Heinrich Himmler, the infamous Nazi leader of the SS, was enthralled with eastern mysticism and always carried an ancient text on yoga wherever he went, a new book has claimed.
Although the Nazi leader was not known to practice the physical exercises associated with yoga, he was fascinated with the Bhagavad Gita, the 700-verse Hindu scripture that outlines the principles of yoga and karma, and had a German translation of the Sanskrit original always at his side.
But far from embracing the hippy-style attitudes of peace and love so often associated with the scripture, Himmler, who helped orchestrate the Holocaust, connected it with his desire for racial purity and the justification of killing to achieve this.
“He identified himself and the SS with the old Indian Kshatriya caste and its publicised attitude of unscrupulous killing for one’s ‘higher purpose’,” writes Mathias Tietke, in his new book “Yoga in National Socialism”, which is published this week.
Himmler was not alone amongst the Nazis in possessing a fondness for yoga, and believing it could help fortify Germans for the trials of waging war.
SS Captain Jakob Wilhelm Hauer apparently managed to convince the SS commander that “yoga can internally arm us and prepare us for the battles ahead”.