The Holy Grail is generally considered to be the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and the one used by Josef of Arimathea to catch his blood as he hung on the cross. This significance, however, was introduced into the Arthurian legends by Robert de Boron in his verse romance Joseph d'Arimathie (sometimes also called Le Roman de l'Estoire dou Graal), which was probably written in the last decade of the twelfth century or the first couple of years of the thirteenth.

In earlier sources and in some later ones, the grail is something very different. The term "grail" comes from the Latin gradale, which meant a dish brought to the table during various stages (Latin "gradus") or courses of a meal. In Chrétien and other early writers, such a plate is intended by the term "grail." Chrétien, for example, speaks of "un graal," a grail or platter and thus not a unique item. Wolfram von Eschenbach's Parzival presents the grail as a stone which provides sustenance and prevents anyone who beholds it from dying within the week. In medieval romance, the grail was said to have been brought to Britain by Josef of Arimathea and his followers.

In the time of Arthur, the quest for the Grail was the highest spiritual pursuit. For Chrétien, author of Perceval and his continuators (four works take up the task of completing the work that Chrétien left unfinished, two of which are anonymous, one is by Mannesier, and a fourth is by Gerbert de Montreuil), Perceval is the knight who must achieve the quest for the Grail. For other French authors, as for Malory, Galahad is the chief Grail knight, though others (Perceval and Bors in the Morte d'Arthur) do achieve the quest.

Tennyson is perhaps the author who has the greatest influence on the conception of the Grail quest for the modern English-speaking world through his Idylls and his short poem "Sir Galahad". However, James Russell Lowell's "The Vision of Sir Launfal", one of the most popular of nineteenth-century American poems gave to generations a democratized notion of the Grail quest as something achievable by anyone who is truly charitable. The notion that the Grail story originated in fertility myths was popularized by Jessie Weston in her book From Ritual to Romance, which was used by T. S. Eliot in the writing of The Waste Land. Eliot's poem, in turn, influenced many of the important novelists of his and succeeding generations, including Hemingway and Fitzgerald.

A significant amount of Ahnenerbe research involved Tibet, and was carried out by the Sven Hedin Institute for Inner Asian Research.

The institute was named for the famous Swedish explorer whose memoirs My Life As An Explorer were popular worldwide for their tales of Hedin's travels throughout Tibet.

Hedin's descriptions of hidden cities deep within the Himalayas were as much a source for Nazi interest in Tibet as Blavatsky's theosophical vision of the East.

Though never an official member of the Ahnenerbe (the old explorer was in his seventies during the war), Hedin corresponded with the organization and was present when the Institute for Inner Asian Research was formally established in Munich on January 1943.
Hedin's closest contact in the Ahnenerbe was Ernst Schäfer, who commanded the Institute for Inner Asian Research and was eventually responsible for all scientific projects within the Ahnenerbe.

Under the influence of Haushofer and the Thule Society, the Ahnenerbe sent annual expeditions to Tibet from 1926 to 1943.
Their mission was first to find and then to maintain contact with the Aryan forefathers in Shambhala and Agharti, hidden subterranean cities beneath the Himalayas.

Adepts there were the guardians of secret occult powers, especially vril, and the missions sought their aid in harnessing those powers for creating an Aryan master race.

Shambhala, however, refused any assistance, but Agharti agreed.

Subsequently, from 1929, groups of Tibetans came to Germany and started lodges known as the Society of Green Men.
In connection with the Green Dragon Society in Japan, through the intermediary of Haushofer, they supposedly helped the Nazi cause with their occult powers. Himmler was attracted to these groups of Tibetan-Agharti adepts and as a result encouraged the study of Eastern Occultism within the SS.

In 1937, Himmler decided he could increase the Ahnenerbe’s visibility by sending a large scale expedition to Tibet under the leadership of Ernst Schäfer.

There were rumors of secret tasks that included the SS making overtures to the Reting Regent to lay the groundwork for a German invasion of India through Tibet.

Tibet expedition was also involved in "geophysical" research to prove the Hanns Hörbiger's "World Ice Theory", which may have included the search for fossilized remains of "giants" as part of the cosmology of the theory.

Ahnenerbe Questa

Formally, the  Ahnenerbe was called 'Studiengesellschaft für Geistesurgeschichte‚ Deutsches Ahnenerbe e.V.' ("Study society for primordial intellectual history, German Ancestral Heritage, registered society"), and was renamed in 1937, as 'Forschungs- und Lehrgemeinschaft das Ahnenerbe e.V.' ("Research and Teaching Community the Ancestral Heritage, registered society").

The emblem chosen for the Ahnenerbe was the 'Irminsul'

Irmin was an aspect, Avatar or epithet of Wodan (Odin).

Irmin might also have been an epithet of the god Ziu (Tyr) in early Germanic times, only later transferred to Odin.

The Old Norse form of Irmin is Jörmunr, which just like Yggr was one of the names of Odin.

Yggdrasil ("Yggr's horse") was the yew or ash tree from which Odin sacrificed himself, and which connected the nine worlds. Jakob Grimm connects the name Irmin with Old Norse terms like iörmungrund ("great ground", i.e. the Earth) or iörmungandr ("great snake", i.e. the Midgard serpent).

It is thus often conjectured that the Irminsul was a 'World Tree', the equivalent of 'Yggdrasil' among the Saxon tribes of Germany.

The Ahnenerbe was created as a registered club as a private and non-profit organization. Funding for the Ahnenerbe primarily came through Darré and his position within the German Ministry of Agriculture, but this association ended around 1936, leaving Himmler in total control of the Ahnenerbe.

