THE EXPERT WITNESS: Sufficient affluence/sustainable economy (episode 22)


Treason in Detroit: The curious case of Max Stephan (part one)

By Dr. John F. Sase, Ph.D.
Julie G. Sase, Copyeditor
William A. Gross, Researcher

"If you plan to make laws, you need to study the Law."

-Paraphrase of a statement attributed to Senator Philip Hart, J.D. (1912 1976; D-MI)

Along with many of our readers, I (Dr. Sase) have watched Donald J. Trump's second Senate Impeachment Trial, which began on 8 February 2021. During the commercial breaks, I considered the above statement, one that I heard frequently as a child. Reflecting on the current impeachment trial, I wondered how many U.S. Senators have a background in Law. I discovered that only 43% of current Senators declare a professional experience in Law. Of these, we have only a few more Democrats than Republicans.

While viewing history in the making, I recognized parallels to a notorious case from eight decades ago, that of Detroit restaurateur and Nazi-sympathizer Max Stephan. In 1942, the German-born Stephan became one of the first U.S. citizens to be found guilty of treason since the Lincoln Assassination in 1865. This case and the decades of events that both led up to and followed it were centered in Detroit-the World War II Arsenal of Democracy. We have chosen to recount the Stephan case in detail because of its historical value, local interest, renewed timeliness, and relevance to our audience. The story of Max Stephan remains essential to the legal community, primarily because of the yet-unanswered questions surrounding the case.

Stephan aided in the escape of POW Luftwaffe Lieutenant Hans Peter Krug in 1942. Krug (who went by his middle name) had escaped from the Bowmanville Prison Camp near Toronto and was attempting to get to the German Embassy in Mexico. In Detroit, Stephan and others gave him refuge for a couple of days as well as food and money to continue onward through Chicago. Stephan was arrested and tried for high treason as a U.S. citizen. However, a serious study of the case leaves one with the sense that the matter was indeed odd, having more holes in it than a block of Baby Swiss cheese.

English economist John Maynard Keynes states that ideas for good or evil shape history. We amass a fuller perspective on the case of Max Stephan by exploring the events of the affaire and the views of it. Let us start with some background information. Stephan and many others believed in, were influenced by, and worked under an ideology that led to the formation of the Nazi Party. Emerging in Nineteenth-Century Europe, this ideology continues around the world to this day, most notably through the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement (NSM). The NSM was founded in Detroit in 1974. More recently, the NSM has relocated its headquarters to Florida (

The Birth of an Idea

The ideology that drove the Stephan case emerged from the Völkisch Movement, a Nineteenth-Century German grassroots effort that had a romantic focus on folklore, representing a Germanic interpretation of the Populist Movement. The early phase of the Volkisch Movement drew upon the teaching of Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the German educator and nationalist who appeared as the Volkisch prophet of athleticism, German identity, and national unity. In order to spread his vision, Jahn founded a network of patriotic fraternities in the wake of the Napoleonic Wars.

By the 1870s, the Pan-Germanic vision had arisen with the formation of the Second Reich, during which the statesman Otto von Bismarck, Prince of Bismarck and Duke of Lauenburg, installed Wilhelm I as the Kaiser. Following this confederation of more than one hundred small principalities, the older land-based economy of the First Reich (the Holy Roman Empire) broke down. Consequently, Germany's mass migration to America began for those who opposed Bismark and the Second Reich.

In 1866, the Germanenbund (Germanic nationhood) formed a federation of cultural groups that held festivals and other Volkisch events. These groups explored the history, literature, and mythology that would ferment into the beliefs of Arisophy, the esoteric wisdom and ideological systems of the Aryans. By 1901, more than 160 such groups existed throughout the country as the democratic German parties and the Pan-German Movement made substantial electoral gains.

During the late Nineteenth Century, German/Austrian polymath and Volkisch occultist Guido von List stood out as one of the most important figures of this Movement. His work became the platform for Germanic and Runic revivalism as well as for Ariosophic mysticism. The ideas developed by von List and others in the Nineteenth Century were carried forward into the Twentieth by Lanz von Liebenfels. A former monk in the Cistercian Order, von Liebenfels brought the ideas of Ariosophy to a more overt level. In 1907, von Liebenfels founded the Order of the New Templars and, with fellow supporters, the Guido von List Society in 1908. Von Liebenfels advocated sterilization of the sick and the "lower races" in his anti-Semitic Volkisch magazine Ostara, a work studied by Adolf Hitler. The latter was said to have met with von Liebenfels at least as early as 1909 when he gave this Viennese student some issues of the magazine that he was missing.

Next, let us turn our attention to Berlin in 1912. Phillip Stauff, an occultist and officer of the von List Society, joined with anti-Semitic publisher Theodor Fritsch and others to form the Germanenorden, a Volkisch secret organization that served the upper echelons of German society. With the Germanenorden, the world saw a new use of the ancient Tibetan/Buddhist symbol for prosperity and fire from Heaven-the Swastika.

The Germanenorden survived through the First World War, though it split into two factions. In 1916, the former Chancellor of the order, Herman Pohl, founded Germanenorden Walvater (of the Holy Grail). Rudolf von Sebottendorff, a wealthy occultist and admirer of von List and von Liebenfels, joined with Pohl. In his book, "The Occult Roots of Nazism" (Tauris Parke Paperbacks, 2009), English scholar Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke tells us that the Munich lodge of this organization chose the cover name of the Thule Society upon its dedication on 18 August 1918. (This Society took the name Thule from the ancient Nordic word for the mythical Aryan homeland). Having enlisted the backing of various bankers and industrialists in Western Europe and beyond, the Thule Society was determined to contain any Communist expansion westward from Russia.

(Continued) ...