International Business Times:
Heinrich Himmler: The Nazi
By Palash R. Ghosh
2012 10:46 AM EDT
than 65 years after the fall of the Third Reich, Nazi Germany remains an obsession with
millions of people around the world.
Hitler was one of the most prominent historical figures from the 20th
century, evoking both disgust and fascination. While other totalitarian
regimes from that period -- including Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan -- have largely faded from
the public's consciousness, Nazi Germany still exerts a powerful
hold on many for a variety of reasons.
The swastika is an ancient Indian Hindu symbol
the most interesting and perplexing aspects of the Nazi regime was its
connection to India and Hinduism. Indeed, Hitler
embraced one of the most prominent symbols of ancient India -- the swastika -- as his
link between Nazi Germany and ancient India, however, goes deeper
than just the swastika.
Nazis venerated the notion of a "pure, noble Aryan race," who are believed to have invaded India thousands of years ago from Central Asia and established a martial society based
on a rigid social structure with strict caste distinctions.
scholars in both India and Europe have rejected and debunked the notion of
an "Aryan race," the myths and legends of ancient Vedic-Hindu
India have had a tremendous influence on many nations, none more so than
the most fervent Nazi adherent to Indian Hinduism was Heinrich Himmler, one
of the most brutal members of the senior command.
directly responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews and others as the
architect of the Holocaust, was a complex and fascinating man. He was also
obsessed with India
Business Times spoke with two experts on German culture to
explore Himmler and Hinduism.
and Victoria Trimondi are German cultural
philosophers and writers. They have published books on religious and
political topics, including "Hitler-Buddha-Krishna-An Unholy Alliance from
the Third Reich to the Present Day" (2002), a research about the
efforts by National-Socialists and Fascists to construct a racist
Indo-Aryan warrior ideology with strong roots in Eastern religions and
TIMES: Heinrich Himmler was reportedly fascinated by
Hinduism and ancient Indian culture, and he read the Bhagavad
Gita, among other classic texts. How and when was
he introduced to Indian culture? Was it prior to his joining the Nazi party
& MRS. TRIMONDI: Himmler kept a diary where he not
only listed the books he read but also provided extensive comments on these
manuscripts. His entries regarding India and Indians were always
Indian reading list started in 1919 [before the Nazi Party was formed] with
a German translation of a novel called "Mr. Isaacs: A Tale of Modern
India" by Marion Crawfords. Six years later,
in 1925, Himmler also praised Hermann Hesse's
Siddhartha as a "magnificent book."
was also drawn to "The Pilgrim Kamanita"
by the Danish author Karl Gjellerup, which was a contemporary
best-seller. In his diary, Himmler commented: "A precious
narration. The content is the teaching of salvation."
book quoted several verses from the Vedas, including: "The one who
kills believes that he is killing. The one who has been killed believes
that he dies. Both of them are wrong, for one doesn't die and the other
Himmler delivered some of these same philosophies in his speeches to his SS
the 1920s and the early 1930s, Himmler read some popular books about
Hinduism and Buddhism. Yet, his actual interest in classic Hindu texts came
later, when he founded the SS-Ahnenerbe, the
brain trust of the Black Order, a group of highly qualified academics and
occultists that attempted to forge the ideology of a racist warrior
1937, Himmler chose Professor Walter Wüst to
serve as the president of the SS-Ahnenerbe.
Two years later, Wüst became the curator of this
notorious organization. Incidentally, in addition to being one of the
leading Sanskrit scholars of his time, Wüst
served as the president of the Maximilian
University in Munich. In the academic world, Orientalists from this particular university were
considered the top experts in their field.
Wüst was keenly interested in
extracting ideas from the Vedas and Buddhism of the so-called Aryan
tradition in order to give National Socialism a religious dimension. One
slogan of his was: "Also above
hovers the sun-sign of the Swastika."
To Wüst, Hitler appeared as the manifestation of a Chakravartin - "Indo-Aryan world emperor."
Wüst tried to support this
particular speculation by verses from classical Indian scriptures.
Moreover, in one of his emotion-driven speeches, he compared Hitler with
the historical Buddha.
fascination with ancient India
and its culture began in the 19th century, no? That is, long before the
advent of the Nazis. Is it correct?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: Indeed, Germany had been a true center
for Sanskrit studies in the nineteenth century. To be exact, there were
scholars and writers in this field who either put the emphasis on the
peaceful aspects of Indian culture (e.g. Johann Gottfried Herder and
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling) or pointed out the
"nihilistic" side of Buddhism or Shankara
philosophy (like Arthur Schopenhauer).
with the radicalization of German nationalism, writers began to put more
emphasis on the martial aspects of Hindu culture. One of the first who
tried to blend the warrior ideology of ancient India
with Aryan racism was Houston Stewart Chamberlain, an English-born author
who lived in Germany
and who was later held in a high esteem by the Nazis.
