ISKCON Helsinki, Finland
15 September, 2003
Yesterday evening I had a look at the current issue of Fortean Times. This is a British monthly magazine dedicated to the investigation of the unusual. The title of the magazine indicates the dedication of the staff to the legacy of Charles Fort, an American writer who extensively researched what today would be called "paranormal phenomena. "
Anyway, in this issue for October 2003 there's an article entitled "Himmler's Crusade. " It is about an expedition of a group of Nazi SS scientists to Tibet. The SS (for Schutzstaffel) was the elite military organization of the Third Reich headed by Heinrich Himmler. The headquarters of the SS was Himmler's Wewelsburg Castle, which sits on a hill above the river Oder. Himmler was interested in telepathy, reincarnation, homeopathy, astronomy, Atlantis, varnasrama-dharma and the Bhagavad-gita. His castle was a kind of occult Vatican where he presided over secret "Aryan" ceremonies.
There had been an "Aryan" school of thought in Germany that went back to Friedrich Schlegel, who was one of the early European Sanskritists. He was convinced that Sanskrit was the mother-language of Europe, and that civilization had come to Europe from Central Asia, brought by an elite race called the Aryans. The word arya in Sanskrit means "cultured. " Schlegel found a connection between arya and the German word "Ehre" (honor). The motto of the SS was Unsere Ehre Heisst Treue (Our Honor is Trustworthy).
In the late 1930's, Himmler sent an expedition of five SS officers with scientific qualifications to Tibet to investigate the origin of the Aryans. Why did Himmler think that Tibet was the ancient home of the Aryan race? He was probably influenced by the writings of occultist Helena Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society. Blavatsky's books are very influential among those who enjoy speculating about esoteric subjects. She claimed to be in communication with "the White Brotherhood" of ascended masters who live in Tibet at the Tashilunpo Monastery near Shigatse. Apparently the written messages of the masters would magically appear in Blavatsky's house in India. In the late 1800's the Theosophical Society was shaken up by the revelation that Madame Blavatsky wrote the messages herself and caused them to "manifest" by trickery. In any case, fifty years later Theosophy was popular in Nazi Germany; part of the reason was due to Nazi aversion to Christianity which was considered tainted by Judaism.
The expedition to Tibet was led by Ernst Schaefer, a zoologist. It reached Lhasa, Tibet's capital city, in January 1939. Its progress was carefully watched by the British government, which of course was the colonial ruler of India, Tibet's neighbor to the south. At that time the British had a diplomatic representative in Lhasa. His name was Hugh Richardson. His observations of the German expedition can be found in a file (L/P&S/12/4343) kept in the India Office of the British Library in London.
The German records of the expedition were captured by the US Army at the end of the Second World War, along with truckloads of other Nazi documents. These are kept in the National Archives at Washingtom D. C.
One member of the expedition, anthropologist Bruno Beger, is still alive. He is in his nineties and resides in Frankfurt am Main. While in Tibet, Beger looked for "Europid traits" (i. e. Germanic physical characteristics) among the aristocratic families of Tibet.
The expedition returned to Germany just one month before the outbreak of the Second World War. Himmler met the five SS men at the airport in Berlin. A movie was produced, Geheimniss Tibet, that had been filmed by cameraman Ernst Krause. The value of the expedition was in natural science; the SS officers made careful observations of remote Himalayan plant and animal life. But no evidence of people with "Nordic" or "Aryan" features were found. After the war began, Ernst Shaefer, leader of the expedition, discussed a plan with Himmler to train a guerilla army in Tibet to attack British India. It came to nothing.
In 1994 The Mail on Sunday a London newspaper, reported that mummies of tall, light-skinned people had been discovered in Urumchi, in the Xingjiang Province of China. But these mummies are no proof of the Aryan master race theory. It is known that in ancient times, peoples of different races traded goods along routes that passed from southern Europe through the Middle East to North India, Tibet and China. In this way Greeks, Scythians, Persians, Turks, Indians, Arabs, Chinese, Sogdians and Mongolians came into contact with one another.
The Fortean Times article states that there is no truth to a rumor reported in some publications that the SS expedition brought Tibetan monks to Berlin. Nor is it true that the Red Army, invading Berlin in the last days of the Second World War, discovered hundreds of Tibetans lying dead among the ruins. That's interesting, since I have read these stories myself in different places.