The Ahnenerbe was not incorporated into the SS until April 1940, though even before this, all but one member of the academic staff of the Ahnenerbe were at least honorary members of the SS and many held significant rank.

Wolfram Sievers was Reichsgeschäftsführer, or Reich Manager, of the Ahnenerbe from 1935, and held the rank of SS-Obersturmführer since 1937, rising to the rank of SS-Standartenführer by the end of the war.

There was an obvious link between the SS and the Ahnenerbe long before it became official in 1940.

On February 1 of that year, Dr. Walther Wüst was appointed the president of the Ahnenerbe.

Wüst was an expert on India and a dean at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich, working on the side as a Vertrauensmann for the SS Security Service.

Referred to as “The Orientalist” by Sievers, Wüst had been recruited by him in May 1936 because of his ability to simplify science for the common man.

After being appointed president, Wüst began improving the Ahnenerbe: moving the office to a new headquarters that had cost 300,000 Reichsmark, in the Dahlem neighborhood of Berlin.

He also worked to limit the influence of “those he deemed scholarly upstarts,” which included cutting communication with the RuSHA office of Karl Maria Wiligut.

The organization was incorporated into the larger SS in January 1939.

The Ahnenerbe was part of Himmler's greater plan for the systematic creation of a "Germanic" culture that would replace Christianity in the Greater Germany to exist after the war, a kind of SS-religion that would form the basis of the new world order.

This new culture would be based on the völkisch beliefs of the Nazis, and it was the role of the Ahnenerbe to marshal scientific research in an interdisciplinary program to reject the "priggish line of high-school professors" and support the "development of the Germanic heritage".

The Nazi Ahnenerbe Forschungs und Lehrgemeinschaft organization's initial aim was to prove Nazi theories of racial superiority through historical, anthropological, and archaeological research. Himmler summarized its goal as "to restore the German people to the everlasting godly cycle of ancestors, the living and the descendants."Much of their research was later believed to extend beyond pseudoscience into occultism. In total, the Ahnenerbe was divided into 50 sections, including sections covering Celtic studies, the Externsteine rock formation, Scandinavian mythology, runic symbolism, and the World Ice Theory of Hans Hörbiger.

In 1936, Himmler convinced Otto Rahn to join the group by promising near-unlimited funding for his Grail search, which would become one of the best-known aspects of the Ahnenerbe in post-war times. Unfortunately Rahn committed suicide the following year amidst rumours of homosexuality, after being disciplined for his behaviour.

Otto Wilhelm Rahn

February 18, 1904 - March 13, 1939

Poet, mystic, and Nazi researcher. Rahn was obsessed with two ideas--the Holy Grail and the Cathars, medieval French heretics; while in college, he had intended to write a dissertation on the hypothetical Kyot, the supposed troubador who gave Wolfram von Eschenbach the story of Parzival.

In 1929, he made a special trip to the Languedoc region of Southern France, a hotbed of Catharist activities in the thirteenth century. He began excavating at Montsegur, the last Cathar stronghold to fall to the Inquisition. Legend had it that the Cathars had a great treasure which was never found, but hidden deep in the mountainside. Rahn was convinced that this treasure was the Holy Grail, and he intended to find it.

Rahn's research resulted in a book called Kreuzzug gegen den Gral ("Crusade Against the Grail"), published in 1933. Rahn believed that the Cathars were in fact descended of druids who converted to Manichaeism, and that is why they were guardians of the grail--both as descendants of a Celtic priesthood, and pure followers of Lucifer, the angel who brought knowledge to mankind and exposed the Demiurge--all very gnostic. He then proceeded to identify Montsegur with Parzival's "Munsalvaesche" (Mountain of Salvation, Wagner's "Monsalvat"), and tied the Cathars with those other famous heretics, the Knights Templar, who were said to guard the grail in Parzival.

All of which brought him to the attention of occult-nut Heinrich Himmler, head of the SS. Himmler was obsessed with the occult, and had a particular interest in the grail. His castle at Wewelsburg was intended as an SS Camelot/Avalon, where the honorable deads' ashes would sit in twelve urns on stone pillars around a center, where the grail would sit. He also had a Round Table commissioned. Himmler invited Rahn to join the Ahnenerbe--the heritage buearu- -as a civilian; Rahn latter joined officially in 1936, with the rank of SS-Unterscharführer. In 1937, he wrote a second book --Luzifers Hofgesind ("Lucifer's Courtiers"), based upon his Catharist research, and a trip made to Iceland to study the Eddas.

However, in 1937 he fell into disgrace, possibly for disciplinary reasons, though it is not clear. He was sent on duty at an SS camp in Dachau; in 1938, he requested dismissal from the SS. According to personal papers, he was against the coming war, and spoke openly against it; this may have been the reason for his relocation to Dachau in the first place. More likely, though, were rumors of homosexuality, which of course was verboten.

Not long afterwards, Rahn was found dead, frozen on a mountainside. It is generally thought to have been suicide, though conspiracy theorists believe he was murdered by the SS in order to silence him about the secrets of the grail.

As a side note, there is a rumor that Rahn found the grail and brought it to Wewelsburg, where it stayed until the end of the war. Others say that no grail made it, but that a large quartz crystal was found instead. It is worth pointing out that Parzival describes the grail not as a cup, but as a stone, though in this case an emerald.