TIMES: Is it true that Himmler could read and speak
Sanskrit fluently? Where and how did he learn such a difficult foreign
& MRS. TRIMONDI: We do not have any evidence that he
mastered Sanskrit. However, Himmler did not need to read this ancient
tongue since he always had Wüst by his
constantly interacting with Himmler, Wüst was
directly involved in his philosophical and ideological projects, and he
could provide an answer to any linguistic questions coming from the Reichsführer SS.
TIMES: As Reichsführer of
the SS, Chief of the German Police, Minister of the Interior and head of
the Gestapo and the Einsatzgruppen killing
squads, Himmler was responsible for the murder of millions of innocent
people. How did he reconcile such brutality with the tenets of Hinduism,
which is generally peaceful?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: The image of Hinduism as a totally
peaceful religion is a widespread fallacy. In fact, one can find plenty of
martial aspects in Hindu culture, which had been emphasized by various
individuals even before the Nazi period, during Hitler's reign, and even
today by the extreme right wing in Europe
example, in his introduction to a popular edition of the Bhagavad Gita, Leopold
Schroeder, a student of ancient India,
wrote that this poem describes the "powerful ethics of Kshatriya (Warrior) religion at a time when the
warriors and kings of India
provided a spiritual leadership instead of the priestly caste."
is very likely that Himmler used this particular edition of the Bhagavad Gita. It was the Kshatriya, the ancient Hindu warrior caste, and its
ethical ideals that fascinated the Nazis so much among other elements of
Indian history and culture.
TIMES: Aside from millions of Jews, Himmler was also
responsible for the mass murder of up to half-million Roma (gypsies). Was
he not aware that the Roma are also of Indian descent?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: He must have known it. At the
same time, we should remember that Western racist intellectuals usually
divided Indian society into two castes: light-skinned Aryan conquerors (priests,
warriors and merchants) and dark-skinned indigenous Dravidians or Chandalens -- the latter expression goes back to a
Sanskrit word Chandala - or, 'The Untouchables.'
Himmler surely viewed the Roma as a part of this outcast group.
TIMES: Bhagavad Gita partially focuses on the adventures of Arjuna, the world's greatest warrior. Did Himmler
fantasize that he was a 20th-century Arjuna
"fighting for the glory of the Aryans"? Did Himmler view Hitler
as his "god" Krishna - like a reincarnation of god Krishna?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: When speaking about the Aryan
culture proper and the old German or Nordic gods, Himmler clearly viewed
them as parts of the same spiritual ideology.
this sense, Himmler was indeed "fighting for the glory of the
Aryans." Thus, Himmler was convinced that the
"thunderbolts" mentioned in both Indian and European mythologies
were references to the super-weapons of Aryan Gods, who possessed
"incredible knowledge of electricity."
we do not know whether Himmler identified himself with Arjuna
or not. At the same time, considering the fact that he did indeed compare
Hitler to Krishna, it is quite possible
that he cast himself as the character of Arjuna.
one occasion, Himmler recited to other people the following passage from the
Gita, in which Krishna
says to Arjuna: "Every time when man forgets
the sense of justice and truth, and when injustice reigns in the world I
become born anew, that is the law."
read these words, Himmler added: "This passage is directly related to
our Führer. He did arise during the time when the
Germans were in the deepest distress and when they did not see any way out.
He belongs to these great figures of light (Lichtgestalt).
One of the greatest figures of light reincarnated himself in our Führer."
on this statement, one can assume that perhaps Himmler viewed Hitler as a
manifestation of Krishna and himself as Arjuna.
TIMES: Did Himmler envision the SS as a modern version
of the ancient Kshatriya Hindu warrior caste?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: This was really a sensation what
we discovered in the archives: In 1925, shortly before he became a member
of Hitler's SS, Himmler read about the Freemasons and anti-masons in
"Their Fight for World Domination" by an Austrian writer named
as it may sound, the greater part of the book deals not with Freemasons but
with the Indian caste system. Haiser praised this
caste system as the most reasonable and the most sophisticated social
model. He also glorified the Kshatriya (the
Warrior) caste as the natural leaders in society.
Haiser also compared the
"decline of the caste system" in India to the decadence of
Western culture. As a way to prevent this decline, the author proposed the
creation of a well-organized, international and racially pure elite order
of warriors that he called the "All Aryan Union" (all-arischer Bund). In addition, he advocated for an
"all-Aryan world revolution" and for the "emancipation of
the Kshatriya from above". Haiser derided the so-called lower races as crows,
rats, sparrows, louses and fleas" and also endorsed the reintroduction
envisioned a society in which the Kshatriyas
would not be permitted to mingle with other races. In addition, he drew
attention to the Hindu cosmology of global eras: the Yugas, the Holy
Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and the Indian law code of Manu, which
he interpreted as a guidebook on how to keep the Aryan race
familiarizing himself with all these ideas Himmler wrote excitedly in his
diary: "A wonderful book [...] I agree with most of it. One needs such
books. They encourage those who instinctively feel what is right and what
is wrong, but do not dare to think about it because of their false
education. Kshatriya caste [is what] we
have to be. This is the salvation."
