Erik Jan Hanussen

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Hanussen 1933

Erik Jan Hanussen , actually Hermann Chajm Steinschneider , (born June 2, 1889 in Vienna - Ottakring ; † on the night of March 24th to 25th, 1933 in Berlin ) was an Austrian trick artist known among other things as " clairvoyant " . Despite his Jewish origins, he acted as a sympathizer of the National Socialists .


Childhood and youth

Hermann (Herschel) Steinschneider was born into a poor family and lost his mother at the age of ten. His father Siegfried (1858-1910), one of Proßnitz in Moravia derived and as a traveling salesman active or traveling theater performers doctor's son from a Jewish home, soon married a widow, brought the two children into the marriage. Three years later, Steinschneider dropped out of school and ran away from home.


Steinschneider tried several times as a society reporter in Vienna; during this time he extorted wealthy citizens Kolportagen in tabloids. He also sneaked into the trust of a fraudulent clairvoyant whose tricks he published but, ironically, later adapted himself.

As an art rider and high bar acrobat , he performed in the "Grand Circus Oriental" and operated what was supposedly the "world's first electric chain carousel ", which was actually powered by hidden children. From this time on he made his way for years in a more or less legal way in smear theaters and circuses with magicians, so-called "experimental psychologists", hypnotists or vaudeville artists . During the First World War , he protected himself from dangerous missions by predicting the situation at home. He trained the Austrian military in dowsing .

In search of casual work, he tried unsuccessfully as a classical magician in restaurants in Berlin . Steinschneider copied the mind-reading performance of a vaudeville artist "Frau Magda" and appeared in small-town vaudeville shows in Europe as a seemingly real hypnotist. Later he copied the show of the power artist Siegmund Breitbart , who was celebrated as the strongest man in the world , whereby Steinschneider's delicate assistant "under hypnosis" also managed to tear chains and the like. Ä., since both used the same tricks. The competition between the two rivals in the press attracted so much attention that both were hired to New York in December 1923 . In the meantime he called himself - after a multitude of pseudonyms, aliases and artist names - Erik Jan Hanussen and boasted of Danish origins. Back in Europe, Steinschneider showed fakir tricks and presented a hunger artist .

Although he had revealed himself to be an impostor in his book Meine Lebenslinie and even published his tricks, he later found his way back to his profession. He also tried for many years to found his own "school of occultism ", but ultimately never succeeded. He improved the classic clairvoyant trick of "reading notes" and made spectacular predictions in the press, where he was often wrong, but accidentally highlighted chance hits. Hanussen not only earned money with occult consultations, but also made social contacts.

In February 1928 Hanussen was accused of fraud hundreds of times before the district court in Litoměřice (Leitmeritz) ( Czechoslovakia ) because he had exploited the “nonsense” (meaning: the stupidity or naivety ) of those of good faith. The process lasted more than two years and was followed up to the USA . In May 1930 Hanussen was finally acquitted on the grounds that a “non-feeble-minded” person would have to expect that a clairvoyant could be wrong. This made the path to a terrific career possible.

Hanussen, who is considered intelligent, published several newspapers with which he served the longings of the readers just like in his consultations. Hanussen's colorful weekly newsreel was one of Berlin's top-selling newspapers for a short time. He was able to influence stock prices through "astrological stock market tips" . His clairvoyant shows became the talk of the day in Berlin and finally filled the Berlin “ Scala ” twice a day . Hanussen sold all kinds of occult products and got so rich that he bought a luxury yacht, among other things, and had a building in Berlin expanded as the “Palace of Occultism”.

Although he was Jewish , from 1930 he sought to get close to National Socialism and supported Hitler's rise in his astropolitical newspapers . His alleged prediction of the Reichstag fire was explained by his very good contacts to the SA leadership, whereby he knew how to commit certain members - conspicuously sponsored by Hitler - by financing their gambling debts and other, especially sexual easements. It is not known whether he really knew anything about the imminent Reichstag fire. He made many friends through his “lending”. So did the later police president of Berlin , Wolf-Heinrich Graf von Helldorff , who even made an SA group available to him to storm the restaurant of his greatest competitor, the Romanisches Café , and force him to give a Hitler salute.


