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The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust [Hardcover]

Heather Pringle
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 2004
A groundbreaking history of the Nazi research institute whose work helped lead to the extermination of millions

In 1935, Heinrich Himmler established a Nazi research institute called The Ahnenerbe, whose mission was to send teams of scholars around the world to search for proof of Ancient Aryan conquests. But history was not their most important focus. Rather, the Ahnenerbe was an essential part of Himmler's master plan for the Final Solution. The findings of the institute were used to convince armies of SS men that they were entitled to slaughter Jews and other groups. And Himmler also hoped to use the research as a blueprint for the breeding of a new Europe in a racially purer mold.

The Master Plan is a groundbreaking expos of the work of German scientists and scholars who allowed their research to be warped to justify extermination, and who directly participated in the slaughter -- many of whom resumed their academic positions at war's end. It is based on Heather Pringle's extensive original research, including previously ignored archival material and unpublished photographs, and interviews with living members of the institute and their survivors. A sweeping history told with the drama of fiction, The Master Plan is at once horrifying, transfixing, and monumentally important to our comprehension of how something as unimaginable as the Holocaust could have progressed from fantasy to reality.


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From Publishers Weekly

Considering the thousands of volumes covering every aspect of the Nazis, it's becoming increasingly difficult to say anything new about their dreadful era. Nevertheless, Pringle (The Mummy Congress), a contributing editor to Discover magazine, gamely steps up to the plate—and has produced a fascinating volume detailing the Nazis' crackpot theories about prehistory and the Indiana Jones–style lengths they went to prove them. Employing a team of researchers, Pringle investigates Heinrich Himmler's private think tank, the Ahnenerbe, which dispatched scholars to the most inhospitable and distant parts of the world to discover evidence of ancient Aryan conquests and the Germans' racial superiority. Some believed their own bizarre garbage; others perverted the facts for personal advancement or prostituted their reputations for the greater glory of Hitler. While it would be otherwise easy to laugh off the Ahnenerbe's ludicrous theories, Pringle argues that the institute provided the "academic" justification for the Holocaust and assembles a powerful body of evidence to that effect. Though one may wonder just how central the Ahnenerbe actually was to Hitler's thinking, when Pringle meets one of the most sinister of Himmler's scholars, his pride about the institute's "research" is distinctly disquieting. This is first-rate popular history—supported by an immense amount of scholarly apparatus in a range of languages. (Feb. 15)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

