Germany's Nazi government was so angry about a dog trained to imitate Hitler that it started an obsessive campaign against its Finnish owner, according to newly discovered documents.
In the middle of the Second World War, 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 the dog's owner, papers recently found in the German Foreign Office archives show.
The dog, Jackie, was owned by Tor Borg, a businessman from the Finnish city of Tampere. Mr 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 Fuehrer with a cry of "Heil Hitler!"
Historians had not been aware of the strange footnote to the Nazi period before some 30 files containing parts of the correspondence and diplomatic cables were recently found by a researcher at the political archives.
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 on Saturday in daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung. He called the entire episode, just months before the Nazis launched an attack on the Soviet Union, "completely bizarre".
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." Mr Borg was ordered to the German embassy in Helsinki and questioned about his dog's unusual greeting habits.
He denied ever calling the dog by the German dictator's name, but admitted that his wife called the dog Hitler. He tried to play down the accusations, saying the paw-raising had only happened a few times in 1933 - shortly after Hitler came to power.
The different ministries that were involved in the dog scandal - the Foreign Office, the Economy Ministry and even Hitler's Chancellory - meticulously reported all their findings about the canine. The economy ministry announced that the German chemical conglomerate IG Farben, which had supplied Borg's wholesale trade with pharmaceuticals, offered to eliminate his company by ending their cooperation with him.
The Foreign Office was already looking for ways to bring Mr Borg to trial for insulting Hitler but, in the end, none of the potential witnesses were willing to repeat their accusations in front of a judge. On March 21, 1941, the Foreign Office asked the Chancellory whether to press charges against Mr Borg and five days later they answered that "considering that the circumstances could not be solved completely, it is not necessary to press charges."
Tor Borg died at 60 in 1959. His company Tapereen Rohduskuppa Oy eventually became Tamro Group, the leading wholesale company for pharmaceuticals in the Nordic countries.