Adolf Hitler: Dogs, Dogma and Doggerel

09Jun11

 “It is certainly true to say that Nazi Germany had a higher regard for animal, and particularly dog welfare, than they did for the rights of many humans…
Jan Bondeson  Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet Of Canine Curiosities

“Ve haf vays of making you talk… …”, but apparently they didn’t quite work out in the case of the graduates of the Nazi Germany dog school, the Tier Sprechschule ASRA, based in Leutenburg near Hannover. 

High Docile School

This high docile canine academy was set up in the 1930s and continued throughout the war years as a curious demonstration of the irrational standards of the era.  It wasn’t the Alsatian and German Shepherd students who were barking mad.

According to research led by Jan Bondeson of Cardiff University*, the Germans viewed canines as being almost as intelligent as humans and they attempted to build an army of fearsome “speaking” dogs-sort of a four legged canine master race.

Doggerel

One undergraduate at the dog school was said to have uttered the words “Mein Fuhrer” when asked who Adolf Hitler was. Another “spoke” by tapping letters of the alphabet with its paws and was said to have learnt poetry. Doggerel perhaps?

Adolf “The Noble Wolf” Hitler was, of course, leader of the pack when the Tier Sprechschule was set up. In his case a man was a dog’s best friend. He had a great love for dogs. During his military service in World War I Hitler had displayed great affection for a stray white Bull Terrier named Fuchsl and was quite distraught when he lost her.

He was then given a German Shepherd named Prinz in 1921, during his years of painting poverty, but was compelled to board the dog out. However, she managed to escape and return to him. Hitler thereafter developed a great liking for the breed, particularly its loyalty and obedience.

Blondi Bond

Blondi*, born the same year as me in 1941 was Adolf Hitler’s German Shepherd dog, given to him as a gift by Martin Bormann. Blondi stayed with Hitler even after his move to an underground bunker in January 1945. Hitler was very fond of Blondi, keeping her by his side and allowing her to sleep in his bedroom in the bunker. This affection apparently was not shared by Eva Braun who preferred her two terriers.

Blondi played a starring role in Nazi propaganda, of which portraying Hitler as an animal lover was an important aspect. Technicolor movie taken by Eva Braun at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair* showed that Hitler, unlike other actors, was not scared to share the film set with an animal.
Dogs like Blondi were coveted as “germanischer Urhund”, being close to the wolf, and grew very fashionable during the Third Reich. Hitler named one of Blondi’s  puppies “Wolf”, his favorite nickname and the meaning of his own first name, Adolf, meaning “noble wolf”.

Before Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 he ordered his physician Werner Haase to test cyanide pills he wanted to assist with his and Eva’s suicide on Blondi, fearing that the pills were fake. He was  inconsolable after Blondi died on cue and took his own life very shortly afterwards.* Hitler’s nurse, Erna Flegel, said in 2005 that Blondi’s death had affected the people in the bunker more than Eva Braun’s suicide.

Canine Inanities

One part of Bondeson’s book outlines Nazi research into breeds’ intelligence and personalities. But he disputes some canine inanities attributed to him such as that the Nazis experimented with super-intelligent “canine stormtroopers”  on their hind legs sieg heiling away.

As part of his five-year research for the book, Dr Bondeson visited Berlin and studied dust covered Nazi-era scientific journals with Ripley’s accounts of dogs able to perform incredible feats of talking and spelling. None of these could be achieved consistently nor replicated in other dog settings. 
 
Animal Farming

Dr Bondeson said a somewhat surprising aspect of Nazi philosophy was their commitment to animal welfare and advancement. “They were ardent anti-vivisectionists, and their laws against animal cruelty were amongst the strictest ever seen.” Dr Bondeson said that was part of their “murky philosophy” which contained a key concept that there was “a good bond between the human being, nature and society”.

A rise in schools of animal psychology in the 1930s was encouraged by the Nazis, and Hitler in particular, and their potential military use examined.

“But that’s a million miles away from the press claims – which get taller by the day – that the Nazis had a legion of talking, machine-gun-toting hounds, on the point of being unleashed on the allies”.

“Clever Hans effect”

The part of his book which Dr Bondeson believes press coverage has chosen to ignore is his explanation of the so-called “clever Hans effect”. “I’m sure that the Nazi generation of animal psychologists genuinely thought they’d tapped into a hidden innate intelligence within many animals….More recent research has, however, revealed that what they thought were dogs and horses communicating via pointing to letters or barking in code, were in fact examples of the clever Hans effect; a horse who responded to almost microscopic cues from their owner, in order to please them with the desired response.”

The animal psychologists were barking up the wrong tree. Dogs in particular have an innate need to please their pack leader, and will go to almost any lengths to achieve this. More than a few  of their human masters displayed the same behavioural pattern with der Fuerher.

Brain response

According to Bondeson, it was only with the advent of sophisticated camera technology, which can detect eye contact, and electrodes which measure brain response to stimulation that the existence of the Clever Hans phenomenon was proved categorically and dogmatically.

However, Bondeson points out that more recent studies have given new credence to the notion of dogs with advanced levels of intelligence.

“It’s clear dogs have levels of intelligence entirely separate to, and well beyond, any test we can devise to measure it. You only have to look at the way in which they’ve adapted from wild animals to become entirely comfortable in domestic human surroundings…Dogs seem to respond to the need to eat, the need to ingratiate themselves with their pack… there are limitless accounts of dogs’ ingenuity, but they sadly don’t appear to have humans’ ability for imagination and abstract thought.”

In January 2011, a Border Collie was reported to have learned 1,022 words, and acts after human recitation-rote learning in action. In June 2011 we can now bring all you sceptics a real talking dog-see the YouTube clip Ultimate Dog Tease.*

*Blinks
http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-26/uk/29585785_1_talking-dogs-nazis-adolf-hitler 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KC9XfcJFeOM  Hitler and his dog. Technicolor movie taken by Eva Braun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blondi 
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-1356827  Author Jan Bondeson frowns on ‘Nazi superdog’ claims
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12139150 Nazi Germany pursued ‘Hitler salute’ Finnish dog
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGeKSiCQkPw  Vid  Talking Dog-Ultimate Dog Tease
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AkLE4X-bbU  Vid How Much Is That Doggie In The Window – (The one with the waggily tongue?) Patti Page

#Lyall Lukey 9 June 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
http://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/ My other (bit more serious) blog 

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