Matt Kamen on the real-world inspiration for the FMA villains
The central villains of Fullmetal Alchemist: Conqueror of Shamballa, the Thule Society, may seem a bit over the top and outlandish but, like the Beer Hall Putsch, are based on a real group and set of events. The society was noted for its belief in various aspects of the occult, specifically any elements that could be attributed to the supposed superiority of the Aryan race. A popular misconception is that the Thule Society acted as a group of advisors to Hitler on all things paranormal. In reality, the group had disbanded circa 1925, long before Hitler's rise to power. However, all key members of the German Worker's Party (DAP) originally were Thuleist and were instrumental in creating the charismatic public speaker that Hitler became. Having only been founded in 1918, itself an offshoot of another cult-like organisation known as the Germanic Order, the Thule Society was positively short lived. In addition, although his second in command Heinrich Himmler had a documented interest in the occult, Hitler himself had little time for it, so any attempts to connect the two beyond cross-promotional purposes is more likely to be a result of media corruption over the years. While claims of mysticism cannot be proven, one lasting impact Thule had on history was the perversion of the swastika symbol. Originally a positive symbol in many Eastern-originated faiths such as Hinduism, Thule appropriated it as their logo, in turn inspiring Hitler's usage of it.
However briefly it may have existed in history, the Thule Society has made a lasting imprint on pop culture as a notorious order of manipulative and secretive dark magicians of sorts, willing to use the foulest sorcery or science to achieve their ends. Thule appears notably in the Hellboy universe of comics as a still-operational cult and in the Everquest video games as the name of an evil god. In short, they're now used as stock in trade villains as plots demand. Serves them right, really.
Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa is out this month in a UK DVD double-pack from Manga Entertainment.