Austrian Mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, whose life experiences were the basis for the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, died Saturday at the age of 93. Harrer, who was in India in 1939 for a Himalayan expedition, was detained and interned by the British army along with all the other German and Austrian nationals in India when World War II broke out.
In 1944 Harrer and a fellow POW managed to escape to Tibet - it took them two years to reach Lhasa on foot - where he met and became close friends with and tutor to the teenaged Dalai Lama. Harrer left Tibet when the Chinese Communists invaded in 1951. Harrer's book about his experiences, Seven Years in Tibet, was a bestseller and was made into the film starring Brad Pitt. Around that time, a German magazine published a story that Harrer had been a member of the Nazi Party in Austria. Harrer later admitted the story was true. Harrer spent much of his life promoting the cause of the Tibetan people.