Animals Under the Swastika

Univ. of Wisconsin. Aug. 2022. 248p. tr. from German by John R. J. Eyck. ISBN 9780299338008. $26.95. HIST
As unbelievable as it sounds, Munich-based journalist Mohnhaupt (The Zookeeper’s War: An Incredible True Story from the Cold War) details and describes concentration camps, such as Buchenwald and Treblinka, that had zoos purposely built nearby, staffed by Roma people because of their so-called natural affinity for bears and the like. Camp prisoners realized that the animals were better fed, so many longed for any sort of menial work at the zoo, so they might be able to ferret meat or bread from among the animal rations. The number of pigs safely transported by train depended upon strictly limiting numbers, as well as adequate supplies of water and food, niceties that were denied to the transport of humans on death camp cattle cars. These and other fantastical juxtapositions demonstrate Nazism’s fanatical desire to categorize and favor the ones deemed “master animals” (German shepherds, pigs, and predatory beasts) and to root out what they called the despised “human animals” (Jews, Roma, and gay people, to name a few).
VERDICT The ultimate value of this work is in establishing how, as the author says, “deeply dangerous ideas were anchored even in areas of life supposedly not affected by ideology.” Recommended for academic libraries with a focus on history.
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