By Fiona Govan in Madrid
April 14, 2008
Spanish archaeologists collaborated with the Nazis in their attempts to prove the theory of Aryan supremacy and justify their claims of racial superiority over the Jews, according to a new book.
Scientists from the Ahnenerbe, an institute set up by Heinrich Himmler and funded by the SS, planned to travel to the Atlantic islands to carry out research but were forced to postpone the project when war broke out in September 1939. They appointed archaeologist Julio Martinez Santa Olalla, a friend of the dictator General Franciso Franco, to conduct investigations on their behalf.
The extent of the collaboration between Franco’s archaeologists and those in Nazi Germany has been revealed in a new book by Francisco Gracia Alonso, professor of history at the University of Barcelona. Prof Gracia reveals the close relationship between Santa Olalla and the Ahnenerbe, which was founded to investigate "the science of ancient intellectual history".
Himmler’s organisation sent German scholars around the world to discover the roots of the Aryan race, leading them to examine Bronze Age carvings in Sweden, forgotten folk customs in Finland and even to Tibet to explore claims that Buddha himself was of Aryan descent.
Its scientists were occupied in searching for such legendary objects as Thor’s Hammer and the Holy Grail but were also responsible for carrying out medical experiments on Jews in concentration camps. The Ahnenerbe’s findings were used to justify Hitler’s belief that true Germans were descended from an Aryan ideal. Prof Gracia believes that the Spanish fascists had expressed interest in setting up a similar unit under Franco, following his victory in the Spanish Civil War.
The book has uncovered evidence that Himmler’s unit funded Spanish excavations, providing expensive photographic equipment and lending aircraft to carry out aerial surveys of sites. Plans were laid for joint excavations of Visigoth sites on mainland Spain and on the Canary Islands where the Nazis hoped to find evidence of an ancestral race of Aryans.
The theory had been a favourite of the first head of the Ahnenerbe, Herman Wirth, who propounded that the islands were remnants of Atlantis.