Rabbit Hutches at Dachau, ca .1943 WHI 45276
Rabbit Raising in German Concentration Camps
Sigrid Schultz, former Chicago Tribune Berlin correspondent, presented her papers to the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1965. The collection included a heavy photo album, 15 by 13 inches, with one word on its grey cover — Angora. More tellingly — the cover also included the runic lightning flashes of the Nazi SS. The album is covered in woven angora wool and dedicated to Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler, chief of the SS and one of the most ruthless Nazi leaders. He oversaw a vast empire of secret police, slave labor, and death camps.
The Angora rabbit project was an SS-administered program to breed rabbits for their soft, warm fur, one use of which was to line the jackets of Luftwaffe pilots. The rabbits were raised in luxury not far from the maltreated prisoners in 31 Nazi concentration camps in Germany, including Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Dachau. The project was a showpiece for visiting dignitaries, as well as a constant reminder to prisoners of how little their lives were valued.
Schultz acquired the volume during the winter of 1944-1945 when she assisted the American Counter Intelligence Corps in the search for documents missing from Himmler's Alpine villa. They found the Angora album in a barn not far from the villa, along other materials documenting Himmler's crimes. In 1967 Ms. Schultz described this photo album:
The first picture was startling indeed; it was a huge photograph of the head of a handsome, obviously contented angora rabbit. Other pages showed rows of hutches that were model sanitary quarters, special equipment in which the mash for the rabbits was prepared that shone as brightly as the cooking pans in a bride's kitchen. The tools used for the grooming of the rabbits could have come out of the showcases of Elizabeth Arden.
What gave special significance to the book was that under each photograph was the name of the concentration camp where it was taken. Thus, in the same compound where 800 human beings would be packed into barracks that were barely adequate for 200, the rabbits lived in luxury in their own elegant hutches. In Buchenwald, where tens of thousands of human beings were starved to death, rabbits enjoyed scientifically prepared meals. The SS men who whipped, tortured, and killed prisoners saw to it that the rabbits enjoyed loving care. Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Dachau and many of the other camps where millions of Jews and non-Jews were exterminated … participated in the project of raising rabbits with fine angora hair to help provide wool for the soldiers of the Reichswehr.
Sigrid Schultz cited a Himmler speech as clear evidence of Nazi attitudes that led to loving care for rabbits and extermination for humans. Himmler told an audience on October 4, 1943:
"Whether 10,000 Russian females fall down from exhaustion while digging an anti-tank ditch interests me only insofar as the anti-tank ditch for Germany is finished. We shall never be rough or heartless, when it is not necessary; that is clear. We Germans, who are the only people in the world who have a decent attitude towards animals, will assume a decent attitude towards these human animals; but it is a crime against our blood to worry about them."
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