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Nazi Authors Seven Years in Tibet
by Ren Yanshi
2008-04-14

The film Seven Years in Tibet, produced recently by Hollywood and based on the novel of the same title by Heinrich Harrer, an Austrian, has been shown in the United States and some other countries. The film, with Harrer as the leading character, not only seriously distorts history, but also takes great pains to beautify the 14th Dalai Lama and build up Harrer. Certain Western news media took advantage of the opportunity to raise a hubbub, praising Harrer as a "hero", "the guardian of human rights" and "the best ambassador to Tibet". So, what kind of a fellow is Harrer?

A Faithful Nazi

Valid documents prove without a doubt that Harrer is a former Nazi who has successfully hidden his identity for more than half a century.

In May 1997, Gerald Lehner, an Austrian correspondent, found in the Washington-based National Archives an 80-page document detailing Harrer's Nazi ties. In addition, a reporter from the German weekly Stern also discovered in the Federal Archives in Berlin a file related to Harrer's Nazi background. The file recorded that as early as October 1933 Harrer worked for the German Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA, storm troopers) which was illegal in Austria at the time. Hitler annexed Austria on March 15, 1938. Shortly thereafter, Harrer joined the German Nazi Schutstaffel (SS, defense echelon). He was assigned to Squadron 38 with a designation 73896, and was promoted to Oberscharfuehrer (squadron leader). On May 1 the same year, Harrer joined the NSDAP (Nazi Party) with membership number 6307081.

Harrer was a "favorite of the high-level Nazi group" who was personally received by Hitler. Harrer and several Germans climbed the northern slope of Mount Eiger in Switzerland in July 1938. A short time later, he was personally received by Hitler, and a group photo was taken to mark the occasion. The photo has been kept up until today. According to an article carried in the New York Daily News on June 19, 1997, Hitler thought especially highly of Harrer who had "conquered the northern slope of Mount Eiger", appointing him to train crack Nazi troops who later became ruthless murderers who firmly implemented Hitler's "final solution", the extermination of Jews.


Heinrich Harrer with Adolf Hitler at Breslau - harhitlr.jpg 4972 bytes
Heinrich Harrer (2nd from left) with Adolf Hitler, Breslau (Wroclaw), July 1938
Source: Der Spiegel, No. 45, 3 Nov 1997, p. 146

In December 1938, Harrer married a so-called "pure-blooded Aryan". Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo and commander of the Nazi Schutzstaffel, approved the marriage.

Harrer was captured by the British army in India in September 1939, with his behavior while in prison proving once again that he was a faithful Nazi. On November 1,1943, foreign ministers of allied nations - the United States, the Soviet Union and Great Britain - announced the Moscow Declaration, which called for the reconstruction of Austria and cited the fact that Austria was a victim of the Nazi Germany's policy of aggression. The declaration called on Austrian people to liberate themselves and fight against Nazi Germany.

Shortly after release of the declaration, Austrians in regions controlled by Britain and other allied nations organized anti-Nazi resistance groups and broke with Hitler and the Nazis.

In 1939. Britain accelerated efforts to screen war prisoners, with only Nazis refusing to accept the declaration continuing to be seen as war prisoners and remaining in custody. Harrer was among the remaining prisoners following the screening program.

On April 29, 1944, six months after release of the declaration, Harrer succeeded in his fifth attempt to escape from prison. Harrer and Peter Aufschneiter, a Nazi and fellow prisoner, fled to Tibet rather than Austria.

Various documents clearly show that while in prison Harrer wanted to go and seek refuge in Japan, Nazi Germany's ally in World War II.

Harrer arrived in Lhasa, capital of Tibet, and in 1946 became the tutor for the 14th Dalai Lama who was then only 11 years old. Harrer fled Tibet in 1951. He concealed his Nazi history and returned to Austria before resettling in Leichtenstein where he wrote the book entitled Seven Years in Tibet.