Otto Rahn has become a rallying point with certain occultists, neo-Cathars, and mystics, particularly those who follow the Holy Blood, Holy Grail/Priory of Sion hoax. None of his works have been translated into English, unfortunately, but they did have an influence on Trever Ravenscroft and his book Spear of Destiny.

The Ahnenerbe accepted Rahn's belief that the Grail had been possessed by the Cathars, and continued to excavate and study Montsegur after his death. A notable officer in the institute's Grail work was Otto Ohlendorf, an occultist lawyer practising in Kiel. Never formally a member of the Ahnenerbe, Ohlendorf was diverted to the Crimea by Hitler in 1941. His final words upon being executed in 1951 following the Nuremberg trials were recorded as "The Grail will rise again. The Jews in America will suffer for what you have done to me."

Travels, Operations and Expeditions

Archealogical expeditions were organized and sent to Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland and Greece, as well as the region of Kafiristan, and the Channel Islands.


Edmund Kiss (1886 – 1960) was a German archaeologist and writer best known for his writings on Tiwanaku in Bolivia.

Edmund Kiss was born in Germany 1886 and later studied architecture and claimed he had also studied archeology, for which there is, however, no evidence. Later he participated in the First World War. After the Treaty of Versailles he first started writing a series of adventure novels in the prestigious collection Der Gute Kamerad, prevalent in the German speaking world, and in other publishing houses. Later he began non-fiction works especially adhered to the tenets of the pseudo-scientist Hans Hörbiger. In the 1920s and early 1930s he worked as a municipal officer responsible for the construction of public buildings.

In the 1920s Edmund Kiss started writing his first books on alternative archeology and ancient mysticism. In his book entitled The Last Queen of Atlantis (Die letzte Königin von Atlantis) he equated the mythical northern land Thule to the origins of humanity. According to Kiss 'The inhabitants of Northern Atlantis were led by their leader Baldur Wieborg, a native of the mythical Thule who migrated all across the world'. [He later described the return journey of the Nordic Thulians to their mythical homeland in The Swans of Thule.

The Gateway to the Sun in Tiwanaku

After winning 20,000 Reichsmark in a writing contest, Edmund Kiss traveled to Bolivia in 1928 to study the ruins of temples in the Andes mountains. He claimed their similarity to ancient European construction indicated they were designed by Nordic migrants, millions of years earlier.

He also claimed that his findings supported the World Ice Theory, which claimed the universe originated from a cataclysmic clash between gigantic balls of ice and glowing mass. Arthur Posnansky had been studying a local site called Tiwanaku, which he also believed supported the theory.

After contacting Posnansky, Kiss approached Wüst for help planning an expedition to excavate Tiwanaku and a nearby site Siminake. The team would consist of twenty scientists and would excavate for a year as well as explore Lake Titicaca, take aerial photographs of ancient Incan roads they believed had Nordic roots. By late August 1939, the expedition was nearly set to embark, however the September first invasion of Poland saw the trip postponed indefinitely.

Kiss was fascinated by Hans Hörbiger, who likened the universe to a giant steam engine filled with hydrogen and water vapor. In the distant past, Hörbiger suggested small stars thickly clad in ice had collided with steaming hot giant stars, spewing stellar material into space. This material condensed into planets of varying sizes that spiraled around the sun. As the smaller planets edged closer toward the larger ones, they were ensnared by gravity and captured as moons. Hörbiger believed that Earth had known six of these satellites. The serial destruction of the first five, he suggested, had led to vast, almost imaginable environmental catastrophes on Earth. As each had spiraled downward into the atmosphere, it had revolved faster and faster, creating an immense gravitational pull. The force had then yanked the Earth's waters toward the equator, forming an immense tide resembling a giant spare tire around the Earth's girth; beyond the perimeters of this towering wall of water, the land surface froze beneath thick glacial ice. Only in certain mountain refuges - the Bolivian Andes, the Tibetan Himalayas, the Ethiopian highlands - had flora and fauna survived. Each of the plummeting moons had then exploded in turn in the atmosphere, releasing oceans and seas to flow back over the Earth. The last of these celestial explosions, claimed Hörbiger, had taken place more than eleven thousand years ago.

~Heather Pringle. The Master Race

The theory of Welteislehre had been proposed by Hanns Hörbiger in his 1913 book Glazial Kosmologie, in which he claimed the Universe existed solely as a struggle between fire and ice. A separate institute of the Ahnenerbe was later created to study the plausibility and source of his claims. Headed by Hans Robert Scultetus, the institute sent Atlantis-enthusiast playwright Edmund Kiss to Abyssinia to research possible connections to the Welteislehre.

When in August 1936, Kiss began to plan a new expedition to Abyssinia to find traces of the Tertiary period and remains of the earlier moon, Himmler was swift to promise Ahnenerbe support.

~Nick Goodrick-Clarke. The Occult Roots of Nazism

This kind of thing was important to the Third Reich because Hörbiger's World Ice Theory was an essential refutation for the Nazis against the "Jewish" sciences. Under the auspices of the Ahnenerbe, Kiss' search for the remains of these moons is the search for the primordial environment of the Aryan Ubermensch.

There are no references to Kiss taking a trip to Abyssinia in 1936. Pringle's definitive work on the Ahnenerbe (in English) implies that Kiss focused almost all his efforts with the Ahnenerbe on the Bolivian Andes, in particular Lake Titicaca. However, Kiss was dispatched by Himmler to explore a region in North Africa, but in Libya and in early 1939. Libya was also an Italian possession at the time, but in an entirely different colony (Italian North Africa instead of the Italian East Africa of Abyssinia). The details on the Libyan expedition are in Pringle's book.

