History is full of untold stories, fascinating little incidents that are either deliberately suppressed (history is written by the victors, after all) or get swept up and lost in the broad stroke of the historian’s pen. This is one such story. It may seem incredible to you, but before you dismiss it with a contemptuous “hah,” remember that truth is indeed stranger than fiction.
And with those wise words, I shall begin my tale.
Now, it just so happens that I am the proud and lucky companion of a beautiful dog (well, four beautiful dogs actually, but let’s stick to one story at a time, okay?) a Dachshund called Doreen. Doreen is a dog of aristocratic, nay, noble lineage as witnessed by her full name: Doreen Von Teckel Dupont Rothschild Fitzjames Stuart Saxe-Coburg Gotha Hohenloe-Langenburg De Alba.
So how did such a noble girl come to be born in a humble peasant village in North East Spain (for Doreen came into life whilst I was living in Sitges, Spain…but one story…see above etc etc..)?
To answer that question we have to go back to 1938, to the exclusive Innere Stadt area of Vienna, Austria. It was here that Doreen’s Great Great Great Great Great Grandmother, Wilhelmina Von Teckel Dupont Rothschild Fitzjames Stuart Saxe Coburg-Gotha Hohenloe-Langenburg De Alba, kept a substantial house in Teckelstrasse, the most upmarket street in a very grand part of town.
Wilhelmina was a great beauty and one of pre-war Austria’s most eminent society figures. Night after night, her house on Teckelstrasse would shine with bright light and echo with jolly laughter as she paid host to the great and good of European society, from royalty to politicians and from wealthy industrialists to stars of stage and screen. Everyone, but everyone, wanted an invitation to one of Wilhelmina’s renowned soirees.
On an autumn night in 1938, one of the visitors to Wilhelmina’s sumptuous home was a certain Adolf Hitler. Wilhelmina and Adolf met over canapés and a fine glass of Chateau Lafite Rothschild, 1929 (a very good year) and that was it, it was love at first sight.
Before you could say “Dachshunds have lovely chunky paws,” Adolf had wined, dined and romanced Wilhelmina and whisked her off to his newly-built, secluded Eagles’ Nest retreat in the Bavarian Alps.
The couple were very, very happy in their Bavarian love-nest and would spend night after night together. Wilhelmina, besides being drop-dead gorgeous, was also a dog of great intelligence and a charming conversationalist. What’s more, she was an incredible singer (an ability inherited by our Doreen) and would entertain Adolf into the early hours with her unique howled versions of the entire Wagner Ring Cycle and obscure German folk songs.
The only slight fly in the ointment was that Adolf, though sweet and attentive to the needs of Wilhelmina (if a little harsh and aggressive to others), was not the brightest or sharpest knife in the drawer and his small brain was entirely taken up with only two things: love for Wilhelmina and a burning desire to conquer Europe.
Night after night he would rant and rave at Wilhelmina (in between her Ring Cycle and folk song recitals) about how he was going to choke the Czechs, annex the Austrians, punish the Poles, bash the Brits and flatten the French.
This all became rather tiresome so Wilhelmina, as much to shut Adolf up as anything, decided to help him with his plans for European conquest as she knew well by now that Adolf was a few sandwiches short of a loaf and that, without her, his plans for conquest wouldn’t get as far as Munich, let alone France or England.
So Wilhelmina applied her very formidable Dachsie brainpower to the conquest of Europe. Within just a few days, Wilhelmina planned and strategized the annexation of Austria, the choking of the Czechs, the punishment of the Poles, the bashing of the Brits and the total flattening of the French.
As we now know, Wilhelmina’s planning was spot on and the German war machine cut through Europe like a hot knife through butter. Unfortunately, the success of it all went to Adolf’s head and much as, many years later, Robbie Williams would decide he could write his own songs, Adolf decided he wanted his own input into this conquest malarkey.
And therein lay the seeds of the destruction of Wilhelmina and Adolf’s relationship. You see, Wilhelmina had always said to Adolf, “Now, Adolf, all this conquering Europe stuff is all well and good but whatever you do, leave Russia alone, it’s far too big and full of tough people with an almost bottomless capacity for suffering.”
Imagine her horror, then, when she woke up one morning in 1941, to discover that German troops had invaded Russia! She and Adolf argued furiously; she told him he had made a dreadful mistake that would lead to the end of all his dreams. Adolf flew into one of his apoplectic, spit-flecking rages and accused Wilhelmina of being a traitor; he promised that he would “grind her snout into the ground,” “pulverise her paws” and “exterminate all Dachshunds.”
Later that day, in fear for her life, Wilhelmina packed a small bag (with her favourite jewellery, thinking ahead as always; clever girl) and fled the Eagles’ Nest, never to be heard of again. One of history’s forgotten details.
Except that I can now reveal that, in a feat unparalleled in Dachshund history, Wilhelmina made her way through German occupied Europe (it is believed she had assistance from underground Dachshund resistance forces), crossed the Pyrenees and settled in North Eastern Spain.
Immensely guilty for her role in what turned out to be a truly appalling chapter in human history, she sold her jewellery, changed her name to Consuela and bought a small farm, becoming a humble peasant farmer, eking out a precarious existence by growing olives and keeping a few chickens. She would live to a ripe old age and have 29 children by six different fathers, starting a dynasty of poor but proud Spanish dachshunds, one of whom is my companion, my beautiful Doreen.
This tale is taken from my book ‘The Dog Who Made The Grim Reaper Cry’ available now to buy (kindle and paperback) from Amazon: