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Savitri Devi Mukherji (September 30, 1905 – October 22, 1982) was the pseudonym of the Greek writer Maximiani Portas, who was a Nazi intelligence operative in India during World War II. She wrote about animal rights movements and was a leading light of the Nazi underground during the 1960s.
An admirer of German National Socialism, Savitri Devi was also an animal-rights activist who authored the book The Impeachment of Man in 1959 and was a proponent of Hinduism and Nazism, synthesizing the two, proclaiming Adolf Hitler to have been sent by Providence, much like an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. She believed Hitler was a sacrifice for humanity which would lead to the end of the Kali Yuga induced by who she felt were the powers of evil, the Jews. Her writings have influenced neo-Nazism and Nazi occultism. Among Savitri Devi's ideas was the classifications of "men above time", "men in time" and "men against time". Rejecting Judeo-Christianity, she believed in a form of pantheistic monism; a single cosmos of nature composed of divine energy-matter.
She is credited with pioneering neo-Nazi interest in occultism, deep ecology and the New Age movement. She influenced the Chilean diplomat Miguel Serrano. In 1982, Franco Freda published a German translation of her work Gold in the Furnace, and the fourth volume of his annual review, Risguardo (1980-), was devoted to Savitri Devi as the "missionary of Aryan Paganism".
Born as Maximine Julia Portas in 1905, Savitri Devi was the daughter of a Greek/Lombard Italian father and an English mother. She was born two and a half months premature, weighing only 930 grams (2.05 lbs), and was not at first expected to live. She formed her political views early. From childhood and throughout her life, she was a passionate advocate for animal rights, which was related to her views of Jews as the practitioners of kosher slaughter. Her earliest political affiliations were with Greek nationalism. During World War I, she was outraged by the Triple Entente's invasion of neutral Greece.
Portas studied philosophy and chemistry, earning two Masters Degrees and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Lyon. She next traveled to Greece, and surveyed the legendary ruins. Here, she became familiar with Heinrich Schliemann's discovery of swastikas in Anatolia. Her conclusion was that Ancient Greeks were Aryan in origin, thus finding the reason for the influence of their culture upon later civilizations. Her first two books were her doctoral dissertations: Essai-critique sur Théophile Kaïris (Critical Essay on Theophilius Kaïris) (Lyon: Maximine Portas, 1935) and La simplicité mathématique (Mathematical Simplicity) (Lyon: Maximine Portas, 1935).
In early 1928, she renounced French citizenship and acquired Greek nationality. Joining a pilgrimage to Palestine during Lent in 1929, Portas decided that she was a National Socialist. In 1932, she travelled to India in search of a living pagan Aryan culture. Formally adhering to Hinduism, she took the name Savitri Devi ("Sun-rays Goddess" in Sanskrit). She volunteered at the Hindu Mission as an advocate against Judeo-Christianity, and wrote A Warning to the Hindus to offer her support for Hindu nationalism and independence, and to rally resistance to the spread of Christianity and Islam in India. In 1940 she married Asit Krishna Mukherji, a Bengali Brahmin with National Socialist views who edited the pro-German newspaper New Mercury.
During the 1930s she distributed pro-Axis propaganda and engaged in intelligence gathering on the British in India.
Animal rights activism
Savitri Devi was a vegetarian since young age and held ecologist views in her works. She wrote The Impeachment of Man in 1959 in India in which she declared her views on animals rights and nature. According to her, human beings do not stand above the animals; but in her ecologist views, humans are rather a part of the ecosystem and should respect all life, including animals and the whole of nature.
Savitri Devi always held radical views on veganism and supported the death penalty for those who didn't "respect nature or animals". She once broke into laboratories and took animals being held there, releasing them from being used in experiments. She said that vivisection, circuses, slaughter and fur industries among others doesn't belong in any civilized society.
Savitri Devi was a pioneer in animal rights activism but has been criticized by some animal rights supporters today for her racialist views which she also mixed into her animal rights opinions.
Post-war National Socialist activism
After World War II, she travelled to Europe in late 1945 under the name Savitri Devi Mukherji as the wife of an Indian national using a British passport. She stopped briefly in England, then visited her mother in France, and then travelled on to Iceland where she witnessed the eruption of Mount Hekla. She then returned to England, before traveling to Sweden where she met with Sven Hedin.