As Pringle relates, in 1935 Heinrich Himmler and a small group of associates founded an elite Nazi research institute, the Ahnenerbe. Its purpose was to unearth evidence of the accomplishments of Germany's ancestors as far back as the Stone Age and to convey these findings to the German public through magazine articles, books, museum shows, and scientific conferences. In reality, Pringle points out, the organization "was in the business of myth-making," distorting the truth and churning out carefully tailored evidence to support the ideas of Adolf Hitler. Himmler, head of the Gestapo and the SS, housed the institute in one of Berlin's grand villas and equipped it with laboratories, libraries, and workshops. Pringle examined the microfilm collection of captured German documents at the National Archives and Records Administration in Maryland, the original Ahnenerbe files in Berlin, and 27 other German archives, as well as archives in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Poland, and Britain, and library collections in Iceland and Russia. The result of this copious research is another almost unbelievable chapter in the sordid history of the Holocaust. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hardly a Star-Studded Master Plan! Nov. 21 2007
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Pringle's probe into the behind-the-scene's operations of Nazidom proves one thing: the assylum was definitely being run by crackpots who were more obsessed with fantasy than influenced by reality. Nowhere in this account did the so-called blueprint for establishing an Aryan nation ever make sense. Himmler's ludicrous attempts to form the Abnerebe agency to establish the historical roots of Germanic superiority as proof of world dominance utterly failed. The cast of scientists and anthropologists working for him were either as deluded as he was or outright charlatans bent on exploiting the Reich to further their own careers. Pringle does a very effective job in profiling many of these dubious characters like Altheim, Sievers, Wirth, and Beger who pursued all kinds of theories as to the proof of Germanic descendancy. Some of their ill-fated searches took them into surrounding countries looking for archaeological evidence of a Master Race lying dormant in some hidden corner of the globe. The story takes a real sinister twist, when Himmler commissions, through the Abnerebe organization, biological experiments on Jews from the Auschwitz camp. Overall, a very informative and intelligent study on some of the creepier aspects of Nazism.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master Plan has awesome research. Buy it ! March 18 2006
Format:Hardcover
The book "The Master Plan : Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust" by Heather Pringle contains some rare and scholarly research.
Considering the tons of paper covering every aspect of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, it should be increasingly difficult to say anything new about their horrid era, but the author shows much. There are also some gaping holes about new discoveries.
For example, Master Plan front cover shows instruction regarding the swastika symbol, yet the book's interior seems unaware of recent discoveries regarding the swastika.
Originally, the swastika could point left or right and was usually flat on one side as if drawn within a square. Eventually, new uses tended to point the swastika to the right and also turned it 45 degrees to the horizontal, to highlight the swastika' "S" shapes. Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, Professor Curry discovered that it was also used sometimes by German National Socialists to represent "S" letters for their "socialism." Curry changed the way that people view the symbol of the horrid National Socialist German Workers' Party. The leader of the German National Socialists altered his own signature to use the same stylized "S" letter for "socialist" and similar alphabetic symbolism still shows on Volkswagens. http://rexcurry.net/book1a1contents-swastika.html There may be a reason for such oversights.
One reason for such oversights is that many authors make the mistake of overuse of the common shorthand term for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The overuse is so bad that it causes them to overlook more mundane explanations for the behavior of German socialists.
Dr.
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2 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master Plan has awesome research. Buy it ! March 18 2006
Format:Hardcover
The book "The Master Plan : Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust" by Heather Pringle contains some rare and scholarly research.
Considering the tons of paper covering every aspect of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, it should be increasingly difficult to say anything new about their horrid era, but the author shows much. There are also some gaping holes about new discoveries.
For example, Master Plan front cover shows instruction regarding the swastika symbol, yet the book's interior seems unaware of recent discoveries regarding the swastika.
Originally, the swastika could point left or right and was usually flat on one side as if drawn within a square. Eventually, new uses tended to point the swastika to the right and also turned it 45 degrees to the horizontal, to highlight the swastika' "S" shapes. Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, Professor Curry discovered that it was also used sometimes by German National Socialists to represent "S" letters for their "socialism." Curry changed the way that people view the symbol of the horrid National Socialist German Workers' Party. The leader of the German National Socialists altered his own signature to use the same stylized "S" letter for "socialist" and similar alphabetic symbolism still shows on Volkswagens. http://rexcurry.net/book1a1contents-swastika.html There may be a reason for such oversights.
One reason for such oversights is that many authors make the mistake of overuse of the common shorthand term for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The overuse is so bad that it causes them to overlook more mundane explanations for the behavior of German socialists.
Dr.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Master Plan has awesome research. Buy it ! March 18 2006
Format:Hardcover
The book "The Master Plan : Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust" by Heather Pringle contains some rare and scholarly research.
Considering the tons of paper covering every aspect of the National Socialist German Workers' Party, it should be increasingly difficult to say anything new about their horrid era, but the author shows much. There are also some gaping holes about new discoveries.
For example, Master Plan front cover shows instruction regarding the swastika symbol, yet the book's interior seems unaware of recent discoveries regarding the swastika.
Originally, the swastika could point left or right and was usually flat on one side as if drawn within a square. Eventually, new uses tended to point the swastika to the right and also turned it 45 degrees to the horizontal, to highlight the swastika' "S" shapes. Although the swastika was an ancient symbol, Professor Curry discovered that it was also used sometimes by German National Socialists to represent "S" letters for their "socialism." Curry changed the way that people view the symbol of the horrid National Socialist German Workers' Party. The leader of the German National Socialists altered his own signature to use the same stylized "S" letter for "socialist" and similar alphabetic symbolism still shows on Volkswagens. [...] There may be a reason for such oversights.
One reason for such oversights is that many authors make the mistake of overuse of the common shorthand term for the National Socialist German Workers' Party. The overuse is so bad that it causes them to overlook more mundane explanations for the behavior of German socialists.
Dr. Curry also showed that many modern myths about swastikas use the false belief that German socialists called their symbol a "swastika.
Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this one July 7 2006
By S. M. H. Klauber - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
There are two recent books that touch on this subject. Ms. Pringle's and Christpher Hale's "Himmler's Crusade". Hale's book is about the expedition to Tibet, which also occupies a large part of this book. Even so, go with this one. Ms. Pringle is an excellent researcher and writes very well. She avoids veering off and making mistakes about military affairs, a major weakness in Hale's book. In addition, this book goes beyond the Tibet expedition (a fascinating subject) and takes up additional matters regarding the group set up by the SS to examine racial-biological-political issues. If you have an interest in Himmler or the SS, you won't be sorry you read this book.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Real-Life Nazis out of Indiana Jones Movies June 13 2006
By Ken McCormick - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Heather Pringle has done the world a service by producing a well-written account of the "science" produced by scholars working for the SS. The book is fascinating. Like all good history, it contains lessons for the modern world: 1. It is dangerous to mix politics and science, and 2. Even "smart" people can convince themselves of almost anything, especially if it will win them credit with powerful people. Unfortunately, as one looks around the world, the same willingness to ignore facts for the sake of ideology is still rampant. I wish more people would read Ms. Pringle's book.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended April 25 2006
By N. Perz - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While everyone knows something of the Nazi medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners, I did not appreciate the extent to which other areas of science were twisted and corrupted to serve Nazi ideology. It's sad to see the extent to which presumably intelligent people, professionals in their field, abandoned all the rigors of logic and the scientific method to satisfy their own preconceptions. "The Master Plan" is a fresh perspective on the Nazi abuse of science (especially archeology) in the furtherance of their favored (and, for the most part, bizarre) racial and historical theories. This is the only study of the Ahnenerbe (the elite Nazi research institute created by Himmler) that I've ever seen. The writing is a touch dry but the subject matter is compelling. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the Nazi period.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Groundbreaking and a good read indeed May 13 2007
By Lars Gyllenhaal - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is not the first book about the mysterious branch of the SS called "Ahnenerbe". But it is the most well-written one and also the first book to present all the amazing Ahnenerbe expeditions abroad. These expeditions bring Indiana Jones to mind but are far more interesting than the "Indy" movies, as they took place in real life.

