This week is yet another Nazi week on the American Heroes Channel. On Sunday night, AHC broadcasted an episode of Myth Hunters on the “Nazi Hunt for Atlantis” (S02E07), which indicated its intention to examine Nazi efforts to seek out the Aryan master race from Atlantis. Then last night they offered up a new special, Hitler’s Jurassic Zoo, which was advertised as a look into Nazi efforts to create a prehistoric game preserve. Neither show was what it seemed to be. I was genuinely surprised, given its ridiculous title, that Hitler’s Jurassic Zoo was by far the superior offering.
“The Nazi Hunt for Atlantis” opens with Himmler’s desire to use the continent of Atlantis to help prove the superiority of the human race; however, the Atlantis that the narrator describes as being from legend is not the Atlantis of Plato. The narrator speaks of an Atlantis that “dominated” all other “races” and had colonies in Africa, Europe, and the Americas. This is not the Classical Atlantis but rather the Atlantis of Ignatius Donnelly and Helena Blavatsky and their Continental counterparts, who made the two specific claims not found in Plato: that Atlantis had colonies in Africa and America and that the Atlanteans dominated other races as a master race. The map the show uses is based on Donnelly’s classic map from Atlantis: The Antediluvian World.
Himmler believed that the Atlanteans were the mother culture of all later cultures, and therefore all cultures relate back to the original supermen, the Aryans: “Racism impregnates the Atlantis myth,” Himmler’s Crusade author Chris Hale says. “It’s about a superior race of beings who spread this knowledge around the world.” The show fails to note that this racism comes in with Ignatius Donnelly, who made the Atlanteans explicitly white and Aryan. Even Helena Blavatsky didn’t do that. Her Atlanteans were Mongoloid in feature and gave rise to Native Americans and East Asians. It is Donnelly’s lily white master race, not any text from Plato, that Hale notices and which finds parallels in Continental Atlantis race theories of the same era. Prof. Michael Lynch of the University of Edinburgh also appears in the show to discuss the connection between racism and Atlantis.
According to the show, Himmler charges explorer Ernst Schäfer with finding evidence of the Aryan master race from Atlantis, which Himmler believed lived on in isolation somewhere in the most remote regions of Tibet. Himmler and his research organization, the Ahnenerbe, believed that the discovery of “Aryan supermen” in Tibet would validate Nazi race theories, which are not discussed in any depth. Schäfer disagrees with Himmler’s Atlantis theories, but goes along with the offer to secure funding for an expedition to Tibet.
Like all episodes of Myth Hunters, the show has very little by way of analysis and instead take a straightforward approach to retelling the story of Schäfer’s efforts to conduct science during his 1938-1939 Tibet mission amidst a government and a culture that has rejected science in favor of myth. All of this is more or less a distillation of Hale’s Himmler’s Crusade, and if you’ve read the book, there is nothing new here. The show, however, does a good job highlighting the political aspects of the Tibet expedition, particularly the way the Nazi propaganda efforts caused tension with Great Britain, which controlled access to Tibet via India, and how the expedition went forward because of British efforts to get on Hitler’s good side, but not without a wary eye watching their progress from the Raj.
But at this point, Atlantis is a bit of an afterthought, and the show instead focuses on the expedition’s efforts to grade northern Indians and Tibetans on a racial scale to rate their level of Northern European traits, but the expedition members found Himmler’s Atlantis ideas laughable. The Tibetans were particularly pleased that the Nazis shared the swastika with them (it was an ancient symbol in Tibet), and they welcomed the Nazi with unprecedented access to the country and its capital.
At the end of the expedition, the team returns to Germany and the warm embrace of Himmler, despite the lack of evidence for Atlanteans in Tibet. The program dutifully follows through with an epilogue about the downfall of the Nazis (Schäfer ended up managing a wildlife preserve with ex-Nazis in South America), but the facts-only approach to the show was a bit of a missed opportunity to have a more serious discussion of the consequences of pseudoscience.
