Strategies of Attrition (II)


LHASA/BEIJING/BERLIN (Own report) - German politicians have announced an escalation of the chancellor's Tibet offensive. According to comments made by the Prime Minister of Hesse, Roland Koch (CDU), Angela Merkel's meeting with the Dalai Lama is only the beginning of large scale interference into China's internal affairs, that also should incite other Western states to give up their reservations. Berlin considers the moment particularly favorable for activities to weaken Beijing, because as the host of next year's Olympic games, the People's Republic is restricted in its capacity to retaliate. Berlin's Tibet activities are part of a cross party general consensus and are in line with old traditions of German foreign policy, that, already in the 1930s and 1940s, considered Lhasa as an important base for interfering in Central Asia. The German-Tibetan contacts, that were established at the time, have not only outlived World War II, but are still functioning today, as reports in the second part of its series focused on strategies of attrition.

The Free World

Soon "other state and political leaders will follow the chancellor's example and intensify their support for the Dalai Lama's non-violent struggle for more autonomy in Tibet," declared the Prime Minister of Hesse, Roland Koch (CDU) [1] only one day after Beijing rescinded its cancellation of a bilateral foreign ministers' meeting, showing it was willing to relent after Germany's affront on September 23.[2] Koch declared, that the Chinese government has "to realize", that "the free world is not prepared to forget or conceal the situation of the Tibetan people."[3] It would become "more difficult", to exclude "the human rights question" from the discussion on the Olympics. So-called NGOs, among them the "Reporters Without Borders" are launching campaigns accordingly. Their activists are organizing demonstrations in Beijing and have excellent connections to the media in Germany. This organization is known for similar campaigns against the Cuban government and does not deny to have received subventions from US-Sources.[4]


The government's Tibet policy is supported across party lines in Germany. Among the Dalai Lama's sympathizers since the 1980s are Roland Koch, (CDU), as well as many in the Green party and since the early 1990s, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, closely affiliated with the liberal FDP Party. Ethnic minority group ("Volksgruppen") experts, trained in German ethnic models, from the Germanophonic Northern Italian "South Tyrol", are counseling the Tibetan "exile government" on questions of "autonomy" ( reported).[5] Berlin's interference in Tibet is following, above all, the traditions of German policy, which already back in the 1930s and 1940s considered Lhasa to be an important base in Central Asia. At the time, scientists or so-called scientists made expeditions into the conflict-ridden western regions of China. The Soviet Union and Great Britain (via India) were also trying to gain influence. Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang (Eastern Turkestan) and Tibet were the targets.

Caucasian Racial Element

The zoologist Ernst Schaefer was one of the first protagonists of the German Tibet research. In 1931/32 and from 1934 to 1936 he participated in two German-American Tibet expeditions. In recognition of his services for zoological research in this area, he was promoted to SS-Obersturmführer. In 1938/39 he led a third expedition: "Tibet expedition Ernst Schaefer. Under the patronage of Reichsführer SS Himmler and in connection with Ahnenerbe (ancestral heritage) e.V Berlin".[6] The search for traces of the "Aryan race" in the Tibetan mountains was one of the important objectives of the SS and "Ahnenerbe" expedition. A few years later, Bruno Beger, one of the participants in the expedition, announced, that he had recognized a "Caucasian racial element in the Tibetan nobility". This is how the Nazi racists justified their efforts to use Lhasa as their base in Asia.

"Friendship, Mister Hitler"

The 1938/39 Tibet expedition established the first contacts between the governments in Berlin and Lhasa. "Under the slogan of the ‘meeting of the western and eastern swastika' [7] political contacts with the Tibetan government could be made in Lhasa", according to an analysis of the Tibet research during the Nazi period.[8] As they left for home in the summer of 1939, Ernst Schaefer and his colleagues received a letter from the Tibetan leader, in which he declared that Schaefer had sought to establish closer ties between the government of Berlin and Lhasa: "Your Excellency, King Mister Hitler, we agree (...) with your desire for mutual friendship." The Tibetan government's effort to become more independent from the British colonial power was the motive behind this rapprochement.[9]

"A Little Sabotage"

The subsequent Tibet expedition targeted London and was discussed in Berlin on September 4, 1939, one day after Great Britain entered the war. Ernst Schaefer, Bruno Beger and the Foreign Ministry participated in this discussion. They decided to send 30 officers of the SS to Tibet, under Schaefer's command, with enough weapons to arm 1000 to 2000 militias, that they planned to recruit to fight against (British) India. Schaefer was ordered to receive training in the "SS-Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler". "If you have to solve a military problem, you have to first be trained and educated as a solider", is how the "Reichsführer SS" Heinrich Himmler explained the scientist's re-education: "A little sabotage and explosions won't do the job."[10] But these plans conflicted with plans to weaken British positions in Asia with the aid of Afghan allies, and were finally dropped because of inter-ministerial disputes in Berlin.

