Indology and "the disastrous ideology of the 'pure Aryan race'"

Peter Wyzlic pwyzlic at UNI-BONN.DE
Wed Jan 10 01:15:28 UTC 2007

Am 09.01.2007 um 23:35 schrieb George Thompson:

> The example that I offer comes not from an Indologist, let me say,  
> but nevertheless from a well-known classicist and historian, Franz  
> Altheim.
> When I was a graduate student at the Univ. of California at  
> Berkeley, I frequently visited the library's room where little-used  
> or duplicate books were withdrawn from circulation and offered for  
> sale.  That is how I acquired many valuable books and papers, like  
> H. Oldenberg's Rgveda Noten, vol 1, as well as his "Zur Geschichte  
> der altindischen Prosa."   I also acquired Altheim's *Die Krise der  
> Alten Welt im 3. Jahrhundert n. zw. und ihre Ursachen: Bildteil von  
> E. Trautmann-Nehring: Dritter Band: Goetter und Kaiser* 1943.
> This book was a curiosity which sat on the library's sale shelf for  
> many months.  It seems that no one was willing to touch it.  As a  
> result, every few months its price was cut in half, so that I  
> eventually bought it for one dollar.
> The book was published by "Ahnenerbe-Stiftung Verlag, Berlin- 
> Dahlem, 1943" -- a rather ominous title, given the date of  
> publication.  But what makes this book good evidence of complicity  
> or consent is that it was preceded by the following Gleitwort:
> "Ein Volk lebt so lange gluecklich in Gegenwart und Zukunft, als es  
> sich seiner Vergangenheit und der Groesse seiner Ahnen bewisst  
> ist."  Signed by Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfuehrer.
> Was it common that books published in Germany during the war years  
> would have had a Gleitwort from the likes of Himmler?  Is there any  
> evidence that any Indological books published in Germany from that  
> period may have had such a stamp of approval?

I would say, that the "Ahnenerbe-Stiftung Verlag" as the publication  
unit of the "Ahnenerbe" was special in several regards. The  
"Ahnenerbe" was originally an association funded by the SS (in the  
mid-thirties), later it became directly a department of or in the SS.  
Its leading figure was Himmler himself, the chief executive and  
scholarly directors belonged also to the SS. At the onset, it was a  
playground for certain un-academic theories that Himmler wanted to  
support in some way (mainly the prehistorical symbol theories of  
Herman Wirth and the so-called "Welt-Eis-Lehre", a cosmogonical  
theory by the Austrian Hanns Hörbiger). Later in the thirties, the  
first director Herman Wirth was replaced by the indologist Walther  
Wüst; and under Wüst the organisation took a more "scholarly" turn.  
One objective was to gain a foothold in the universities or,  
generally, in the academic world (mainly directed against similar  
activities of Alfred Rosenberg). This involved funding of research  
projects. And in this context one has to see the publication of Franz  
Altheim. It is the output of a project for which he got financial  
support from the Ahnenerbe (or the SS if you like). Detailed  
background information on Altheim's involvement can be found in a  
monograph by V. Loseman (based not only on published but also on  
unpublished archive materials):

Losemann, Volker: Nationalsozialismus und Antike : Studien zur  
Entwicklung des Faches Alte Geschichte 1933 - 1945 / Volker Losemann.  
- Hamburg : Hoffmann und Campe, 1977. - 283 p. - (Historische  
Perspektiven ; 7). - ISBN 3-455-09219-5
Short version of the original Ph.D. thesis: Losemann, Volker: Antike  
und Nationalsozialismus, Marburg, Univ., Diss., 1975

So far I know, Walther Wüst was the only indologist who was a member  
the Ahnenerbe. Its main focus was at first Germanic folklore (under  
the perspective of H. Wirth's symbol theories), later under Wüst  
cultural or university politics (infiltration into the university  
system, taking over of scholarly journals etc.). After the breakout  
of the war the Ahnenerbe became even more sinister; a natural  
sciences department was build under the label  
"kriegswissenschaftliche Zweckforschung". Medical doctors who  
belonged to this department were involved in experiments with human  
beings (e.g. S. Rascher in Dachau). On this see the recent  
publication of Heather Pringle: The master plan : Himmler's scholars  
and the Holocaust / Heather Pringle. - London : Fourth Estate, 2006.  
- xii, 463 p. : ill. - ISBN 0-00-714812-7

Gerd Simon, a scholar in German studies from Tübingen, has announced  
for 2007 or 2008 a monograph on Walther Wüst and his role. According  
to the announcement the title will be:

Mit Akribie und Bluff ins Zentrum der Macht : Walther Wüst und das  
'Etymologische und vergleichende Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen' /  
Gerd Simon unter Mitwirkung von Dieter M. Walther Back. ISBN  
(Due in 2008, according to the list of publications: http://

All the best
Peter Wyzlic

Peter Wyzlic
pwyzlic at

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