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Zoologischer Garten: The Berlin's Zoo that Allies Bombed and Killed 90% of the Animals during WWII

Zoologischer Garten Berlin was the first zoo in Germany, which opened on August 1, 1844. Its aquarium opened in 1913. Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, donated the first animals from the zoo and pheasantry of the Tiergarten. In the same year, a U-Bahn station was opened nearby.

On September 8, 1941, the Allies bombed the zoo area for the first-time during World War II. The majority of the damage was done during the bombardments of 22 and 23 November 1943. 30% of the zoo animals were killed within 15 minutes on the first day. A direct hit on the aquarium building destroyed it on the second day. Only one of the eight elephants survived, Siam. During a fire in his animal house, the 2-year-old hippo bull Knautschke was saved. Most of the damage was caused during the Battle of Berlin. On April 22, 1945, the zoo was under constant artillery fire from the Red Army. Fighting continued in the zoo area until April 30. The zookeepers killed several predators and other dangerous animals due to safety measures.

The zoo was fortified by the end of the war with the Zoo Tower, a huge flak tower that provided the last remaining bastion of Nazi German resistance against the Red Army with its bunkers and anti-aircraft weapons. A small underground shelter was located at the entrance to the zoo for visitors and keepers. Female personnel and the wives of zookeepers cared for wounded German soldiers here during the battle. The zoo flak bunker surrendered on April 30.

The National Zoological Park recorded 91 animals as survivors on May 31, 1945, including two lion cubs, two hyenas, an Asian elephant bull named Siam, a hippo bull named Knautschke, ten baboons, and a chimpanzee. Red Army soldiers ate some animals after the battle. Some animals disappeared after the battle. After the zoo was destroyed, it and the accompanying aquarium were reconstructed according to modern principles to display the animals in as natural an environment as possible. Breeding animals, including some rare species, with these new methods, have demonstrated their efficacy.

#1 In the middle of the hail of bombs in 1943, hippo “Knautschke” was born in Berlin Zoo and was one of only 91 zoo animals to survive the Second World War.

In the middle of the hail of bombs in 1943, hippo “Knautschke” was born in Berlin Zoo and was one of only 91 zoo animals to survive the Second World War.

Here he presents himself in May 1957 together with his daughter “Boulette” on the rural part of the grounds of the hippo house, which was newly opened in 1956.

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#2 Chimpanzees “Titine”, “Lore” and “Susi” were served food at the table in the 1940s.

Chimpanzees “Titine”, “Lore” and “Susi” were served food at the table in the 1940s.

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#3 The first zoo giraffes to reach Germany were born in the wild, captured there and transported to Europe.

The first zoo giraffes to reach Germany were born in the wild, captured there and transported to Europe.

Giraffe “Rike”, however, was born in October 1938 in the Berlin Zoo. She stayed there until she died of lung disease in February 1957.

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#4 Shoebill stork being cared for after the bombing of the Zoo, 1943.

Shoebill stork being cared for after the bombing of the Zoo, 1943.

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#5 Siam, the elephant before the war.

Siam, the elephant before the war.

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#6 Hippo “Gretl” standing in the damaged Hippo enclosure, 1943.

Hippo “Gretl” standing in the damaged Hippo enclosure, 1943.

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#7 A dead giraffe was killed in the bombings.

A dead giraffe was killed in the bombings.

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#8 Postwar photo of hippos “Knautschke” and “Bulette”.

Postwar photo of hippos “Knautschke” and “Bulette”.

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#9 Siam the elephant looking through a gate.

Siam the elephant looking through a gate.

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#10 Group of elephants killed in the bombings.

Group of elephants killed in the bombings.

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#11 Charred baby elephant after bombing in Berlin 1943, all 7 elephants at the zoo were burned alive.

Charred baby elephant after bombing in Berlin 1943, all 7 elephants at the zoo were burned alive.

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#12 March 3 ,1943 British attack on Berlin Zoo, 3900 animals of the zoo perished.

March 3 ,1943 British attack on Berlin Zoo, 3900 animals of the zoo perished.

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#13 Escaped animals, killed on the streets of Berlin, 1945.

Escaped animals, killed on the streets of Berlin, 1945.

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#14 Hungry Berliners carve up a horse killed in the shellings, 1945.

Berlin Zoo during WWII

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#15 A wrecked building at the Berlin Zoo, 1943.

Berlin Zoo during WWII

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#16 More ruins at the Zoo, following the November raid.

Berlin Zoo during WWII

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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