"Pan Mongolian" Vassal

German plans for Tibet became topical for the last time, during the Nazi rule. in 1942. Impressed by the Wehrmacht's advance on Soviet territory, Himmler ordered the "total exploration of the Central Asian vital living space ("Lebensraum")".[11] When, in the summer of 1942, Japanese troops advanced into the region bordering Tibet, they encountered a German ally in Lhasa - the Dalai Lama. The god-king's camarilla was hoping to disengage itself from Chinese, Soviet Russian and British influence and to eternalize the Tibetan feudal dictatorship. The goal was to create a "Pan-Mongolian Federation" - under the leadership of the Third Reich and Japan.[12]

Skull Collection

Germany's endeavors both for Mongolia, as well as its activities in Tibet outlasted the war. Ernst Schaefer's collaborator, Helmut Hoffmann, became professor at the Munich University, where he set "the scientific standards for the German Tibetology".[13] In 1952, Bruno Beger set out on his next Tibet expedition. Until 1943, the same Bruno Beger pursued "Mongol research" in the Auschwitz death camp and assembled a "collection of Asian skulls".[14] In 1994, he was the Dalai Lama's official guest in London.[15] He also maintained good contacts to another protagonist of German Tibet activities: Heinrich Harrer, who had also been an SS Central Asian activist.[16] He visited Lhasa for the first time between 1946 and 1950, where he worked as a teacher of the incumbent Dalai Lama. He has written several books on Tibet, which are still popular in Germany. When the Green Party began to reactivate German Tibet policy in the 1980s, they also used his writings.[17]

Centrifugal Forces

The mixture of ethnic ingredients containing obviously racist elements and trivial concepts about religious life in the Far East, is now being enriched with "questions of human rights", which serve the German geopolitical expansion policy. As in the past, the object is to use Tibet against the Chinese central state and the centrifugal forces of dozens of nationalities to wear down Beijing from the interior.

In the next sequence of this series focusing on strategies of attrition, will expose German and Japanese plans to include Mongolian allies in a joint policy against China.

[1] Koch: Weitere Staatschefs werden Dalai Lama unterstützen; Der Tagesspiegel 26.09.2007
[2] see also Strategies of Attrition (I)
[3] Koch: Weitere Staatschefs werden Dalai Lama unterstützen; Der Tagesspiegel 26.09.2007
[4] Les mensonges de Reporters sans Fronitères;
[5] see also Strategies of Attrition (I)
[6] Reinhard Greve: Tibetforschung im SS-Ahnenerbe, in: Lebenslust und Fremdenfurcht. Ethnologie im Dritten Reich, herausgegeben von Thomas Hauschild, Frankfurt am Main 1995
[7] In Tibet sowie weiteren Staaten Asiens wird das Hakenkreuz traditionell als religiöses Symbol verwendet. Eine politische Bedeutung ist damit nicht verbunden.
[8] Reinhard Greve: Tibetforschung im SS-Ahnenerbe, in: Lebenslust und Fremdenfurcht. Ethnologie im Dritten Reich, herausgegeben von Thomas Hauschild, Frankfurt am Main 1995
[9], [10] Peter Mierau: Nationalsozialistische Expansionspolitik. Deutsche Asien-Expeditionen 1933-1945, München 2006
[11], [12] Reinhard Greve: Tibetforschung im SS-Ahnenerbe, in: Lebenslust und Fremdenfurcht. Ethnologie im Dritten Reich, herausgegeben von Thomas Hauschild, Frankfurt am Main 1995
[13] Peter Mierau: Nationalsozialistische Expansionspolitik. Deutsche Asien-Expeditionen 1933-1945, München 2006
[14] Im KZ Auschwitz selektierte Beger über 80 Häftlinge, die anschließend in das KZ Struthof verschleppt und dort für eine Skelettsammlung getötet wurden.
[15] SS-Offizier Bruno Beger;
[16] Heinrich Harrer trat 1938 von der SA zur SS über und nahm 1939 an der deutschen Nanga Parbat-Expedition teil. 1939 geriet er in britische Gefangenschaft, konnte 1944 fliehen und erreichte im Januar 1946 Lhasa, wo er schließlich Lehrer des heutigen Dalai Lama wurde.
[17] vgl. z.B. den Sammelband "Tibet - ein vergewaltigtes Land", den Petra Kelly und Gert Bastian, beide Bundestagsabgeordnete der "Grünen", 1988 herausgaben.