In 1935, Himmler had founded the Ahnenerbe, or Ancestral Heritage Organisation, to study the supposed roots of the Aryan nation, which by sleight of hand the Nazis had appropriated as their own. 'A Volk [people] that has this belief in rebirth and that honours its ancestors, and in so doing honours itself, always has children, and this Volk has eternal life,' Himmler told his SS men. 'A people live happily in the present and the future. so long as they are conscious of their past and the greatness of their ancestors,' ran the Ahnenerbe's motto. There were 46 departments, headed by top zoologists, botanists, archaeologists, meteorologists, historians and anthropologists. It even had its own publishing house, producing books and journals.
'Culturally and intellectually the Ahnenerbe was very significant,' says the author Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke. 'Himmler wanted to forge a coherent ideological instrument to explain why the Aryan was the master race, and establishing a complete prehistory and geography was a way to do that.' If there were no physical signs of such a race ever having existed, it was because nobody had looked hard enough. Small but determined teams were dispatched to the ends of the Earth to seek evidence for superior Germanic ancestry.