Japanese Buddhism in the Third Reich

Brian Victoria


While the Tripartite Pact between Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Empire of Japan is well known, the cultural ties that paralleled this military pact have been far less studied. In particular, the influence this pact had on the religious relationships between the participating countries is little known. Yet, the reality is that there was surprisingly strong Nazi interest in Japanese Buddhism. This article traces the roots of German interest in Japanese Buddhism, especially Zen, from pre-Nazi Germany through the Nazi’s own fascination with what appeared to many of them to be a mirror of their own vōlkisch religiosity. Additionally, those German and Japanese figures promoting this relationship are introduced.

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