By Chris Hale
In 1938, nearly at the eve of battle, a Nazi excursion set out via British India on a undertaking backed via Himmler himself.
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My debt to all these authors is considerable and I hope they will forgive me for not footnoting every reference. The bibliography on Nazism, the Second World War and the Holocaust is, of course, vast in English and German. The Schäfer Expedition itself left behind a tremendous quantity of documentation which few had examined let alone translated. To tell the story that follows, I needed to work across a Himalaya of German documents – and I would like to thank, especially, Diana Jasmin Böhmer, who waded through Ernst Schäfer’s rather turgid narratives and answered endless questions about the precise interpretation of numerous other documents with an unquenchable supply of good humour, intelligence and commitment.
Beneath their restlessly signalling arms, a new German capital is being conjured from concrete, marble, glass and steel. Glittering new façades ripple down Friedrichstrasse and Unter den Linden. Cherished monuments from better times before Hitler are lovingly restored, even rebuilt. The old, divided Berlin of the Cold War with its fractured topography is slowly and surely being smoothed and soothed away. There are places in Berlin that stubbornly resist this crossing out, where memory still clings to walls and burrows beneath rubble or lurks in forgotten cellars.
In the United States, Andrew Zimmerman provided authoritative guidance on the history of German anthropology and answered my very frequent queries. In Philadelphia the staff in the library of the Academy of Natural Sciences was consistently supportive. In New York, Hope Cook, the former wife of the late Chogyal of Sikkim, provided wisdom and all kinds of contacts. Jacqueline Hiltz shared her knowledge of Sikkim and its history, pointed me towards the Sikkim National Archives in Gangtok and sent me her notes on the material held in the Archives concerning Schäfer’s friend Kaiser Thapa.