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Date: Sunday, 5 April 1936
Place: Carinhall Castle, Berlin, Germany
Hermann Göring (Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe) with his pet lion cub, Cäsar (some sources said as Mucki), pictured in his grandiose Carinhall castle, 5 April 1936. Göring and his wife Emma Sonnemann (known as Emmy Göring after married) lived in a castle outside Berlin named Carinhall after Göring’s first wife Carin Fock (imagine being Emmy and living in that house!). Göring’s lavish possessions there included a bowling alley, a train set appraised at $265,000 — and a private zoo that “required enough meat to feed a village"! In that zoo was a lion, or, rather, several lions, including the one in the picture. Therein lies another clue about Göring and the lion: Göring maintained close ties with zoologists and animal lovers, particularly those interested in big game animals, around Germany. Partly, this was because he was a big game hunter. But Göring’s love of animals went beyond his desire to kill them. In fact, Göring was a humanitarian when it came to large animals. He personally protected a herd of several dozen Polish bison, two thirds of whom survived the war as a direct consequence of Göring’s actions. In 1945, Berlin Zoo keeper Fritz Schneider complained that Göring had offered to evacuate the entire zoo to Carinhall in case of bombing, but had failed to do so (in fact, Göring couldn’t have saved the animals, since he’d already dynamited his castle). In addition, this website claims that Göring reintroduced buffalo and elk to German grasslands and threatened to send local townspeople to concentration camps if they killed large animals around Carinhall, including wild boars! We find ourselves at a surprising, but inescapable conclusion: Hermann Göring, the butcher of European Jewry, showed surprising tenderness, if not love, toward his pet lions. What are we to make of this? It’s easy to conclude that the strange difference in behavior is merely an example of Göring’s villainy, or, following Hannah Arendt, that it reflects “the banality of evil.” Alternately, we could agree with art curator Nancy Yeide, who concludes that the lions reflect a love of excess inherent in Göring’s character. Certainly, ownership and close contact with big cats is regarded today as a sign of extreme decadence.
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