All throughout the show, AHC ran promos for their “special” presentation for the week, last night’s Hitler’s Jurassic Zoo. How could I resist a show about Nazis and DINOSAURS? We’ve had Nazis and Atlantis, Nazis and the Holy Grail, Nazis and UFOs, and Nazis and time travel; but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one about Nazis and dinosaurs. Now if you asked me before I watched the show whether one on Atlantis or one on prehistoric animals would be a deeper and more sensitive exploration of Nazi racial madness, I would have guessed wrong.
“Only now can the full story be told…” says the narrator to open the story of, well, not dinosaurs after all. Sadly, the “Jurassic” title was a bait-and-switch, including the clever but disturbing main title sequence, which riffs on the classic typeface of Jurassic Park and the massive gate that serves as the movie park’s entrance. Instead, the Nazis wanted to recreate extinct mammals that the original Aryans would have hunted in the mythic past. It’s not quite as interesting as dinosaurs, but you take what you can get. Also: There isn’t very much Hitler in the show, and the concept of “zoo” is rather loosely defined as well.
Immediately, though, this documentary differentiates itself from Myth Hunters. It starts with an account of Nazi atrocities in 1941in the Białowieża Forest area of what had once been eastern Poland (then Nazi-occupied Greater Germany), along with the documents that show the premeditated nature of the actions, including the orders for the atrocities and photographs of pre-war models for what the Nazis pre-planned for the site. These atrocities—deportations and exterminations—were designed and imposed by Hermann Göring in order to take over the forest as a nature preserve for the Nazi elite, for it was home to some of the last large populations of the wild animals of eastern Europe. Before the war, Göring already had a model of the preserve built.
Steve Jones of the University College London discusses the importance of Tacitus’s account of pure Germans, and we hear of the Teutonic myths that shaped the Germanic vision of the forest primeval and its role in German culture. I was quite impressed by the seriousness of purpose in what the title implied would be a flippant documentary, and the way the show connected Nazi actions both to the mythic conception of the Volk and to the pseudoscience of its time.
A zoologist named Herr Prof. Dr. Lutz Heck was “entranced” with “romantic myths” of the great beasts fought by the mythic Germanic heroes, particularly the auroch—an ancient and gigantic bovine that went extinct in 1627, and wanted develop a program to breed new aurochs. Heck and his brother had been trying to breed lookalike aurochs from modern cattle since the 1920s (before the Nazi era) by selecting from modern cattle the traits that best resemble the auroch. The auroch was the ancestor of modern cattle, and the Hecks believed that they could reassemble the auroch from the traits they bequeathed to their descendants.
Here there is a connection to Nazi race theory, for the Hecks’ efforts to purify cattle blood reflects the emphasis on racial purity in Nazi race laws, and the show does not shy away from highlighting the clear connection between efforts to recreate prehistoric (and mythic) purity at the animal and human levels. Lutz Heck threw his lot in with the Nazis, and he courted Göring’s favor by supplying him with lion cubs for pets and going out on spear-hunting expeditions with him. Both the Hecks and Göring share a cult of masculinity that demands the strongest and wildest creatures as the only worthy subjects of Nazi master-hunters.
To that end, the Hecks want to recreate “German beasts,” and to that end they star back-breeding (supposed) wild horses from tame modern horses, and they import vigorous animals from the Americas to revitalize the breeding stock. Their efforts at animal eugenics parallel Hitler’s eugenics program and its effort to perfect the Aryan race. Excerpts from Mein Kampf are used to make this connection, and the corruption of science in the name of mythology and ideology is emphasized with chilling efficiency. The show carefully parallels the Nazis’ treatment of Jews with that of animals, and how the mythology and ideology of hunting and husbandry governed both. The Jews, though, ranked below muscular “Germanic beasts,” for they were unworthy even to hunt; in a carefully chosen detail, the show notes that in the same forest where the aurochs were being recreated as worthy adversaries, Jews were fed to German Shepherds, a “Germanic” dog.
As World War II began, Heck used his connection with Göring to obtain zoo animals from occupied countries to breed and then hunt and kill. The director of a zoo in Poland hid Jews in the basement while Heck visited the house above and seized the zoo’s best animals.
