Sunday, February 5, 2012

Animals of the Third Reich by Boris Sax

This was one of the books that I tracked down after reading Blood Horses. I thought it seemed an interesting topic. For all that one learns about the Nazis and World War II, there isn't much mention ever made of what went on with animals. Pets, wildlife, food - animals were greatly affected by World War II. I thought this book might shed some light on that aspect of the war.

Not really. The book is divided into four parts. The first deals with national socialism and how it came about in Germany with a little bit about animal symbolism. The second part goes even more into symbolism, discussing the Nazi viewpoints towards six different animals (ape, lamb, pig, wolf, dog and horse). The third part explores the treatment of animals, in part with the use of animals for research purposes. The final section looks at death and sacrifice, both of humans and animals.

The book can be summed up pretty easily. The Nazis were full of contrasts and oxymoronic behavior. How can a group pass laws protecting animals while slaughtering people? In the sections on symbolism, it was clear that there were conflicting opinions on whether a given animal was viewed positively or negatively (for example, a dog could be viewed positively as a predator but also used in a derogatory sense (that Jew dog)).

Sax doesn't help matters much. I thought his style was very academic and boring. At times it read like a Powerpoint presentation. I nodded off several times over the course of my reading. And I often like academic tomes. Sax often would throw in little tidbits here and there which felt like he was stuffing them in because he found them and they seemed interesting, even if it didn't really further his point at all. He did this a lot by citing fictional works (oh, well this German short story mentioned it, so it must have been a pretty common happenstance. Uh, no).

It's a different book and I might have learned something (especially through my subconscious as I dozed off). It's not unique and interesting enough for me to recommend, though, and the tone will likely turn a lot of people off.

Oh, and I didn't even start the second book that Blood Horses inspired me to get. The book, Cavalry, didn't appeal to me very much. It was published in the 1970's and was chock full of pictures, reminding me of the kind of book you used in fourth grade to write book reports. Like I said, a rough month for reading.

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