SS Expeditions, Nazis in Tibet: Has The Dalai Lama Close Ties to the Nazis?

The prevailing and persistent occult perception of the Schäfer mission has retained far-reaching consequences to the present day, with the result that the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama are both unjustly co-opted by the right wing and neo-Nazis, or demonized by the Left as agents of a Tibeto-Buddhist global conspiracy.¹

One can find on the internet quite an incredible amount of misleading information aiming to attach to the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama close ties to the Nazis. Such information are also repeatedly reported by ill-informed press or ill-informed journalists or journalists who are deluded by ideological bias or a sensationalist approach. Often they use sources like Victor and Victoria Trimondi (the couple Röttgens) and other questionable sources who are strongly influenced by conspiracy theories, and who utterly misrepresent Tibetan Buddhism, Tibet and the Dalai Lama. A bad example given by a main stream magazine that has fallen pray to sensationalism and dubious sources is the German magazine STERN. A recent example of an “information mess” has been given by The Guardian (for details see: The Press, The Nazis, and Tibet). There are also a lot of Tibet-Nazi claims produced by the Nazis themselves.

(c) Bundesarchiv Bild 135-S-05-02-36, Tibetexpedition, Geer & Krause, filming. Photographer: Schäfer, Ernst / Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0. From among 1,000 images of 20,000 from the Schäfer expedition I have seen these two are the only ones with the SS symbol, yet these two images are repeatedly shown.
Tibetans seem to underestimate how harmful it is not to correct these wrong claims and allegations.  (And in a way why should they, they cannot be blamed for the projections of Westerners). I remember that about two years ago when the Dalai Lama was in the US in many US media online comment sections these allegations of a “Nazi-Tibet connection” popped up frequently and very strongly. I assume many of these comments might have been placed by Chinese propagandists and the Western Shugden Society. However, I guess also anti-religious people or leftists from the extreme wing (who rather often have a problem with religion and any type of authority/power) might be prone for believing and spreading such myths.

(c) Bundesarchiv Bild 135-KA-10-072; Tibetexpedition, Welcome for Dignitaries. Eating. Photographer: Krause, Ernst / Licence CC-BY-SA 3.0. Among others left: Beger, Geer; head: Tsarong Dzasa, Schäfer; right: Wienert, Möndro (Möndo)
To go into all the details is a bit endless because the spins are just too many. Most often the distorted information are based on either ideological prejudices, half-truths or sensationalist curiosity. For those interested in reliable information that is free from such faults one might have to start quite anew, and the first major step is to discriminate reliable from unreliable sources.

When I contacted some years ago Robert Barnett (Columbia University, NY), he strongly recommended Isrun Engelhardt as the expert par excellence on these subject matters. Many other Tibetologists have confirmed this, saying that there is quite likely no one who has as vast and precise knowledge about this than she. As a first stepping stone, to help those seeking reliable information, I am happy to announce that one of her research articles is now online:

I might address some of the issues related to the alleged “Nazi-Tibet connection” on this blog in the future. For today just let me add these few thoughts and facts:

The Dalai Lama has been criticized by some because he met with Shoko Ashahara (a gift gas murderer), Bruno Beger (a member of the Schäfer expedition who got a prison sentence due to war crimes) or Heinrich Harrer (a famous alpinist, who was also member of the SS). But these meetings have to be seen in context. First of all it were they who sought the contact to the Dalai Lama and not He. Secondly, meeting someone does not mean that one shares the point of view of the other person. The Dalai Lama met also Mao, Hippis, Bush, poor people, Nobel Peace Prize winners, Angela Merkel …

Let’s look briefly into the details with respect to these three persons:

  • Shoko Asahara  (AUM cult) met also with German politicians (see Focus), and he met many religious figures claiming they approved his special qualities. For details see Robert Jay Lifton here in this footnote.
  • Heinrich Harrer was a mountaineer and according to Martin Brauen (who has access to many sources incl. Harrer’s unpublished diaries) though Harrer was an opportunist, he was not a convinced Nazi. Brauen says that in none of Harrer’s writings or talks one can find any racist or fascist statement. Moreover, that Harrer was a SS member (NSDAP, SS, NS-Lehrerbund) became only known in 1997, 50 years after he met the Dalai Lama for the first time. Why would a religious leader who preaches love have to abandon that man? (Brauen, Martin, Dreamworld Tibet: Western Illusions, p. 168)
  • Bruno Beger was indeed a convinced Nazi. But it was Beger who was able to manage to come to a public talk of the Dalai Lama and introduced himself to the Dalai Lama as being a member of the Schäfer expedition. The Dalai Lama (knowing nothing about his political background) asked him to report to the audience how he experienced Tibet before Chinese occupation. For details see my German summery: Dalai Lama-Bruno Beger.

¹ Preface from »Nazis of Tibet: A Twentieth Century Myth.« by Isrun Engehardt, In: Monica Esposito (ed.), Images of Tibet in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Paris: École française d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO), coll. Études thématiques 22, vol. I, 2008, page 63.

Update 24 Oct. 2012

Update 24 April 2013

  Last edited by tenpel on February 18, 2017