BERLIN (AP) — Newly discovered documents have revealed a bizarre footnote to the history of the Second World War: 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 Fuehrer.
In the middle of World War II — 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 recently found 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 Saturday in daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Mr. Hillenbrand called the entire episode “completely bizarre.”
After an intense Soviet attack and heavy bombing of its territory, including of the capital Helsinki, Finland made a pact with Germany in 1944 that lasted two months. Finland then annulled the pact and made a truce with Moscow that later led to a peace treaty with the Soviet Union.
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 Fuehrer with a cry of “Heil Hitler!”
On Jan. 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.”
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 Finnish merchant ensured the Nazi diplomats that he never did anything “that could be seen as an insult against the German Reich.”