After the Ahnenerbe trip to Bolivia was cancelled Kiss briefly joined the Waffen SS and became a member of the Guard Staff that protected various special Nazi buildings. After the war Kiss was excused at the Nuremberg Trials on the grounds that he was just an archaeologist. In the 1950s he wrote two more books on mysticism. One of these books was entitled Some comments on Critias which was a reanalysis of the location of Atlantis. His later activities are not known.



Not an official expedition, Ahnenerbe officials were reportedly sent to Brazil in 1943 with the task of 'procuring' the crystal skull that was reportedly found in a Maya ruin of Lubaantun by F.A. Mitchell-Hedges. The agents were arrested after trying to infiltrate and rob a Brazilian museum storing the artefact. This account has not been corroborated by independent sources however, and may be a subject of fanciful authors imagination.

In 1927, an expedition of the famous English archeologist Albert Mitchell-Hedges discovered crystal skulls in Central America. The clearing of the ancient Mayan city in the tropical jungles of the Yucatan peninsula (it's today's Belize) in 1924 preceded the discovery.

It was decided to burn down thirty three hectares of forests that covered the ancient buildings. When the smoke finally lifted, the expedition saw an unbelievable scene: stone ruins of a pyramid, of the city walls, and an enormous amphitheater that could hold up to several thousands spectators. During the excavation of the ruins, Mitchell-Hedges discovered the crystal skulls. His find became the most mysterious discovery of the 20th century.

The skulls were brought to a Brazilian museum. In 1943, after an attempt to liberate the skulls, German "Ahnenerbe" agents were detained. during their interrogation, the agents confessed that they had been sent to South America with the special task of finding "the crystal skulls of the Goddess of Death." Several more groups were sent there with the same task. Although the majority of them were detained, it is not ruled out some of the agents were successful.

The seizing of the rare discoveries was directed by Karl Maria Willigut, a black magician with a large influence on high-ranking Nazi officials. He evinced particular interest in the magic methods used by the Altantis pagan priests. The nazis hoped that those knowledge of "the progenitrix of the Aryan race" would help them create the superman.

Today, some investigators suggest that the discovered crystal sculls were made in Atlantis and were saved by a miracle. If this is so, then it is clear why SS was so interested in the skulls.

from Nastoyashchy Saratov (newspaper)
Translated by Maria Gousseva

Canary Islands

Early travelers to the Canary Islands had described the Guanche natives as having golden-blond hair and white skin, and mummies had been found with blond tresses—facts which Wirth believed indicated that the islands had once been inhabited by Nordics. His colleague Dr. Otto Huth proposed a Fall 1939 expedition to study the ancient islanders’ racial origins, artifacts and religious rites. At the time, the Canary Islands were part of Francisco Franco’s Spanish State (Estado Español). Because Franco refused to side with the Axis when the war started however, the trip was cancelled.


At the Parisian Institute for Human Paleontology, Dr. Assien Bohmers met with Abbé Henri Breuil, an expert on cave art. Breuil arranged for Bohmers to visit Trois Frères, a site whose owners only allowed a small number of people to visit. First, however, Bohmers took a quick trip to London, followed by a tour of several other French points of interest: La Fond de Gaume (a site featuring Cro-Magnon cave paintings), Teyat, La Mouthe and the caves of Dordogne. Then Bohmers moved on to Les Trois-Frères, “where Himmler and where so many other Nazis had long dreamed of standing—in the shrine of the ancient dead, in the dark embrace of the ancestors.”

The Ahnenerbe took great interest in the 900-year-old Bayeux Tapestry, reportedly since it contained images of the Germanic Franks solidly defeating their enemies.

Correction: The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the Norman Invasion of England, in which the "Germanic" Normans defeated the equally "Germanic" Anglo-Saxons!

In June 1941, they oversaw the transport of the tapestry from its home in the Bayeux Cathedral, to an abbey at Juaye-Mondaye, and finally to the Chateau de Sourches. In August 1944, after Paris was liberated by the Allies, two members of the SS were dispatched to Paris to retrieve the tapestry which had been moved into the basement of the Louvre. Contrary to Himmler’s orders, however, they chose not to attempt to enter the Louvre, most likely because of the strong presence of the French Resistance in the historic area.


In 1936, Günther Kirchhoff and Karl Maria Wiligut undertook a study of the Murg Valley in the Black Forest, where there was a settlement described as consisting of old half-timbered houses, architectural ornament, crosses, inscriptions, and natural and man-made rock formations in the forest, which they theorized showed it to be an ancient Krist settlement.

Quite likely the Ahnenerbe’s greatest discovery in Germany was in the southern Jura mountains of Bavaria. During an excavation of the Mauern caves, R. R. Schmidt had discovered red ochre, a common pigment for cave paintings made by the Cro-Magnon.

In fall 1937, Dr. Assien Bohmers, a Frisian nationalist who applied to the SS Excavations Department earlier that year, took over the excavation. His team proceeded to find artifacts such as burins, ivory pendants, and a woolly mammoth skeleton. They also discovered Neanderthal remains buried with what appeared to be throwing spears and javelins, a technology thought to have been developed by the Cro-Magnons.

