Herbert Jankuhn (born 8 August 1905 in Angerburg, East Prussia – 30 April 1990 in Göttingen) was a German archaeologist and supporter of the Nazi Party. He undertook a series of investigations on behalf of the Ahnenerbe before going on to be one of post-war Germany's leading archaeology academics.
Jankuhn was born in East Prussia where his schoolteacher father was involved in local nationalist politics, publishing a pamphlet entitled Is There a Prussian Lithuania?. He followed his father's beliefs in a Greater Germany and also became a devotee of the Teutonic Knights, a passion which both reinforced his political beliefs and convinced him to follow a career in archaeology. His first major work was at the Viking settlement at Haithabu, where he directed the excavations. Whilst in this post he met Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler, who was impressed by Jankuhn's work and provided significant funds to the operation. As a professor of archaeology he also worked at the University of Kiel and the University of Rostock.
Under the Nazis
The two would become close and within a few months of the meeting Jankuhn had joined both the Schutzstaffel and the Ahnenerbe; eventually in 1940 he was appointed head of the latter body's excavation and archaeology department. He was also a member of the Nazi Party itself. Himmler respected Jankuhn's theories and endorsed his view that the bog people were actually anti-social elements in ancient Germanic society, in particular homosexuals and deserters, put to death for their supposed crimes. It has even been argued that Jankuhn's research in this area helped to convince Himmler to crack down on homosexuality.
Jankuhn supervised digs across Germany and also spent time in both Norway and France after their respective falls, both touring their major archaeological sites and secretly investigating attitudes towards the occupying Nazis on behalf of the Sicherheitsdienst.
Following the capture of Crimea Jankuhn was sent there by Himmler to lead a team of archaeologists whose job was to prove that the area was the cradle of the Goths. Setting out on 21 July 1942, Jankuhn was accompanied by Bronze Age expert Karl Kerstenand Russian-speaking archaeologist Baron Wolf von Seefeld. Jankuhn hoped to raid the area's museums for their treasures but found that these had all been shipped to the Caucasus during the invasion and so went there via 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking command at Starobesheve. Travelling with the Division as they battled to Maykop Jankuhn reached the city on 9 August only to receive a telegram from Wolfram Sievers telling him that Himmler wanted Jankuhn to investigate a possible Gothic residence in Mangup Kale after Ludolf von Alvensleben had told Himmler of its existence. Unwilling to miss out on the treasures he had come for, Jankuhn sent Kersten to investigate and continued his search in the Caucasus.
Arriving at Maikop museum on 26 August, Jankuhn took a number of ancient Greek, Stone Age and Scythian artefacts, believing the latter to be (like the Goths) ancestors of the modern Germans, although his search for anything Gothic proved fruitless. Faced with the problem of transporting the goods to Germany, Jankuhn was aided by Dr. Werner Braune, the head of the Einsatzkommando 11b and himself an amateur archaeologist, who put his men at Jankuhn's disposal. The remainder of the Crimean expedition, which failed in its main objectives of providing evidence of a Gothic empire in the region and recovering the Kerch "Gothic crown of the Crimea" that had been exhibited in Berlin before Operation Barbarossa, was largely left in the hands of Kersten.
Jankuhn spent the remainder of the war with the Viking Division as an intelligence officer and was with them in 1945 when they made a swift retreat from the Eastern Front in order to surrender to the US Army in Bavaria, fearing that their treatment at the hands of the Red Army would be much worse.
Jankuhn spent three years in an internment camp and was barred from university lecturing by the denazification courts. As such he continued his earlier work on Haithabu only through grants and published the findings privately, whilst also giving guest lectures. His work lead to theories on the impact of the development of such "emporia" (trade ports) that was considered highly innovative in its field.
He returned to university life in 1956 as a lecturer at the University of Göttingen and within ten years had risen to be dean of the philosophy faculty and a widely respected academic in Germany. Elsewhere this was less the case as was noted in 1968 when he offered to give a lecture at the University of Bergen and was refused permission. His disrespect of Norway's historic sites as an SS officer and his dismissive attitudes towards the work of famed Norwegian archaeologist Anton Wilhelm Brøgger meant that he was, in the words of Anders Hagen, "not welcome".
Politically he remained a supporter of a Greater Germany until the end and also argued that only SS concentration camp guards, rather than the SS as a whole, should be held responsible for the Holocaust. Following his death in 1990 an obituary appeared in the Nouvelle Droite magazine Nouvelle Ecole in which Alain de Benoist, the journal's editor and the head of far right Groupement de recherche et d'études pour la civilisation européenne, acknowledged Jankuhn as one of the "sponsors" of the magazine.