/ Henrich Harrer RIP
Sad indeed. The White Spider is a great legacy.
which continent are you on, DW need to know if its worth giving you a call ?
Politics aside (and will we ever learn the truth?), he was a great mountaineer for his time.
I'm actually at home (for a change). Just spoken to DW.
Happy New Year (hope we can meet sometime in 2006).
Love to Family
The White Spider was the first mountaineering book I read. Its definitely been influential in shaping my ambitions. I know a little of the WW2 stuff and not enough to draw a conclusion.
The book is deeply touching and his strengths as an individual are undoubted.
Time marches on.
Seven Years In Tibet, for me, was one of those never to be forgotten reads. An amazing story.
I also feel that the only people who can criticise anything he may or may not have done politically under the Nazi regime are people who lived through similar experiences to him at the same time in the same place. It's very easy to adopt the moral highground when you live in a free society.
VIENNA (Reuters) - Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, whose life was portrayed in his book and the film "Seven Years in Tibet," died on Saturday aged 93, Austrian officials said in a statement.
He was the first person to climb the north face of Switzerland's Eiger mountain in 1938, but won world renown after his book, the film version of which was directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud and starred Brad Pitt.
Harrer was taken prisoner by British forces in 1944 during an expedition in the Himalayas but escaped and fled over the mountain range to Tibet.
He struck up a close friendship with the Dalai Lama when staying at the Tibetan capital of Lhasa from 1946 to 1951, before China annexed the country.
Following media reports, Harrer admitted in the 1990s he had been a member of the Nazi party.
Harrer was admitted to hospital two days ago in Friesach in southern Austria. There were no details of the cause of death.
and a link to the BBC report.
Both his books were very inspirational - great climber and great writer, and 93 is a fine innings when you've lived a life as full as his, so lets not be sad.
As to the Nazi stuff, I reckon he was more involved than he claimed, but its understandable that he'd regret and try to downplay his involvement. The only reason it made the headlines is China's determination to undermine the Dalai Lama.
Sad news indeed.
Did he carry on climbing after his return from Tibet?
the White Spider is my among my most cherished books, have read it numerous times but always with a sense of awe, and feel inspired afterwards
he was an inspirational charachter on the world stage
> As to the Nazi stuff, I reckon he was more involved than he claimed, but its understandable that he'd regret and try to downplay his involvement.
His admission may have been prompted by the determination and persistence of some people rather closer to home , actually (not least Messner). And did he say anywhere that he regretted it?
Not criticising, as it would have been very easy for anyone, especially of his age, to be caught up in the whirlwind of National Socialism, and it would be somewhat crass to look back and say that you wouldn't have done so yourself. But the White Spider is rather full of the romantic zeitgeist. And the Tibetan episode is somewhat in keeping, given the dreamings of Himmler et al about the near-supernatural Aryan antecedents in Tibet.
> Not criticising, as it would have been very easy for anyone, especially of his age, to be caught up in the whirlwind of National Socialism, and it would be somewhat crass to look back and say that you wouldn't have done so yourself.
I agree National Socialism was heady stuff for a young man growing up in a country crushed but not militarily defeated by the Great War Armisice which had left the country in a terrible financial state facing impossible and humiliating reparation demands by the Entente. It would have been tempting to have embraced the Nationalistic fervour whilst choosing to ignore the racist excesses. I suspect he did what most elite sportsman would have done - worked the system to enable him to pursue his sport at the highest level.
Just my 2P, Paul
Just as an aside, it was quite common and sometimes mandatory for young men in Italy and Germany to join the Facist and Nazi parties. My father-in-law was forced to join the Facist youth party (mountain division) although he and his family despised the Facists.
It took Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter two years to cross 65 mountain passes to Lhasa
He spent the war in an internment camp and then Tibet, having spent a matter of weeks in the SS at the behest of Hitler - to be fair to the guy if Hitler asks you to be a member then you're not exactly in a position to say no - I suspect he would have found himself in a prison or concentration camp rather quickly had he not. At that point in time climbing was still a very nationalistic pastime (e.g. Britain claimed the ascent of everest when it was actually a Kiwi and Sherpa) and the Eiger Nordwand was the most pretigious mountaineering acomplishment in history - of course the Germans and especially their propoganda machine were going to seize upon it as an example of their superiority. Again I can't imagine he would have had much choice in the matter.
As for belonging to the Hitler Youth it was the equivalent of scouts - it doesn't mean he believed in their preechings do it?