A few weeks after the National Socialist seizure of power in the spring of 1933, Hanussen was arrested in his private apartment on March 23, 1933 on the orders of the Berlin SA chief Karl Ernst by a three to four member SA commando led by Wilhelm Ohst . In addition to Ohst, the command also included Kurt Egger , the chief of Ernst's staff guard, storm leader Rudolf Steinle and possibly Ernst's chauffeur Wendt. After a stopover in the police barracks in Tempelhof, Hanussen was driven out of Berlin during the night of March 24, 1933 in his own car, which had been confiscated for this purpose, and shot on the road from Zossen to Baruth . In 1934, during an interrogation by the Gestapo , Steinle declared that he had fired the fatal shots.

Hanussen's body was found on April 8, 1933 by forest workers in a wooded area (fir tree conservation) between Baruth and Neuhof near Zossen in the south of Berlin, shortly after the exit from Baruth. A “mysterious corpse find” was reported in the newspapers on the same day. The dead man was drawn from corpses and mutilated, so that his identity could only be determined after the monogram of his tailor, who knew who the buyer was, had been discovered on his clothes. Based on this information, a clear identity was clarified by relatives and employees. The detective commissioner Hermann Albrecht was in charge of the investigation.

A preliminary investigation into the death of Hanussen, initiated by the public prosecutor at the Berlin Regional Court on April 8, 1933 , was discontinued on June 1, 1933. The investigation files are considered lost. In 1965, a new investigation was initiated by the Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office, which lasted until 1968 and was able to largely clear up the external events surrounding Hanussen's murder with the help of documents from the Berlin Document Center at the time and by questioning surviving witnesses. Since the suspects had all died or had been judged to be dead by the court at this point in time, the proceedings were discontinued with a notice of October 1, 1968.

The motives for the murder of Hanussen have not yet been fully clarified: Essentially, two different motivations for the crime are cited in the literature, although both may apply and could complement each other: On the one hand, numerous authors cite that Hanussens Jewish origin became known to the National Socialists in early 1933. As a result, Count Helldorff or Karl Ernst or Wilhelm Ohst, individually or collectively, who had previously had a close friendly and business relationship with Hanussen, had him removed in order to remove the political burden that friendship with a Jew meant in Nazi circles to strip off. Furthermore, it is pointed out again and again that Count Helldorf had considerable debts with Hanussen from the time before 1933, which had become obsolete through his murder, so Helldorf could have given the murder order to conveniently "clear up" his debts. In fact, documents from the Berlin Document Center prove that Ohst and his commando searched Hanussen's apartment and confiscated receipts and promissory notes from Helldorf near Hanussen. However, it can be proven that these documents did not reach Helldorf, but rather Karl Ernst, who took them into custody in his own apartment, where they were recovered after his shooting in the summer of 1934. The Berlin public prosecutor concluded from this fact in the 1960s that Ernst would have taken over these documents in his own possession in order to be able to use them as a weapon and leverage in the internal power struggle of the Nazi leaders against Helldorf if necessary.

This gives rise to two possible chains of command for the murder order: Either Helldorff ordered Hanussen's murder, whereby he passed the murder order on to the executing men via Ernst, or Ernst ordered the act arbitrarily, without Helldorff's knowledge or consent. In both cases, Hanussen's Jewish descent could have been the motive for the murder. In the event of a murder on behalf of Helldorff in order to "pay off" his debts, Ernst would have to have withheld the promissory notes, contrary to an order that could be assumed to be likely, to hand them over to Helldorf in order to use them for his own purposes. The last possibility would ultimately be the murder of Hanussen as an unauthorized project by Ernst in order to get hold of material against Helldorff.


Another motive for murder is that Hanussen could have been dangerous to the Nazis because he possibly knew or could have provided information about how they were involved in the Reichstag fire.

Hanussen's grave is located in the Stahnsdorf south-west cemetery in the Charlottenburg block, garden block III, garden point 50.

