Nazis & The Search for Yeti

Posted by: Loren Coleman on January 21st, 2008


Heinrich Harrer in Tibet.

I got to first thinking about Nazis, Tibet, and Yeti, three years ago, when I heard that famed mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, 93, died on January 7, 2005. The entire story does feel like it is straight out of Indiana Jones, of course.

Movies are often a point of reference, needless to say. Harrer was portrayed by Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet, a 1997 movie based on Harrer’s 1953 nonfiction memoir with the same title.

But sometimes the movies leave out the best parts.

Harrer’s interest in what today we mostly know as the lore of the Yeti seems rather minor, but he was, nevertheless, aware of the Abominable Snowman. Could he have known about them more than he wanted to talk about in this 1953 book?

Today it is understood the Nazis were interested in the Yeti during the 1930s, as mentioned in Christopher Gale’s Himmler’s Crusade: The True Story of the 1938 Nazi Expedition to Tibet. Gale discusses the events that lead Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, as director of an organization called Ancestral Heritage, to sponsor a Tibetan Nazi expedition from 1938-1939.

Ernst Schäfer

Ernst Schäfer in Tibet.

Headed by ornithologist Ernst Schäfer, the 1938 Nazi adventure to Tibet was the third for Schäfer. He had been on two earlier ones to Tibet in the 1930s, lead by explorer Brooke Dolan of the Philadelphia Academy of Natural History.

As noted in an appendix to my book Tom Slick, Dolan was a character in cryptozoology and the shadowy word of international intrigue.

Dolan had been on the second expedition of Teddy Roosevelt’s son, Kermit, to Tibet to kill giant pandas in 1930-1932. Kermit became an important member (i.e. spy) of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and later the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

For example, in 1942, Dolan, on a espionage mission for the OSS, would take a secret trip to befriend the Dalai Lama in Tibet. A probable contact of Dolan’s along the way was the late “French Chef,” Julia McWilliams Child, an agent for the OSS at the time in China.


Other Nazis in Tibet.

Besides Schäfer, the Nazi’s 1938 expedition also included anthropologist Bruno Beger. Beger is mostly recalled as having gathered and analyzed over three hundred skulls during the trek to prove that Tibet was the birthplace of a “Northern Race” (the Aryans).

Schäfer and Beger were aware of the native reports of the Yeti, or as it was called, the “Migyud,” which is close to the name “Mi-go” found in some cryptozoological sources. Schäfer, however, follows the heavily Austrian-German theory, and felt what they were looking for was a large unknown bear.

Gale wrote: “Green Lake was, according to local legend, the lair of the Migyud, and the camp’s proximity to the legendary creature’s alleged home led to much whispered speculation and anxiety.”

Did Heinrich Harrer know what the Nazis were up to in 1938, when Harrer was becoming the first person to climb the north face of Switzerland’s famous Eiger mountain in 1938. [In the 1990s, Harrer admitted he was a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei), the Nazis, specifically being in Himmler’s SS, the special secret police unit of Hitler’s Germany.]

As it will be recalled, Harrer escaped, as a Nazi prisoner of the British in India, to Tibet in 1944 and then stayed there for the next seven years.

In Seven Years in Tibet, Harrer, while in Tibet, once found footprints in the snow, which he said that “people with more imagination” than him might associate with the “Abominable Snowman.”

Harrer is also curiously mentioned as once having some interest in the Dremo of Tibet. The Dremo (or Dre-Mon in Odette Tchernine’s books) is a probable cryptid bear, often confused with the more traditional Yeti and Met-teh, unknown hairy hominoids seen in the valleys of the Himalaya.

(For more on Nazi-involved theories, see what I’ve written about the “Apes in Green Hell.”)

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

17 Responses to “Nazis & The Search for Yeti”

  1. shumway10973 responds:

    I don’t think most people realize just what the Nazis were doing during their time in power. Indiana Jones movies aren’t too far off. I wouldn’t be surprised if the hadn’t tried to do what was portrayed in Hellboy. Himmler and Hitler were into all sorts of weird things. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wanted yeti for some sort of genetic experiments (which they were already doing with gorillas). I have read documents where they took young females (human) and tried mating them with gorillas. Officially nothing came about, mostly because the gorillas got to rough and the women usually died.

  2. olejason responds:

    Where did you read that?

  3. Christoph responds:

    great article Loren!

    @shumway: I think the sowjets wanted to mate gorillas with humans. Heuvelmans mentioned this in his book about the iceman.

  4. Alton Higgins responds:

    If they make a movie about Nazis and Yeti, I suggest casting Randy Quaid in the role of Heinrich Harrer. 🙂

  5. Chris1980 responds:

    And I always thought that “Mi-Go” is a fantasy word coined up by Lovecraft for his “Fungi from Yuggoth”. I never heard it mentioned in the context of actual cryptozoology. Does anyone know any interesting sources on that?

  6. greenmartian2007 responds:

    The Nazi-Germans were into researching many things. Some of it was crackpot; some of it outlandish (on its face); and still others, they made some scientific/technological breakthroughs that are being exploited to this day.

    The article mentioned above may have been the one in FATE magazine, April 2005. It was by a Russian by the name of Paul Stonehill (he has written some UFO books). The URL link below is one of several to his article based on some research that he conducted into human-ape hybrids stories.

    I will say this: Stonehill (via my reading one of his earlier books that reported any and all rumors inside the USSR in regards to UFOs) is good at accumulating stories, folktales, and legends (as in the modern defnintion).

    But the weighted issues (unresolved, and unanswered) are whether the material in the book is accurate, and veracious in general, and in specifics (as to specific recountings).

    These issues can also be applied to Stonehill’s human-ape hybrid article, I think.

