The second rune in the Elder Futhark is “uruz,” and it refers to the “aurochs,” a familiar fixture in the lives of our ancestors. The aurochs was a very large beast, about the size of rhino, and was the ancestor of today’s cattle. The last recorded aurochs (a female) was reported to have died in Poland in 1627.
But a little thing like extinction is not enough to stop fiendish Nazi scientists!
Under the Third Reich two brothers who happened to be zoologists, Heinz and Lutz Heck, made the usual “Faustian bargain” with the Führer (standard boilerplate) and set about trying to “breed back” the aurochs. Heinz’s fiendish laboratory was at the Hellbrun Zoological Gardens in Munich, while Lutz’s was located at the Berlin Zoological Gardens. Heinz crossed several modern breeds of cattle to produce a “reconstructed” aurochs, including Corsican breeds, Hungarian grey cattle, Scottish Highland cattle, and others. Brother Lutz crossed mainly Spanish and French cattle with other breeds. The resulting cattle bore a remarkable resemblance to what we think the aurochs actually looked like. However, they are not genetically identical to the aurochs; they are merely, as it were, biological facsimiles.
The Berlin herd was apparently a casualty of the Second World War, so all the ones around today are descendents of Heinz’s Munich herd. The Netherlands is currently home to about 600 “Heck cattle” (as they are known). Others are roaming in pastures near Berlin, Jena, and Auerbach. There are around 100 Heck cattle in France, and in 2009 a herd of 13 were brought to Devon, England. It was then that the Heck cattle made the news.
“Giant Nazi Cows on the Loose in Britain” blared a headline from metro.co.uk. Said Derek Gow, the farmer who imported the cattle: “The Nazis wanted to re-create the aurochs to evoke the power of the folklores and legends of the Germanic peoples.” Horrors! “‘Nazi Cows’ Roam English Countryside,” gassed Fox News. The Daily Mail was a bit more understated: “In an English Field, The Cattle Created by Hitler.”
It was the Independent that won the prize for most ridiculous treatment of the story. Their piece begins: “Hitler wanted them to be Aryan cows – ancient beasts resurrected from a time before Europe was populated by ‘racially degenerate’ wildlife.”
Huh? I don’t even know where to begin with this one. “Aryan cows?” I’ve seen some blond-haired, blue-eyed Aryan cows roaming shopping malls in Northwest Georgia, and have mused on the degeneration of my race. But that there could be non-human Aryans is news to me. (Was Blondie, Hitler’s shepherd, an Aryan dog? I should hope so.)
“Racially degenerate wildlife?” This conjures up disturbing, anthropomorphic images in my mind, a sort of ghastly melding of Wind in the Willows and Camp of the Saints: wan, dissolute young chipmunks in do-rags; bloated hedgehog mamacitas swilling grape soda and slapping their unruly cubs; fat and satisfied rats in tiny yarmulkes scurrying into hollow trees, clutching bags of lucre — and so forth.
This “Aryan cow” idea actually caught on. The New Zealand Herald headlined its story “Descendents of Hitler’s Fantasy ‘Aryan Cows’ Found in Devon.”
Yes, some parts of these articles make it clear that these journalists are trying to be funny. But not the parts I have quoted. I suspect that they simply cannot discuss Hitler or National Socialism without lapsing into a kind of hysterical clichéd gibbering. The actual stabs at humor might merely be expressions of a deeper anxiety.
By the way, the metro.co.uk article notes that “the animal was seen as a symbol of efforts to build a master Aryan race and most were destroyed after the war.” I can find no other source that confirms this (indeed, all sources confirm that many survived). But I don’t know which is worse: that some idiots would have slaughtered animals because of their association with Nazism, or that today’s journalists (and readers) can process this idea without outrage.
But what should we expect? During the Third Reich some enthusiastic Hitler Youth planted trees in the shape of a swastika visible only from the air. They have been chopped down. And since the authorities did not wish to leave a swastika-shaped clearing in the forest, the adjacent trees were chopped down too. You’ve certainly got to give the Germans credit for thoroughness. So we shouldn’t be surprised if certain . . . “proposals” are soon made for dealing with the Kuhfrage (cow question).
Shouldn’t the pastures be cleansed of these ideologically tainted bovines? Exiling a few to England, France, and the Netherlands is a halfway measure. There needs to be a Final Solution to the Nazi cow menace, so that German children can live in a world that is nationalsozialistischekühefrei (free of National Socialist cows). And surely one day soon the Germans will recognize this and load all these volksverhezende heifers onto . . . well . . . cattle cars, and send them off for Sonderbehandlung (special treatment). I understand that cows can be made into Lederhosen, and even into soap.
Ethical questions will arise, of course. For example, should we eat the meat of Nazi cows? Or does fattening my body with Nazi meat somehow constitute profiting from their criminal regime?
But the final de-Nazification of Germany may still be thwarted, for a new team of researchers, now guided by actual DNA from aurochs bones, is working to re-resurrect the aurochs. This new attempt at genetic revanchism is taking place in Italy, so there is nothing sinister about it. (Although, on second thought, in Italy Hitler’s face does sell wine.) I did note, however, that the media have taken an interest in the project in, of all places, Brazil.
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