Nazis Thought They Might Be Able To Create An Army Of Talking Dogs

  • 01/03/2018
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Despite their despicable crimes against humanity, the Nazis believed that humans should have a strong relationship with animals, with Adolf Hitler being a known lover of his two Germany Shepherds, Blondi and Bella.

That's what makes one aspect of Nazi Germany so fascinating - that the Nazis thought it might one day be possible to create an army of talking dogs.

According to Cardiff University's Dr Jan Bonderson, who explored amazing historical dogs in his book Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, war-time Germans were particularly interested in whether dogs could talk, with an eye to using them in the war effort.

"There were some very strange experiments going on in wartime Germany, with regard to dog-human communication," Bonderson said.

"Nazi animal psychologists worked with the educated dogs, and there was even a school to teach animals to communicate, with dogs supplied by the office of the Reichsfuhrer-SS.

"My guess would be that they were intended to work with the SS or be used as guard dogs in concentration camps."

In his book, drawn from obscure journals, Dr Bonderson said that in the early 20th century Germany boasted several 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were almost as intelligent as humans and capable of abstract thinking and communication.

One dog of particular interest was an Airedale terrier called Rolf. Before he died in 1919, Rolf was apparently able to speak with humans by tapping out letters with its paw and even learnt foreign languages.

By the 1930s, schools had started to train dogs to 'speak', with the Nazis especially interested in the output of one school called the Tiersprechschule Asra - literally the 'animal speaking school'.

The school, based in Leutenberg near to Hannover, was set up in the 1930s and carried until 1945, with the school apparently training dogs to talk, count and reason.

Despite the school's efforts, the dogs were largely unable to speak - a lack of the right vocal cords put paid to that - and their counting was a trained response, making the dogs better for performance rather than actual reasoning.

Nevertheless, the project was of interest to the Nazis, with Hitler even accepting the school's offer to perform for the German armed forces according to one witness at the time, the vet Max Muller.

"Hitler was himself interested in the prospect of using educated dogs in the war effort, and he advised representatives of the German army to study their usefulness in the field," Dr Bonderson said.

"Still, it appears to have been very early days - there is no evidence it ever actually came to fruition and that the SS were walking around with talking dogs."

As the world has learnt since any idea of dogs talking is highly unlikely. A later study found by Bonderson concluded that the basis for it all, Rolf, had simply been following cues from his master - a phenomenon now known as the Clever Hans effect.

So while the Nazis didn't have access to uber-dogs, the Nazis' curiosity in using them is an interesting quirk of history. Let's just be glad it never actually happened.

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