Sunday, July 27, 2008

Who would like to join me in Poland

I'd like to go to Bialowieza Forest.

Lutz Heck, zoologist, Nazi, and big-game hunter, looted eastern European zoos during WW II in his obsessive quest to resurrect three extinct species of animals: forest tarpans, aurochsen, and forest bison.

"...Heck's job, essentially, was to reinvent nature, and he found Göring a generous patron with deep pockets. In return, Heck wanted to give Göring dominion over Poland's greatest natural treasure, the fantastic lost-in-time preserve on the Polish-Belarussian border, Bialowieza. As Heck appreciated, it made the ultimate gift for a man who stamped his coat of arms on most possessions and liked to dress in 'pseudo-medieval outfits of long leather jerkins, soft top boots, and voluminous silk shirts, and go marching around his house and estate carrying a spear.' Many aristocrats held key positions in the Nazi Party and most of the high command owned hunting lodges or estates, so an important facet of Heck's hob was bagging the best hunting preserves and stocking them in novel ways. Dotted with medieval castles, inheritor of Europe's only primeval forest, Poland boasted some of the finest hunting on the continent. Prewar photographs place Göring at his sumptuously appointed hunting lodge northeast of Berlin, on an estate stretching to the Baltic, complete with a 16,000-acre private preserve which he stocked with elk, deer, wild boar, antelope, and other game animals.

More broadly, the Nazis were ardent animal lovers and environmentalists who promoted calisthenics and healthy living, regular trips into the countryside, and far-reaching animal rights policies as they rose to power. Göring took pride in sponsoring wildlife sanctuaries ("green lungs") as both recreation and conservation areas, and carving out great highways flanked by scenic vistas.... Under the Third Reich, animals became noble, mythic, almost angelic--including humans, of course, but not Slavs, Gypsies, Catholics, or Jews. Although Mengele's subjects could be operated on without any painkillers at all, a remarkable example of Nazi zoophilia is that a leading biologist was once punished for not giving worms enough anesthesia during an experiment."

- The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman

1 comment:

Barry in Ireland said...

Not sure if you really want to go, but I'd recommend. I've been to Bialowieza twice with small groups of nature lovers and it's too fab to describe here. I doubt if you wouldn't be able to find some inspiration for poetry.