A DOG dubbed "Hitler" because it gave a Nazi-type salute with its paw triggered an obsessive campaign by the German government against its Finnish owner, newly discovered documents show.
At the height of the Second World War, the German Foreign Office in Berlin commanded its diplomats in the Nazi-friendly country to gather evidence on the dog, and even came up with plans to destroy the pharmaceutical wholesale company of the dog's owner.
Historians had not been aware of the strange footnote to the Nazi period before some 30 files containing correspondence and diplomatic cables were found by a researcher.
Klaus Hillenbrand, who has written several books on the Nazi period, was contacted by the historian and examined all of the documents for an article to be published on Saturday in daily newspaper Die Tageszeitung.
He told the Associated Press news agency that the entire episode was "completely bizarre."
"Just months before the Nazis launched their attack on the Soviet Union, they had nothing better to do than to obsess about this dog," Mr Hillenbrand said.
The dog, Jackie, was owned by a businessman from the Finnish city of Tampere called Tor Borg.
Borg's wife Josefine, a German citizen known for her anti-Nazi sentiments, dubbed the dog Hitler because of the strange way it raised its paw high in the air like Germans greeting the Fuhrer.
On January 29, 1941, German Vice Consul Willy Erkelenz in Helsinki wrote that "a witness, who does not want to be named, said... he saw and heard how Borg's dog reacted to the command 'Hitler' by raising its paw."
Borg was ordered to the German embassy in Helsinki and questioned.
He denied ever calling the dog by the dictator's name, but admitted that his wife called the dog Hitler. He said the paw-raising had only happened a few times in 1933 – shortly after Hitler came to power.
He insisted he never did anything "that could be seen as an insult against the German Reich".