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Of Hitler and Bird Calls

Updated on May 8, 2014
Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin, an experiened writer, enjoys creative writing in all forms, from literary to mainstream.

Author's Note:

The following is an absurd perversion of historical fact. Of the long factual list of bizarre things Hitler did, from taking methamphetamine daily, to dabbling in the occult, to playing a part in the creation of the VW Bug, to my knowledge he was never an expert of birdcalls.

This story is a historical fiction along the lines of such films as Forrest Gump, Inglorious Bastards, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

I first learned of Hitler when I was a child, sitting on the living room carpet playing with Hot Wheels or monster trucks or wrestling action figures, or whatever toy was important to me at the time. I don’t remember the toy so much as the images flashing on the television, my father sitting stoically in his recliner, watching a PBS documentary intently, not enjoying what he saw but feeling a duty to try to understand the why and how of it anyway. It was here I learned about the Hitler everybody knows, images of nude, emaciated bodies piled on top of one another burned into my retinas. The program said the bodies were those of Jews, but I didn’t know of Jews, and they just looked like people to me.

Throughout my life I have came back again and again to the topic of Hitler, and like my father, I have tried, without success, to understand. Today, as a man in my mid-thirties, I don’t really know any more than when I was eight or nine or ten, or however old I was when I first heard the term concentration camp on public broadcasting: Hitler did very bad things. This should never have happened. Ever since, all the written accounts and film footage I have seen, have been able to interpret with an adult mind, I really have been able to draw no other conclusions on the matter. But I still read about it; I still watch the documentaries, wanting to understand, feeling it is my duty to try to.

Of Hitler and Birdcalls
Of Hitler and Birdcalls | Source

A Listless College Freshman

It was in an introductory history class in college that I first learned of Hitler and birdcalls. The idea that this genocidal monster could also take the time to learn the sounds birds made, and to imitate them, fascinated me. It seemed like something a thinking, breathing human being would do, a kindly family friend you might affectionately call Dolphie, not a soulless dictator. It is almost a comical sight in the mind’s eye: Hitler with his intense scowl and in full garb, swastika wrapped around his bicep, frightful moustache, cupping his hand to his mouth as a ridiculous noise emanates from his person, a mallard flocking to perch beside him. The history professor mentioned the birdcalls only in passing, as history teachers are so fond of doing with the interesting stuff. Then it was back to talking about the blood and guts Hitler that we know.


A pelican
A pelican | Source

Like many college freshman, I was listless and without identity. Just a few months earlier I had been somebody, a high school senior who knew and understood his little world and was excited about the new world to come. Six weeks into college and I had failed to make a single friend. The girls here didn’t think I was special. I was a loner, a nobody. I was homesick, but too proud to admit it. My grades were poor, but I couldn’t seem to make myself care about it. All of this amounted to a very angry, young man, the sort of person that makes bad decisions, develops bad philosophies. It was a pivotal time in my life and a path needed to be chosen. Hitler and birdcalls: that was all I had, the only thing that motivated my imagination. I didn’t know why, and the topic seemingly profited my future in no way, but I needed to know more about it.

Finding information about Hitler is easy. There are thousands upon thousands of pages chronicling his infamy. There are thousands of films about almost every facet of his life. But go to find information about Hitler’s affinity for birdcalls, and you are going to be searching for a good, long while. The information is out there, but if one can imagine a very large library filled with books concerning everything else about Hitler, one need only imagine a thimble beside that library half-full with information about Hitler and birdcalls to get an accurate visual of the lack of material available. That being said, a prisoner is a prisoner, and I was a prisoner to this newfound obsession. For whatever reason, I needed to know, and the information would be found and would not disappoint.

Flier for Hitler bird calling exhibition
Flier for Hitler bird calling exhibition | Source

Interests

Which of the following birds is most interesting to you?

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Hitler the Entertainer

When asked to conjure a representation of Hitler, most of us will summon an angry man, a stupid moustache, and an ugly black and red symbol. The image is screaming and shouting angry words many of us do not understand and waving its arms fanatically. Going further, one may envision a desperate, confused crowd, fevered and riotous. But the earliest promotional materials paint a picture of a much different type of gathering. One flier reads as follows: Come see Adolf Hitler: Birdcall Master and Political Reformist.

An unaccredited newspaper review of the performance reads as follows:

“Adolph Hitler delights crowds as he mimics precisely the call of various duck species, pigeons, and even a peahen. Children and adults alike watch in wonderment as this master birdcall artist beckons various feathered creatures within mere feet of him. The sounds he makes are so lifelike the birds themselves cannot even distinguish he is not an authentic member of their species, even while he stands in plain sight.”