Downright Political Swindler

Harrer is a political swindler living on lies. Many people suspected Harrer's Nazi connections long before his past life was fully exposed. Harrer flatly denied all accusations and concealed his Nazi history for a half century.

After the files which provided indisputable proof of his Nazi ties were discovered, Harrer, resorting to habitual trickery, attempted to gloss over his crimes and continue to deceive the world.

According to Stern, Harrer flatly denied the records in the files even after learning that his files had been discovered. He declared that he had never applied for membership in the SS or any other Nazi organization. When shown his Racial and Residential Administration Investigation Form and handwritten resume, both of which demonstrated the fact that Harrer had served in the SA in Austria and the SS in Germany, Harrer was forced to admit his disgraceful Nazi past. According to the Austrian weekly Profil (43rd edition, 1997), Harrer offered the following response to a staff reporter's question concerning the files, "That was 60 years ago...It was nothing. You discovered it, so you answer the question." Harrer went so far as to proudly proclaim, "I have something to show off, too."

On July 30, 1997, following the exposure of his background, Harrer contacted Simon Wiesenthal, a well-known researcher on Nazis, claiming that he had no close contact with the Nazis. but instead the latter had indeed approached him.

However, Harrer's former colleague and Austrian mountaineer Reinhold Messner refuted his assertions and said, "Harrer can in no way claim to be simply a follower, since no one was coerced into joining the Nazis in 1933." The fact remains, however, that Harrer did join the Nazis.

Yet another case in point is that Nazism was illegal in Austria in 1933. Ample documents indicate that Harrer associated himself with the Nazis at that time in an attempt to achieve a meteoric rise.

Harrer claimed that climbing the Eiger was a matter of personal interest, and that he in no way intended to please the Nazis, nor obtain Hitler's favor. However, according to Stern's report, Harrer exhibited great excitement as he was being received by Hitler after scaling the Eiger.

The report quoted Harrer as saying, "It was an estimable reward for us to meet and talk with the Fuehrer. We scaled the northern slope of Eiger, crossed the summit and reached the place wherein the Fuehrer lived."

Messner noted that Nazism was popular with mountaineers in Germany and Austria at that time having mountaineering backgrounds. The German-Austrian Mountaineering Association which Harrer joined was an organization clearly bearing the stamp of the Nazis.

According to an article in the Austrian weekly Wochenpresse, the major task of an expedition Nazi Germany sent to Tibet in 1939 was to investigate the possibility of establishing the region as a base for attacking the British troops stationed in India. The expedition's second major assignment was to verify Heinrich Himmler's Nazi racial theory that a group of pure-blooded Aryans had settled in Tibet.

The article pointed to the fact that Harrer had direct contacts with the expeditionaries. It noted that Harrer eventually managed to escape imprisonment and made his way to Tibet. His primary objective in going to Tibet was to get in touch with the expedition and continue his "special mission".

Harrer repeatedly disclaimed familiarity with members of the German expedition led by Schaefer. He attempted to demonstrate that he had nothing to do with the Nazis. However, Bruno Beger, an expedition member, said he and Harrer were good friends, and Harrer was an acquaintance of Schaefer.

Profil, the Austrian weekly, carried a later report revealing that Harrer obtained photos from members of the expedition to Tibet for a private exhibition, and that he had in turn published an album of Tibetan scenery in his own name.

The Heinrich Harrer Museum in Harrer's home town is known to house numerous exhibits of suspicious origin. Beger confirmed that the exhibits were collected by the German expedition prior to 1939.

Typical Opportunist

Harrer was an opportunist well versed in trimming his sails in addition to being good at gaining fame by deceiving the public.

Harrer joined the SA when the Nazi movement was just gaining momentum in Austria in the early 1930s. He betrayed his country and sought refuge with the German SS half a month after the Nazi invasion of Austria.

