Research Association of German Ahnenerbe

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The Forschungsgemeinschaft Deutsches Ahnenerbe e. V. was a research institution of the SS , founded on July 1, 1935 by Heinrich Himmler ( Reichsführer SS ) and the Dutch private scholar Herman Wirth as the “German Ahnenerbe” Studiengesellschaft für Geistesurgeschichte e. V. “was founded. From March 20, 1937, it traded as “Das Ahnenerbe e. V. “Since March 17, 1942, the community, also known as SS Ahnenerbe , existed in parallel as Office A within the“ Main Office Personal Staff Reichsführer SS ”. It is not to be confused with the Ahnenerbe Foundation.

Coat of arms of the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe

The focus was on archaeological , anthropological and historical research and expeditions. During the Second World War , the Ahnenerbe participated in the systematic art theft . His management level was identical to the "Institute for Defense Scientific Purpose Research", which emerged from the Ahnenerbe, which carried out human experiments in National Socialist concentration camps such as Natzweiler-Struthof and Dachau as well as the satellite camps Schlachters, Forelle and Lochau for other institutions such as the Air Force , but also on its own initiative . In addition, Himmler, who was very interested in occult topics, used the Ahnenerbe as an apparatus for further projects in his personal interest.

Head of Office A in the Main Office Personal Staff Reichsführer-SS was Ahnenerbe curator Walther Wüst from March 17, 1942 , and Deputy Head of Office Ahnenerbe Reich Manager Wolfram Sievers . Ahnenerbe President Himmler was also formally superior in this constellation. 197 of 281 requested positions (as of 1943) of the ancestral inheritance were paid through Office A. Das Ahnenerbe e. V. through this parallel creation of Office A will only pay for 84 positions.

The organization made it possible for some ariosophic- occult protagonists such as Herman Wirth and Karl Maria Wiligut to be at least temporarily integrated into the Nazi system. In contrast, a number of ethnic groups were banned, individual representatives such as the rune occultist Friedrich Bernhard Marby were arrested or, like Ernst Wachler, increasingly marginalized.

Purpose of foundation and institutes

With the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe, Himmler built an instrument that was supposed to secure his position in the Nazi power apparatus. He hoped to be able to "scientifically" secure many of his ideological plans for the German Reich in order to give them more weight. The at first glance confusing and abstruse spectrum of research areas of the institutes of the Research Association of German Ahnenerbe served in its entirety to scientifically underpin the Nazi racial ideology of the “Aryan gentleman” and to legitimize crimes derived from it, such as ethnic and cultural persecution, in a pseudoscientific way.

By means of some institutes - such as the "Institute for Defense Scientific Purpose Research" - or the Entomological Institute which was later integrated into this - an attempt was made to preserve the Ahnenerbe, whose research has so far been less important to the war effort. In particular, Wolfram Sievers, as the de facto director of the Institute for Defense Scientific Research, strove to acquire military medical knowledge in order to provide Himmler, as chief of the Waffen SS, with political capital from the chiefs of the other armed forces. In addition, he tried to use the planned income, for example for the hemostyptic “Polygal” or the anti-rust agent “Sicabo”, to make the Ahnenerbe even more independent of previous financing structures. In the seemingly unsuspicious institutes for folklore and art, important information was obtained for the Germanization of conquered areas and the development of sources of money through the theft of art treasures .

The Ahnenerbe began its activity in 1935 at Brüderstraße 29 in Berlin-Mitte, expanded to Raupachstraße 9 in Berlin in 1937 and in 1939 took over the Aryanized property from Rudolf Löb at Pücklerstraße 16 in Berlin-Dahlem. While maintaining this address, the management level around Wolfram Sievers moved in August 1943 to the less bomb-prone Waischenfeld in Upper Franconia, where it took over the former rent office building from the "SS-Hauptamt Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle".

Relationship to other institutions

Due to the focus of the first years of the ancestral inheritance on Germanic history and prehistory, conflicts with other National Socialist “research institutions” were foreseeable. First and foremost, the Rosenberg office should be mentioned, the head of which, Alfred Rosenberg, was involved in an ideological guerrilla war with Herman Wirth even before the Ahnenerbed was founded. Another competitor in the early years was Karl Maria Wiligut , the head of the Office for Prehistory and Early History in the Race and Settlement Main Office. Since Himmler viewed him as a kind of personal medium, the Ahnenerbe was forced to work with Wiligut, whose bizarre world of thought could not claim to be scientific.

"Heinrichsfeier" 1938: Himmler lays a wreath on the grave of Heinrich I in the collegiate church in Quedlinburg. The "Heinrich celebrations" were celebrated by the SS from 1936 to 1939 after archaeologists of the ancestral inheritance began looking for the bones of Heinrich I there.