The alegations against him are rather more serious than that. He was Austrian and is alleged to have joined the Nazi party at a time when membership was illegal in Austria. His decision to join the SS does seem more oppurtunistic, and I'd be very suprised if his motivations in going to either Nanga Parbat or Tibet had anything to do with Himmler's more whacky views
HUTTENBERG, July 2, Austria--(ENTERTAINMENT WIRE)--July 2, 1997--In
response to inquiries from the media concerning his membership in Nazi
organizations during the 1930s, the famous Austrian mountaineer and
explorer Heinrich Harrer issued the following statement from his home in
A number of stories have appeared recently in the media reporting on my
involvement with Nazi organizations some 60 years ago. Many of the facts
cited in these stories are true. It is the implications in many of the
reports that are in error.
I was a member of the SS for a limited period in 1938 after I had gained
national attention in Germany for my feat as one of four climbers of the
Eiger North Face (the first to accomplish this famous climbing challenge in
the Alps), I was asked to join the SS as an athletic instructor and agreed.
I was issued an SS uniform at that time. As it turned out, I did not give a
single lesson in my teaching capacity due to my participation in an
expedition to India. I wore the uniform only once -- at the time of my
wedding in December 1938, which was heavily publicized by the government.
Other than this involvement, I had a purely ceremonial group picture taken
with Hitler and other officials during a 1938 sports festival in Breslau
which was cut to show just the two of us when published recently. I was
never a member of the SA.
Thus, though the facts concerning these events of 60 years ago are
generally accurate, any implications that these facts indicate I was a
dedicated Nazi supporter or was involved in any way in the heinous crimes
of the Hitler period are totally false. First, the events in question took
place in my youth and I was then interested in athletics - mountain
climbing and skiing - and not in politics. Second, my association with the
SS was very brief. I departed on the expedition to India in early 1939 and
did not return to Austria until 1952.
My life in that 1939-1952 period is the subject of my book "Seven Years in
Tibet" which has been made into a movie scheduled for opening in October of
this year. My personal political philosophy grew out of my life in Tibet.
It is outlined in my book. It is a belief that reflects many tenets of
Buddhism and places great emphasis on human life and human dignity. It is
this philosophy that has guided my life during my return visits to Tibet
and my explorations in many parts of the world over the past four and a
half decades. And it is a philosophy which leads me to condemn as strongly
as possible the horrible crimes of the Nazi period.
My conscience is clear on my record during the Hitler regime. Nevertheless,
I regard the events that involved the SS as one of the aberrations in my
life, maybe the biggest, and I regret deeply that these events may give
rise to false impressions.
I conveyed these facts and sentiments on Monday, June 30, in Vienna to Mr.
Simon Weisenthal in a meeting to which he graciously agreed and it is my
belief that he has accepted them as a sincere and forthright statement on
Anyone got any more damning stuff on Harrer and Nazism apart from the predictable stuff like he was in the Party in the 30s and shook hands with Hitler after a famous climb? Otherwise he's probably more memorable for his achievements and adventures.
I already posted a link to that statement on the other Harrer thread DTP. As I've said twice so far, I'm not criticising his involvement and I think it would be pretty crass to use such 20:20 hindsight.
> Anyone got any more damning stuff on Harrer and Nazism
No, but I think it bears mentioning in an appraisal. He did refuse to confess until rather recently. He also eventually confessed to heavily playing up his involvement with the Dalai Lama. Still, an interesting and courageous character who had some pretty extraordinary adventures.
Would be interested to know more about what happened to the other character (Peter?)and what his climbing record was/what happened after the Chinese invasion.
Either am I that is why I really have not expressed an opinion. However, it is interesting that he said he was not in the SA but the SS in the article I/you posted but in Stern magazine it was shown that he was in the SA in 1933 in Austria when the group was still illegal.
note my wording, but it is no more doubtful or unbiased than Harrer's own gradually changed account.
As far as I recollect (I can't remember the sources but they included the relatively impartial UK climbing press), Messner (not an entirely uncontroversial figure himself for different reasons) and others were entirley convinced that Harrer was an early adopter of and great enthusiast for National Socialsism, as evidenced by his joining the SA at his own behest in the early 30s when it was still illegal in Austria and attested to by the tone of much of his writing.
Note also my initial comment that he was a "great climber"
Many people from that era are deeply compromised by their association with Nazism - the Vatican, the Kennedys, British royal family members and various of the aristocracy spring to mind. We can of course see much more with the retrospectoscope but it was always a vile filthy creed. I don't see why being particularly talented in one particular field should absolve anyone of their guilt in this regard
I'd already read that webpage. Just wondering if anyone knew of anything more damning than belonging to the party of a country in the grip of one party.
Given that the link you provide is from the Chinese News Agency (in whose interest it is of course to discredit anything to do with the Dalai Lama & Tibet) I think that it can hardly be viewed as being objective.
I think that you are tending to see things with the benfit of hindsight. Harrer could hardly be assused of being involved in atrocities during the war as he was in or escaping from a POW camp. I very much get the impression that he was very focused on climbing and skiing before 1939 and would have little time for politics.
