Hitler and the Nazi leadership's obsession with magic and the occult is laid bare in a newly published far-reaching historical work.

'Hitler's Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich,' by Eric Kurlander exposes the remarkable depths that supernatural beliefs and practices penetrated the highest circles of the Nazi machine.

Propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was an avid reader of Nostradamus and was delighted to be able to tell Hitler, having read some of the Frenchman's prophecies, that the British were on the verge of defeat.

"Early to bed. Spent a long time reading. Nostradamus's prophecies. Very interesting for those of us today," he wrote in his diary on 23 November 1939 – just a few months into World War II.

Another member of the inner ring, Heinrich Himmler, even founded the SS Witches Division to investigate the plight of German 'wise women' that had been persecuted by Jews and Catholics.

Historian Kurlander claims that these odd beliefs stemmed from the Nazi's acceptance of World Ice Theory, which held that the white 'Aryan' man was not evolved from apes like other humans but from an extraterrestrial 'divine sperm'.

Hitler and many of those close to him believed in this inherently racist and unempirical philosophy rather than Darwin's Theory of Evolution. It provided the regime with a theoretical justification for committing Jewish genocide.

Perhaps more surprisingly, the Nazis even found a role for irrational beliefs in their military planning.

Joseph Goebbels
Joseph Goebbels (1897-1945) was a devout reader of Nostradamus Keystone/Getty Images

The German Navy dangled pendulums over miniature battleships on maps of the Atlantic to try and identify where British vessels were located in a practice known as pendulum dowsing.

Nazi Admirals would look on as a member of the Pendulum Dowsing Institute in Berlin would hover the the 'magical' pendulum over the map, waiting for it to swing violently as it detected a British boat.

The Germans thought the British were using the same methods to locate German U-boats. In fact, they relied on radar.

After Italian dictator Mussolini, a friend of the Third Reich, fell from power and was arrested, the Nazi's amassed a team of 40 astrologers, tarot readers, magicians and pendulum dowsers to find him.

"These magicians cost the SS a pretty penny," said General Schellenberg. "They demanded – and got – huge quantities of luxury food, alcohol and tobacco before they could start work."

Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler pictured in 1925, the year when his autobiography Mein Kampf was published Getty Images

Kurlander writes that the British, under Winston Churchill, were well aware of the Nazi's predilection for the occult and that they exploited it: The Royal Air Force parachuted fake copies of a German astrological magazine, Zenit, into the fatherland, containing pessimistic Horoscopes for Hitler and his cabal.