History revisited

Writings of French Hindu who worshipped Hitler as an avatar of Vishnu are inspiring the US alt-right

Savitri Devi was born Maximiani Portaz in 1905.

South Asian religious traditions have long attracted admirers from the West, but none have been as flamboyant or as dangerous as Maximiani Portaz (1905-1982). This French convert to Hinduism believed that Hitler had been an avatar of Vishnu sent to prepare for the end of the Kali Yuga – the last of the four stages the world goes through according to Hindu scriptures. Her ideas, known as Esoteric Hitlerism, are now making a surprising comeback on the internet.

Before becoming a far-right mystic, Portaz was on track for a brilliant academic career. She earned a master’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in the philosophy of mathematics, but underwent a spiritual crisis at the end of her studies. She abandoned academic life, renounced her French citizenship, and became fascinated by the rising Nazi Party in Germany. The Nazis held that the Aryan race was the basis of all civilisation, so Portaz went to India in 1932 to discover the supposed Aryan homeland for herself. She fell in love with India. Changing her name to Savitri Devi, she converted to Hinduism, married the nationalist activist Asit Krishna Mukherji, and dedicated herself to freeing the subcontinent from both British imperialism and Christianity, which she condemned as an anti-Aryan faith.

Esoteric Hitlerism

As a Nazi sympathizer and supporter of Indian nationalism, Devi saw the outbreak of World War II in 1939 as a golden opportunity. After an unsatisfying meeting with Mahatma Gandhi in the fall of 1941, Devi and her husband embraced Subhas Chandra Bose. They were instrumental in setting up his first meetings with the Japanese government. Devi was so committed to the Third Reich that she continued to fight for it even after its defeat in 1945. She returned to Europe, distributing pro-Nazi propaganda in the ruins of German cities. She was arrested, and after a few years in prison, passed the rest of her life between France and India.

As she reflected on the war during her imprisonment, Devi decided that the Nazis had been fighting not for mere political power, but for a spiritual ideal that few had understood. Combining Nazi ideology with elements of Hindu theology, she began publishing numerous books that claimed to reveal the hidden message of the Nazi cause. Hitler, she claimed, was no mere mortal: he was an avatar of Vishnu, sent to clear the way for Kalki, Vishnu’s final avatar, who will end the Kali Yuga and renew the cosmic cycle. Hitler’s apparent defeat in the political realm, then, had been in fact a spiritual victory hastening the salvation of the universe.

Toward the end of her life, Devi became interested in the United States, seeing it as fertile ground for her doctrine. She is even buried in Virginia, next to the grave of prominent American neo-Nazi George Lincoln Rockwell. And, just as she predicted, America has begun to welcome Devi’s teaching. After years of being relegated to the fringes of far-right occultism, her writings have re-emerged in recent years as an inspiration to the alt-right, a new movement of fascists and white nationalists based in North America. Rising to the attention of the mainstream media in the wake of the Trump campaign, the alt-right combines an ironic, playful style with an appeal to spiritual ideals.

The alt-right spin

One of the most important thinkers on the alt-right, Greg Johnson, has spent the last several years promoting Devi’s ideas through his web-journal Counter-Currents and associated publishing house. Johnson holds that Esoteric Hitlerism is a form of spirituality designed for white people, an Indo-European religion emphasising violence, power and virility. Johnson also suggests that Devi’s faith solves a critical problem for neo-Nazi movements: the fact that fascism seems to have failed so utterly, and caused so much horrible suffering. If, as Devi claimed, Hitler was not a failed leader but a successful herald of a new golden age, then fascism may be able to rise again.

While Counter-Currents publishes high-brow articles on Esoteric Hitlerism, other leading alt-right sites such as TheRightStuff.biz reach a broad audience by promoting Esoteric Kekism, a parody religion based on Devi’s work, centered on semi-ironic memes of Hitler and Vishnu. These images play for laughs (the word “kek” means “lol”), but, like other popular memes showing Donald Trump as a God-Emperor, are far more than silly humor. They use Devi’s ideas to steadily break down taboos about Hitler, making Nazism seem more acceptable to conservatives raised to think of the Third Reich as a symbol of evil. Perhaps, just as Devi was right that the United States would one day accept her ideas, she might also have been right that the end of the Third Reich was just the beginning for fascism.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Putting the patient first - insights for hospitals to meet customer service expectations

These emerging solutions are a fine balance between technology and the human touch.

As customers become more vocal and assertive of their needs, their expectations are changing across industries. Consequently, customer service has gone from being a hygiene factor to actively influencing the customer’s choice of product or service. This trend is also being seen in the healthcare segment. Today good healthcare service is no longer defined by just qualified doctors and the quality of medical treatment offered. The overall ambience, convenience, hospitality and the warmth and friendliness of staff is becoming a crucial way for hospitals to differentiate themselves.

