nostradamus. The contra-propagandistic element was hidden in the introduction chapter. In that chapter, Houwens Post warned against misunderstandings, caused by the photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition of the Prophecies, which many Dutch owned. With this copy, he meant Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen?, which contained texts, originating from the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
By the end of the '70's, Houwens Post's translation was republished by Schors, Amsterdam, as a facsimile. It was entitled De Profetieën van Nostradamus. In 1998, this translation was replaced by a linguistically revised version, entitled Nostradamus – De grootste ziener aller tijden. The chapter Wonderbaarlijke interpretaties en ‘uitgekomen’ voorspellingen contains a number of translations of predictions by Nostradamus which differ from the linguistically revised versions, elsewhere in this book. These different versions can be traced back to Hoe zal deze oorlog eindigen?. Neither Goebbels, nor Herwarth von Bittenfeld ever will have thought that after sixty years, parts of their brochure would circulate in the fields of superstition in this particular way.


De Meern, the Netherlands, November 18, 2008
T.W.M. van Berkel


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