07906 588011 chippietownietours@gmail.com
07906 588011 chippietownietours@gmail.com

Heel Hitler

‘Nazi dog buried in the West End’, sounds like a headline from the editors’ desk of the ‘Sunday Sport’. But unlike ‘Statue of Elvis found on Mars’, or ‘Gazza’s face grows on white cliffs of Dover’, the story of a fascist canine interned in central London is true, at least in parts.

Giro the Alsatian died in London in 1934 and his grave is marked at the top of a flight of steps just off The Mall. Giro’s master, Dr Leopold von Hoesch, was the German ambassador, residing in the magnificent Gerogian townhouse at 8-9 Carlton Place. The building is part of a terrace was designd by John Nash in 1827 and Giro must have enjoyed an idyllic life among the splendour. A mansion for kennel, stick chasing in nearby St James’s Park and spoiled with scraps from the Ambassador’s parties.

Things were rather less carefree for Dr von Hoesch. He faced a troubled political landscape as Nazi foreign policy geared up for war. Posted to London in 1932, Hoesch was a career diplomat of the Weimar age and not an acolyte of Hitler. He was shocked by the willingness of the Führer to sour diplomatic relations with Britain. His dealings with Berlin were further undermined by a growing mistrust of Joachim von Ribbentropp, Hitler’s divisive Commissioner of Disarmament. When Germany invaded the Rhineland in March 1936 Hoesch had no advance knowledge of his leader’s plans. He was a man out of step and in left in the dark. Initially, Hoesch denounced the military action as a crude provocation to France and Great Britain. Had he not died the following month it is almost certain that he would have been removed by Hitler. As it was, it was Ribbentropp who was posted to London as his replacement. During the late 1930s the embassy at Carlton Place was remodelled under the supervision of Hitler’s favourite architect Albert Speer, complete with a marble staircase gifted by Mussolini.

It was a mark of the high esteem in which Hoesch was held in Whitehall that, following his death, the British government honoured him with a funeral cortege to Dover. At the port his coffin was transferred to a German destroyer accompanied by a 19-gun salute. Though, Hoesch would no doubt have been upset that his staff gave the Nazi salute and that his casket has covered in a swastika.

It’s unclear if Hoesch accorded Giro such a grand ceremony following the dogs’ ill-fated brush with a live electrical wire in 1934. Whatever the circumstances of the internment it is clear the ambassador had great affection for his pet. The site of Giros’ final resting place is situated in what would once have been the front garden of the embassy. The land is now separated from the residence by an access road and fenced off from public access. On this burial island, under the branches of a well-established tree sits a tiny headstone inscribed with the German words ‘Giro: Ein treuer Begleiter’ – ‘Giro: A true companion’.

During WWII Luftwaffe bombs severely damaged the houses in Carlton Terrace but Giro’s grave escaped unscathed.

There is a urban legend that during the renovation work in the 30s, Alber Speer installed a swastika mosaic in one of the private rooms. It is often rumoured that the design was never been removed and remains to this day, hidden under a carpet. https://greatwen.com/2011/07/28/secret-london-swastikas/

Joachim von Ribbentropp appeared at the Nuremberg Trials, charged with war crimes. On October 16th 1946 he became the first politician to be hanged.



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