In order to make Białowieża into a prehistoric animal sanctuary, Göring asks Himmler to ethnically cleanse the forest. More than 20,000 locals were expelled, and this effort marks one of the first episodes in the Final Solution. All of the forest’s Jews were removed, and some killed. Dr. Philip Blood tells us that Białowieża was the first area the SS declared “Jew-free,” and this occurred in the name of a myth, taken from Caesar and Tacitus, of manly “bare-chested Germans” hunting aurochs with spears. I was impressed by the repeated connection the show’s experts draw between fringe history—an obsession with myth as reality—and the consequences of these myths. The neo-aurochs were released along with bears and bison to make Białowieża into a Germanic forest, even as SS officers hunted down and killed any Jews and opponents of the Nazis who infiltrated the forest. The troops celebrated their kills with beer and “cozy get-togethers.”
Blood says that the Soviets killed the Germanic cattle in the Białowieża forest after the War, ending the Nazi effort to resurrect the primeval world of myth. Some of their cows live on as today’s Heck Cattle, though they are not, obviously, true aurochs, but rather a large breed of modern cows. The Hecks lived happily ever after as zoologists, exonerated after the War.
Jones tells us that it’s easy to fool yourself into believing a myth, or that you have the key to unlocking the past. But just as Heck Cattle are not aurochs, and the mythic past can’t be reopened. He also notes that the Nazi breeding programs and eugenics efforts tainted genetic research for decades. The Heck Cattle, like the Volkswagen Beetle, stand as modern reminders of the Nazi regime hidden in plain sight.
6/3/2014 05:27:04 am
I should of watched both of those shows instead of watching the Russian Yeti doc.
6/3/2014 06:25:34 am
Why don't they just film a Delta Green movie already. You know they want to.
6/3/2014 06:51:51 am
They're doing the sequel to Titanic first
6/4/2014 01:34:44 am
they semi~borrowed the idea from DINO D-DAY?
6/4/2014 02:04:35 am
Some people are so obsessed with race. Can't be good.
6/4/2014 02:40:34 am
Why is the Third World co-called?
6/4/2014 05:09:47 am
Now I know that the cold war is over but wouldn't the Baltic states be considered second world?
6/4/2014 05:14:45 am
Immigrants from the Baltic countries openly admit they came from a crap country
6/4/2014 05:20:12 am
so that makes them lesser people?
6/4/2014 05:24:45 am
It makes the Baltic countries an inferior world
6/4/2014 05:29:15 am
And what makes matter worse those immigrants from the Baltic countries choke up the working class labour market because the employers exploit them in a way they would never do to their own nationals, and the nationals find themselves out of work
6/4/2014 05:31:25 am
so infrastructure and connivence dictate superiority?
6/4/2014 05:35:27 am
Yes, Latvian immigrants are choking the working class labour market in Finland - it's happening everywhere.
6/4/2014 05:37:17 am
Thank you but I think I will just ask them how they feel.
6/4/2014 05:42:14 am
Of course the immigrants are grateful and very happy that they have found work, even being exploited.
6/4/2014 05:54:05 am
oh they are not immigrants they still live in Latvia
6/4/2014 06:06:32 am
It's an acute situation. The introduction of temporary contracts for the working classes, replacing permanent positions, exists everywhere. There are workplaces where Health and Safety doesn't exist anymore. And how is this going to be solved? What is to become of the working classes in the future? The exploitation of the immigrants is only part of the problem. Politicians cannot be relied upon or trusted when it comes to the welfare of working people at the bottom scale of society. Not anymore.
6/4/2014 06:16:02 am
Okay my friend Krystops just got back to me and said that while things got a bit rough between 2008-2010 Latvia's is experiencing one of the fastest economic growth in the EU. He says overall since his family moved back to Latvia after the fall of the Soviet Union the quality of life for the average person has been improving. He himself just purchased a coffeehouse in downtown RIga and has seen great business in the past years since he started the business and it is improving monthly with other people his age (40) also purchasing businesses in the downtown area. He says a lot of people who had to flee the country during the cold war are still returning and starting businesses which is encourage a great national pride and growth. He says while people still struggle in the country overall they are happy and encouraged by the countries growth and gaining reputation within the international market. He says they still have a long way to go but everyone remembers very well how hard it was living under communist rule so they all see it as moving forward.
