Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The Nazi Ahnenerbe Forschungs und Lehrgemeinschaft organization was founded by Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Wirth , and Richard Walter Darré in 1935 as a "research foundation". It was moved into the SS by Himmler in 1940. The name of the society literally means "ancestral heritage", and it was originally devoted to scientific and pseudo-scientific researches concerning the anthropological and cultural history of the German race. Their headquarters was at Wewelsburg castle.
Their initial aim was to prove Nazi theories of racial superiority through historical, anthropological, and archaeological research. During the war the organization looted scientific collections and libraries, archival material, archaeological artifacts, and miscellaneous works of art. Their pseudo-scientific medical research led to some of the greatest atrocities of the Nazi era.
Hunter and biologist Ernst Schäfer led the Ahnenerbe 1938 expedition to Tibet. He published his experiences with the expedition in 1950 with "Festival of the White Gauze Scarves: A research expedition through Tibet to Lhasa, the holy city of the god realm".
Occultism and pseudo-science
Later on an Institute for Functional Research in Military Science (Institut für Wehrwissenschaftliche Zweckforschung) was set up within the Ahnenerbe Society. Wolfram Sievers , the manager of the Ahnenerbe Society, became the director of the Institute for Functional Research in Military Science. Under his leadership, it was responsible for many of the horrific Nazi medical experiments, such as those conducted by Dr. Sigmund Rascher in Dachau concentration camp.
Sievers collected human skulls, many of which were those of people murdered directly for the purpose of collecting their skulls. Both Sievers and Rascher were sentenced to death for crimes against humanity in the Doctors' Trial and executed by hanging in 1948.
Fantasy vs. reality
Some of the activities of the Ahnenerbe border on the edge of fantasy, and are sometimes confused with related rumors and unconfirmed accounts. Some believe that the Ahnenerbe sought "portals" to God.
The Ahnenerbe organization appears to have been the basis for the Nazi archaeologist villains in Steven Spielberg's "Indiana Jones" films - Spielberg's fictional character Jones being their arch-nemesis. In the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, Ahnenerbe is said to have spawned another organization, known as "Karotechia," which actually practiced magic. The video game Return to Castle Wolfenstein also portrays the Ahnenerbe as practicing occult rituals and magic.
Nevertheless, their existence, and their activities, are well-documented, although some of them are at first sight perhaps too implausible to believe.
- Christopher Hale. Himmler's Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race. Wiley, 2003. ISBN 0471262927
- Description of the Ahnenerbe at shoa.de (in German)
- Description of the Ahnenerbe, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum archive
- Extensive article on the Ahnenerbe, based on Michael Wood's documentary
- Review of Michael Wood's Channel 4 (UK) documentary "Secret History" on the Ahnenerbe
- Evidence from the One Hundred and Ninety-Eighth Day (Thursday, 8th August, 1946) of the Nuremberg Trials
- Evidence of the relationship to the Institute for Functional Research in Military Science
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