Nazis tried to train dogs to talk
The Germans viewed canines as being almost as intelligent as humans and attempted to build an army of fearsome 'speaking' dogs, extraordinary new research shows.
Hitler hoped the clever creatures would learn to communicate with their SS masters - and he even had a special dog school set up to teach them to talk.
The incredible findings show Nazi officials recruited so-called educated dogs from all over Germany and trained them to speak and tap out signals using their paws.
One mutt was said to have uttered the words 'Mein Fuhrer' when asked who Adolf Hitler was.
Another 'spoke' by tapping letters of the alphabet with his paws and was said to have speculated about religion and learnt poetry.
he Germans hoped to use the animals for the war effort, such as getting them to work alongside the SS and guard concentration camps to free up officers.
The bizarre 'Wooffan SS' experiment has come to light after years of painstaking research by academic Dr Jan Bondeson into unique and amazing dogs in history.
Dr Bonderson, from Cardiff University, visited Berlin to scour obscure periodicals to build up a bizarre - but true - account of Nazi ideas.
Hitler was a well-known dog lover and had two German Shepherds, called Blondi and Bella. He famously killed Blondi moments before committing suicide in his bunker in 1945.
The evil dictator was said to have been keen to use dogs for the war effort and supported the dog school which was called the Tier-Sprechschule ASRA.
The school, based in Leutenburg near Hannover and led by headmistress Margarethe Schmitt, was set up in the 1930s and continued throughout the war years.
It was reported to have had some success, with dogs tapping out words with their paws.
Some of them were able to imitate the human voice and one, when asked who Adolf Hitler was, is said to have replied 'Mein Fuhrer'.
The forerunner of them all was Rolf, an Airedale terrier who 'spoke' through tapping his paw against a board, each letter of the alphabet being represented by a certain number of taps.
He was said to have speculated about religion, learnt foreign languages, wrote poetry and asked a visiting noblewoman 'could you wag your tail?'
The patriotic German dog even expressed a wish to join the army, because he disliked the French.
Another dog, a Dachschund named Kurwenal, even received a visit from a troop of 28 uniformed youths from the Nazi animalprotection organisation on his birthday.
He was said to speak using a different number of barks for each letter, and told his biographer he would be voting for Hindenburg.
Another dog, a German pointer named Don, went one step further - imitating a human voice to bark "Hungry! Give me cakes", in German.
The incredible story of Germany's educated dogs has now been revealed in full by Dr Bondeson, a senior lecturer at Cardiff University in his book "Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities."
He said: "It is absolutely extraordinary stuff.
"In the 1920s, Germany had numerous 'new animal psychologists' who believed dogs were nearly as intelligent as humans, and capable of abstract thinking and communication.
"When the Nazi party took over, one might have thought they would be building concentration camps to lock these fanatics up, but instead they were actually very interested in their ideas.
"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.
"Indeed, when they started interning Jews, the newspapers were flooded with outraged letters from Germans wondering what had happened to the pets they left behind.
"Hitler himself was praised for his attitude to animals and Goering was a forerunner of animal protection. They seemed to think nothing of human rights, but lots about animal rights.
"There were some very strange experiments going on in wartime Germany, with regard to dog-human communication.
"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 ReichsfÃ¼hrer-SS.
"My guess would be that they were intended to work with the SS or be used as guard dogs in concentration camps.
"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.
"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.
"It is really remarkable and fascinating insight into a hitherto unknown facet of Nazi Germany."
Dr Bondeson's book, Amazing Dogs: A Cabinet of Canine Curiosities, also includes chapters on acting dogs, travelling dogs, turnspit dogs, holy dogs and exceptionally faithful dogs.