"Nazis looking for the Abominable Snowman".
October 25, 2004 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Himmler's Crusade: The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition to Tibet.
In 1935, the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler founded an organisation called Ancestral Heritage , to uncover the hidden past of the Aryan race he and his Führer regarded as the noblest and most vital force in human history. One of the scientific missions Himmler sponsored was a multitasked expedition to Tibet under the leadership of ornithologist Ernst Schäfer, an expert on rare Tibetan birds who liked to smear the blood of exotic kills on his face. Schäfer recruited an anthropologist to measure noses and skulls and to make face-masks; a geographer who specialised in the earth's geomagnetism; and a botanist who was also handy with a film camera. They managed to con their way into Tibet, past the British. The expedition is at the basis of a masterful story by Jim Shepard, the author of Love and Hydrogen (full text). More inside.
posted by matteo (12 comments total)
Says Shepard:

This thing I just read in Brooklyn is a story. Again, I came across when I was reading somebody else's diary. One of those nuts, Rudolph Meisener, who are always climbing Mt. Everest without equipment. One of those Germans: "Let's see if we can do it without gloves." And I thought, “This is the kind of guy I am attracted to.” So I read his memoir and found nothing interesting about it at all and was thinking, "Okay, not a complete waste of time." And I was getting towards the end and he mentioned in passing, that Himmler had—that he had run across this anthropologist in Tibet who Himmler had sent to find the origins of the Nordic race, in Tibet. And as a kind of side thing they were looking for the Yeti [the Abominable Snowman] at the same time and I thought, "Did Himmler do this just so I could write about it?" Nazis looking for the Abominable Snowman.

posted by matteo at 11:19 AM on October 25, 2004

Shepard's story is called "Ancestral Legacies", which is not online.
posted by matteo at 11:26 AM on October 25, 2004

Somehow this is Bush's fault.
posted by fungible at 11:43 AM on October 25, 2004

fascinating stuff, matteo.
posted by shoepal at 11:47 AM on October 25, 2004

I'm still working my way through the links - nice post matteo!

I'd read that part of the Nazi obsession with an Asian genesis was due to a desire to have a separate culture apart from Jewish or even Christian (which, from the Nazi perspective, was too tainted with Jewish influence) sources.

The Aryans in India seemed to fit nicely into this, except for the fact that the Aryans are now seen as more of a linguistic family that spread Indo-European languages rather than a racial stock. Even the extent of Aryan (or more properly, Indo-European) influence in India is in doubt, most people now think that their genetic contribution to that part of the world is minimal.

It did make for some fun moments in college when I could tell my somewhat racist friends that I, as an Indian, had more ties to the mythical German uber-race than they did.
posted by rks404 at 6:49 PM on October 25, 2004

Brad Pitt played Heinrich Harrer, who may or may not have been involved in the expedition.
posted by mwhybark at 7:59 PM on October 25, 2004

posted by semmi at 10:13 PM on October 25, 2004

Last year while doing research for my NaNoWriMo project I picked up Hale’s book, really interesting reading. Now I’ll have to track down the Channel 4 special. Thanks for the links matteo.
posted by Tenuki at 11:46 PM on October 25, 2004

Good thing Indiana Jones showed up in the nick of time to foil their evil nazi plot.
posted by sic at 1:27 AM on October 26, 2004

Fascinating links. This will take too much of my time.... ah well, knowledge makes me happy. Great job as usual matteo.
posted by Eekacat at 3:22 AM on October 26, 2004

Thanks, mwhybark. That movie was the first thing that came into my mind when I saw this post.
posted by of strange foe at 7:48 AM on October 26, 2004

Godwin! (not)

Thanks for the links.
Know thine enemy.
Was Rove a common German surname?
posted by nofundy at 11:51 AM on October 26, 2004

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