It may come as a surprise to many but there exists a landmark which has become known as the 'only Nazi memorial in London' on public view in the city's streets.
More remarkable still is that it features a tombstone for a dog named Giro - whose diplomat owner was given a funeral cortege through the capital's streets while his coffin was draped in the Nazi swastika flag.
Yes ... in London.
London's Only 'Nazi' Memorial - The History
Round the corner from 10 Downing Street and Buckingham palace, within view of both the monarchy and government stands what is known as ‘the only Nazi memorial in London’.
A small tombstone tucked away between Duke of York steps and 9 Carlton Terrace, reads ‘Giro Ein treuer Begleiter! Im Februar 1934’. Translated from German the inscription says:
‘Giro A True Companion. February 1934’.
It is signed simply ‘Hoesch.’
Before the monument gained the reputation of being the only Nazi memorial in the British capital, it was merely a grave of a beloved dog.
The pet was called Giro, and the tombstone was erected by his loving owner, who was thought of as a good man by the name of Leopold von Hoesch, even if he ‘technically’ became a representative of the Nazis by default.
How did the memorial gain such an ominous reputation?
During the Second World War Giro’s breed, the loyal German Shepherd, was rebranded as Alsatians due to anti-German sentiment.
But let’s not skip ahead just yet, our story begins in 1932 when Giro and his human moved into 9 Carlton Terrace, London, a year before Hitler came to power.
At the time, the above address was the home of the German Embassy headed by Leopold Von Hoesch.
He served as a diplomat of the Weimar Republic in Paris before being transferred to London.
When Hitler became Chancellor in 1933, the loyal German civil servant found himself serving a fascist regime.
Germans At 9 Carlton Terrace
The coveted building across the road from St James Park hosted a series of German representatives starting with the Prussian Legation in 1849.
Headed by Christian von Bunsen, who on arrival in London described the view as:
“The most invaluable situation, and acknowledged the finest for my dwelling-place."
Unfortunately, he did not have long to relish the view, as he was soon recalled due to a disagreement over Prussian involvement in the Crimean War.
After the unification of Germany in 1871, number 9 became the Imperial German Embassy and saw a succession of ambassadors come and go until it was Prince Lichnowsky's turn to enjoy the view.
His term as ambassador was cut short when a young Foreign Office attaché called Harold Nicolson was sent to the Embassy late at night with an important message from the Foreign Secretary.
The attaché found the main door of number 9 forebodingly shut.
Using the little side door on the Duke of York steps where Giro’s tombstone currently lies, the attaché had to enter via the basement.
Once inside, he found Prince Lichnowsky dishevelled and still in his pyjamas, distraught at the outbreak of the First World War, which he had tried tirelessly to prevent.
The ambassador signed the documents brought by Nicolson, confirming the start of the First World War and the immediate departure of official German representation from London.
From 1914 to 1918, the embassy was occupied by Switzerland and the United States who represented German interests. After the end of the war, the newly elected democratic Weimar Republic was handed the keys to 9 Carlton Terrace.
It was as if time had stood still, waiting for the German’s return.
The new Weimar Republic Minister Plenipotentiary arrived in February 1920 to find everything as it had been left in 1914, including the cigarettes in Prince Lichnowsky’s silver case.
Leading up to Hitler’s rise to power, the chaos left behind by the First World War meant that the fate of the Weimar government was short and woeful.
Leopold von Hoesch was the third and last ambassador to represent the interests of the doomed Republic in London.
Hoesch had the role for a year until political upheaval back home meant that he begrudgingly became ambassador of the Third Reich in 1933.
Leopold Von Hoesch
As a career diplomat, Leopold Von Hoesch was well-liked by the British elite. Hoesch started cultivating his reputation as a skilled statesman while working as an ambassador in France in 1923.
A decade later he was transferred to the United Kingdom where he would remain until his death in 1936.
Far from being a Nazi, Hoesch worked tirelessly to maintain Anglo-German relations in the early 1930s, still hoping that the plans Hitler outlined in Mein Kampf would not materialise.
He was popular in the high circles, well-liked and respected by politicians including Conservative MP Anthony Eden and Lord Chancellor Sir John Simon.
With Hitler in power, Hoesch found himself the representative of a regime that he despised.
The resentment was mutual. Hitler disliked Hoesch.
The skilled diplomat found himself at odds, serving a government which he did not support. To make matters worse, a year into the strenuous working relationship, Hoesch lost his trusted friend, his beloved pet dog Giro.
The Alsatian or, according to some sources, a terrier, made the fatal error of chewing through electric cables which cost him his life.
The beloved pet was buried in the embassy’s garden.
The dog’s cause of death was not natural, and many at the time suspected that neither was his owner’s.
Although Hoesch was officially a representative of the Nazi regime in London, he was critical of the leadership, which could not have been tolerated by Hitler for long.
The role of the ambassador to the UK was an important one - the Nazi’s needed the right man for the job in 9 Carlton Terrace.
Right after Hoersch’s death, Joachim von Ribbentrop, Hitler’s foreign minister, confidant and his right-hand man, moved into the address.
Leopold Von Hoesch was reported to have passed away from a heart attack in his bedroom in the Embassy in 1936.
He was 55 years old and was previously considered in good health.
After receiving a grand state precession in London, not a single representative of the Nazi regime attended his funeral in Berlin, calling the circumstances surrounding his death into question.
The Funeral Of Leopold Von Hoesch
Leopold Von Hoesch’s obituary from The Times read:
“He spoke beautiful English in soft, modulated tones, and the theme of all his speeches was the cultivation of better Anglo-German relations…though a bachelor, von Hoesch entertained hospitably at the Embassy, and with his sincerity and personal charm made many friends among English statesmen. He had a distinguished bearing and was always particularly well dressed.”
The funeral of the venerated diplomat was well attended, including by British government ministers who lined the street leading from the embassy. In accordance with diplomatic protocol, the ambassador was given a state funeral.
British Armed Forces Carried The Nazi Flag
The procession was led by Grenadier Guards who marched with a Nazi Flag draped coffin from Carlton Terrace past Buckingham Palace.
Embassy staff and many attendees acknowledged the cortege with a Nazi salute.
Many Brits at the time, including members of the Royal Family, were reported have been seen giving the Nazi salute.
Before the start of the Second World War, the admiration of Nazis was prevalent among some quarters of British high society and nobility, who saw Hitler as a viable deterrent to communism.
The coffin was bound for Berlin, after receiving a 19-gun salute in St James park.
In a few short years, the Grenadier Guards would raise six battalions to fight in the Western Front, battling the flag that they carried through central London in 1936.
Taking part in the Normandy Landings and suffering devastating loses, members of the Grenadier Guards would go on to receive two Victoria Crosses for their valour in the Second World War, helping to destroy the Nazi regime and everything it stood for.
The home of the old German Embassy is currently occupied by the Royal Society.
Keith Moore, the head of the Society's library said:
“The little monument to Giro is one of London’s quirkiest, surrounded by Westminster’s grand commemorative statuary. I feel a little sorry for Giro, often unfairly tagged as ‘’the Nazi dog” on websites – dogs may sometimes have a bone to pick, but never over politics.
"He was, as the inscription says, a true friend of the diplomat, Leopold von Hoesch.”