Bohmers interpreted this to mean Cro-Magnons had left these stones in the caves over seventy thousand years before and this was therefore the oldest Cro-Magnon site in the world. To validate his claims, Bohmers travelled Europe speaking with colleagues and visiting exhibitions through the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Though 1937-1938, Gustav Riek led an excavation of the Grosse Heuneberg, where an ancient (Roman?) fortress had been discovered much earlier. They also studied the nearby Tumulus burial mounds, which continue to be excavated today.

In April of 1938, Himmler oversaw an archaeological excavation on the nearby Danube river near Ulm, where they reportedly found stone age and neolithic remains.

In early 1940, the Ahnenerbe was given control of excavating the Externsteine rock formation, which was previously the role of Wilhelm Teudt. That summer, Kurt Tackenberg tried to convince the Ahnenerbe to excavate early Frankish cemeteries in Belgium and France, but the Amt Rosenberg instead took over the sites.


Himmler had a personal fascination with Iceland, believing it to have been a birthplace of the Aryans. He actively sought the Edda, which he believed was a sacred text about Germanic origins.

In 1936, Otto Rahn led an expedition to Iceland, detailing the travel in his 1937 book Luzifers Hofgesind. This expedition flew a blue Swastika on a white flag, similar to that of the Finnish air force at the time.

Linguistic study was at the forefront of Ahnenerbe activity.

This institute was under the command of Hermann Wirth until he left the Ahnenerbe in 1937.

In 1936, Wirth's successor, Professor Wüst, headed up another institute for broader research in linguistics, where great attention was paid to Sanskrit (Wüst's area-of-expertise) and the connection of the language to the Aryans.

Runes are equivalent to the Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, or Hebrew alphabets. But they are much more than an alphabet. “Rune” means “secret”, “mystery”, or “hidden”, and is related to the German raunen, meaning “to whisper”, and the Irish run, meaning “a secret.”

The first institute to be established specialized in the study of Norse runes (the symbol of the Ahnenerbe was the life rune.

The Ahnenerbe had an Institute to study the Eddas (considered by Himmler a sacred text) and Iceland itself, which the Ahnenerbe considered something of a holy land, like Tibet.

Based on the ariosophical beliefs like those that gave rise to the Thule Gesellschaft, the Ahnenerbe saw Iceland as the last surviving connection with Thule, the mystical homeland of the pure Germanic race of prehistory.

The Eddas contained secret knowledge for the Ahnenerbe, keys by which they could unlock their ancestral heritage.

Besides study of the Eddas, the Ahnenerbe also wanted to study Icelandic artifacts, and, as they had in Tibet, perform "the recording of human images", using calipers to measure facial dimensions based on ethnological science.

Dr. Bruno Schweizer had already traveled to Iceland three times in 1938 when he proposed an Ahnenerbe expedition with seven others to the country in order to learn about their ancient farming practices and architecture, record folksongs and dances, and also collect soil samples for pollen analysis. He also hoped to discover shrines to the Norse gods Odin or Thor.

During the expedition, he sent back correspondence to Himmler complaining that the Icelandic people had abandoned traditional crafts such as forging, wood-carving, spinning, weaving and dyeing; and that they had also forgotten their traditional myths and legends, thus losing belief in the ‘transcendent nature’ that the Ahnenerbe held dearly to.

The first setback for the expedition was the ridicule of the Scandinavian press, publishing stories in February 1939 claiming the expedition was based on false ideas about Icelandic heritage and sought old church records which did not even exist. An enraged Himmler publicly shut down the trip completely, but after calming down he allowed the planning of the trip to be secretly continued. The final setback occurred when Himmler’s personal staff was unable to get enough Icelandic crowns—Iceland’s currency. Not being able to quickly solve this problem, the trip was rescheduled for the summer of 1940. In May 1940, the British invaded neutral Iceland, but when the war had started the expedition had already been shelved.

In 1940, following the British occupation of Iceland, the Ahnenerbe-funded Dr. Bruno Kress, a German researcher who was in the country at the time, was rounded up along with other German nationals present on the island. Kress was interned in Ramsey on the Isle of Man, but was allowed to correspond with Sievers through letters. Kress’s Grammar of Icelandic was eventually published in East Germany in 1955. Kress also later worked for the East German Staatssicherheit Polizei (Stasi).


In 1937, the Ahnenerbe sent the archaeologist Franz Altheim and his wife photographer Erika Trautmann to Val Camonica to study prehistoric rock inscriptions. The two returned to Germany claiming they found traces of Nordic runes on the rocks supposedly confirming that ancient Rome was originally of Nordic descent. Also an expedition of SS-Ahnenerbe was planned in Sardinia, in the 30s, and in the arbëreshë village of Santa Sofia d'Epiro, interested in the family vaults of the Baffa Trasci, Miracco and Masci families, but the reasons of it are still unknown.

The Ahnenerbe had also tried to gain possession of the Codex Aesinas, a famous mediaeval copy of Tacitus' Germania, since it was an early description of the German people that purportedly favourably described them as a modern and moral society, and Eduard Norden had declared it Urgeschichte in the 1920s.  Although Mussolini had originally promised it as a gift in 1936, it remained in the possession of the Count Aurelio Baldeschi Guglielmi Balleani outside Ancona, from where the Ahnenerbe tried to obtain it after Mussolini was deposed.


