Thursday 21 September 2017

Nazis driven to distraction by dog that aped 'Heil Hitler' salute

Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin

Newly discovered documents have revealed a bizarre footnote to the history of World War Two: a Finnish mutt whose imitation of the Hitler salute enraged the Nazis so deeply that they started an obsessive campaign against the dog's owner.

Absurdly, a totalitarian state that dominated most of Europe was unable to do much about 'Jackie' and his paw-raising parody of Germany's Fuhrer.

In the middle of World War Two -- months before Hitler ordered some 4.5 million troops to invade the Soviet Union -- the foreign office in Berlin commanded its diplomats in the Nazi-friendly Nordic country to gather evidence on the dog, and even came up with plans to destroy the pharmaceutical wholesale company of its owner.

Historians had not been aware of the episode before some 30 files containing parts of the correspondence and diplomatic cables were found recently by a researcher at the political archives of the German foreign office.

Klaus Hillenbrand, an expert who has written several books on the Nazi period, was contacted by the historian and examined all of the documents for an article to be published today in daily newspaper 'Die Tageszeitung'.

In an interview yesterday, Mr Hillenbrand called the entire episode "completely bizarre".

"Just months before the Nazis launched their attack on the Soviet Union, they had nothing better to do than to obsess about this dog."

Finland co-operated with Nazi Germany but the relationship between the two countries was strained.

The dog, Jackie, was a mutt owned by Tor Borg, a businessman from the Finnish city of Tampere. Borg's wife Josefine, a German citizen known for her anti-Nazi sentiments, dubbed the dog 'Hitler' because of the strange way it raised its paw high in the air like Germans greeting the Fuhrer with a cry of "Heil Hitler!".

On January 29, 1941, German Vice Consul Willy Erkelenz in Helsinki wrote that "a witness, who does not want to be named, said . . . he saw and heard how Borg's dog reacted to the command 'Hitler' by raising its paw."

Irish Independent

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