Fabled ‘Hitler’s alligator’ dies at Moscow zoo aged 84

Web Desk May 24, 2020

The 84-year-old reptile was found by British soldiers in Berlin after the Second World War and handed to the Red Army.

Called Saturn, the alligator was taken to the Soviet capital and has lived at Moscow Zoo since 1946.

Known to have been a pre-war star attraction at Berlin Zoo in Nazi Germany, the story also circulated that the reptile had been in Hitler’s personal pet collection, as suggested by famous Russian writer Boris Akunin.

Dmitry Vasilyev, a Moscow zoo veterinarian, said there was no doubt that Hitler admired the alligator, who was a popular attraction at the zoo in Berlin before the war.

Saturn lived until the 75th anniversary of Hitler’s defeat earlier this month.

The alligator was born in the wild in Mississippi in 1936 before being caught and shipped to Berlin Zoo

There is mystery over Saturn’s whereabouts after Berlin was bombed from November 1943. He was eventually found by British soldiers three years later.

One theory is he ‘hid in basements, dark corners and sewage drains’, another that he was in the menagerie of a senior Nazi.

In the early 1990s, Saturn witnessed the Soviet collapse and reports said he had ‘tears in his eyes’ when tanks shot the nearby Russian parliament because it ‘reminded him of the bombing of Berlin’.

Saturn was the longest resident of Moscow Zoo, several times cheating death. A slab of concrete fell from his the alligator’s aquarium in the 1980s narrowly missing him.

A cruel visitor threw a stone at his head – requiring months of medical care.

When a new aquarium was built, Saturn went on hunger strike for four months in protest. He did the same in 2010 – for a year – but eventually started eating again.

An obituary by Moscow Zoo said: ‘Saturn is a whole era for us. This is not the slightest exaggeration. He arrived after the Victory (in the war) – and met its 75th anniversary.

‘It is a great happiness that each of us could look into his eyes. He saw many of us as children. We hope we did not disappoint him.’

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