After the invasion of Poland, Wolfram Sievers wrote to Himmler about the need to appropriate exhibits from numerous museums. The Reich Main Security Administration’s Standartenführer Franz Six oversaw SS-Untersturmführer Peter Paulsen, who was commanding a small team’s foray into Kraków, with the intent of obtaining the 15th century Veit Stoss altar.
Because the Poles had foreseen the German interest in the altar, they had disassembled it into 32 pieces which were shipped to different locations—however Paulsen was able to locate each piece, and on October 14, 1939, he returned to Berlin with the altar in three small trucks, and had it stored in the locked treasury of the Reichsbank. After conferring with Hitler, who had not initially been told of the operation to capture it, it was decided to send the altar to an underground vault in Nuremberg, for safety.

Reinhard Heydrich, then head of RSHA, sent Paulsen back to Kraków in order to seize additional museum collections. But Göring had already sent a team of his own men, commanded by SS-Sturmbannführer Kajetan Mühlmann under the supervision of Dagobert Frey, to loot the museums. Mühlmann agreed to let Paulsen take the scientific items back to the Ahnenerbe, while keeping the artwork for Göring.

During the looting however, Hans Frank—leader of the German General Government in Occupied Poland— issued a November 22, 1939 order prohibiting the “unapproved export” of Polish items. Paulsen obeyed the order, but his colleague Hans Schleif arranged for five freightcars of loot from the Warsaw Archaeological Museum to be shipped to Poznań, which was outside Frank’s control. In return, Schleif was appointed as a trustee for Wartheland. Paulsen later tried to take credit for the freightcars' contents in his report to RSHA, but was reassigned

The State Zoological Museum in Warsaw also saw a number of its exhibits taken by the Ahnenerbe's Eduard Paul Tratz, who removed them to the Haus der Natur, the museum of which he was founder and director in Salzburg.

After the war Peter Paulsen did his best to bury his past and in 1981 landed a prestigious job as a medieval expert in Würtemberg.







Herman Wirth, the first leader of the SS organization Ahnenerbe, spoke in Stockholm in 1935.

The lecture by Wirth was presented by the Manhem Society, a kind of club for both Swedish ultranationalists and national socialists. However, the locale of the meeting is pretty surprising, the main office of the Swedish Society of Medicine - in the very city centre.

Wirth's Stockholm speech is missing in Heather Pringle´s groundbreaking book on the Ahnenerbe and related themes.

"Härskarplanen" is the Swedish version of "The Master Plan". Unlike the English-language cover, the Swedish one features the rock carvings in Tanum, Sweden. These carvings attracted great attention by the "Ahnenerbe" and a chapter of the book is about them.

Herman Wirth (6 May 1885 – 16 February 1981) was a Dutch-German lay historian and scholar of ancient religions and symbols.

Wirth served as the leader of the Nazi research division Ahnenerbe until 1937 when he left the group entirely, succeeded by Walter Wüst. Since his works generally supported the historical folk religion of Germany, and not the state of Nazi Germany or the goals of Hitler's regime, he was forced into exile along with other German mystics that did not support National Socialism.

Wirth claimed that civilization is a curse that only a simpler way of life, as documented in archaeological findings and historical records, could lift. He has been criticized for romantic nationalism and Germanomania. He was also criticized by German scholars of his time, like Bolko von Richthofen, Gerhard Glöge, Arthur Hübner and Karl Hermann Jacob Friesen, for gullibly refusing to accept the scientific evidence that proved Ura Linda chronicle (a supposedly 6th-1st century BC chronicle of a Frisian family which he translated) a forgery.

After a slide show on February 19, 1936 of his trip to Bohuslän, a region in southwestern Sweden, Wirth convinced Himmler to launch an expedition to the region, the first official expedition financed by the Ahnenerbe. Bohuslän was known for its massive quantity of petroglyph rock carvings, which Wirth believed were part of an ancient writing system, predating all other known systems. Himmler appointed Wolfram Sievers to be the managing director of the expedition, likely because of Wirth’s earlier troubles balancing finances.

On August 4, 1936 the expedition set off on a three month trip starting with the German island of Rügen then continuing to Backa, Sweden, the first recorded rock-art site in Sweden. Despite scenes showing warriors, animals and ships, Wirth focused on the lines and circles he thought made up a prehistoric alphabet.

While his studies were largely based on personal belief, rather than objective scientific research, Wirth made interpretations about the meaning of ideograms carved in the rock, such as a circle bisected by a vertical line representing a year and a man standing with raised arms representing what Wirth called “the Son of God.” His team proceeded to make casts of what Wirth deemed the most important carvings and then carried the casts to camp where they were crated and sent back to Germany. Once satisfied with their work in Sweden, the team set out on a trek through Sweden, eventually reaching the Norwegian island of Lauvøylandet.
The Ahnenerbe expected to prove that Aryans had lived  in Norway and started a great culture.

At the same time, the Society financed another expedition to Finland to study the legendary sorcery society of Karelia under the aegis of a named Yrjö von Grönhagen in search of the "Kalevala" or the land of the heroes. In 1935, Himmler had contacted young Finnish aristocrat author Yrjö von Grönhagen, after seeing one of his articles about the Kalevala folklore, published in a Frankfurt newspaper.

Grönhagen agreed to lead a voyage through the Karelia region of Finland, to record pagan sorcerers and witches. Because there was uncertainty about whether the Karelians would allow photography, Finnish illustrator Ola Forsell also accompanied the team. Musicologist Fritz Bose brought along a magnetophon hoping to record the pagan chants.

The team departed for their expedition in June 1936. The team’s first success was with a traditional singer, Timo Lipitsä, who knew a song closely resembling one in the Kalevala although he was unaware of the book. Later, in Tolvajärvi, the team photographed and recorded Hannes Vornanen playing a traditional Finnish kantele.