Works (selection)

  • Erik Jan Hanussen: Uhu is dead and something else , Friedrich Grosse, Olmütz 1915 (with a title drawing).
  • Hermann Steinschneider: What went on about Brettl: poetics from temples of the muses who play without a curtain , Groak, Ölmütz 1915.
  • Erik Jan Hanussen: What is that based on - ?! Telepathy, its explanation and practice, self-published, Krakow 1917.
  • Erik Jan Hanussen-Steinschneider: Mind reading, telepathy (with portrait), Waldheim-Eberle, Vienna 1920 (NA together with Das Gomboloy : Zauber Kellerhof e. K., Bonn 2014 ISBN 978-3-00-047503-0 ).
  • Erik Jan Hanussen: Close your eyes! Brettl-Lieder , o.O. 1920.
  • Erik Jan Hanussen: Die Weltseele , o. O. 1922.
  • Erik Jan Hanussen: The Gomboloy. My system for controlling the nerves , self-published by "Hagover" (Günzburger Druckerei), Gablonz 1927.
  • Erik Jan Hanussen: Meine Lebenslinie (autobiography 1884-1930), Universitas, Berlin 1930 (NA: Wunderkammer / Edition Bottle Post, Neu-Isenburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-941245-02-0 ).


Hanussen's life story has been filmed several times:

Hanussen himself produced (lost) films during his heyday in Austria in which he played hypnotists:

  • Hypnosis (1919)
  • The Mysterious Death (1921)

Archival tradition

A coherent estate on Hanussen no longer exists today. However, a not inconsiderable amount of material about him has been preserved in various archives that was created in official contexts.

A large number of Hanussen's private documents and files were confiscated by the SA in March 1933. These files are lost. According to Hanussen's biographer Wilfried Kugel , it must be assumed that these were destroyed.

An original investigation file on the murder of Hanussen from 1933 (file number II PJ 612/33) was searched for by the Berlin Public Prosecutor's Office when they reopened the case in the 1960s, but could not be found. Even when Kugel searched for this file in the 1990s, it remained lost. However, he expressly states that there are indications that this still exists. Only a file from the Ministry of Justice is preserved in the Federal Archives (RJM ZFG² 10 238/35).

In contrast, the files of the newly opened investigative proceedings of the Berlin public prosecutor's office for the murder of Hanussen from the 1960s have been preserved in the Berlin State Archives (B.-Rep. 058, No. 6394 to 6399). As Kugel was able to determine, an estate maintenance file on "Steinschneider, called Hanussen" from 1933 has also been preserved there.


Web links

Commons : Erik Jan Hanussen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See:
  2. ^ After Kugel, p. 250 f .: Around or probably after midnight by shooting in the courtyard or basement of the barracks of the field police in General-Pape-Strasse in Berlin-Tempelhof / Schöneberg; see. Article Alexander von Pape . After robbing the corpse was to cover up the murder in a hidden fir tree shelter in the Staakower Forest "approx. 20 meters from the Chaussee Neuhof-Baruth at kilometer stone 48 “(between Zossen-Neuhof and Baruth).
  3. In the judgment of May 27, 1930 it says literally: “But if a person who is not feeble-minded goes to the clairvoyant in order to gain knowledge by virtue of a mysterious or enigmatic quality of the soul, [he] cannot possibly expect one hundred percent truth with complete certainty and must not complain if he receives an erroneous answer. His relationship with the clairvoyant is reminiscent of certain proposals for happiness, which nobody can complain about if he pulls a rivet ”. Quoted from Wilfried Kugel: Hanussen - The true story of Hermann Steinschneider (1998).
  4. See e.g. B. “Myteriöser Leichenfund”, in: Berliner Illustrierte night edition of April 8, 1933.
  5. Christoph Gunkel: Reichstag fire in 1933: "I see the large building go up in bright flames". In: Spiegel Online . February 25, 2013, accessed June 9, 2018 .
  6. ^ The grave of Erik Jan Hanussen
  7. Pictures from the grave
  8. The Handbook of Austrian Authors of Jewish Origin: 18th to 20th Century states on p. 504 1883 as the year of birth.
  9. Kugel: Hanussen , p. 13.
  10. Kugel: Hanussen, p. 13.
  11. Kugel: Hanussen, p. 13.