Pre-war period

In October 1936 the "Care Center for German Studies " in Detmold ( Hermannsdenkmal ) was taken over. The so-called “ External Stone Management Service ”, supervised by Wilhelm Teudt , also belonged to the care facility . These sandstone rock formations were revered as the "place of worship of the ancestors". It was also assumed that there was an Irmin column there , which was destroyed by Charlemagne.

According to Himmler's order of August 11, 1938, at the end of October of the same year all employees dealing with scientific research questions left the Race and Settlement Main Office. The department heads were transferred to the personal staff Reichsführer-SS. Some employees worked part-time for the Ahnenerbe. With the amendment of the statutes of the Ahnenerbe on March 20, 1937, Himmler succeeded in eliminating Richard Walther Darré's influence on the Ahnenerbe. In the first few years, he had significantly co-financed the Ahnenerbe through the Reichsnährstand and placed his informants George Ebrecht, Richard Hintmann and Erwin Metzner in the Ahnenerbe as influential founding members.

In the course of the constitutional level, Wirth was also ousted from the management level of the association. Its speculative and bizarre ideas were in contradiction to the desired ideal of genuine scientific nature. Under the leadership of Wolfram Sievers as Reich Managing Director (until his death) and Walther Wüst as President (until January 1, 1939), the Ahnenerbe expanded considerably. It soon comprised several dozen research departments. There were also photo laboratories, a museum, a sculpture workshop and several libraries and archives in various cities, including Munich , Salzburg and Detmold . Financing excavations (including in Quedlinburg Cathedral , where the remains of Henry I were sought, and the excavations of Haithabu by Herbert Jankuhn ) and the evaluation of expeditions (including the privately financed Tibet Expedition of Ernst Schäfer 1938) made the club as well as the organization of meetings and congresses. More than half of the available excavation budget was used for the excavations in Haithabu. At the same time, attempts were made, together with the SS Security Service (SD), to influence official science policy and to control the occupation of chairs.

Activities during the war

After the outbreak of World War II , the direction of the ancestral inheritance changed. The robbery of cultural assets in the occupied territories was largely organized by full-time employees. In the “Germanic” countries of Belgium , Denmark , the Netherlands and Norway, volunteers for the Waffen SS were recruited as part of a “Germanic science mission” . At the same time, attempts were made to weaken autonomy and resistance movements and to bind them more closely to the coming empire after the war through projects that focused on the supposedly common Germanic heritage.

Institutes or departments of ancestral inheritance

By 1943/44 the departments of the ancestral inheritance had been realized in different dimensions, some were only planned and others were dissolved or reorganized, so that the following overview results for this time:

Realized "natural science teaching and research facilities"

Emerged from the Ahnenerbe

Entomological Institute of the Waffen-SS (integrated into the Institute for Defense Scientific Research in 1942)

Institute for Defense Scientific Purpose Research of the Waffen-SS

  • Director: Wolfram Sievers

Working departments:

  • Department R
    • Head: Sigmund Rascher
  • Department P (originated from the renaming and continuation of Department R by Plötner)
  • Department H
    • Head: August Hirt
  • Department of Entomological Institute
    • Head: Eduard May
  • Department L (not formally integrated, according to Reitzenstein a factual department)
    • Head: Philipp von Lützelburg

Departments not working and / or under construction until 1944:

  • Department of Breeding Research
    • Head: Ernst Schäfer
  • Karst science department (according to Reitzenstein, identical to the research center for karst and cave research, classified as a "war-important research center" on paper for better supply by Sievers)
    • Head: Hans Brand
  • Plant Genetics Research Center
    • Head: Heinz Brücher

Realized "humanities and cultural studies teaching and research facilities"

By 1944 it was dissolved or reorganized and re-integrated departments

Planned but not proven departments

  • Department for the whole of natural science
  • Department of Frisian Studies
  • Department of Germanic Art
  • Department for Indo-European-German Musicology
  • Department of Philosophy
  • Department for the review of the so-called secret sciences
  • Department of Prehistory
  • Department of Folk Medicine

Human trials

Room for medical experiments, dissection table, Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp

In 1942 the "Institute for Defense Scientific Research" was founded under the roof of the Ahnenerbed with funds from the Waffen-SS. This institute carried out fatal human experiments on concentration camp inmates in the Dachau and Natzweiler concentration camps ; some of the doctors involved were members of the Waffen SS. Sigmund Rascher carried out negative pressure and cold experiments in Dachau, August Hirt in Natzweiler experiments with warfare agents. He himself, or his assistant Karl Kaspar Wimmer , experimented with liquid mustard . Formally, Otto Bickenbach, experimenting with gaseous phosgene, was under Hirt's direction. These human experiments were also the subject of the Nuremberg Trials , in particular the Nuremberg Medical Trials .