One of the trip’s final successes was in finding Miron-Aku, a soothsayer believed to be a witch by locals. Upon meeting the group, she claimed to have foreseen their arrival. The team persuaded her to perform a ritual for the camera and tape recorder in which she could summon the spirits of ancestors and "divine future events."

The team also recorded information on Finnish saunas.

In Helsinki, Finnish researchers were very suspicious of the Ahnenerbe team.

But there was more than the Scandinavian expeditions. Some Orientalists too joined the Society and persuaded Himmler to take on some research in the Middle and the Far East. All the more because Hitler eventually got weary of Wirth's enthusiasm for the myths of the North and at a Nuremberg rally denounced his researches as a waste of time and rare foreign currencies. More the Führer actually saw the Northern legends as dangerous creeds supporting a civilization of witches and priestesses far away from the Nazi ambition to turn every woman into a babies factory.

Middle East

Himmler turned his attention to India and to the famous Orientalist Walther Wüst, an admirer of Hitler and a member of the NSDAP and appointed him President of the Ahnenerbe in replacement of Wirth. Wüst was hired after a long lecture in the auditorium of the Munich University about "Mein Kampf as a mirror of Aryan worldview". Würst arrived at the meeting with a copy of the Rig Veda -one of the oldest Sanskrit scriptures- under his arm. He had persuaded himself that members of the Nordic race had written it and colonized the deserts of Iran, the high mountains of Afghanistan and the rich plains of India.

After the annexation of Austria, Himmler brought his attention to the old Roman Empire of the Middle East thanks to a scholar called Franz Altheim and his lover and research partner Erika Trautmann, both famous, well connected and ambitious. The Reich was extremely interested in the gulf states for their oil reserves and in the fact that Iraq, although independant since 1932, was actually a British colony. But German entrepreneurs were deeply involved in the construction of a railway connection between Berlin and Baghdad and the Ahnenerbe recruited the pair for espionnage and intelligence works.

In 1938,  Altheim and Trautmann requested the Ahnenerbe sponsor their Middle East trek to study an internal power struggle of the Roman Empire, which they believed was fought between the Nordic and Semitic peoples. Eager to credit the vast success of the Roman Empire to a Nordic background, the Ahnenerbe agreed to match the 4,000 RM put forward by Hermann Göring, an old friend of Trautmann who led the Reich’s Four-Year-Plan.

In August 1938, after spending a few days traveling through remote hills searching for ruins of Dacian kingdoms, the two researchers arrived at their first major stop in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. Here Grigore Florescu, the director of the Municipal Museum, met with them and discussed both history and the politics of the day, including the activity of the Iron Guard, a fascist and anti-Semitic group.
After traveling through Istanbul, Athens and Lebanon, the researchers went to Damascus. Here they were not welcomed by the French (who ruled over Syria as a colony at the time). The newly-sovereign Kingdom of Iraq was being courted for an alliance with Germany, and Dr. Fritz Grobba, the German envoy to Baghdad, arranged for Altheim and Trautmann to meet with local researchers and be driven to Parthian and Persian ruins in southern Iraq, as well as Babylon.

Through Baghdad the team went north to Assur where they met Sheikh Adjil el Yawar, a leader of the Shammar Bedouin tribe, and commander of the northern Camel Corps, who had grown restive under British and French rule in the region. He discussed German politics and his desire to duplicate the success of Abd al-Aziz ibn Saud who had recently ascended to power in Saudi Arabia. With his support, the team traveled to their final major stop—the ruins of Hatra on the border of the Roman and Persian empires.

They reported to Berlin that in these areas people spoke the name of Hitler as though it was HOLY and that everybody knew the exact route of the oil pipelines. The SS were extremely impressed by the information that Altheim and his lover passed onto them. They dispatched by diplomatic pouch some Nazi propaganda to Iraq in the hands of the Sheikh and his allies. All in all Altheim's works in the Middle East was very successful even if their contribution to the glorification of ancient Aryan presence in the region was not significant.

After the war Franz Altheim went on to a brilliant career at the Free University in Münster.

In 1938, Ahnenerbe president Walther Wüst proposed a trip to Iran to study the Behistun Inscription, which had been created by order of the Achaemenid Shah Darius I—who had declared himself to have been of Aryan origin in his inscriptions. The inscriptions were recorded atop steep cliffs using scaffolding that was removed after the inscriptions were made. Unable to afford the cost of erecting new scaffolds, Wüst proposed that he, his wife, an amanuensis, an Iranian student, a photographer, and an experienced mountaineer be sent with a balloon-mounted camera. The onset of the war however, saw the trip postponed indefinitely.


Julio Martínez Santa Olalla, appointed Commissioner-General for Archaeological Excavations at the Spanish Ministry of National Education and Fine Arts in 1939, established, with the support of the Falange (Spain’s fascist political organisation), relations with the Third Reich’s Ahnenerbe. In October 1940, during Himmler’s official visit to Spain, the personal relationship established between Himmler and Martínez Santa Olalla resulted in a plan to set up a Falange-sponsored institution for archaeological research modelled on that of Das Ahnenerbe. Political, academic and personal relations were maintained between Martínez Santa Olalla and SS members Sievers, Wüst, Langsdorff and Jankuhn, and also with the Amt Rosenberg directed by Reichsminister Alfred Rosenberg, until the fall of the Nazi regime.


