Lutz Heck

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Heck cattle: an attempt from the 1920s to breed a look-alike aurochs from modern cattle

Ludwig Georg Heinrich Heck, called Lutz Heck (23 April 1892 in Berlin – 6 April 1983 in Wiesbaden) was a Nazi German zoologist, animal researcher, animal book author and director of the Berlin Zoological Garden. He was also an SS Hauptsturmführer. [1]

Together with his brother Heinz Heck, also a zoologist and director of the largest zoological garden in southern Germany, Tierpark Hellabrunn in Munich, he started a selective breeding program, which attempted – based on the knowledge of animal genetics of the time – to "recreate" wild animal species that are today extinct, from various forms of the domestic animals whose ancestors they were (see "breeding back").[2] By their work they created breeds of cattle and horse - later named "Heck cattle" and "Heck horse" respectively, after their creators - that are today seen as not sufficiently similar to their ancestors to be called a successful resurrection, although Heinz and Lutz Heck believed they had "resurrected" the breeds by their efforts.[3][4]

In June 1933 Heck joined the SS as supporting member. He joined the NSDAP in 1937. On occasion of Adolf Hitler’s birthday the zoologist was appointed professor. In the summer of 1938 he was appointed chief of the Oberste Naturschütz Behörde im Reichsforstamt (highest nature preservation agency in the state department of forestry) by his hunting friend Hermann Göring. In this capacity he was the senior responsible person for the entire nature management.[5]

During World War II, Heck took part in the pillaging of Warsaw Zoo, stealing the most valuable animals and taking them to German zoos. After the Battle of Berlin he fled with his wife to Bavaria, occupied by the Germans, to escape from Soviet prosecution. He was replaced by dr. Katharina Heinroth as scientific director of the Berlin Zoo.

In 1984, a year after his death, a bust of Heck was placed in the zoo. In 2015, a petition was submitted to remove this bust because of Heck’s active involvement in National Socialism. In order to meet this request half way an information tablet on Heck’s past was added. In 2016, an exposition about the zoo during the Nazi era was opened in the antelope shelter.[6]

The work of Lutz Heck features in a BBC Radio 4 documentary The Quest for the Aryan Cow, presented by the broadcaster and journalist Jon Ronson and produced by Beth O'Dea.[7] The documentary “Hitler's Jurassic Monsters” presented by the National Geographic Channel deals with his work in the Bialowieza Forest.[8]

Heck is played by Daniel Brühl in The Zookeeper's Wife.

Publications in English[edit]

  • Heck, Lutz (1954). Animals: My Adventure. London: Methuen.


  1. ^ Milmo, Cahal. "Descendants of Hitler's fantasy 'Aryan cows' found in Devon". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 15 October 2011.
  2. ^ Morris, Steven (22 April 2009). "Nazi-bred super cows roam farm in Devon". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ Van Vuure (2005).
  4. ^ The Scotsman. Edinburgh Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Prenger, Kevin, War Zone Zoo, 2018
  6. ^ Prenger, Kevin, War Zone Zoo, 2018
  7. ^ Jon Ronson and the Quest for the Aryan Cow – BBC Radio 4, 10 February 2009 (producer Beth O'Dea)
  8. ^ Hitler's Jurassic Monsters


  • Van Vuure, Cis (2005). Retracing the Aurochs: History, Morphology and Ecology of an Extinct Wild Ox. Sofia, Bulgaria: Pensoft Publishers. ISBN 978-954-642-235-4.
  • Prenger, Kevin (2018). War Zone Zoo - The Berlin Zoo & World War 2. ISBN 9781980352785.

External links[edit]