The article makes no mention of Hitler’s political speech.

It may seem odd to us in modern times to show up in droves for a birdcall exhibition, but one need only research the German people of the time to understand the attraction. As Wilhelm Richter, an audience member in one of the early exhibitions, relates, “We Germans love birds. Not just a delicious duck on our dinner plate, the majesty of them soaring through the air, their beautiful plumage. This was the early 1900’s. Some of us had never seen an airplane. On the stage of the sky, birds were about the only show in town. To be close to a bird, to touch one, to command it, this was magical.” He goes on to explain, “I remember Hitler’s birdcall exhibitions. Many of us back then considered ourselves competent at it. It was rare that a boy wasn’t taught more or less from birth. One could say it was in our genes. It was a skill that got you the girls. And there were lots of birdcall exhibitions back then, too. A person could say the top birdcall artists were much like the television stars of today. But Hitler, nobody could call a bird like he could. Watching him on the stage, it was as if he actually became the bird. And not just native birds either, exotics. I once saw Hitler call an ostrich right up to the stage and touch his nose to its beak. Any bird, he had the ability to just hear it squawk a few times and he could replicate it exactly.”

Mallard
Mallard | Source

A Decision is Made

But Hitler’s fame as a birdcall artist seemed to work against his political aspirations. The German population liked their art and politics separate. Hans Wolf, another face in the crowd, explains, “It was strange to have this happy, festive Hitler charming us with birdcalls and then see him switch to political agendas and drone on about them angrily for hours. People would just leave after the birdcalls were finished.”

This angered Hitler’s political supporters. Advisement to get rid of the bird exhibition was delivered, but Hitler was unwilling to allow for it. A compromise was struck: Hitler would give his political speeches first and then do the bird exhibition. This also failed to work. The patrons simply came to the outings late. The decision was clear: either Hitler must pursue other financial backing and focus solely on birdcalls or keep his current supporters and become a fulltime politician. He couldn’t do both.

We can choose to love or we can choose to hate. We can choose to help or we can choose to hurt. Hitler chose the latter on both accounts. Gone was the youthful exuberance of his bird exhibitions. Here to stay was his hate speech and power lust. Among his inner-circle he would still do an occasional birdcall, but the light was all but extinguished

Lamenting the Dodo
Lamenting the Dodo | Source

Lamenting the Dodo

In his last years, when defeat loomed heavy, Hitler was said to lament the dodo bird. A former servant recounts, “He’d cup his mouth and make some noise, seemingly not of him. He’d say, ‘Maybe that’s what the dodo bird sounded like.’ He’d go out on the porch and try it. When nothing came, he’d shrug his shoulders and say, ‘Gone, all gone.’ He did this a lot towards the end.”

The irony and hypocrisy of Hitler being saddened by the loss of a species cannot be overlooked when one considers the role extinction of a people played in his chosen mission. Nor can the fields of skeletal figures stripped and stacked upon one another. Hitler did very bad things, and this never should have happened. But behind all of this devastation is a decision. Much is made of Hitler’s failure as a painter. His paintings were met with little fanfare, but failure in and of itself does not a monster make. In addition, Hitler still had another creative outlet. So acclaimed was he for his birdcalls, it was often said, “Hitler could call a penguin from the equator.” But instead he chose another flock to speak to and led them to a place far hotter.

A happy Hitler delighted crowds with his birdcalls, and he could have continued doing this and died happy, old and but a historical blip. Instead, a different Hitler won out. Rightfully, this is the Hitler the world will always remember. Why did Hitler quit wowing crowds with bizarre noises? Why did such a large segment of the German population decide to quit taking pleasure in the simple things and focus on the woe and not the joy of living? Why did they target a people to unleash all their frustrations on? Why do we still do it today? I don’t know, and though we will always search for an answer, as we should, I doubt a definitive one will ever be found. I do know that as a freshman in college researching this topic for no better reason than my own peace of mind, I came to this conclusion: When faced with the choice of birdcalls or genocide, choose birdcalls. And so I did and still do.

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    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Mel: lol, never at a loss for sarcasm. You'd be surprised how many people take this story as gospel despite how clearly I've marked it as a hoax.

      I always enjoy hearing from you. Thanks so much for dropping by.

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 21 months ago from Oklahoma

      Lady guitar picker: might want to keep in mind this story is fictionalized.

      Thanks so much for dropping by.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 21 months ago from San Diego California

      You mean this wasn't completely real, Larry? I'm stunned. I already included this in my presentation to the local WWII historical society.