6/4/2014 06:22:26 am
There are Latvian immigrants everywhere. Why do they choose to emigrate if it's so nice and cosey in Latvia like your friends claim.
6/4/2014 06:27:01 am
Open a coffeehouse. All you need is money. Become a business entrepreneur. Work your way out of poverty. It's simple.
6/4/2014 06:28:44 am
My point is using the term "inferior" is in correct, and prejudicial. in fact Krystop's said it must of been some American making that statement in not so kind words. As he told me things can be tough but it is improving over the years and continues to do so. He choose to return to his homeland and raise his children after his family was exiled for years and is proud of his country and along with many others is working to improve the country for the next generation and he takes great pride in that.
6/4/2014 05:39:21 am
Dilute the workplace with immigrants, exploit them in the process, keep the nationals in the workplace to a minimum - or better still have no nationals working in the workplace at all. That's what's happening now in many countries. And what for? There is only one answer,
6/4/2014 09:20:38 am
Things before the Industrial Revolution were in many ways MUCH MUCH better than things shortly after the Industrial Revolution began.
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/4/2014 01:31:16 pm
Have to agree with Matt Mc and Varika here. Your attitude only makes sense if you're also going to wear a monocle and complain about those blasted suffragettes.
6/5/2014 07:02:14 am
People rambling on and on about Latvians opening coffee houses and situations after the Cold War is pure off topic.
6/5/2014 07:04:35 am
The immigrants from the Baltic countries do themselves consider their own countries are inferior, that's the reason for their emigration.
6/5/2014 07:18:33 am
There are employers in Western Europe who pay the travelling expenses of those from the Baltic countries to come to work for them and reject employing their own nationals. These Baltic immigrants rent houses where 6-8 of them share the costs. None of these facts are publicised in the media - probably because newspapers and television companies are doing similar things with immigrants.
6/5/2014 08:03:08 am
I am used to people making ignorant statements on the internet but seldom do I think the author of those statements is truly ignorant I think these might of changed my mind.
6/5/2014 08:19:16 am
Another fact - an immigrant could work in a Western country for a period of time, feel homesick, return to his country for several months, then emigrate back to the West and find automatic employment solely on the basis of being an immigrant
The real Matt Mc
6/5/2014 08:26:35 am
That post from 3:18 was not from me.
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/5/2014 07:51:13 am
Sweetheart, I grew up in Texas. You whining about immigration is old news to me.
6/5/2014 08:17:03 am
Then don't blame nationals for being unemployed and admit that racism exists in different levels and that inferior countries are a plain open fact - as outlined by the facts that I have provided
An Over-Educated Grunt
6/5/2014 08:26:08 am
That's idiotic. The United States is a Great Power today not because it was destined to be so, but because Winfield Scott was an eccentric genius who happened to have an exceptionally talented staff. Without that accident of timing, Mexico would be the Great Power of North America. I can look at the Mexican War and say that but for Winfield Scott, we'd speak Spanish west of the Mississippi.
6/5/2014 08:29:18 am
I will admit that people who use a thought process like yours make us all look inferior. If you and people who think like you are examples of what people in "superior" countries are to be like we all are in trouble.
6/5/2014 07:35:57 am
I should also add that while employers demand an above average education in applying for their vacancies, they lack all scruples in hiring immigrants that don't even have a second language. These immigrants use sign-language in supermarkets and Tobacconists when doing their shopping.
7/4/2014 05:51:56 am
"Schäfer’s efforts to conduct science during his 1938-1939 Tibet mission amidst a government and a culture that has rejected science in favor of myth. "
10/6/2017 10:19:32 pm
It's just 'aurochs'. That's the singular. The proper plural would be 'aurochsen' or simply 'aurochs'.
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