His pursuit of power and fame was rewarded with an eventual personal meeting with Hitler who promoted him to the rank of captain in the SS and ordered him to train an elite Nazi unit.

Harrer escaped from prison and fled to Tibet in 1944 rather than his home town. He arrived in Lhasa in 1946. Harrer got in touch with the 14th Dalai Lama and became his tutor. This particular period of experience in his life earned him the admiration of a select group of people in the West.

Harrer hurriedly fled Tibet in 1951, just after the arrival of the People's Liberation Army in 1950, and returned to Austria in 1952. That same year, Harrer, who was fully aware of the fact that his history as a Nazi would be exposed if he remained in Austria for a prolonged period, resettled in Lietchtenstein, a principality bordering on Switzerland. He lived there for several years.

Thereafter, he set about fabricating the book Seven Years in Tibet and dressed himself up as an "authoritative Tibetologist" and brave "hero" who dared engage in exploration.

Seven Years in Tibet, which was published in 1952 and has since been translated into 40-odd languages, has been widely distributed with sales exceeding 5 million copies.

Despite the fact that Harrer tutored the then 11-year-old Tibetan religious leader, the 14th Dalai Lama at first flatly denied the existence of an "intimate friendship" with Harrer. The Dalai's assertions that he had little, if any, impression of Harrer was a source of great disappointment to the latter.

Harrer and the 14th Dalai formed a shaky alliance in which each pursued his own interests. Harrer strengthened his position by claiming an intimate friendship with "the leader of Tibetan Buddhism". and the Dalai in turn looked to Austria as an ideal retreat.

Harrer's background was laid bare last May at a crucial stage in promoting sales of the movie. Brad Pitt, who plays the part of Harrer, announced that he would most likely have refused the part had he known of the protagonist's Nazi background.

Harrer's lawyer, a representative for the producer and the director reached a secret agreement in London to cope with the emergency situation. A minor revision in the movie added various plots which portrayed Harrer as, though having a relationship with the Nazis, resenting and disavowing the organization. The revisions drew a distinct line between Harrer and the Nazis.

The Dalai Lama faced a dilemma following the public disclosure of the scandal. On the one hand, he addressed the situation by consulting with the movie producer and director, and on the other attempted to cover up for Harrer and divert public attention.

Seven Years in Tibet was screened last October following repeated schemes and intrigues undertaken by Harrer and the Dalai Lama. Harrer did not attend the Los Angeles premiere due to the disclosure of his Nazi past, and the Dalai exhibited his lack of courage by failing to attend the Austrian premiere.

There is nothing strange that Harrer, a faithful Nazi, eulogized feudal serfdom and lavished praise on the Dalai Lama, the single largest owner of serfs in old Tibet. The perplexing aspect lies in the fact that Harrer managed to escape punishment despite his verified Nazi affiliation. Instead, he found favor in Hollywood, which meticulously established and vigorously promoted his "image".

Related efforts on the part of Hollywood enabled Harrer to gain great fame, a level of acclaim which he far from deserved. Despite the disclosure of Harrer's Nazi background and much to the surprise of many people, Hollywood continues to feature Harrer at center stage and even resorts to the clumsy trick of fabricating lies to camouflage his heinous past.

Seven Years in Tibet extols a notorious Nazi as a "hero" and induces people to admire an officer of the SS, which was dedicated to the destruction of mankind.

Extreme approaches of this nature, which blaspheme art and diametrically opposes the human spirit, lead people to believe that the movie producer and director totally lacked rationalism and conscientiousness, and cast doubts on the quality of Hollywood productions.


This article was published in March 1998 by the Beijing Review and distributed by China's Xinhua News Agency. I copied the article from http://dawning.iist.unu.edu/china/NewsAndReport/98Mar/c-news5e-2.html. I have made some improvements in the translation and added some hyperlinks. The original article in Chinese (simplified, GB code) can be found at http://dawning.iist.unu.edu/china/Tibet/98-1c.html.

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