“that they [the Germans] intentionally allowed themselves to be discovered for misinformation purposes, i.e. -- "yes... we are the last two renegade German subs. We've been trying to hold out but...oops, you caught us... the war's finally over!"
The “Antarcticans” who were left devised measures in the interim, believing themselves in imminent threat of discovery and persecution. They developed their sophisticated underground base further, devising new technological methods and weaponry to thwart Allied intervention. UFO and extraterrestrial technology being one of them…
Conspiracy theorists are reliant upon evidence from the discoveries made by the Deutsche Antarktische Expedition in 1938-1939 and certain telling quotations. Oberbefehlshaber der Kriegsmarine Karl Dönitz stated in 1943 that:
“The German submarine fleet is proud of having built for the Führer in another part of the world a Shangri-La on land, an impregnable fortress.”
Four years later in 1947, following his Antarctic expedition, US Admiral Richard Byrd was reported as saying that it was:
“necessary for the USA to take defensive actions against enemy air fighters which come from the polar regions…[the USA could be] attacked by fighters that are able to fly from one pole to the other with incredible speed.”
Compounding the myth further, author R. A. Harbinson wrote:
"Regarding the possibility of the Germans building self-sufficient underground research factories in the Antarctic, it has only to be pointed out that the underground research centers of Nazi Germany were gigantic feats of construction, containing wind tunnels, machine shops, assembly plants, launching pads, supply dumps and accommodation for all who worked there, including adjoining camps for slaves - and yet very few people knew that they existed.”
A secret Nazi military facility under the ice?
All of this ‘abundant’ evidence notwithstanding, academics, politicians and rationalists have all made similar efforts to the conspiracy theorists in denouncing even the remotest possibility of an intricate Neuschwabenland colony. Claims of a secret Nazi colony in Antarctica are, needless to say, of utter fabrication. Deciding to quash these Antarctic myths, scholars Colin Summerhayes and Peter Beeching undertook an exhaustive study, meticulously researched and executed with the sole intention of exploding the Neuschwabenland conspiracy theory. Their study entitled, “Hitler’s Antarctic Base: The Myth and the Reality,” published in the Polar Record, provides indisputable evidence that the secret Nazi colony is but myth and legend; an object of post-war hysteria and dystopian delight in the absurd:
“However, as is often stated, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Perhaps there were cover-ups. Perhaps they were successful…The burden of proof should fall on the shoulders of those making the claims. It is not sufficient to propose an idea and then claim that the hypothesis is untestable [sic] because the evidence for it has been covered up. In science, as pointed out by [Carl] Sagan we may start with experimental results, data, observations, and measurements regarded as facts. We then invent possible explanations and systematically confront each explanation with those facts, until we ﬁnd an explanation that meets the facts in all respects as far as we can tell.”
As is true of most myths and legends, there is some small measure of grounding in historical fact. Namely, that in 1938-1939 there was a German expedition to what is now known as Dronning Maud Land in Antarctica under the authority of Herman Göring, together with the assistance of Lufthansa and their ship, Schwabenland. The Deutsche Antarktishe Expedition was planned as part of a four year economic development programme, including the provision of a whaling industry, which was critical for supplying oil, lubricants, a component for manufacturing nitro-glycerine and other essential products. The expedition itself culminated in an aerial photographic record, spanning an area of 250,000 km² which the Germans named Neuschwabenland. This, they argue, is the absolute extent of their efforts.
Seal of the 1938-1939 expedition. Boreas flying boat on Schwabenland.
Indeed, rather than a sophisticated post-war, neo-Nazi stronghold, Antarctica was a lost venture for the Third Reich. Not until 1959 was there any German involvement on the continent, and even then they were as part of a Russian-led scientific team. To compound the issue further, had the 1938-1939 expedition team actually landed with the intention of constructing a base of operations, the Germans would have found the conditions, combined geographical knowledge and sheer logistics untenable. Summerhayes and Beeching calculated that it would have taken at least ten days to traverse the tundra to reach the mountains and another ten days to return. This would have left the team with just ten days to construct a base, assuming they had the provisions, equipment, mechanical/dog tethered vehicles and materials to do so. They cite the expedition made by the Norwegian-British-Swedish Antarctic (NBSA) mission in February 1950, which had the assistance of caterpillar tracked machinery to build a base; it took eighteen days to construct their first hut at their Maudheim base.
Speculation and intrigue will continue to plague histories concerning the Third Reich (and the apparent ‘Antarctic Reich’). The case of Neuschwabenland continues to spawn ever more incredible theories from those incessantly determined theorists. From early twentieth century contact with extraterrestrial life/technology, to illuminati-coveting ‘reptoids’ and modern day descendents of the SS, the continent will continue to astound and amaze those that decide to dwell on superstition and conspiracy. It is of course the task of every historian to base their judgements upon actual substantiated evidence. As seen above, Summerhayes and Beeching demonstrate the absolute necessity of empirical evidence in voicing an alternative hypothesis. Although very much enjoyable to ponder over and revel in, alternative histories and conspiracy theories are to be appreciated simply for what they are. Rather than reading them as gospel or bemoaning their existence, historians should view them merely as the humorous, whimsical anecdotes and escapist writings that they are. It is pleasant every once in a while, as it so often is within fiction, to come across something trashy and break the stylised norm.
C. Summerhayes and P. Beeching, “Hitler’s Antarctic base: the myth and the reality,” Polar Record, 43 (2007), pp. 1-21. Copyright © 2007-2012 Cambridge University Press.
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