The German Nazi party of the early 1940s had many enemies, but few were less impressive (or more successful) than Jackie, a mostly-dalmatian mutt owned by Finnish businessman Tor Borg.
Tor and his wife Josefine acquired Jackie in the 1930s, and in 1933, they watched as the dog raised one front paw in the air when it heard the phrase “Heil Hitler”. It did this not once, but on at least two occasions. Josefine, who was a German citizen with a history of public anti-Nazi sentiments, nicknamed the dog “Hitler”. Tor jokingly told neighbors and friends of the paw-raising.
The story got around, as entertaining anecdotes tend to do. Many people reported that they had personally witnessed the dog raising its paw. Others became convinced that Borg had taught Jackie the trick as a way of mocking the Fuhrer.
In 1941, word reached German Vice Consul Willy Erkelenz in Helsinki, who summoned Borg to the German embassy. As Finland was a country subordinated to Germany, he complied. He was interviewed, and swore to the Vice Consul that the dog had only raised its paw a couple of times, in 1933, and that the story had been overblown.
He was dismissed, and returned home believing he’d dodged a calamity. He was wrong. Certainly, he’d sworn it only happened a couple of times… but the German authorities had heard from trusted sources that dozens of people were reporting to have seen the trick.
It wasn’t only the German Consulate in Finland which became focused on Jackie the dog. The German Foreign Office, the Economy Ministry and the Chancellory all assigned people to work exclusively on the Tor Borg & Jackie case. Detailed records traced the various people who claimed to have witnessed the possible act of mockery, but every time the Germans found someone who they believed was credible, the person would not swear under oath that they had, in fact, witnessed the trick.
Undaunted, the Economy Ministry went to IG Farben, the pharmaceutical company that supplied drug wholesaler Borg, and arranged for him to be cut off from purchasing product. Proof or not, Borg was going to be destroyed… for his dog’s theoretical crime of raising its paw.
Borg was spared his fate by the start of Germany’s invasion of Russia. Suddenly, the various ministries had better things to do than investigate a dog.
The incident and the months-long investigation it engendered would have gone unnoticed, had not papers released in 2011 exposed the entire stupid episode.
Question of the night: Have any of your dogs been able to do tricks?