The SS-Ahnenerbe and Archaeological Research Sites

28 May 2014, 17:00 - 19:00

CRASSH, Seminar room S1, First floor* (NB different day and room)

Witness to a Greater Germanic Past? The SS-Ahnenerbe and the Archaeological Research Sites of Dolni Věstonice and Solone

Dr Martijn Eickhoff (Radboud University Nijmegen)
Discussant: Dr Helen Roche (University of Cambridge)

Abstract

In my presentation I focus on two archaeological excavations carried out by Dutch prehistorians Assien Bohmers and Frans C. Bursch during the Second World War in the villages of Dolni Věstonice (Unterwisternitz) and Solone (Soljonoje). These excavations were contracted by the SS-Ahnenerbe—an SS research unit—and are therefore examined not only in conjunction with the history of East Central Europe and the history of archaeology, but al­so on the micro-level, where institutional, organizational and biographical aspects are in­corporated alongside cultural and social backgrounds. The inspiration here is the post-colonial approach, in which scientific expeditions carried out outside Europe are understood as a process in which each party influences the other. It thereby becomes clear how during the Second World War, the SS-Ahnenerbe tried to portray the two research sites as materi­al witnesses to a Nordic- (Indo-) Germanic past. In the scenario, Unterwisternitz was a sym­bol of 'origin' and Solone symbolized 'propagation'. At the same time, the Czechoslovak­ian and Ukrainian interpretations (and significance) of the research sites were to be oblite­rated. This leads to the conclusion that the SS-Ahnenerbe was indeed a highly active National Socialist scientific organization and that they developed a new militant and “Greater Germanic” scientific style and a new practice which at the time was directly connected to the terrorist interventions of the Na­tional Socialists. The avant-garde nature of the SS organization did, however, also contri­bute to the fact that their activities had little “effect” outside their own SS circle. The two excavations—including the fact that SS archaeologists had ever been involved on-site—were as a result soon forgotten after 1945.