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Nazi's Tibet expedition turned into drunken hunting bender

A shot from the Tibetan expedition as the members of the team sit down around a table with locals in a room adorned by a swastika and the SS logo. Photo: File
Revealed: How expedition ordered by Nazi chief Himmler to discover the roots of Ayran man in Tibet turned into a months-long drinking and hunting bender.

Nazis in Tibet by Peter Meier-Hüsing has unearthed fresh details of a trip to Tibet
The expedition is said to have morphed into a months-long drunken bender
Instead of sticking to the brief of finding the 'super-race', the men went hunting
The drunken SS soldiers killed thousands of animals on the expedition in 1939

A new book published this week in Germany details how a Nazi chief's expedition to discover the roots of Ayran man in Tibet morphed into a months long drunken bender.

Nazis in Tibet by Peter Meier-Hüsing, says orders by Heinrich Himmler for artifacts and evidence of a super-race that the Germans were descended from were largely ignored by the team in the famous 1938 trek to the roof of the world.

Having sent them on their way the explorers - led by avid duck hunter and zoologist Ernst Schäfer - parked their boss' demands and concerned themselves mostly with drinking and killing local wildlife to take back home.

To this day 3,500 mummified birds, 2,000 eggs, 400 skulls and pelts of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, several thousand butterflies, grasshoppers, 2,000 ethnological objects, minerals, maps and 40,000 black-and-white photographs reside in German museums and research institutes.

They are occasionally used for academic purposes but the taint of Himmler, who went on to oversee the Holocaust, means many shy away from accessing them. Himmler, who was obsessed with the notion of a blue-eyed, blonde-haired lost tribe from which Germans were descended, made all the participants on the trek S.S. officers when he learned of it.

Although he did not make the trip, Himmler reportedly ordered the group to search for a 'root race' he believed were the original Aryans. He was also interested in finding hardy, cold-weather resistant horses for the forthcoming war Hitler was plotting.

The expedition has gone down in history as the quest to make his hocus-pocus theories come true - something the new book dispels. Meier-Hüsing says the expedition 'was not a carefully planned, secret commando mission by the SS, but a trophy hunt by a brilliant researcher and adventurer that had come about partly by chance.' Schäfer had joined the SS in 1933 after an expedition to China where he killed a panda.

A rising Indiana Jones of his day, Germany's Nazi rulers began to take an interest when they heard he was planning to penetrate the sealed kingdom of Tibet. In 1936 Schäfer was in the USA seeking wealthy backers for the planned adventure. But Himmler summoned him back to Germany in his bid to hijack the scientific nature of the quest for his own ends.

The author says; 'He was to later call his alliance with Himmler his biggest mistake. But he was an opportunist who had a tremendous craving for recognition.' Although he was still intent on a purely scientific foray into an isolated and fascinating world, Himmler's underwriting of the mission meant it went into the history books as a Nazi search for the supermen who once ruled the world who spawned the Germans. 'The expedition was nonsensically mystified,' says Meier-Hüsing.

'Himmler's drivel about original Aryans meant nothing to the leader of the mission.' Trekking through India, the team wearing helmets adorned with SS symbols set up a base camp near the border with Tibet at the high Kongra La Pass. The men passed the time eating noodles and drinking caraway seed schnapps. After making contact with locals Tibet's council of ministers permitted the 'master of a hundred sciences' to visit the closed off capital of Tibetan Buddhism - Lhasa.

They were told they could not bring scientific equipment with them or kill any animals or birds. Both commands were ignored. In Lhasa their insatiable Teutonic thirst became a talking point among natives. 'They invited Tibet's notables to numerous parties, where the Chang Beer flowed freely and German songs were played on the gramophone,' said Der Spiegel magazine in a review of the work.

'What was officially referred to as a meeting of the "Eastern and Western swastikas" was in fact a rollicking, alcohol-induced party.' When they were not drinking, they were also not researching the roots of Himmler's quack race either. Instead they killed birds and malls, collected seeds - 7,000 varities reside at the Leibniz Institute o Plant Genetics in Gatersleben - and assiduously mapped the region.

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