    • ladyguitarpicker profile image

      stella vadakin 21 months ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

      Hi Larry, great article. I have always found Hitler a fascinating subject to read. I continue to read everything I find.

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 23 months ago from Oklahoma

      Just a reminder, this is an absurdist farce. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 23 months ago from New Zealand

      I found your article very interesting along with all your background on how you came to be intrigued by the bird calling ability that Hitler had. I like your style of writing and enjoyed learning about this subject which I was not aware of.

    • temptor94 profile image

      Ritu Temptor 23 months ago from India

      I could never imagine Hitler being so good at something like bird-calling. I wasn't even aware that he had this talent. Hitler probably didn't have genocide in mind or a world war when he started his hate speeches. He hated the Jews. Some rumours say that he got syphilis from a Jewish prostitute, probably the root for his hatred.. not so sure. But then what started off as a promotion of hatred and drive-away the Jews bloated into something too huge, a chaos in the making that Hitler was too egocentric to admit was out-of-control. With his narcissism fed by his supporters, he just became more ruthless and violent. Doesn't matter how it became the monstrosity, Hitler's bad decisions can never e forgotten or forgiven.

      Maybe psychopaths like Hitler have a soft-corner for lesser mortals like birds and animals, because they can't relate to humans. Or maybe Hitler simply used his bird-calling talent to draw admiration so that people would react positively to his hate speeches - to exploit the psychology of "how can such a soft-hearted man with great love for birds be ethically wrong or morally corrupt". How his mind worked, only he can say but he will always remain incomprehensible to most of us.

      Really enjoyed reading. Great hub and a very interesting topic!

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      delia-delia:

      Great comments and thanks for dropping by.

    • delia-delia profile image

      Delia 2 years ago

      Well that was interesting! Too bad you didn't use the word Vogelstimmen Meister for Bird calls in the flier. Well, he was Cuckoo, so it fit. He did like animals, but was sicker then a dog in mind and body. Maybe a good artist, but not a great artist...this coming from a good artist...me ;-) By the way I like your drawings, in particular the bird and hitler.

      I'd like to think of him as a lesson to humanity as how NOT to be...but then he was not the only human devil. I was born in Germany and it makes me sick to think he and his cronies had such sick minds. Envy, jealousy and hatered can bring out the worst in someone...bad life choices have consequences and as a Christian I believe he has to account to God.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Screw em if they don't get it. Your originality is refreshing.

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for the positive endorsement. Of the various things I've published, I have spent the most time worrying about how this article will be received, because it is so offbeat and maybe even a little out of place for a Hubpages article. The response thus far has been positive and I feel most people have seen it for what it is: an absurd, historical farce with the underlying theme of choices.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 3 years ago from San Diego California

      Absolutely brilliant. I admire your renegade spirit to approach such a gruesome subject from this highly irregular perspective. Found myself laughing. Great hub!

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Thanks for the comments. I realize what I've done here is a strange thing, making up a story about birdcalls, but the overarching point is that most if not all of us start life as human beings, and we choose to let life turn us into monsters. Yes, the climate in Germany at this time in history was ripe for an ugly outcome, but things didn't have to go the direction they went. There had to be another way and for the sake of my musings and because of my affection for absurdity, I used birdcalls as the alternate route.

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      Howard Schneider 3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very interesting musing upon the choices all of us might and do make. Hitler did not just arrive upon the world a monster. Like all of us he evolved and had choices. He was a failed artist and found a need to blame others for it. Germany lost World War I and were hit with horrible reparation bills. Combine the 2 and Hitler found the choices and connections to become a monster of epic proportions. Of course there probably were many other seeds but as you have implied, we need to make the good choices. Excellent Hub and food for thought, Larry.

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      Jackie: Thanks for the comments.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 3 years ago from The Beautiful South

      A man like Hitler is so hard to understand but even harder are the people who would follow him and do these terrible things to a people. I know it is not just Hitler; there are other men to lead so many to believe lies and let their lives be destroyed while defending the monsters. How could they? It really is all very mysterious and devastating. So sad.

      Great write; thanks for sharing.

    • Larry Rankin profile image
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      Larry Rankin 3 years ago from Oklahoma

      I am so glad you enjoyed this story. I have to say I am surprised you enjoyed the art. I am not an artist of that type, but I do my best. I am very pleased it was appreciated. Thank you.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 3 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is a totally different commentary about a much hated man. The thought of him enjoying bird calls is almost impossible, but i know he did. I read a book about Hitler and his passions. I wish i could remember the title and author. His theory was, he turned to hate when he was denied admission to art school. I found this very interesting and well written, plus your drawings are very good. Thank you. Tweeted