Arthur J. Magida
writer in residence
Klein Family School of Communications Design
M.A., California School of Professional Psychology
M.A., Georgetown University
B.A., Marlboro College
Arthur J. Magida has recently started his latest book – Two Wheels to Freedom, the true story of a Jewish forger who biked through Nazi Germany to freedom in Switzerland in 1943, and the beautiful Jewish collaborator who refused to betray him.
Magida's previous book, The Nazi Séance (Macmillan) -- a biography of Erik Jan Hanussen, aka "Hitler's Jewish clairvoyant" -- meditates on the power of wonder and magic while chronicling how Hanussen cemented an alliance that morally and historically makes little sense. The Nazi Séance also addresses a certain type of "magical thinking" in which "no one was more magical than Hitler, though an ambitious, ridiculously naïve Jew proffered his own 'magic' to the masses, believing that if Hitler was the new God, he would be his favored prophet."
Hanussen assumed he could manipulate some of the more incendiary personalities of his time just as he had manipulated his fans. He turned his occult newspaper into a Nazi propaganda rag, outfitted Storm Troopers based in Berlin, personally assured Hitler that the stars were aligned in his favor and predicted at a star-studded séance the infamous Reichstag Fire. Hanussen paid for this with his life: the Nazis killed him in March 1933.
Praise for The Nazi Séance includes:
- "Hanussen's life is deftly told... Magida weaves a fascinating tapestry of 1920s Berlin - vibrant, corrupt, gilded, brittle, teetering toward Nazi control" -- The Washington Post
- "Magida's energy and enthusiasm carry the reader with him as he tells an eerie tale that nobody would ever dare to make up." – The Jerusalem Report
- "Brilliant... a highly readable, highly entertaining page-turner... Magida achieves the impossible: He writes about a sensational topic and shows that historical truth trumps irresponsible speculation and tabloid hysteria" – CCLaP (Chicago Center for Literature and Photography)
- "Hanussen (and his relation to Hitler) is one of the strangest enigmas of the pre-war era. Arthur Magida has done a great service in illuminating this figure of mystery--and the light his story reflects on the growing darkness surrounding him." -- Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler.
- "Well-written... Since there have been exaggerated accounts of Nazi interest in the occult, it is refreshing to have this subject engaged in a thoughtful way... Readers will obtain a real sense of how many in the upheavals of post-World War 1 Germany flocked to the most unlikely sources of information and comfort" -- Gerhard Weinberg, eminent historian of the Nazi era.
- "An astonishing story, brilliantly told," -- Roger Moorhouse, author of Berlin at War and Killing Hitler.
- "Gripping... superb storytelling." – Magic Magazine
- "... fascinating, shocking, gripping portrait of a Jewish mind reader who moved into the highest echelons of German society just as the Nazi party was ramping up. Hanussen galvanized crowds, but in the end, he was simply a mortal who could not immunize himself from anti-Semitism." - Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and Holocaust survivor
- "Magida paints a vivid tale . . . [His] gumshoe style—deadpanning the tale with an occasional wry aside and an interview appearance by master illusionist Teller—is the perfect vehicle for the narrative of Hanussen's half-mythical rise to fame and predictable and ignoble execution at the hands of Nazi thugs." -- Baltimore City Paper
- "Magida's narrative takes on the palpable dread of a thriller . . . The Nazi Séance not only demonstrates the impossibility of telling the future; it also shows how difficult it is to accurately understand the present." – The Urbanite
- "A history that reads like a novel, [this is]... more than a finely written, well-researched examination of the 'Nazi' Jewish psychic. The Nazi Séance may also be a disturbingly fit metaphor for Jewish existence among the nations." -- Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, scholar-in-residence, Congregation Emanu-El of San Francisco.
Magida's Opening the Doors of Wonder addresses variety of religions – bar/bat mitzvahs, confirmations, baptisms, Hindus' sacred thread ceremonies, Muslims' shahada, Buddhists' jukai. Opening the Doors explains their underlying theologies, their elements, how they evolved and how they actually affect people and includes interviews with Deepak Chopra, Elie Wiesel, Ram Dass, Roz Chast, Chinua Achebe, Robert Thurman and Yusuf Islam (the former Cat Stevens). Comments about Opening the Doors of Wonder include:
- "Goes far toward helping us understand one another – a much-needed venture in our 9/11 age." -- Henry Louis Gates Jr
- "Magida writes engagingly as a serious person who does not take himself too seriously. He inspires a startling degree of frankness among his subjects." -- Style Magazine
- "Richly developed... [The author] lets light in from all directions on coming-of-age ceremonies and their meanings... [while] also taking a brief look at new evolving ceremonies... Wonder is nourished by religious ceremonies and the more of them that are developed, the better for everyone." – Spirituality & Practice Magazine
The Rabbi and The Hit Man
, the true story of a New Jersey rabbi given life imprisonment for hiring a hit man to kill his wife, was praised for "compelling, "measured," "stately" tone and its "dense, yet tight pacing... that reads like a top-notch crime novel." One critic deemed the book "required reading in all seminaries." Magida has been a consultant for several TV documentaries based on The Rabbi and The Hit Man.
Prophet of Rage: A Life of Louis Farrakhan and His Nation also received critical acclaim: "A key biography of perhaps the most flamboyant African American leader of our time."(The San Francisco Chronicle); "Perceptive, balanced, and vividly evocative..." (The Washington Post). Magida also wrote the two-volume set, How To Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies , and The Environment Committees, a study of environmental politics commissioned by Ralph Nader.
A professor at Georgetown University, writer-in-residence at the University of Baltimore and consultant to a two-hour PBS film on "forgiveness," Magida has been a columnist for the on-line religion magazine, Beliefnet.com; a contributing correspondent to PBS's "Religion & Ethics Newsweekly;" a consultant to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum; editorial director of Jewish Lights Publishing, which specializes in books on religion/spirituality; senior editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times; environmental reporter for National Journal; writer/editor for Ralph Nader; director of publications for an energy conservation project; and a reporter for two Pennsylvania newspapers.
Magida's op-eds have appeared in The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, The Hartford Courant, The Houston Chronicle, The Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and he has free-lanced for TomPaine.com, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, The Jerusalem Report, Tikkun, plus The New York Times, Boston Globe, Geo, Islands and Historic Preservation magazines. His work appears in several anthologies.
Magida is listed in Who's Who in America, Who's Who in Religion, Who's Who in the East and International Authors and Writers Who's Who. He has appeared on Dateline, the CBS Early Show, Court TV's "Catherine Crier Live," "The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour," ABC's "World News Tonight," C-Span's "Booknotes," NPR's "Morning Edition" and an A&E documentary. He has received 16 Simon Rockower Awards from the American Jewish Press Association; five A.D. Emmart Awards for writing on the humanities; two Smolar Awards for Excellence in Jewish Journalism; two National Mass Media Certificates of Recognition from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. The Fund for Investigative Journalism and The Dick Goldensohn Fund have supported his work. He has spoken at colleges and civic and religious groups around the country, from Nantucket to Los Angeles, from Sag Harbor to San Francisco, from the 92nd Street Y in New York, to the Anti-Defamation League, to an international convention of the Psychic Entertainers Association.