Nazi chief’s drunken expedition to discover Aryan roots in Tibet

A shot from the Tibetan expedition as the members of the team sit down around a table with locals in a room adorned by a swastika and the SS logo.

A shot from the Tibetan expedition as the members of the team sit down around a table with locals in a room adorned by a swastika and the SS logo.
Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

By Allan Hall | Mail Online

ON THE WEB, 4 April 2017

Nazis in Tibet, by Peter Meier-Hüsing and published in Germany this week, says that orders by Heinrich Himmler for artefacts and evidence of a super-race that the Germans were descended from were largely ignored by the team in the famous 1938 trek to the roof of the world.

Having sent them on their way, the explorers — led by avid duck hunter and zoologist Ernst Schäfer — parked their boss’ demands and concerned themselves mostly with drinking and killing local wildlife to take back home.

Heinrich Himmler (left, front) welcomes members of the SS Tibet expedition, which includes Ernst Schäfer (one from right in front row) on their return to Munich Riem Airport in Germany.

Heinrich Himmler (left, front) welcomes members of the SS Tibet expedition, which includes Ernst Schäfer (one from right in front row) on their return to Munich Riem Airport in Germany. Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Zoologist Ernst Schäfer, who enjoyed duck hunting, led the expedition to Tibet in the 1930s.

Zoologist Ernst Schäfer, who enjoyed duck hunting, led the expedition to Tibet in the 1930s. Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Members prepare to embark on the expedition.

Members prepare to embark on the expedition, and who are said to have concerned themselves mostly with drinking and killing local wildlife to take back home. Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

To this day 3,500 mummified birds, 2,000 eggs, 400 skulls and pelts of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, several thousand butterflies, grasshoppers, 2,000 ethnological objects, minerals, maps, and 40,000 black-and-white photographs reside in German museums and research institutes.

They are occasionally used for academic purposes, but the taint of Himmler, who went on to oversee the Holocaust, means that many shy away from accessing them.

Himmler, who was obsessed with the notion of a blue-eyed, blonde-haired lost tribe from which Germans were descended, made all the participants on the trek SS officers when he learned of it.

Although he did not make the trip, Himmler reportedly ordered the group to search for a ‘root race’ he believed were the original Aryans.

He was also interested in finding hardy, cold-weather-resistant horses for the forthcoming war Hitler was plotting.

The expedition has gone down in history as the quest to make his hocus-pocus theories come true — something the new book dispels.

Meier-Hüsing says the expedition “was not a carefully planned, secret commando mission by the SS, but a trophy hunt by a brilliant researcher and adventurer that had come about partly by chance.”

Schäfer had joined the SS in 1933 after an expedition to China where he killed a panda.

Expedition member Karl Maria Wiligut of the SS.

Expedition member Karl Maria Wiligut of the SS. Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

A rising Indiana Jones of his day, Germany’s Nazi rulers began to take an interest when they heard he was planning to penetrate the sealed kingdom of Tibet.

In 1936 Schäfer was in the USA seeking wealthy backers for the planned adventure.

But Himmler summoned him back to Germany in his bid to hijack the scientific nature of the quest for his own ends.

The author says; “He was to later call his alliance with Himmler his biggest mistake. But he was an opportunist who had a tremendous craving for recognition.”

Although he was still intent on a purely scientific foray into an isolated and fascinating world, Himmler’s underwriting of the mission meant it went into the history books as a Nazi search for the supermen who once ruled the world who spawned the Germans.

“The expedition was nonsensically mystified,” says Meier-Hüsing. “Himmler’s drivel about original Aryans meant nothing to the leader of the mission.”

Trekking through India, the team, wearing helmets adorned with SS symbols, set up a base camp near the border with Tibet at the high Kongra La (pass).

The men passed the time eating noodles and drinking caraway-seed schnapps.

After making contact with locals, Tibet’s council of ministers permitted the ‘master of a hundred sciences’ to visit the closed-off capital of Tibetan Buddhism — Lhasa.

They were told they could not bring scientific equipment with them, or kill any animals or birds.

Both commands were ignored.

In Lhasa their insatiable Teutonic thirst became a talking point among natives.

“They invited Tibet’s notables to numerous parties, where the Chang Beer flowed freely and German songs were played on the gramophone,” said Der Spiegel magazine in a review of the work.

“What was officially referred to as a meeting of the ‘Eastern and Western swastikas’ was in fact a rollicking, alcohol-induced party.”

When they were not drinking, they were also not researching the roots of Himmler’s quack race either.

Instead they killed birds and animals, collected seeds — 7,000 varieties reside at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics in Gatersleben — and assiduously mapped the region.

German hunter and zoologist Ernst Schäfer (third from left) on his third expedition to Tibet in 1939.

German hunter and zoologist Ernst Schäfer (third from left) on his third expedition to Tibet in 1939, which was sponsored by the SS Ahnenerbe organization. Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

Those who made the trip to Tibet from Germany study maps and notes back in 1939.

Those who made the trip to Tibet from Germany study maps and notes back in 1939.Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

The British in neighbouring India accused the Germans of ‘loutish behaviour’ and branded Schäfer a ‘priest of Nazism’.

In truth, says the author, they were jealous of the Germans being in Tibet rather than them.

Back home in Germany Reichsführer-SS Himmler greeted Schäfer and his teammates on the tarmac at Tempelhof Airport in Berlin where he presented Schäfer with the SS skull ring and dagger of honour.

Because of the war Schäfer’s account of the expedition was not published until 1950 when it was printed under the title Festival of the White Gauze Scarves: A research expedition through Tibet to Lhasa, the holy city of the god realm.

He received a post in Himmler’s Ahnenerbe foundation, dedicated to Aryan research, but faded into obscurity, ending up after the war writing for a hunting magazine.


Copyright © 2017 Associated Newspapers Ltd Published in DailyMail.co.uk Posted in Features » Tags: , ,