Many people supported Tony Blair coming to power, who then took us into an illegal war. Does that make us culpable for the war and the deaths, suffering and atrocities that resulted from it?
Dave, read what I said - I did not promote that link as unbiased, far from it - but it does rather comprehensively state the case for the prosecution and back it up with numerous links to source material, nuch of it from more reliable sources
Yes. And they are as culpable as the War Criminal, Tony Blair.
As I said, I'm not denying he joined any party and am quite neutral on the matter but am asking if anyone knows more (deeds rather than membership) than the obvious stuff I can find for myself via Google.
But you did not go out of your way to say that it was likely to be Chinese Propaganda. You claim to be objective and balanced, but your posts do not indicate this. You have hardly put forward a case for the defence! I don't know the truth of the matter, and neither does anyone else who posts on this forum! What is beyond doubt is that Harrer was a bloody good climber, and a brilliant writer.
I note that you did not respond to question about anyone who had supported the "War Criminal" (nicely put Norrie) Blair. By your reasoning many would see any members of the Labour Party (or even people who voted for them) as guilty of human rights abuses.
Why can't you just add "aguably"?
I thought the countries great legal minds are still at odds on the legality of the war, arguments either way.
I for one was vehemently opposed to the Iraq war but one can hardly treat the two matters equally in that Bliar was not elected on a platform of invading other countries legally or otherwise whereas the Nazi agenda in 1932 was quite transparently, proudly, racist, violently antisemitic and proposing the expansion of German interests by war against the untermensch to the East - to go out of ones way to join the SA at this point was to show very strong support for this ideology
I was trying to point out (by analogy) that the stance being taken by some posters is rather too definitive. In hindsight National Socialism is seen by the huge majority of people as being totally wrong. At the time, and in the circumstances that Germany found itself, it was probably less clear cut to the German/Austrian populace.
The UK was (and to some extent still is) divided over the Iraq war. Who is to say in that in 60 years time (with the benefit of hindsight), that the UK entering this war will not be seen in a similar light to the rise of National Socialism. By stating "illegal" without qualification, I was aiming to highlight that the one-sided stance of certain posters may not be appropriate, and that in reality history is rarely black and white.
Agreed, but a hell of a lot of wiser and older people than Harrer also fell under the spell of National Socialism, which used some pretty sophisticated propaganda techniques, given the circumstances. Can you say with any certainty that you wouldn't have? And sufficiently strongly to want to be properly involved?
If we condemn Harrer, we have to condemn a big chunk of ordinary German society at the time, who thought it somehow all made sense. It's regrettable, I agree, and he was a bit more of a man of his time than we might be comfortable with.
Don't know his reasons for only confessing when outed, however. Bit like Charles Kennedy. And (as far as I know) the same thing happened with the exaggerations in the Tibet story: he only owned up to them many years later when under pressure.
And he forgot his crampons!
>I don't know the truth of the matter, and neither does anyone else who posts on this forum!
never had any doubt about the war being illegal
we didn't eve declare war as far as I know - just fired off the missiles in the night from our subs
the big guns are beginning to fire
Is it not possible for a man to change his convictions? I'm certainly aware that mine have changed since my youth.
I agree with the comments above suggesting that a lot has been written in judgement on Harrer by people with no conception of how it was to live in Germany in the 20s and 30s. The national socialists pitched their appeal differently to different sections of society - including a strong ethic of outdoor activity and adventure that was taken up by many many people.
Interesting obituary in The Times which does focus more on his climbing.
With regards to his Nazi past it also mentions that Simon Wiesenthal considered Harrer to be not involved in politics and had not been guilty of any wrong doing.
I was at a Monday seminar at the RGS where Harrer spoke. In introducing himself he did not duck his invovlement with the SS and actually spent some time telling us exactly what his role was. Amongst other things he was coach to the SS womens downhill Ski Team. He was no doubt ambitious and he joined the Nazi Party to further his climbing and skiing, was this niaive - possibly, I guess it was also at a time when many people in sport and industry had to join the party to get on.
Apart from his heavy accent he was an engaging speaker.
National socialism was radically endorsed by the German people. Even the german church took the view: "Germany our goal, Christ our power" and saw in Hitler a new Luther if not a new Christ. It wasn't just heady stuff, it was all consuming. The British establishment itself (and much of europe) took a deliberate and critical conformism to the rise of national socialism until the late thirties. Few people within Germany were able to act, and those that were involved in the resistance (many of which btw were in the SS and in the senior ranks of Nazi intelligence - far more than mere Nazi membership) were executed for that resistance. In the early thirties only a few German christians stood up and objected (see the Barmen declaration). Einstein said good of the church because it was the one first inkling of eventual objection.
