Cold War, Dogs, Germany
BERLIN — Gerlinde Schultze beamed as she lifted up her week-old puppy.
“This is Xaver, a purebred East German shepherd,” she said proudly, kissing the dark whelp on its wet snout.
“You can’t possibly find a better bloodline anywhere _ especially not in West Germany.”
As the country celebrates 17 years of reunification on Wednesday, some animosities between the formerly communist East and capitalist West remain” and few are as doggedly contested as the fight over whose shepherds are superior. One thing nobody denies is that in the more than four decades of Germany’s division, the dogs did develop different looks: Eastern shepherds are mostly dark gray or black, while the Western dogs have the better-known yellow-and-black appearance.
West German shepherds also have a characteristically sloped back, while their East German counterparts have a straighter back ” which their proponents claim is less prone to the hip problems that can plague the breed. … Because of this, the claim for the better dog at times sounds more like a battle over moral superiority between the East and the West than breeder rivalry. Grube called the claims from the East German breeders an “obvious case of Ostalgie” a sentimental nostalgia about life in former East Germany, which went out of existence at reunification in 1990 at the end of the Cold War.
East German breeders get particularly upset when confronted with the widespread assumption that most of their dogs were used at the border to keep citizens from fleeing to the West.
“The army and the police only got the scum ” the best ones went to dog lovers,” said Werner Dalm, the former government official for shepherd dog breeding in communist East Germany. However, he acknowledged that the East German army asked particularly for those “that could really bite well.”
Today, Dalm, who is still breeding shepherds at age 81 and is also convinced of the East German dogs’ superiority, believes that pure East German bloodlines are all but extinct. “Since the unification in 1990, we’ve been mixing bloodlines,” he said. “Even my dogs don’t have pure East German pedigrees any longer.” Whatever the truth, it does seem like the East German shepherd is making a comeback among the 75,000 members of the German Shepherds’ Club and even abroad.
“We get so many requests for our dogs, there’s an international wait list of several years,” said Schultze.