The Curious Incident of the Dog in Finland Who Was Trained to Give a Nazi Salute





BERLIN — The case of the businessman who taught his dog to raise his paw at the command “Hitler” may never go down in the annals of Third Reich history as consequential, but it is has given people here a reason to laugh, not at the nation’s sinister deeds but at those who were responsible....

“The dog affair tells us the Nazis were not only criminals and mass murderers, they were silly as hell,” said Klaus Hillenbrand, a historian and author who has focused on the Nazi era and uncovered the case in federal archives. “There are very few things you can laugh about because what they did was so monstrous. But there were two or three dozen people discussing the affair of the dog rather than preparing for the invasion of the Soviet Union. They were crazy.”...

It was 1941, shortly before the invasion of the Soviet Union, and an anonymous source tipped off the Nazi authorities: A businessman named Tor Borg, of Tampere, Finland — a country that was friendly to the Nazis but not occupied by the Reich — had a black-and-white spotted dog that he taught to mock Hitler. The German vice consul in Helsinki, Willy Erkelenz, 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, owner of a pharmaceutical manufacturer, was apparently quite unnerved, in part because his company relied on German suppliers. “The rumor might emanate from an episode in the summer of 1933 which happened within my family only and which had no ulterior political background whatsoever,” he told the Nazi foreign office....


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