The article Hero With the Stain of Nazi, published in the May 28 issue of Germany's Star weekly, has revealed files of the 14th Dalai Lama's former teacher Heinrich Harrer proving that Harrer was a Nazi in hiding for more than half a century.
Earlier, disputes over whether Harrer, originally from Austria, might have a Nazi background frequently sparked public attention. But there previously was a lack of documentary basis and Harrer denied he had anything to do with Nazism.
The article reports that Harrer's original files have now been found in Berlin's federal archives. They consist of 80 pages and include such information as: Heinrich Harrer, born July 6, 1912,joined the Nazi Party on May 1, 1938, membership No.6307081, 38th unit of Schutz-Staffel (SS) with designation 73896.
In the files were biographical notes written by Harrer, indicating he began working with the SS on April 1, 1938, and that in October 1933 he worked for the SA, Hitler's second terrorist organization, which was illegal in Austria at the time. Among the notes was a certificate photograph showing a Nazi symbol on the collar of his uniform.
The article states that after learning of the discovery of his files, Harrer at first denied their authenticity, declaring he had never filled an application form to join the SS or any similar group. Later, after being confronted with the evidence, he replied: "I also have something to show off."
The Star article includes a photograph of Harrer being received by Hitler after he climbed Mount Eiger in 1938. In the book Capturing the North Slope of Mount Eiger, published by the Central Publishing House of the Nazi Party the same year, Harrer described his excitement: "Being able to see and talk with the head of state simply is an inestimable award for us. We climbed the north slope of Eiger Mountain, crossed the highest peak and reached the headquarters of the head of state."
In response to the photograph, Harrer said: "Must I know Hitler was a criminal in advance?"
Berlin's historians and Hans Heinrich William, an expert on studies of the SS, authenticated Harrer's files for the Star.
The publication noted: "Harrer is a man with a Nazi history obviously never investigated. He easily rose to the status of a superstar."
Harrer's book Seven Years in Tibet has been translated into more than 40 languages and has been read by an estimated 50 million people. The book earned him a reputation as a "human rights judge."
Hollywood's recent decision to spend a huge sum of money to make the book into a film has led to the hero-like praise of Harrer in the Western world. After learning that his Nazi history had been exposed, Harrer said of the film: "We knew this wonderful film would bring us some trouble."
The fact is that the former Nazi follower fled to Lhasa and became the 14th Dalai Lama's teacher in 1946 after Germany's defeat in the Second World War. So it is logical to ask whether Harrer's Nazi background exerted certain influences on the 14th Dalai Lama, who was 11 years old at the time and under Harrer's guidance.
The Nazi fascists brought great suffering to the world. Their savagery and cruel infringements on human rights were unique in human history.
Should we regard this follower of those who committed towering crimes against humanity a hero or guardian of human rights? Should Hollywood sing songs in praise of Nazis?
(This article appears on page 35, No. 40, 1997)