On June 15, 1948, she took the Nord-Expreß from Denmark to Germany, where she distributed many thousands of copies of handwritten leaflets encouraging the “Men and women of Germany” to “hold fast to our glorious National Socialist faith, and resist!” She recounted her experience in Gold in the Furnace (which has been reedited in honour of her 100th birthday under the title Gold in the Furnace: Experiences in Post-War Germany)
Arrested for posting bills, she was tried in Düsseldorf on April 5, 1949, for the promotion of Nazi ideas on German territory subject to the Allied Control Council, and sentenced to two years imprisonment. She served eight months in Werl prison, where she befriended her fellow Nazi and SS prisoners, (recounted in Defiance), before being released and expelled from Germany. She then went to stay in Lyon, France.
In April 1953, she obtained a Greek passport in her maiden name in order to re-enter Germany, and she began a pilgrimage, as she called it, of Nazi "holy" sites. She flew from Athens to Rome then travelled by rail over the Brenner Pass into "Greater Germany", which she regarded as "the spiritual home of all racially conscious modern Aryans". She travelled to a number of sites significant in the life of Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP (German Nazi Party), as well as German nationalist and heathen monuments, as recounted in her 1958 book Pilgrimage.
Savitri Devi became friends with Hans-Ulrich Rudel, and completed her manuscript of The Lightning and the Sun at his home in March 1956. Through his introductions she was able to meet a number of Nazi émigrés in Spain and the Middle East. In 1957 she stayed with Johannes von Leers in Egypt as she traveled across the Middle East when returning home to New Delhi, including stops in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad, Tehran, and Zahedan. In 1961 she stayed with Otto Skorzeny in Madrid.
Savitri Devi took employment teaching in France during the 1960s, spending her summer holidays with friends at Berchtesgaden. In the spring of 1961, while on her Easter holiday in London she learned of the original British National Party. This group emerged after the Second World War when a handful of former members of the British Union of Fascists took on the name. (The original BNP was absorbed quite quickly into the Union Movement - it is not directly connected with the present BNP.) She met with the British National Party president Andrew Fountaine. Beginning a correspondence with Colin Jordan, she became a devoted supporter of the National Socialist Movement.
In August 1962, Savitri Devi attended the international Nazi conference in Gloucestershire and was a founder-signatory of the Cotswold Agreement that established the World Union of National Socialists (WUNS). At this conference she met, and was greatly impressed with George Lincoln Rockwell. When Rockwell became leader of WUNS, he appointed William Luther Pierce editor of its new magazine: National Socialist World (1966–68). Along with articles by Jordan and Rockwell, Pierce devoted nearly eighty pages of the first issue to a condensed edition of The Lightning and the Sun. Because of the enthusiastic response, Pierce included chapters from Gold in the Furnace and Defiance in subsequent issues.
After retiring from teaching in 1970, Savitri Devi spent nine months at the Normandy home of close friend Françoise Dior while working on her memoirs. Concluding that her pension would go much further in India, she flew from Paris to Bombay on 23 June 1971. In August she moved to New Delhi, where she lived alone, with a number of cats and at least one cobra.
Savitri Devi continued correspondence with Nazi enthusiasts in Europe and the Americas, particularly with Colin Jordan, John Tyndall, Matt Koehl, Miguel Serrano and Ernst Zündel. She was the first to claim to Zündel that the Nazi genocide of the Jews was untrue; he proposed a series of taped interviews (conducted in November 1978) and published a new illustrated edition of The Lightning and the Sun in 1979.
By the late 1970s she had developed cataracts and her eyesight was rapidly deteriorating. A clerk from the French Embassy in India named Myriam Hirn looked after her, making regular house visits. She decided to leave India, returning to Germany to live in Bavaria in 1981 before removing to France in 1982.
She eventually died in 1982 in Sible Hedingham, Essex, England at her friend Muriel Gantry's house. The cause of death was recorded as myocardial infarction and coronary thrombosis. She was en route to lecture in America at the invitation of Matt Koehl at the time. Today Savitri Devi's ashes are enshrined next to those of George Lincoln Rockwell in the memorial room of New Order headquarters in New Berlin, Wisconsin.