Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party had a long standing interest in early civilization artifacts, combined with a mish-mash of interests in the Occult, which has inspired many a conspiracy theory and Hollywood movie, Nazi's collected/stole/found many valuable cultural artifacts from ancient Rome to Buddhist Mongolia.
The failed artist that he was, Hitler's imagination and interested in the Neo-Pagan movement, popular in Germany during the early part of the 20th C., spawned the hopes of re-establishing a "master race." Hitler was looking for "evidence" that Aryans pre-dated all others and therefore were justified in ruling the world. And so, Nazi's went about the ancient world on archeological digs looking for evidence of their preeminence.
Contrary to previously held beliefs it the svastika, the ancient symbol of luck and prosperity used in India, China, Tibet and which can be also traced to ancient Greece as well as Thor the Norse God of thunder had been adopted by the German Neo-Paganists, before Hitler co-opted it as the symbol for the Nazi Party.
Tibet, who had been in a constant battle through out its history with China over its boarders and autonomy became friendly with Nazi Germany. And while they never entered the War the Tibetan Buddhist ruled country welcomed several Nazi expeditions lead by zoologist Ernst Schäfer, the guy who Brad Pitt portrays in Seven Years in Tibet. Contrary to the sanitized version of the movie, Schäfer was a Nazi sympathizer who in order to advance his career joined the SS.
After his last expedition to Tibet in 1939, having spent time with the then teenaged 14th Dali Lama, Ernst Schäfer brought back a curious Buddhist figure made from extremely dense ore. "Iron Man" or Space Buddha as I'm now calling him, became a part of Nazi booty—a treasure trove of art and artifacts.
In a recently published article in Metoritics & Planetary Science, a team of scientists have determined that a lump of space rock from a Meteor shower known as the Chinga meteorite and fell across Sibera and Mongolia 10 - 20,000 years ago, was made into a Buddha figure almost 1,000 years ago.
After WWII much of the collected and stolen art works were looted by allied soldiers, and with many works of art disappeared into the black market and private collection.
(source Huffington Post)
Now that scientists have determined that Space Buddha is in fact an authentic fragment of age old star dust, art historians need to figure out its iconographic implications. Space Buddha is thought to be carved by Bon artisans. Bon was a pre-Buddhist Shamanistic religion practiced in Tibet, Mongolia, Manchuria and Korea was absorbed into Tibetan Buddhism sometime before the 9th C.
Looking at Space Buddha he seems to have elements atypical of Tibetan Buddhist figures, part Gandharan—a period of Indian Buddhist art influenced by Alexander the Great's foray into India, part Tibetan warrior—evidenced by the armor he wears inscribed with the swastika, and something rather central asian tribesman (Afghan or Turkic perhaps).
A rather ambiguous fellow, looking at Space Buddha its not a wonder why Nazi's found him so appealing leaving room for imagination fulfilling their ideological archeological theories.
Buddhism was allowed to exist during Nazi Germany, Buddhistisches Haus (House for Buddhists) in Frohnau, Berlin stayed open throughout the war. Although scholar Alexander Berzin claims there was no Buddhist teachings applied in Nazi ideology, the irony of it all is more than amusing.
While Nazis who were keen on establishing an ethnic link between Tibetans and the Aryan race never made that a biological connection (though not for lack of trying—measuring European and Tibetian cranial size), politics, art and religion made for strange bedfellows.