WW2 horror: How fabled island of Atlantis played central role in Nazi ideology

Mass grave uncovered that remained Nazi secret

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The fabled land mass was first described by the Greek philosopher Plato. In his texts, ‘Timaeus’ and ‘Critias’, he describes an antagonistic naval power that beiges ‘Ancient Athens’ from the island. While only a brief noting, the weight that Atlantis has had on literature and popular culture has endured for thousands of years.

This has mostly been through fiction and film.

It found another use during the rise of Nazi Germany, when it was adopted for more sinister means.

The Nazis held Atlantis as the justification for their horrific ideology: that an Aryan super race had once existed and was destined to dominate the world.

The chilling episode in history was explored during the Smithsonian Channel’s documentary, ‘Sacred sites: Nazi Myths’.

In the heart of Bremen in northern Germany stands an extraordinary building: House Atlantis.

Completed in 1931, it was designed as an institute for the study of Atlantis and the Aryan super race.

The building’s facade was originally adorned by a large wooden sculpture depicting the Nordic god Odin crucified on the Tree of Life.

Inside House Atlantis, an astonishing stairwell welcomes visitors, built of glass and steel, with researchers suggesting its structure if intended to “evoke the Aryan Exodus from Atlantis”.

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At the top, visitors enter a mysterious room known as the ‘Heaven’s Hall’, once the teaching forum for the “twisted ideologies” of Herman Wirth.

Matthias Loeber, a historian at Bremerhaven Museum, said: “Herman Wirth was quite fascinated by the idea of finding Atlantis.

“His idea was that this Atlantis was not in the Mediterranean or somewhere like that, but in the North Atlantic region.

“In his idea, in Atlantis, 20 to 25,000 years ago, the Nordic race was created that was to control and influence the development of mankind to a strong degree.”

The highest echelons of Nazi power in Germany soon paid attention to Wirth’s pseudo-history research.

In 1935, Heinrich Himmler, a leading member of the Nazi Party, joined forces with him to establish the Ahnenerbe.


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This was an elite SS unit consisting of archaeologists, scientists and historians tasked with searching the sacred sites of the world for evidence that the Aryans of Atlantis were not mythological.

Mr Loeber explained: “As head of the SS Himmler was fascinated by the idea of proving the supremacy of the Nordic race and was the strongest supporter of archaeologists researching prehistoric grounds.”

Among the sites the Ahnenerbe focused their attention on was the Externsteine, a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest in North Rhine-Westphalia.

A major excavation began, overseen by Wilhelm Teudt.

Their mission was to prove that the Externsteine was used for sacred rituals by Nordic German descendants of the Aryans, thousands of years before it became a Christian sacred site.

An archaeologist speaking during the documentary explained: “During the search for the Germanic Nordic roots, the Externsteine comes to symbolise pure German heritage.

“The excavations at the Externsteine become Himmler’s pet project.”

Himmler went on to send Ahnenerbe teams across the world to hunt for proof of the German people’s Aryan origins.

But modern research is proving that the Nazi theories were fundamentally flawed.

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