The Master Plan

Heather Pringle

What happens when science falls prey to a political agenda?

Prehistory, according to Heinrich Himmler, must be rewritten. Himmler, the chief of the SS and architect of the Nazi network of death camps, was obsessed with rewriting history. He was convinced that archaeologists had long ignored the great accomplishments of ancient Germanic peoples. Himmler believed that Germany’s ancestors – the tall, blue-eyed, blond-haired Aryans – had evolved not in the savannahs of Africa with the rest of humanity, but in the icy barrens of the Arctic. There, refined and distilled by natural selection in a bitter land, they had become an invincible master race. But some 12,000 years ago, theorised Himmler, a natural cataclysm shook the earth, decimating the scattered Aryan colonies and now, only in select parts of the world – most notably northern Europe – did some true Aryan blood remain.

Himmler’s history was pure fiction, but his conviction was unshakable. In 1935 he founded the ‘Ahnenerbe’ – a research institute to manufacture archaeological evidence for political purposes – appointed himself president, and set about recruiting a bizarre mix of adventurers, mystics, careerists and reputable archaeologists to help write a new chapter in the ancient history of the Aryan race. Expeditions were sent out to Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Greenland and beyond, each backed by the power of the Third Reich to realise this bizarre scientific dream.

‘The Master Plan’ is also an exposé of the German scientists and scholars who allowed their research to be used to justify extermination – many of whom resumed their academic positions at war’s end.

Intensely compelling and comprehensively researched, ‘The Master Plan’ is a story of delusion and excess; of scientific and political abuse on a global scale. It has all the energy of an adventure, but also the chilling truth of a terrifying episode in 20th-century history.

Reviews of The Master Plan

    • ‘Do we really need yet another book on the Nazis? The answer, it turns out, is yes. Heather Pringle’s engrossing book, “The Master Plan”, explores a little-known corner of Nazi history: the story of the Ahnenerbe. Pringle’s eye for detail means that “The Master Plan” is rich in such bizarre characters, ridiculous theories and colourful anecdotes. Massively researched and engagingly written.’ Daily Telegraph
    • ‘Pringle has delved diligently on her own account into this murky corner of Nazi history. Her conclusions are grim, and her message is deeply disturbing. I closed the book with the nagging feeling that what Churchill called in a famous speech Nazism’s “perverted science” may still be with us today.’ Nigel Jones, Sunday Times
    • ‘The real strength of Pringle’s book lies in her close description of the few major overseas expeditions mounted by the Ahnenerbe. This is virgin territory, where she has been able to dig up a good deal of new material. The stories have that Indiana Jones ring to them.’ Literary Review