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September 18, 2013 3:29 pm

U.S. Tour Operator Glorifies Nazis With Fawning Tours to Hitler’s HQ, Goebbels’s Home, Göring’s Stolen Art Hideout

avatar by Joshua Levitt

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Nazi memorabilia for sale online by tour operator Sharkhunters International. Photo: Screenshot.

Nazi memorabilia for sale online by tour operator Sharkhunters International. Photo: Screenshot.

U.S. tour operator Sharkhunters International offers “a 10-day tour of southern Germany that hits all of Adolf Hitler’s favorite spots, like the famous Eagle’s Nest built by the führer’s private secretary, Martin Bormann, for his 50th birthday,” the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in its latest Intelligence Report, in a feature about a 30-year-old Florida-based company that “fetishizes the Nazis and U-boat history, taking its travelers to the hidden gems of the Third Reich.”

Southern Poverty Law Center researches hate groups to help law enforcement track their operations, and claims to have identified more than 1,000 operating in the U.S.

The report into the operations of Sharkhunters International was headlined “Touring the Third Reich.”

In advertising material for its southern Germany tour, Sharkhunters says: “Adolf Hitler really loved the Bavarian Alps and eventually, under the direction of Martin Bormann, an entire sicherheitsdienstzone (security zone) was constructed atop the Obersalzberg,” a mountainside Nazi retreat near Berchtesgaden. If you join the Sharkhunters tour, you get to see where Nazi high officials — Bormann, Hitler, Albert Speer (an architect who designed several prominent Nazi buildings), and others — “had nice homes built.” The tour also takes you to “the very tunnel where Hermann Göring, chief of the Luftwaffe and a high-ranking member of the Third Reich, hid his train filled with art treasures and who knows what else in preparation for his escape to Salzburg.” You’ll even get a look at Hitler’s favorite rock in the Obersee.

If Bavaria doesn’t suit your Hitlerian interests, there’s always the Sharkhunters tours to northern Germany. There, visitors get to take in such sights as the Wolf’s Lair, which was Hitler’s Eastern Front military headquarters, the place where the invasion of Russia was planned. And you get to see Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels’ former home. Or maybe you would rather take a gander at what Argentina has in store for a Nazi-lover because, as the Sharkhunters website says, South America “had a love affair with the Third Reich.” That Sharkhunters trip will take you to the places where prominent Nazis supposedly hid out after the war.

The Intelligence Report interviewed Sharkhunters founder Harry Cooper, 70, who, in 1983, started the group to feature U-boat and World War II history and today sells Nazi-related memorabilia, including Hitler girlfriend Eva Braun’s home movies, and publishes a newsletter, KTB Magazine, that reports on submarine research. Today, the organization claims 7,700 members in 76 countries.

In the interview Cooper denies that Sharkhunters glorifies the Nazis or is driven by anti-Semitism. “We’re nonpolitical,” he insisted, adding that his best friend is Jewish. When asked why his tours and website are so focused on Nazi history from the Nazi point of view, Cooper said, “It’s a field that I’m interested in, the warfare.” He added, “Now if I was studying the history of the Romans, would you call me a Roman?”

But the evidence appears to contradict his claims. Advertisements for Sharkhunters tours have run regularly in wildly pro-Nazi, anti-Semitic publications. Cooper has counted prominent neo-Nazis, leading anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, foreign extremist leaders, and even unrepentant members of the Third Reich among his friends, associates and members. His advisory board includes a prominent former member of a leading American neo-Nazi group. He’s enjoyed a friendly dinner with neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke, and spoken at a major Holocaust denial conference. Harry Cooper, the “nonpolitical” tour guide of Nazi Germany, even wears a ring emblazoned with a swastika.

Southern Poverty Law Center said that, under the guise of World War II and U-boat history, Cooper has casually won support from major players, including President Ronald Reagan, for example, listed on the website as having once written, “Regards and admiration to organizations like Sharkhunters who preserve American history,” as well as invitations to speak at the famed Adventurers Club in Chicago, where he gave two sold-out lectures on “How Adolf Hitler Escaped from the Bunker.”

But mainstream groups are finally catching on to the pervasive Nazi glorification that underlies all of his work. The Los Angeles Adventurers Club recently canceled a planned lecture, and the uboat.net forum, where serious historians and aficionados trade information about submarines, has now banned posts from Cooper and his supporters.

The forum specifically bans posts about Sharkhunters because “these posts generally contain obnoxious remarks and are attempts to recruit new members.” A comment posted on the site offers a conclusion that many others would agree with: “They are a bunch of unsympathetic Nazi lovers.”

Last week, Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League and a Holocaust survivor, told The Algemeiner, “Yes, there are legitimate collectors of war memorabilia, but the last thing we would want is to see Nazi memorabilia wind up in the hands of those who would use it to glorify racism, prejudice or bigotry.”

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