Here lies Giro the dog | The only ‘Nazi’ memorial in London
Find out about the dog and his diplomat owner Leopold von Hoesch, whose funeral cortege saw a Nazi flag carried through London.
Sheltering under a tree, lies the only memorial to a Nazi in London. However, in this case, it is in memory of a Nazi dog named Giro, who unfortunately had no choice in the party he was aligned to. Situated outside Carlton House Terrace in St James is the grave of Giro, the terrier owned by German Ambassador to the UK, Leopold von Hoesch (1881-1936). The pair lived at No.8 and No.9 Carlton House Terrace – two 19th century Regency homes designed by architect John Nash, which were merged to form the German embassy in 1923.
Previously working in Paris, Hoesch was transferred to the UK in 1932 (bringing his faithful companion with him). At the time, he was representing the Weimar Republic. It didn’t take long for Hoesch to find favour with the British and he was able to enhance Anglo-German relations. When the Nazi party took over Germany in 1933, Hoesch continued to represent his country, despite his growing unease about Adolf Hitler. From 1934 onwards, Hoesch began to clash with Hitler. One of Hoesch’s main contentions was his distrust of Joachim von Ribbentrop (1893-1946), who was steadily climbing the Nazi power ladder.
Meanwhile, as Hoesch’s relationship with Hitler was worsening, he suffered some personal heartbreak at home. In February 1934, his beloved Giro died after chewing through an electric cable in the back garden. The Ambassador gave his dog a funeral and buried him with a diminutive gravestone featuring a German epitaph, which translates as: ‘Giro – a faithful companion! – London in February 1934 – Hoesch.’ The grave was originally in the garden of No.9 but was moved to its present site under a tree in the 1960s following some building works.
While he was popular with the Brits and had a reputation among social circles for his fabulous parties at the Embassy, Hoesch couldn’t hide his growing dismay over Hitler’s policies and actions. When Hitler invaded the Rhineland in March 1936, Hoesch wrote to Germany’s Foreign Minister, Konstantin Neurath strongly stating his disapproval, accusing the Führer of trying to provoke France.
A month later on 11 April 1936, Hoesch died of a heart attack in his bedroom at the German Embassy. Due to his popularity with the Brits, he was given a large funeral cortege, with his coffin draped in a Nazi flag (see AP video footage on YouTube). Accompanied by Grenadier Guards, Hoesch’s body was escorted down The Mall with onlookers giving the Nazi salute. An amazing scene you can imagine, given Britain was at war with Nazi Germany just five years later. Hoesch’s coffin was escorted all the way to Dover, for transfer back to Germany for burial.
Hoesch’s nemesis von Ribbentrop ended up succeeding him as Ambassador, but the latter’s relations with the British couldn’t be more different to his predecessor. He was a fully committed member of the Nazi party and strongly aligned to Hitler, who had ordered him to negotiate an Anglo-German alliance. However, Ribbentrop completely failed to understand the workings of British politics and the monarchy, wrongly believing King Edward VIII (1894-1972) could dictate foreign policy. After two years in London, Ribbentrop returned to Germany 1938 to become Foreign Minister and became a major Nazi figure throughout the war. Following World II, he was convicted of war crimes and hanged in 1946.
- Giro’s grave is located under a tree at the top of the Duke Of York stairs in the middle of Carlton House Terrace, St James, SW1Y. Nearest station: Charing Cross or Piccadilly Circus.
For Metro Girl’s blog post on the history of Carlton House Terrace, click here.
For more London history posts, click here.