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The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust

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The Master Plan
Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust
By Heather Pringle
Hyperion: New York (2006)
ISBN 10: 0-7868-8773-7
ISBN 13: 978-0-7868-8773-6

Reviewed by Herbert White - March 28, 2007

In the realm of popular histories about the Holocaust, there has been much written about how the Nazis carried out their genocidal plans - and the impact that it had on Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and others that the Nazis saw unfit to live. Heather Pringle, in her book The Master Plan: Himmler's Scholars and the Holocaust examines an issue that I've never before seen tackled in a popular history about the Holocaust. The issue in question is, "How did the Nazi's manufacture the evidence that they used to justify their mass-extermination policies?" In this ground breaking, and gripping book Pringle examines Ahnenerbe, the Nazi research institute established by Heinrich Himmler, where much of this 'evidence' was manufactured by purposely misinterpreting archaeological evidence, Aryanizing history, and by giving Nazi racial theories a 'scientific' white-wash.

In The Master Plan, Pringle provides an in-depth overview of the creation of Ahnenerbe, the research conducted there, and how it was used as a propaganda tool to help Hitler and the Nazis solve the 'Jewish Question'. The aftermath of the war, and the outing of the atrocities committed at Ahnenerbe are also covered. In addition, Pringle provides insights into the mind set of the men and women who worked at Ahnenerbe by examining in detail many of the people who worked there, and why they did so. She also explores the various types of research being conducted through the auspices of Ahnenerbe, from archaeological digs to horrific medical experiments carried out on live subjects. Pringle also chronicles many of the atrocities carried out by Ahnenerbe researchers, such as the murder and defleshing of Jewish men, women, and children just so their skeletons could be studied!

Large sections of this book are very disturbing to read, while other sections take on an almost Indiana Jones style feel as Pringle depicts the absurd lengths that the Nazis went to create evidence to support their theories. Pringle's narrative style is relaxed and the text is eminently readable, and book so engrossing that it is hard at times to put it down. The Master Plan is based on solid research, and the book includes a extensive endnotes and a list of major sources sited in the book. While written for a general audience, it is also well suited for use as a supplemental text in classes dealing with Nazi Germany or the Holocaust. Highly recommended!

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