years later, in 1927, as a twenty-seven year old man, Himmler already came
to occupy the high position of the "Stellvertretender
of the agenda articulated in Haiser's book could
be found later in the ideology and the structure of the "Black
was also familiar with the writings of the Italian philosopher Julius Evola, a fascist prophet of the Kshatriya
TIMES: Is it true that Himmler always kept a copy of
the Bhagavad Gita in
his pocket and read passages from it every night?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: Yes, this is true. In fact, it has
been well documented by Felix Kersten, his
Finnish masseur, that Himmler liked to indulge in
philosophical monologues in his presence. The Reichsführer
SS called the Gita a "high Aryan
Canto." Kersten also reported that Himmler
read the Vedas, especially the Rig-Veda, the speeches of the Buddha, and
the Buddhist "Visuddhi-magga". Himmler
made frequent references to karma, especially when he was talking about
also believed in reincarnation: "With one life life
is not finished. What good and bad deeds a man has done has an effect on
his next life as his karma."
TIMES: Discuss Himmler's fascination with Yoga and
what he sought to gain from this practice.
& MRS. TRIMONDI: The practice of Yoga was already
well known during the Nazi regime -- but we do not know whether Himmler did
Yoga exercises or not. We only know about his plan to introduce meditation
practices and spiritual retreats for the elite members of the SS in a
special center located at Wewelsburg, a medieval
confided to Felix Kersten: "I admire the
wisdom of the founders of Indian religion, who required that their kings
and dignitaries retreat every year to monasteries for meditation. We will
later create similar institutions."
TIMES: Did Himmler (and other top Nazi leaders) use
the Bhagavad Gita as a
kind of an ideological blueprint for the Holocaust and World War II?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: Several historians believe that
Himmler's notorious Posener Speech in front of a
hundred SS officers in 1943 was highly influenced by the spirit of the Bhagavad Gita.
this particular speech, Himmler stressed that if the destiny of the nation
called for it, every member of the SS had a duty to conduct drastic
measures "brutally and without pity" and "without regard to
blood relationship and friendship."
utterance brought to mind the instructions Krishna
issued to Arjuna, demanding from the latter to
attack his kin and kill them. In the
same speech, after mentioning unworthy human beings who were going to be
murdered (an indirect reference to the Jews), Himmler assured his
listeners: "These deeds do not inflict any damage on our inner selves,
our souls, and our characters." In the same manner, Krishna
assured Arjuna that the latter acts would not
pollute his higher self by completing his murderous duty: "Whatever I
do, it cannot pollute me. [...] The one who merges with me, frees himself
from everything, and he is not bound by his deeds"
Himmler encouraged the members of the SS to conduct their murderous acts,
unemotionally in a cool detached manner just as Krishna
instructed the charioteer Arjuna.
the whole, the Posener Speech was focused on the
spiritual dimensions of war and the conduct of the warrior, which is the
chief element of the Kshatriya philosophy of
The German diplomat and undercover U.S. agent in Nazi-Germany Hans
Bernd Gisevius concluded: "There is no doubt
that for Himmler the Bhagavad Gita
is the book of the Great Absolution."
TIMES: During the war, there was a community of Indian
nationalists living in Berlin.
The most prominent among them was Subhash Chandra
Bose, who met with many top Nazi officials, including Himmler, Ribbentrop,
Goering and Hitler himself. Is it true that Himmler was generally
interested in helping Bose to achieve independence for India, whereas most of the other German
leaders only used Bose in a ploy to stoke anti-British sentiments in India?
& MRS. TRIMONDI: Unlike other Nazi leaders, Himmler
and the curator of the SS-Ahnenerbe Walther Wüst,
provided some ideological support to Bose's political agenda.
Wüst spoke about the need to work closely with
Bose and contemplated holding a German-Indian congress of Indian scholars
representing both countries. Yet, except for these utterances,
neither Himmler nor Wüst did anything specific to
support Indian nationalists.
delivered an emotional speech for British soldiers of Indian origin, who
were captured by the Wehrmacht in Africa and who
were held in Germany
as POWs. He said to them: "Hitler is your friend. He is the
friend of the Aryans, and you will return to India as the liberators of your
Indian Kshatriya legacy was not the only Oriental
culture that attracted Himmler and his ideologists when they were working
to construct their racist Indo-Aryan warrior religion.
addition to Hinduism, the Reichsführer SS was also interested in the
militant Samurai Zen philosophy of Japan as well as the occult
scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism. Indeed, one of the goals of the famous SS
expedition to Tibet
headed by Ernst Schaefer in 1939 was to find in the Lamaist
monasteries scrolls containing secret "Aryan" teachings.
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