Nostradamus, real name Michel de Nostredame (December 1503 – July 1566) was famous in his lifetime and just as controversial as he is today. A former French apothecary turned writer, he made supernatural predictions about future events, which made him understandably unpopular with the Catholic church authorities.
He’d been expelled from medical school but worked as if he were a fully qualified doctor. He also claimed to have invented medicines that patently didn’t work, such as a pill to ward off the plague. Nostradamus may well have spent far longer in prison in 1561 for publishing an almanac without permission from a bishop if it wasn’t for some of his renowned high-flying fans, namely Catherine of the illustrious Medici family, one of the most powerful and influential families in European history.
Here is one version of what he said on the matter:
‘From the depths of the West of Europe,
A young child will be born of poor people,
He who by his tongue will seduce a great troop;
His fame will increase towards the realm of the East.’
‘Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers,
The greater part of the battlefield will be against Hister.
Into a cage of iron will the great one be drawn,
When the child of Germany observes nothing.’
Before we attempt to dive in, it should be noted that this is a translation of what was originally written in Middle French, plus a smattering of Greek, Latin and Occitan which has been translated into modern French, before winding up as the English version you see here. This explains why there are multiple versions of Nostradamus’ texts.
With that in mind, you’d have thought that all those linguistic options would have at least produced quatrains (four lines of rhyming verse) that were clear. However, Nostradamus’ are obscure, vague even, providing a lot of wiggle room for conjecture. So, why is it assumed by many that Nostradamus predicted Hitler?
The most glaring reason is the word ‘Hister’, a possible misspelling of Hitler. Yet far more likely is that Hister or Ister is an archaic name for the Danube. As it happens, Hitler was born a few miles from the Danube, but that’s not enough to support the concept that Nostradamus predicted the rise of Hitler. Other apparent pointers include that he was born into a poor family, was a great orator (‘his tongue will seduce a great troop’) and invaded other countries (‘Beasts ferocious with hunger will cross the rivers’).
There is also an ambiguous long shot which may refer to the use of tanks (‘Into a cage of iron will the great one be drawn’) but the final line, ‘when the child of Germany observes nothing’ is intriguing.
While the word ‘Germany’ in the 1500s may be problematic because the country wasn’t known as Germany until 1871, there is something about what they, the Germans, didn’t observe. Could this be a reference to the Holocaust that took place far away from German towns and villages?
Claims that Nostradamus predicted Hitler are a lot more convincing than that of 9/11. But what we really know for certain is that Nostradamus was highly skilled at being able to write with such ambiguity that, with the benefit of hindsight, we can read what we like into virtually every quatrain he wrote, and the Adolf Hitler prediction is no exception.