The legendary land mass was first described by the Greek philosopher Plato. In his texts, “Timaeus” and “Critias”, he describes an antagonistic naval power that drives “ancient Athens” away from the island. Although this is only a brief note, the weight that Atlantis has had on literature and popular culture has endured for thousands of years.
This has mostly been through fiction and film.
It found another use during the rise of Nazi Germany, when it was adopted for more sinister means.
The Nazis saw Atlantis as the vindication of their horrible ideology: that an Aryan super race had once existed and was destined to rule the world.
The chilling episode of history was explored in the Smithsonian Channel documentary, “Sacred Sites: Nazi Myths.”
In the heart of Bremen, in northern Germany, stands an extraordinary building: the Atlantis house.
Completed in 1931, it was designed as an institute for the study of Atlantis and the Aryan super race.
The facade of the building was originally adorned with a large wooden sculpture depicting the Norse god Odin crucified on the Tree of Life.
Inside the Atlantis House, a stunning stairwell welcomes visitors, built of glass and steel, with researchers suggesting its structure was meant to “evoke the Aryan exodus from Atlantis”.
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At the top, visitors enter a mysterious room known as the “Hall of Heaven”, once Herman Wirth’s “twisted ideologies” teaching forum.
Matthias Loeber, historian at the Bremerhaven Museum, said: “Herman Wirth was quite fascinated by the idea of finding Atlantis.
“His idea was that this Atlantis was not in the Mediterranean or somewhere like that, but in the North Atlantic region.
“In his idea, in Atlantis, 20-25,000 years ago, the Nordic race was created to control and strongly influence the development of mankind.”
The highest echelons of Nazi power in Germany were quick to pay attention to Wirth’s pseudo-historical research.
In 1935, Heinrich Himmler, a leading member of the Nazi party, joined forces with him to found the Ahnenerbe.
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It was an elite SS unit of archaeologists, scientists, and historians tasked with searching the world’s sacred sites for evidence that the Aryans of Atlantis were not mythological.
Mr. Loeber explained: “As the leader of the SS Himmler, he was fascinated by the idea of proving the supremacy of the Nordic race and was the staunchest supporter of archaeologists who searched for prehistoric ground.”
Among the sites on which the Ahnenerbe focused their attention was the Externsteine, a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest in North Rhine-Westphalia.
A major excavation has begun, supervised by Wilhelm Teudt.
Their mission was to prove that the Externsteine was used for sacred rituals by the Norse German descendants of the Aryans, thousands of years before it became a Christian holy site.
An archaeologist speaking during the documentary explained: “During the search for Norse Germanic roots, the Externsteine came to symbolize pure German heritage.
“The excavations at the Externsteine become Himmler’s pet project.”
Himmler then sent Ahnenerbe teams around the world to search for proof of the Aryan origins of the German people.
But modern research proves that Nazi theories were fundamentally wrong.