In June 1943 the anthropologists SS-Hauptsturmführer Bruno Beger and Hans Fleischhacker selected 115 prisoners in Auschwitz . They were deported to the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp and murdered in the gas chamber there in August 1943. The bodies were earmarked for a museum project. Sievers claimed in Nuremberg that the professor at the Imperial University of Strasbourg, August Hirt, had planned a museum with dead Jews for the university and thus confirmed the witness for the prosecution, Henri Henrypierre. As Heinrich Heinzpeter, he had worked for Hirt, including on the corpses, and received monthly payments from Sievers until 1945. Beger wrote numerous documents in which he included the visit to Auschwitz in his "Mongolian research". Beger, who had never worked with Jews, was only concerned from 1938 to 1945 with proving Blumenbach's thesis that the Europeans originated in Tibet. In this context, he began with a museum preparation. Lifelike dioramas, which can still be seen today in the “Salzburg House of Nature”, should take visitors from Asia to Northern Europe. Beger was disappointed to have found only four Inner Asians (Soviet prisoners of war) in Auschwitz. After he had to break off his race research in Auschwitz because of an epidemic, he completed it in Natzweiler. August Hirt provided him with his facilities in the Natzweiler concentration camp, his staff, the means of killing and the anatomy for storing the corpses.

Nuremberg Trials

The 23 defendants in the Nuremberg medical trial, 1946/47

Wolfram Sievers was sentenced to death as Reich Manager of the Ahnenerbes in the Nuremberg Doctors Trial on August 20, 1947 and executed in Landsberg on June 2, 1948 . Sigmund Rascher fell from grace before the end of the war and was executed in Dachau on April 26, 1945 by order of Himmler. Most of the employees of the ancestral legacy regained a foothold in their field after a more or less brief career break. In 1980 the opening of a museum with which Wirth wanted to spread his ideology was imminent. Only an article in Spiegel that brought Wirth's past to the public could prevent the museum. Nevertheless, the ideas still find their followers.

Why scientists worked so willingly in the Ahnenerbe can only be speculated. Apparently not all of them were convinced National Socialists; many, like Eduard May, who was a central researcher, did not belong to any Nazi organization at all. For many, the extensive research grants may have been decisive, but also the possibility of doing science in the field of archeology, which was extensively funded; In addition, research without hindering ethical boundaries should have been attractive - although it should be noted that it was only partially research in the scientific sense.

Processing and reception

In terms of the history of science, the activities of the SS ancestral inheritance have been processed in detail since the 1960s, primarily thanks to the work of Michael H. Kater . For the first time, the broad personnel base on which the “scientific” activities of the institution could be based became visible. Many of the intellectuals involved in the activities of the ancestral inheritance were able to continue their careers unhindered after 1945 and often even fall back on their field research in the context of the war.

The Irish artist Gareth Kennedy, who made the intensive work of the SS ancestral inheritance in South Tyrol - in connection with the so-called option - the starting point for his efforts aimed at elucidating the motifs , has been able to work up an artistically oriented approach since 2014 .