I doubt people today, and as it seems is evidenced from this website, demonstrate even a hint of the high standard of ethics they seem to be demanding of others in hindsight, and I certainly doubt they would be convicted enough of their beliefs to die for them.
I agree, the Guardian's obit is very poor. Stephen Goodwin has played a blinder in the Indie however with an excellent, concise mini-biography:
Thanks for the link - the casting of David Thewlis as Peter is pretty realistic! Don't think that Brad Pitt looked much like Heinrich though.
'National socialism was radically endorsed by the German people.'
Perhaps once Hitler had seized power and established dictatorial powers but whilst Germany was a democracy in the last free and fair elections only 33.9% voted for the Naziís. They never had a mandate from the German people to rule which made his rise to power and subsequent events all the more shocking.
You are right that it is very easy to criticise the likes of Harrer from the comfort of a democracy in 2006. None of us can imagine what it would be like to live in a dictatorship run on propaganda and fear.
He also learned Hindi, Tibetan, and Japanese. Here is more about his life and explorations
One thing the film makes clear is that Harrer was very ambitious and competitve. In fact, he is rather unlikeable at times.
When he spoke he certainly made no bones about the fact that being a member of the Party enhanced his chances of getting onto the expeditions and allowed him to escape military duty.
Actually it was 43.9% and with the conservative DNVPs 8%, they gained their majority. This was also an election in a country still far more politically apathetic (after the political and economic devastation of the 1st world war) than our country could possibly yet be.
And just as comparison, in our last general election, labour received 37% share of the vote (compared to a conservatives 33%). No second party came close to this % in those elections.
The figure you quote was from the last election but this was not a free and fair election in any sense. Physical violence and intimidation of opposition parties by the SA was just one of the underhand tactics used by the Nazi's to try and secure a working majority and still they failed.
The figure I quoted was from the election that led Hindenburg to invite Hitler to become Chancellor, probably the worst political move in Europe ever. This election was the last free and fair election in Germany before the Enabling act effectively abolished democracy.
looking back to one's late teens and twenties, who can really say that they had reached a pinnacle of likeability at that age?
[takes long fast steps away from the Forum....]
Wrong Jimbo. That should be rewritten as 'some of the posters contributing to this thread'. A closer look will see many different opinions.
I keep thinking of the old bloke from Monkeydust, who, whenever he is invited to a formal affair such as his grand daughters wedding says " I will wear my old suit"
He then truns up in brown shirt,jackboots and swastika.
PS I used to wear some pretty hideous 'fashionable' clothing when I was a teenager :)
Change the "we" to "some" Marc!
my father in law still has a copy of MK that the state gave to his parents as a ""wedding gift"
His father disappeared at Koenigsberg in 1945
There is another family tale of an uncle of a great age who horrified everyone in 1945 by announcing that he was going to fight the russians with the Volksturm, but fortunately he fell asleep in an armchair when the alarm was sounded and thus survived to tell the tale ...
If there ever was a right time for an alarm clock to fail, that's it!
a real life "private Gottfried"
He was a member of the Nazi Youth movement but membership was compulsory for children of his age.
I think it has been fairly well established that the Pope was given little choice but to join the Youth Movement, and that his parents were anything but sympathetic to the Nazi movement. IMHO any accusation that he os his family were willing supporters of the party would be erroneous
ps - I am not a left footer.
Actuallt, I am left footed when it comes to footie and kicking Sloper up the arse. I however an an anarcho-syndicalist.
No, a Communist. Or is that being Michael-Footed?
Well, you are most specific - one could almost say a ped-ant. ( geddit)
>.....I conveyed these facts and sentiments on Monday, June 30, in Vienna to Mr.
Simon Weisenthal in a meeting to which he graciously agreed and it is my
belief that he has accepted them as a sincere and forthright statement on
I find it very hard to believe that Simon Weisenthal would have agreed to meeting Harrer having not researched his past and being fully aware of what such a meeting would signify for Harrer. Presumably Weisenthal also 'sanctioned' the above paragraph for inclusion in Harrer statement.
With Weisenthals past record and experience, his acceptance would do for me.
The English translation of Harrer's full (600 page) autobiography is scheduled for publication sometime this year.
Thinking back to why Harrer got involved with the Nazi Party, was not the current Pope (Cardinal Ratzi) a former member?
Didn't say it was voluntary, although i didn't realise it was compulsory. I was using it as an example of another Person who had been involved without a permanent stain on his charecter.
From the Times obituary today:
"The Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal said in an interview that Harrer was
not involved in politics, and was not guilty of any wrongdoing."
Good on him. Agree with Gary that SW's acceptance is good enough for me.
I agree about allowing people to 'make good'. Reading the White Spider inspired me to go Mountaineering. Scrambling my way up No.4 Gully on Nevis was a life changing experience. Thanks Harrer.
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