As Ahnenerbe was to a great extent about motivating the pagan faith of the SS leader Heinrich Himmler and many early SS-officers the book is also about the relationship of the SS to the major religions. Both to buddhism (therefore the fascination with Tibet), hinduism (with its "Aryan" side), Islam (two SS divisions were largely Muslim) and Christianity (incompatible with true SS spirit according to Himmler).

Had Nazi Germany been victorious the SS would have dropped its wartime acceptance of Christianity and would have worked hard on replacing Christianity with its brand of pagan faith. "The Master Plan" gives a really fascinating insight into what was actually done in the SS to promote the new/ancient faith, and what the SS planned to do about religion, had the SS won.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! May 27 2006
By vtel57 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In the bright daylight of modern day it's with some difficulty that one attempts to comprehend the horrendously monstrous things that the Nazi regime perpetrated against some of their fellow human beings. Everyone has read books or stories about the Nazi atrocities committed against the Jewish people, but Ms. Pringle's highly researched book really delves deeper into the "Final Solution" of the Third Reich and details the acts of the upper echelon of scientists and scholars involved in it.

All through this book I was wondering what could motivate seemingly "normal" people to devise and even participate in these terrible events? This even seems to be the author's final question about her own research. Probably the most striking thing about these events and the people involved in them is the fact that so many got away cleanly and continued to live normal everyday lives, some even going on to great accomplishments in academia.

For anyone interested in the WWII era or interested in the true underlying framework behind the Holocaust, I cannot more strongly recommend Ms. Pringle's book. Even for those like myself who have researched this area of history extensively, one can still be shocked by the almost unbelievably heinous motivations and actions of those who actually carried out the "Final Solution".
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