A study by the Deloitte Centre for Health Solutions in fact indicates that good patient experience is also excellent from a profitability point of view. The study, conducted in the US, analyzed the impact of hospital ratings by patients on overall margins and return on assets. It revealed that hospitals with high patient-reported experience scores have higher profitability. For instance, hospitals with ‘excellent’ consumer assessment scores between 2008 and 2014 had a net margin of 4.7 percent, on average, as compared to just 1.8 percent for hospitals with ‘low’ scores.

This clearly indicates that good customer service in hospitals boosts loyalty and goodwill as well as financial performance. Many healthcare service providers are thus putting their efforts behind: understanding constantly evolving customer expectations, solving long-standing problems in hospital management (such as long check-out times) and proactively offering a better experience by leveraging technology and human interface.

The evolving patient

Healthcare service customers, who comprise both the patient and his or her family and friends, are more exposed today to high standards of service across industries. As a result, hospitals are putting patient care right on top of their priorities. An example of this in action can be seen in the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. In July 2015, the hospital launched a ‘Smart OPD’ system — an integrated mobile health system under which the entire medical ecosystem of the hospital was brought together on a digital app. Patients could use the app to book/reschedule doctor’s appointments and doctors could use it to access a patient’s medical history, write prescriptions and schedule appointments. To further aid the process, IT assistants were provided to help those uncomfortable with technology.

The need for such initiatives and the evolving nature of patient care were among the central themes of the recently concluded Abbott Hospital Leadership Summit. The speakers included pundits from marketing and customer relations along with leaders in the healthcare space.

Among them was the illustrious speaker Larry Hochman, a globally recognised name in customer service. According to Mr. Hochman, who has worked with British Airways and Air Miles, patients are rapidly evolving from passive recipients of treatment to active consumers who are evaluating their overall experience with a hospital on social media and creating a ‘word-of-mouth’ economy. He talks about this in the video below.


As the video says, with social media and other public platforms being available today to share experiences, hospitals need to ensure that every customer walks away with a good experience.

The promise gap

In his address, Mr. Hochman also spoke at length about the ‘promise gap’ — the difference between what a company promises to deliver and what it actually delivers. In the video given below, he explains the concept in detail. As the gap grows wider, the potential for customer dissatisfaction increases.


So how do hospitals differentiate themselves with this evolved set of customers? How do they ensure that the promise gap remains small? “You can create a unique value only through relationships, because that is something that is not manufactured. It is about people, it’s a human thing,” says Mr. Hochman in the video below.


As Mr. Hochman and others in the discussion panel point out, the key to delivering a good customer experience is to instil a culture of empathy and hospitality across the organisation. Whether it is small things like smiling at patients, educating them at every step about their illness or listening to them to understand their fears, every action needs to be geared towards making the customer feel that they made the correct decision by getting treated at that hospital. This is also why, Dr. Nandkumar Jairam, Chairman and Group Medical Director, Columbia Asia, talked about the need for hospitals to train and hire people with soft skills and qualities such as empathy and the ability to listen.

Striking the balance

Bridging the promise gap also involves a balance between technology and the human touch. Dr. Robert Pearl, Executive Director and CEO of The Permanente Medical Group, who also spoke at the event, wrote about the example of Dr. Devi Shetty’s Narayana Health Hospitals. He writes that their team of surgeons typically performs about 900 procedures a month which is equivalent to what most U.S. university hospitals do in a year. The hospitals employ cutting edge technology and other simple innovations to improve efficiency and patient care.

The insights gained from Narayana’s model show that while technology increases efficiency of processes, what really makes a difference to customers are the human touch-points. As Mr. Hochman says, “Human touch points matter more because there are less and less of them today and are therefore crucial to the whole customer experience.”


By putting customers at the core of their thinking, many hospitals have been able to apply innovative solutions to solve age old problems. For example, Max Healthcare, introduced paramedics on motorcycles to circumvent heavy traffic and respond faster to critical emergencies. While ambulances reach 30 minutes after a call, the motorcycles reach in just 17 minutes. In the first three months, two lives were saved because of this customer-centric innovation.

Hospitals are also looking at data and consumer research to identify consumer pain points. Rajit Mehta, the MD and CEO of Max Healthcare Institute, who was a panelist at the summit, spoke of the importance of data to understand patient needs. His organisation used consumer research to identify three critical areas that needed work - discharge and admission processes for IPD patients and wait-time for OPD patients. To improve wait-time, they incentivised people to book appointments online. They also installed digital kiosks where customers could punch in their details to get an appointment quickly.

These were just some of the insights on healthcare management gleaned from the Hospital Leadership Summit hosted by Abbott. In over 150 countries, Abbott is working with hospitals and healthcare professionals to improve the quality of health services.

To read more content on best practices for hospital leaders, visit Abbott’s Bringing Health to Life portal here.

This article was produced on behalf of Abbott by the Scroll.in marketing team and not by the Scroll.in editorial staff.