- "History is like the shark--it has no mercy and moves ever forward."
- ―Friedrich von Hassell[src]
Dr. Friedrich von Hassell was a leader of the Ahnenerbe, the ancestral heritage branch of the Nazi SS. In 1936, von Hassell sought the Tomb of the Gods, and raced against Indiana Jones for the three pieces of the key to open it. He also had an interest in dangerous animals, such as snakes and sharks, and kept a trick blade hidden in his sleeve.
Von Hassell first obtained the piece of the key that belonged to Marwell O'Brien, then in the summer of 1936, he took took some agents to New York City to recover the piece of the key kept by Henrik Mellberg. Mellberg, knowing that he would be discovered after losing contact with O'Brien, had contacted Indiana Jones to assist him. Jones arrived at Mellberg's apartment while von Hassell and his men were searching it. Von Hassell and his men attempted to interrogate Jones using Mellberg's pet cobra. Jones knew nothing, but in an ensuing scuffle, Mellberg's secret hiding place was discovered. He and his men chased Jones and Mellberg from the apartment through a skyscraper construction site. He ordered his men to shoot Mellberg, but they were unable to obtain the piece of the key - Mellberg left it with Jones, who lost it to a woman posing as a maid.
Von Hassell eventually encountered the mysterious woman, Janice Le Roi, and bought her assistance in studying both her piece and the piece he had acquired from O'Brien.
Von Hassell caught Jones' trail again in Shanghai, after Jones had teamed up with Alex Beresford-Hope. An informant provided a Nazi agent with information about the ship that Jones would board for Siberia, via Japan. Von Hassell, Le Roi, and his men boarded Jones' ship when it stopped in northern Japan, and bought off the ship's captain and crew. When the ship was underway in the North Pacific Ocean, Le Roi and von Hassell surprised and captured Jones. With Beresford-Hope in custody, and all three pieces of the key forming a map locating where to go, von Hassell decided to abandon Jones by leaving him in a rowboat without any oars. He then betrayed Le Roi, who was no longer useful to him, by slicing her arm with a blade concealed in his sleeve then throwing her overboard. After Jones leapt into the water to save her, von Hassell took a machine gun and shot up the rowboat, rendering it less than seaworthy. Remarking that Le Roi's wounds would attract sharks, he bid the two farewell and had the steamship sail off.
With the pieces of the key forming a complete map, von Hassell and his men reached the designated inlet on the northern coast of Siberia. Setting across the ice in three large sledges pulled by dogs, and accompanied by several of his men, and their captive Beresford-Hope, he followed the route set on the map. Despite his one day head start, Jones, Brody, and Le Roi caught up to him with their smaller dogsleds, having found a shortcut. Von Hassell learned Jones' presence when one of his guards attempted to shout before he was pulled off the sledge by a whip. As Jones tried to commandeer a sledge, Beresford-Hope grabbed von Hassell from behind. A lightning bolt struck the icy plains ahead of the sleds, opening a wide crack. All the sleds and sledges fell into the dark chasm.
- "We have come all this way searching for knowledge, my friends... and knowledge is what we have found."
- ―Friedrich von Hassell[src]
Surviving the fall, von Hassell regrouped with his men, and Marcus Brody was captured. The expedition continued down the passage until they reached an enormous underground chamber, where von Hassell, Brody, Beresford-Hope, and the rest of the men stared at the unworldly giant structure, the Tomb of the Gods. Not knowing that Jones and Le Roi were on their tail, he guided the group into the antechamber, amazed at the star charts on the ceiling, and theorizing that the Tomb was built by extraterrestrials - that could soon by reached through the progress of the Nazi rocketry program. Pulling his gun, he attempted to force Beresford-Hope to open the door to the vault. Beresford-Hope recounted how his father, O'Brien, and Mellberg had come to the tomb with a expedition, and only the three of them survived, but lost their sanity. Knowing that what lay within was not for humans to know, Beresford-Hope refused to help von Hassell's plan to obtain the Tomb's knowledge. Realizing that Beresford-Hope was no longer of any use to him, von Hassell slipped out his blade from his sleeve and killed Beresford-Hope.
Taking the key, he threatened Brody with the option to open the door. Before Brody could decide, some of von Hassell's men had become possessed by voices they had heard in the chamber, and opened fire on the rest of the party. While his agents were killed by the possessed men, and Jones and Le Roi entered the fray to save Brody, von Hassell placed the key into the insets in the door, and opened the door with a thundering rumble.
Entering the inner chamber, he faced a large pit, with smooth sides, leading into the earth. Knowing that Jones had followed him, he warned Jones that others were coming, since he had sent the site coordinates from the ship back to Germany. Attacking Jones with his blade, he remarked that this discovery was something that both he and Jones sought - new knowledge. Grabbing Jones, he yelled for Jones to admit that he too wanted the knowledge. Jones admitted it, but with a knee to von Hassell's groin, reminded the Nazi that he had killed Beresford-Hope. Jones then let go of von Hassell, who fell screaming into the pit. Sliding downwards, von Hassell saw that Jones had thrown a lit stack of dynamite in the pit ahead of him, and panicked as his doom drew near. The explosion killed von Hassell, and collapsed the ancient structure.