In 1937, Himmler decided he could increase the Ahnenerbe’s visibility by investigating Hans F. K. Günther’s claims that early Aryans had conquered much of Asia, including attacks against China and Japan in approximately 2000 BC, and that Gautama Buddha was himself an Aryan offspring of the Nordic race. Walther Wüst would later expand upon this, stating in a public speech that Adolf Hitler’s ideologies corresponded with those of Buddha, since the two shared a common heritage. However, according to contemporary research Hitler himself was neither interested in the occult nor in Buddhism, and not even much in Tibet.

Departing in April 1938, biologist Ernst Schäfer led an expedition which arrived in Tibet the following January. There was initially conflict when Schäfer tried to distance himself from what he viewed condescendingly as Himmler's obsession with the occult, and sought corporate sponsorship of his expedition instead - but eventually conceded and allowed the Ahnenerbe to sponsor him.

The team included Bruno Beger who collected and studied 300 skulls in the region attempting to prove that Tibet was the birthplace of a "Northern Race". Eventually he concluded that the Tibetans were somewhere between the Mongol and European races. Other team members included Edmont Geer and Karl Vinert.

There is speculation that Schäfer personally sought to prove that the Yeti was a species of bear, and though he did not find a specimen, he did send more than 50 animals back to Germany for further study, as well as 5000 different grains. The team also acquired the 108-page sacred text Kangschur. The expedition formally ended in May 1939.

Upon returning from the expedition in August of 1939, Schäfer was presented a Totenkopfring by Himmler. He would not publish his findings until 1950, under the title Festival of the White Gauze Scarves: A Research Expedition through Tibet to Lhasa, the Holy City of the God Realm.

There is a legend that Aryans, led by Thor, fled a cataclysm to settle in old Tibet. Sven Hedin, the Swedish explorer of Central and Inner Asia, went as far as Tibet. He was a friend of Hitler's and an outspoken admirer of NS Germany. As we shall see, the NS regime must have known much about Tibet and to have maintained contacts with that remote nation. It is claimed that the SS sponsored various expeditions there, and this now seems likely given some of the connections which are finally being reliably discovered. That the Germans were permitted to enter a land forbidden to other foreigners is likely given that the Dalai Lama of the time was an enthusiastic admirer of Hitler.

Occult and Geopolitical Interests

As far back as the early 1920s when the NS movement was struggling for power, the geopolitical theorist Prof. Karl Haushofer was teaching his pupils the geopolitical importance of Central Asia and Tibet. Among these pupils was Rudolf Hess who introduced Haushofer to Hitler at Landsberg Prison where the latter was confined as a result of the 1924 Munich Putsch. Haushofer had served on the Kaiser's Staff Corps in the Orient and had studied the mysticism of Japan and India. He believed the Indo-Germanic race had originated in Asia, and control of the region was pivotal to Germanic world power.

At this time there were two occult societies operating in Germany which were to have a lasting impact on NS, and especially on the SS which was to set up a department specifically to explore occultic matters, "Ancestral Heritage". These societies were Thule and Vril. The Vril society was based on the ideas expounded by the Rosicrucian Sir Bulwer Lytton in his book The Coming Race. Lytton claimed that there is a psychic energy of immense power, latent in most humans, but being utilised by adepts living in Tibet. It is claimed that Haushofer introduced Hitler to both the vril concept and his geopolitical ideas.

Intriguingly, there was already a Tibetan community resident in Germany with its own Lama.

While many fanciful claims are made by pseudo-scholarly books on the Third Reich, one of the most intriguing is the assertion that large numbers of Tibetans in German uniform were found amidst the ruins of Berlin by the Soviet Army. An article recently published by the US paper The New Order sheds a uniquely reliable light on some of these Tibetan-German connections, based as it is on the autobiography of the present Dalai Lama.

Mein Kampf in Tibetan

During the 1920s the Dalai Lama was Thutpen Gyatso. He was a scholar of impressive intellect who sought to achieve a balance between Western technology and Eastern spirituality. He had heard about Hitler when the NS movement was still struggling for power. Among the many European books the Dalai Lama had translated was Mein Kampf. He filled his copy with enthusiastic annotations and underlining of his favourite passages on virtually every page.

Of Hitler he said: "The inji (honourable foreigner) is assisted by God for some high purpose in this life."

He also believed there to be a synchronicity for the Swastika being the symbol of both NS and the ancient Bon-Buddhism of his warrior monks. Also noted were certain similarities between NS and Buddhist doctrines, especially that service to one's folk is the highest purpose or dharma in life.

Therefore when Hitler became Chancellor in 1933 warm congratulations were received from far off Tibet.

Tibetans in German Uniform

During the 1940s Tibetan volunteers formed brigades attached to the Cossack regiments fighting Communism with NS Germany. The Tibetans with their endurance of sub-zero temperatures, refusal to surrender made them among the toughest fighters against the Soviets. They were exceptional horsemen and staged some of the last cavalry charges in history. It was the remnants of these brigades that the Soviet army found in the ruins of Berlin, having fought to the last.

After the war, Tibet took those NS fighters who could make it into sanctuary. Among these was an Austrian, Heinrich Harrer, who became a close confident of the new Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso. Tenzin relates in his autobiography that Harrer was a delightful and humourous personality. He spoke fluent Tibetan and was well-liked by the Tibetans. Harrer had escaped British imprisonment in India during the war with another prisoner, and the two had lived as nomads for five years until reaching Lhasa. Harrer and Tenzin first met in 1948. For the next year and a half, before Harrer left they met about once a week. "From him I was able to learn something about the outside world and especially about Europe and the recent war"