  • Julien Reitzenstein: Himmler's Researcher. Defense science and medical crimes in the 'Ahnenerbe' of the SS . 1st edition. Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-76657-1 , review review review .
  • Julien Reitzenstein: The SS-Ahnenerbe and the "Strasbourg skull collection" - Fritz Bauer's last case. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin, 2018, ISBN 978-3428153138 .
  • Michael H. Kater: The “Ahnenerbe” of the SS 1935–1945. A contribution to the cultural policy of the Third Reich . 4th edition. Oldenbourg, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-486-57950-5 , ( Studies on Contemporary History 6), (Part. Zugl .: Heidelberg. Univ., Diss., 1966), online .
  • Heather Pringle: The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust , Hyperion, New York, 2006, ISBN 978-1-4013-8386-2 Digital reading sample (English)
  • Sven Devantier, Claudia Schmidt: Federal Archives Research and Teaching Association "Das Ahnenerbe". NS 21, 1865-1945. Berlin, database of writings, campaigns and correspondence online (as of April 2010 when accessed on July 4, 2014).
  • Volker Koop : Himmler's Germanic madness. The SS organization Ahnenerbe and its crimes. be.bra verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-89809-097-1 .
  • Hans-Joachim Lang : The names of the numbers. How it was possible to identify the 86 victims of a Nazi crime. Revised edition. Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-596-16895-8 ( Fischer. The time in National Socialism. 16895), content , (first edition: Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-455-09464 -3 ), (see also: web links for the 86 victims).
  • Hans-Joachim Lang: A place in the skull of modern research. In: FAZ , February 20, 2019, No. 43, p. N 3.
  • Isabel Heinemann: "Race, settlement, German blood". The Race and Settlement Main Office of the SS. Wallstein, Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-89244-623-7 (Section I: “From the Race Office of the SS… 1932–1938”, subsection “Germanic research and development of the ideological basis: The Ahnenerbe Association” p . 88 ff.)
  • Wolfgang Kaufmann: The Third Reich and Tibet. The home of the "Eastern Swastika" in the Nazis' field of vision . 2nd corrected and supplemented edition, Ludwigsfelder Verlagshaus 2010, ISBN 978-3-933022-58-5 (the book mainly deals with Tibet research etc. in the context of the “Ahnenerbe” teaching and research center for Inner Asia and expeditions).
  • Peter Meier-Hüsing: Nazis in Tibet - The riddle of the SS expedition Ernst Schäfer . Theiss 2017, ISBN 978-3-8062-3438-1 .
  • Uwe Puschner , Clemens Vollnhals (ed.): The ethnic-religious movement in National Socialism. A relationship and conflict story . Series: Writings of the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totalitarianism Research, Vol. 47, Göttingen 2012.
  • Malte Gasche: On the concept of “Germanic studies” in the ancestral heritage of the SS. In: Ethnographic-archaeological magazine. Volume 47, 2006, pp. 127-135.
  • Malte Gasche: The "Germanic Scientific Mission" of the "Ahnenerbes" of the SS 1942 - 1945. Between the completion of the "völkisch community" and the striving for "redemption" , Bonn (Habelt) 2014. ISBN 978-3-7749-3880-9
  • James R. Dow: Applied Popular Ideology. Heinrich Himmler's cultural commissions in South Tyrol and the Gottschee. StudienVerlag, Innsbruck / Vienna / Bozen 2018, ISBN 978-3-7065-5640-8 .
  • Christoph Weyer: Gregorian chant under the swastika. Vier Türme Verlag, Münsterschwarzach 2019, ISBN 978-3-89680-601-7 .

See also

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ District court Charlottenburg of Berlin, register of associations, 95 VR 7996, register sheet. (The association has been registered in the above-mentioned official spelling. Kater, Ahnenerbe, p. 11, on the other hand, uses the spelling “Study Society for Spiritual History 'German Ahnenerbe” ”. This probably spread as a copy error in the literature.)
  2. Julien Reitzenstein: The SS-Ahnenerbe and the "Strasbourg skull collection" - Fritz Bauer's last case . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-428-15313-8 , pp. 39 .
  3. Julien Reitzenstein: Himmler's researcher. Defense science and medical crimes in the "Ahnenerbe" of the SS . Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-76657-1 , pp. 34 .
  4. Julien Reitzenstein: Himmler's researcher. Defense science and medical crimes in the "Ahnenerbe" of the SS. Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-76657-1 , p. 263 f .
  5. Julien Reitzenstein: Himmler's researcher. Defense science and medical crimes in the "Ahnenerbe" of the SS. Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-76657-1 , p. 267 .
  6. René founder: Germanic (new) paganism in Germany: emergence, structure and symbol system of an alternative-religious field. Logos, Berlin 2008.
  7. Julien Reitzenstein: Himmler's researcher. Defense science and medical crimes in the "Ahnenerbe" of the SS. Schöningh, Paderborn 2014, ISBN 978-3-506-76657-1 , p. 270 ff .
  8. Julien Reitzenstein: The SS Ahnenerbe and the "Strasbourg skull collection" - Fritz Bauer's last case. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-428-15313-8 , pp. 179 .
  9. ^ Henning Bleyl: Vikings now free of the Nazis . Online at from March 1, 2013, accessed on March 2, 2013.
  10. ^ Franz Januschek: Political Linguistics: For the Analysis of Language as Cultural Practice , Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 1985, ISBN 3-531-11719-X .
  11. ^ National Socialism in Cultural Studies: Subjects, Milieus, Careers , ed. v. Hartmut Lehmann, Otto Gerhard Oexle, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht Verlag, Göttingen, 2004, ISBN 978-3-525-35198-7 .
  12. ^ Mathias Schmoeckel (Ed.): The lawyers of the University of Bonn in the "Third Reich". Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-412-12903-8 , p. 175.
  13. Michael H. Kater from p. 227.
  14. Julien Reitzenstein: The SS-Ahnenerbe and the "Strasbourg skull collection" - Fritz Bauer's last case . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2018, ISBN 978-3-428-15313-8 .
  15. Leg of the Divine . In: Der Spiegel . No. 40 , 1980 ( online - 29 September 1980 ).
  16. ^ Non-profit society for European prehistory
  17. Gareth Kennedy: The Uncomfortable Science . In: Georg Grote , Hannes Obermair (Ed.): A Land on the Threshold. South Tyrolean Transformations, 1915-2015 . Peter Lang, Oxford-Bern-New York 2017, ISBN 978-3-0343-2240-9 , pp. 239-256 .