HIMMLER’S CRUSADE: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race, Christopher Hale, 2006, Castle Books, 422 pp, hardcover, index, bibliography, notes
Amid Russian rumors of Tibetans found among the dead Nazis in Berlin and the Indiana Jones-inspired search for the Lost Ark, where did Tibet actually fit in with Nazi occult beliefs?
That’s the topic tackled by Christopher Hale who many years later followed the trail of the pre-war expedition to Tibet in search of evidence to support SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler’s bizarre beliefs in an Aryan race descended from Tibetans. It was completely nuts but Himmler didn’t invent it. The belief was built upon by occultists all the way back to the 19th century’s Madame Blavatsky and thrived in pre-Nazi Germany which crawled with racist occult groups. By the time Himmler got to it, the story had become a very convoluted origin myth rivalling any contemporary religious or occult origin myth.
For ambitious, domineering German explorer Ernst Schafer, allowing himself to be recruited by Himmler was the only way to get the support he needed to penetrate this remote, mysterious land which was the source of the Shangri-La myth and the vaunted secret wisdom used to train fictional superheroes like The Shadow. Although Schafer, now in the SS, did not subscribe to Himmler’s lunacy, he agreed to investigate the myth and, somewhat more enthusiastically did what he could, at Himmler’s request, to weaken British influence.
The book details the Tibetan expedition and provides information on both what the Germans wanted and what the got. Upon arrival, they found Tibet, long an unoccupied protectorate of China, having to deal with not just a possible Chinese takeover but crippling internal struggles, as well. Inside Tibet the struggles were between the aristocrats and the many different competing Buddhist factions. The 13th Dalai Lama was recently dead and signs were being sought to guide the faithful to his reincarnated self, to be followed by elevation to political and religious leadership of the country. Since the searchers defined what were and were not true signs of the reincarnation, control ultimately stayed in their hands.
Schafer got his Tibetan expedition and all he had to do was sell his soul. Payment came due back in Germany where World War Two had gotten underway. Schafer was drawn deeper into the SS’s grotesque slaughter in the name of racial purity but managed to slither free of the worst unlike his colleague Beger, who was ordered to help select 150 Jews at Auschwitz for the collection of their skeletons.
The book requires patient attention and contains much more detail than I could ever retain or want to retain on the subject, but does possess many interesting insights. After all the references to Nazis in Tibet, it is almost anticlimactic that the Nazi involvement was limited to measuring skulls and body parts while trying to keep the British with their influence in the country from getting them kicked out. But if you are interested in this aspect of Nazi occult origins, this is the book to get.