The Shmooze

A Talking German Shepherd?

By Michael Kaminer

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So that’s what “master race” meant.

A new book contends the Nazis attempted “to breed an army of educated dogs that could read, write and talk,” Time reports under the surely unprecedented headline “How Nazi Scientists Tried to Create an Army of Talking Dogs.”

In Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, Cardiff University historian Jan Bondeson “mines obscure German periodicals” to discover “scientists envisioned a day when dogs would serve alongside German troops, and perhaps free up SS officers by guarding concentration camps.”
Hitler even set up a Tier-Sprechschule – “Animal Talking School” – near Hanover, Time reports, and recruited “educated dogs” from throughout the country.

“Teachers claimed a number of incredible findings,” says Time. An Airedale terrier named Rolf who could spell by tapping his paw on a board “mused on religion, learned foreign languages and even asked a noblewoman, ‘Can you wag your tail?’” Rolf apparently told his German masters he wanted to serve in the German army because he disliked the French. Another canine barked “Mein Fuhrer” when asked to describe Hitler, Time reports. “And Don, a German pointer, is said to have imitated a human voice to bark, ‘Hungry! Give me cakes!’ in German.”

“Part of the Nazi philosophy was that there was a strong bond between humans and nature. They believed a good Nazi should be an animal friend,” author Bondeson tells time. Perversely, when the Nazis started interning Jews, “newspapers were flooded with outraged letters from Germans wondering what had happened to the pets they left behind.”


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