The Dog That Understood German
Der Hund, der Deustch Verstand
Herle, Maria. "The Dog That Understood German." Volk auf dem Weg, May 2005, 26.
Translation from the original German text to American English
Herzog, Boulder, Colorado
Editor's Note: The following story was sent to us by Maria Herle
Hoepfner, who in October, 1945 was deported from Selz near Odessa
to Syktyvka, Komi
SSR. She had heard this story in 1979 from Ida Hoegele, nee Rotecker,
died on March 15, 2004 in Kaufungen/Kassel and had been among the
Germans of Selz who had not succeeded in fleeing to Germany [in
1944] and had
consequently been arrested by the NKVD. She is the one who experienced
story after leaving her hometown of Selz. (See also the article
"Selz - ein
ungeklaerter Teil unserer Geschichte [Selz- an unexplained piece
history]" in VadW, November 2004). Story follows.
When the residents of the village Selz were ordered [by the German
occupiers, Tr.] to leave their town on the Black Sea, a large portion
of them were
unable to cross the liman by ferry and thereby were unable to escape
Soviets. A terrible horror for all who remained behind. They were
to return to their houses and were instead taken to the nearby Russian
villages Gradenitza, Yasi, and Belyaevka and temporarily housed
in barns. The few
things they had taken from their own homes were confiscated, so
were -- with nothing at all.
Ida Hoegele told me that of her own things she had taken a few
pieces of material and a bed cover, which she had been able to wrap
around herself and had constantly worn that way under her dress.
They had nothing to eat, since everything they still had in terms
of food was also taken away. The people housed in the barns were
beginning to despair, they were hungry, and they did not know what
was to happen to them.
Ida had an elder mother and an eight-year-old daughter she somehow
rescue from starvation. One morning, two of the Selz women from
decided to take a walk through neighboring villages. Perhaps they
someone there who might take pity with them and give them something
So [Ida and the other two] women were trudging without hope through
the villages, speaking German with each other when a dog without
a master, probably left behind by the German residents, joined them.
The dog heard that "his language" was being spoken, was
also hungry, so he accompanied the women.
Ida said to the dog: "You must be hungry, too!" Happily,
the dog got even
closer to her.
A Russian woman standing at the entry to a yard and, seeing the
women and the dog, addressed them: "You yourselves have nothing
to eat, but
you have a dog! Sell me the dog! How much do you want for him?"
you want to pay."
The Russian woman left for a while and came back with a rope, then
asked, "What's the name of the dog?"
Ida, who had no idea what the name of the dog was, replied without
"Bell." [Translator's note: German word for Bark.]
The woman took the dog by the rope, gave it a piece of bread, and
led it into the house. For Ida and her companions she brought a
large piece of bacon and a bunch of garlic. Then she left once again,
only to come back with a bag of corn meal and with a large can of
The women were overjoyed. Back in the barn they immediately cooked
large pot of gruel, of which everyone in the barn was given a saucerful.
garlic and bacon were also divided among the people there. The next
took the empty milk can back and were again given a can of milk.
So the dog which "understood German" had been able to
help them to lessen
their hunger just a little, and himself had found a home.
This story moved me very much and reminded me of an episode in
Wieso lebst du noch [Why are you still alive]? by Georg Hildebrandt,
in which the
author spoke to a horse in German.
Our appreciation is extended to Alex Herzog for translation
of this article.