Why People Think Nostradamus Predicted The Rise Of Hitler

Michel de Notredame, commonly known as Nostradamus, could be called the patron saint of the scammers and grifters permeating today's pop culture (via Britannica). For centuries, Nostradamus has been a household name known for his eerie predictions about significant historical events. Many credit the 16th-century astrologer with foretelling such world-changing moments as the Apollo moon landing, 9/11, and even the rise of Hitler, writes Live Science.

However, Nostradamus was not a prophet with superhuman abilities.  Instead, he had a deep understanding of how human events repeat throughout history and that the dramas of the past will reoccur in the future. He was a master at constructing deceptive phrases that were purposefully cryptic and could be easily misinterpreted. Early in his career, he worked as a doctor without any record of having completed his medical degree after he'd been kicked out of medical school, writes Britannica. The schemes only continued from there. 

At the time, spiritualism and an interest in the occult permeated Europe. Astrology was on the rise, and Nostradamus used the hunger for celestial predictions to his advantage (via Britannica). He gave astrological readings by mail, intentionally making his handwriting messy and obscure. The Washington Post explains that Nostradamus often wrote in the language with which the recipient was the weakest to shroud his message further. Later, he would draw upon these elusive tactics as he wrote the predictions people still talk about today.

Nostradamus used vagueness to strengthen his predictions

The strength of Nostradamus' prophecies comes from their vagueness and his use of generalizations. Additionally, he carefully selected common events that reoccur throughout history: natural disasters, epidemics, and political despots. These repeated events make them easily applicable to the specificities of any era, writes Britannica. This technique has historical precedent and was common enough to get its own name: bibliomancy, says History. Like Nostradamus, the bibliomancer lifts specific historical moments from old texts and then uses astrology to predict when the event will happen again.

Nostradamus compiled his predictions into a book called "Centuries," organized into sections containing 100 quatrains each (per Britannica). His writing uses intentionally obscure language giving rise to multiple interpretations. For example, he often used "New City" to reference a location. Conveniently "New City" can be applied to any burgeoning metropolis, explains The Washington Post. "Nef," another favorite word, could refer to a cathedral or a ship, providing two different predictions for each use.

Further obscuring his prose, Nostradamus' quatrains have been mistranslated and misinterpreted. Prediction-seekers find their answers by cherry-picking whichever poor translation best fits their needs. The linguist and translator Peter Lemesurier, in Live Science, accuses those interpreters of "shamelessly twisting half-understood words retrospectively to fit the proposed event, or in some cases even twisting the event itself to fit the words." Such is the case with those who say Nostradamus predicted Hitler's rise to power.

Did Nostradamus predict Hitler's rise?

Some say that Nostradamus predicted the Nazi's rise to power. At first glance, some of his quatrains seem to allude to Nazi Germany. For example, "The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister," and "When the child of Germany observes nothing," (via Insider). Yet the Nazis understood how to wield Nostradamus' words to their advantage. According to History, Joseph Goebbels used Nostradamus' passages as propaganda, suggesting that Nazi success was written in the stars. The Allies quickly caught on and conveniently found quatrains that purportedly foretold an Ally victory. This exchange of countering predictions is an excellent example of how readers can manipulate Nostradamus' words to their desired outcome.

However, these quatrains are no different than Nostradamus' other predictions, relying upon vagueness and multiple meanings. Live Science notes that Hister is an alternative spelling of ​​"Ister" or "Iter," which references the Danube river, not Adolf Hitler. The passages also predict details that aren't true. For example, how this new and dangerous leader would be "born of poor people," even though Hitler's family was middle class, says Insider.

Look closely, and the predictions fall apart. True, some of Nostradamus' lasting power is due to the pure fun of "de-coding" words from the past. Yet, it is helpful to remember that humans have a powerful ability to see what we want to see and filter out the rest. Nostradamus understood this all too well (via The Washington Post).