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Letter From April 2007 World War II Magazine

Science in the Service of Evil

Heinrich Himmler was a bookish bureaucrat with a lifelong passion for archeology who turned his eccentric ideas about German heri­tage into a justification for genocide. Nazi architect and armaments minister Albert Speer described the Reichsführer-SS as “half schoolmaster, half crank.” Even Adolf Hitler mocked his fiercely loyal right-hand man for his sponsorship of expeditions in quest of the Holy Grail and Ark of the Covenant, as well as his efforts to unearth archeological evidence of the existence of an original pure Aryan race. “Himmler is starting to dig up these villages of mud huts and enthusing over every potsherd and stone axe he finds,” Hitler told Speer. “All we prove by that is that we were still throwing stone hatchets and crouching around fires when Greece and Rome had already reached the highest stage of culture.”

Himmler ultimately proved to be anything but a harmless crackpot. While fashioning the SS into a racially select army of terror, he carried out the Nazi Final Solution — the mass extermination of the Jews, Poles and other “untermenschen” — with ruthless efficiency. Moreover, new evidence uncovered by Heather Pringle, author of The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust (Hyperion, 2006), reveals that his blueprint for populating a postwar Third Reich empire had advanced well beyond the stage of delusional fantasy. Himmler had conjured up a detailed strategy for eliminating the people who occupied the fertile steppes of Eurasia and establishing medieval-style colonies there run by SS nobility who he believed would breed a master race within 120 years.

Himmler set about making his gothic master plan a reality through a Nazi research institute called the Ahnenerbe, meaning “something inherited from the forefathers.” The institute employed 137 German scientists and scholars, whose mission was to establish that the Aryan race was the font of civilization. What Pringle found particularly chilling is how Himmler managed to transform the pursuit of knowledge into a process in service of evil rather than the truth. “Before the war Germany had an academic system that was the envy of Europe,” she says. “But Himmler and the SS managed to turn archeology and science into weapons of mass destruction.” She chronicles the development of those weapons of mass destruction in our cover story, “Himmler’s Utopia