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Michael BurleighAs the Indiana Jones films showed, Nazis, new age mumbo-jumbo and exotic locations are a formula that works. Christopher Hale's gripping and well-researched tale of an SS-sponsored scientific mission to Tibet in 1938-39 has the whole shebang: mad occult beliefs, mountains, strange characters called Bruno or Ernst and stomach-churning concentration camp experiments to round things off.
In 1935, the Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler founded an organisation called Ancestral Heritage to uncover the hidden past of an imaginary Aryan race he and his Führer regarded as the noblest and most vital force in human history. That fact that there had never been an Aryan race — a philological category (the Indo-Germanic language group) had been construed into a "people" — was no impediment to someone who also believed Aryans had been unleashed on the world after divine thunderbolts shattered the primordial ice in which they were imprisoned. Himmler was also pretty keen to find gold in the river Isar or a red horse with a white mane, but that need not detain us.
So Hale's book is a slippery-slope sort of story. Whether it will deter those who lap up books of a new age variety that draw on the same swamp as the Nazis seems over-optimistic, but Hale is certainly to be commended for immersing himself in it for so long.
— Sunday Times (U.K.)