The Dalai Lama’s fascination with war and Nazism

Renowned as a champion of non-violence, the Dalai Lama revealed a shocking side to himself in an interview with the New York Times in 1993:

‘Dalai Lama: War – without an army, killing as few people as possible – is acceptable …

‘New York Times: Did you say that killing sometimes is acceptable?

‘Dalai Lama: Comparatively.’322

Later in the interview, he is asked what he does to relax. The reply is astonishing.

‘Dalai Lama: I am fond of looking at picture books of the Second World War. I own some, which I believe are produced by Time-Life. I’ve just ordered a new set. Thirty books…. I find many of the machines of violence very attractive. Tanks, airplanes, warships, especially aircraft carriers. And the German U-boats, submarines….’323

The Dalai Lama had plenty of opportunity to find out about the military machinery of the Nazi regime; as a child he was under the tutelage of Heinrich Harrer – a former sergeant in the SS, Hitler’s most loyal soldiers – who for some years in Tibet before the Chinese occupation taught the young Dalai Lama about the outside world.324 Heinrich Harrer enjoyed the fame his book Seven Years in Tibet gave him but concealed his Nazi past. When Disney made a film version of the book, journalists uncovered his dark secrets. Harrer played down his role in the SS, but Gerald Lehner’s book Between Hitler and the Himalayas: Heinrich Harrer’s Memory Lapses provides a much more complete version of events.325

Indeed throughout his life the Dalai Lama has had close associations with many Nazis, including Bruno Beger, who was convicted for his ‘scientific research’ at Auschwitz;326 and Miguel Serrano, head of the Nazi Party in Chile and the author of several books that elevate Hitler to a god-like status.327

Despite his supposed omniscience, the Dalai Lama could be forgiven for not knowing the perverted views of these people when he first met them, as each tried to hide their dark pasts. But even once they had been exposed, the Dalai Lama didn’t distance himself from them or their views.

For example, while working as a Chilean ambassador, Miguel Serrano kept silent about his view of Hitler as a god on earth, but even after he published books expounding his views in 1978, the Dalai Lama maintained a close personal friendship, having private meetings with him in 1984 and 1992.328

In 2006 and 2007, the Dalai Lama publicly gave Jorg Haider his blessings with a ceremonial white scarf (Katag). Haider had been the leader of the Far-Right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ), and known for publicly airing his appreciation of the policies of Nazi Germany. So much so that when his party was brought in to form a coalition government in Austria the European Union imposed a diplomatic boycott on Austria because of the FPÖ’s extreme views.329

So, how deep does the Dalai Lama’s appreciation of the Nazi regime go? The German Stern magazine reports some comments he made at a teaching in Nuremberg (the site of the major Nazi party rallies in the 1930s) in 2008:

‘The Dalai Lama greeted the crowds with his lovely child-like waving of hands. But his speech in the town hall made people gasp, …

‘He recalled seeing Nuremberg on photographs when he was still a child. “Very attractive” with “generals and weapons” and with “Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering”.

‘Some of the listeners seemed to be embarrassed, some were “alienated for a second”. Nuremberg’s chief mayor Ulrich Maly called it a “moment of shock”.’330

Stern reflected that:

‘… the Tibetan court used to have close ties with the Nazi regime, SS-expeditions were welcomed to Lhasa with full marks of respect. To this day, His Holiness has never distanced himself from these inglorious relationships.’331