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Hitler's GeographiesThe Spatialities of the Third Reich$
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Paolo Giaccaria and Claudio Minca

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780226274423

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226274560.001.0001

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Back Breeding the Aurochs: The Heck Brothers, National Socialism, and Imagined Geographies for Non-Human Lebensraum

Back Breeding the Aurochs: The Heck Brothers, National Socialism, and Imagined Geographies for Non-Human Lebensraum

Chapter:
(p.138) 6 Back Breeding the Aurochs: The Heck Brothers, National Socialism, and Imagined Geographies for Non-Human Lebensraum
Source:
Hitler's Geographies
Author(s):

Clemens Driessen

Jamie Lorimer

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226274560.003.0007

This chapter investigates the bio-geographical imaginations behind the animal 'back-breeding' programs carried out by Lutz and Heinz Heck - two influential German zoologists who ran Berlin and Munich zoos. Partly with close connections to and patronage from the National Socialist elite, the Heck brothers sought to resurrect the wild cow (aurochs) and horse (tarpan) by breeding out the degeneration they associated with domestication. These back-bred animals were released during the war to roam the expanding territory of the Third Reich, and figured in propaganda films and newspaper articles legitimating that expansion. Drawing on archive material, this chapter situates these back-breeding initiatives in relation to the emerging field of geopolitics. It traces how the project to recreate extinct primordial wildlife functioned as part of discourses and practices of nature conservation that emphasized the ideal Germanic character of the European landscape and required ethnic cleansing as a form of ecological restoration. The chapter describes how back breeding of primordial wildlife was part of a legitimation of the violent Eastern expansion, emanating from a particular combination of mythological, geographic and ecological imaginations, not merely aiming for industrial and agricultural autarky but also to extend the Nazi governance of landscape conservation.

Keywords:   Lutz Heck, Heinz Heck, rewilding, aurochs, landscape, back breeding, animals, hunting, nature conservation

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