  7. Ann Unknown responds:

    I also heard that an ape/human cross was once rumored to have been attempted by the Soviets in order to create a superior class of soldier-workers. The scientist involved was one Dr. Ilya Ivanovich, sometime back in the 1930’s. He was supposed to have attempted to artificially inseminate female humans, and apes with each others species’ semen. Ivanov was even reported to have received funds to continue his experiments somewhere down in African.

    Then there are the rumors of a Chinese doctor in Shenyang, China who claimed to have succeeded in inseminating a female chimp with human sperm. The chimp mother, along with her first-trimester fetus, were both said to have been destroyed by the Red Guard, and the researcher was supposedly jailed for his scientific abominations.

    I also understand that the Houston Chronicle once ran an article (1987?) about the dean of a Florence, Italy University, quoited as saying that he knew of an experiment in which scientists had succeeded in getting a human sperm, and a chimpanzee egg to fuse, resulting in the creation of a viable embryo. This experiment was also reported stopped due to ethical considerations.

    Then there is always a “chimera”. The fusing of the dividing cells from two different, but genetically similar, species’ embryos, yielding a pathetic, Frankenstein’s monster.

    Could this possibly have anything to do with various governments’ “T’ain’t no such critter” attitude, concerning Bigfoots, Yetis, Almas, …?

    There does seem to be some evidence that a crossing could occur, except for the fact that the offspring would most likely be a sterile “mule”, due to the chromosomal mismatch (nothing to do with the chromosome numbers – more to do with the chromosomal bodies’ form, and layout). This could help explain Bigfoot’s impossibly low breeding population.

    How about it Loren, do you know any more of this?

  8. timi_hendrix responds:

    is Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race, A good book?

    Worthy of buying? Has anyone read it?

  9. greatanarch responds:

    Time to deal with the important question: are Yetis true Aryans?

  10. neubfer responds:

    Only the ones with blue eyes.

  11. Alligator responds:

    Ann Unknown,

    Frank Peretti wrote a novel that delved into this line of thinking and it is simply called: MONSTER. Peretti writes from a Christian perspective but I think anyone who is into cryptozoology as fiction would find this an interesting read. It is not an evangelistic book so if you are a non-believer don’t freak out. Here’s a link to it.

    I sent it to a friend in British Columbia who still swears that he saw a sasquatch several years ago. (He is one of the reasons I keep the door open to the possibility) He enjoyed the book.

  12. spookyparadigm responds:

    And I always thought that “Mi-Go” is a fantasy word coined up by Lovecraft for his “Fungi from Yuggoth”. I never heard it mentioned in the context of actual cryptozoology. Does anyone know any interesting sources on that?

    In Lovecraft’s story “Whisperer in Darkness,” the narrator and his correspondent associate the folklore of the Vermont mountain “star people” with tales of the Mi-Go or Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas. And while depicted typically flying, in the original source material, the Fungi walk at times.

  13. yetimead responds:

    There has been a lot of misinformation written about this expedition & the influence that it was subjected to as part of Himmler’s Ahnenerbe organisation.

    Most, if not all of the correspondence, books expedition reports have never been translated from German to English so if is difficult to gauge how Ernst Schäfer felt about the Nazi ideology, whether he was a true believer or played up to the Ahnenerbe to get support for the expedition.

    Schäfer was an experienced naturalist & identified the snowman as being either the tibetan blue bear or another unknown species of brown bear from Nepal/Tibet border.

    There is a strong possibilty that this maybe the case as a yet unidentied brwon bear subspecies skin was obtained from Bhutan as recently as 5-6 years ago.

    While it is possible that the previous thought extict giant orangutan that lived in the montane forests of Asia region may still be alive, especially in China, it is doubtful whether the yeti is a living Gigantopithecus as it now seems likely that this ape was not bipedal.

    Therefore the yeti/bear hypothesis is just as reasonable as the gigantopithecus/yeti theory.

  14. greenmartian2007 responds:



    “There is a strong possibilty that this maybe the case as a yet unidentied brwon bear subspecies skin was obtained from Bhutan as recently as 5-6 years ago.”

    Could you provide a link to a news story about the Bhutan find?

    Thanks in advance.

  15. michaelcdunn responds:

    Just a brief correction from a longtime lurker who hasn’t posted before. The Kermit Roosevelt who hunted pandas was indeed FDR’s son; the Kermit in the OSS and CIA was his son Kermit Jr. As far as I know the spooks in the family were the grandsons (Kermit and Archie), though perhaps the first Kermit had some unusual connections too. But it was Kermit Jr. who overthrew Mossadegh and otherwise made a career in intelligence and oil.

  16. yetimead responds:

    This programme had the unidentified red bear skin in it unfortunately I haven’t tracked down where the skin is on why what further scientific analysis has been done.

    Yeti: Hunt for the Wildman is an investigation that heads into the depths of Bhutan, where for generations locals have reported sighting of the Migoi, a beast unknown to scientists and commonly known in the west as the Yeti. This film employs the latest techniques in an attempt to capture the creature on camera, and uses DNA analysis to test the findings of the team

  17. yetimead responds:

    is Himmler’s Crusade: The Nazi Expedition to Find the Origins of the Aryan Race, A good book?

    Worthy of buying? Has anyone read it?

    Yes, it is worth reading as it gives the background to the expedition, but unfortunately doesn’t give a zoological perspective.

    There is another book by Heather Pringle The Master Plan: Himmler’s Scholars and the Holocaust that also covers the Schafer expedition.

    Unfortunately the book that is only available in German Geheimnis Tibet – Erster Bericht der Deutschen Tibet-Expedition 1938/39 is probably the best to read.

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