Content Warning: Animal cruelty, Nazism.
A friend’s great uncle killed and ate a German shepherd that belonged to a Gestapo officer; he butchered and ate it with his fellow prisoners. By depriving the Nazis of a weapon, he provided a meal for his Jewish brothers. He consumed that which would have destroyed him. With his teeth he rent apart the flesh that would have, with its teeth, rent apart his flesh. Perhaps this is what is meant by justice, and perhaps this is what is meant by “We cannot destroy the Master’s house with the Master’s tools.” He did not train the dog to attack its master. He could not do that, could not turn the living tool on its original holder. He could only kill the dog and eat it, gaining strength to survive the long war.
Have I ignored the life of the dog? I remember reading the work of a German writer, who said he turned against the Nazi regime as a child because his Jewish neighbors’ dog was killed when they took the Jews away. His Nazi nurse tried to comfort him by saying, “Don’t cry, it was a Jewish dog.” The ridiculousness of this response was the beginning of the end of this German’s Nazi education; he was, forever after, subversive in his heart. What would this tender hearted child have thought of Jews eagerly slaughtering and fending off starvation with the meat of this other dog? Would his sympathies have become muddled? Nazis kill dogs. Jews kill dogs. Aren’t we all just dog-killers?
We are not children. We know context matters. The shooting of a dog, pathetically barking as its masters are dragged away to a concentration camp, that’s a tragedy that ends our infatuation with power. Once that infatuation is well and truly dead, we can rejoice in the idea of a starving prisoner rising against and eating a dog who tormented the prisoner at the end of its master’s leash, a dog who probably had eaten better than the prisoner. We have journeyed from the soft heart of childhood, to the cold fury of an adult longing for Justice.
What we can not account for, is the dog. We can not know the soul of this creature whose natural loyalty has been abused, turning it into a weapon. We can not know whether the dog, under a better master, would have been faithful and kind. In the world the Nazi builds, we can not question whether the dog is a tool or a living creature, with thoughts and feelings of its own. Do dogs love? Do they care? We can not pet the dog, can not sink our fingers into its fur until our hands stink of dog, look into its tender and soulful eyes, and wonder how like us it is. We can only kill the dog, and feast.