Column wirtschaftsweisen: the german forest

On how to deal with the forest, hunting, hunters and hunted.

Brown hare, still alive Photo: dpa

In modern forest management, timber takes precedence over hunting in the FRG. In the GDR, it was the other way around. This began when the Red Army ordered an absolute ban on hunting weapons in the Soviet-occupied sector in 1945. From then on, almost only Red Army officers hunted. "The Soviet troops took advantage of this lawless space and established a brisk trade in game," reads Helmut Suter’s hunting history "Honecker’s Last Deer – Hunting and Power in the GDR."

After the SED had declared all forests to be national property, the Soviet hunters became "poachers", their buyers "fence-sitters". Previously, the Red Army Secret Service (SMAD) had tried to curb hunting by allowing only "military hunting collectives" and "hunters of the All-Russian Military Hunting Society" and setting closed seasons to "prevent the barbaric extermination of rare animal species."

Meanwhile, the rural population complained about a "plague of wild boars." In 1949, therefore, "hunting commandos" were set up from the German riot police. That same year, according to Suter, "the first government hunt" took place. Gradually, foresters were also given weapons, and the new "state forestry enterprises" were responsible for the "procurement, control and management of the nationally owned weapons." Hunting collectives" were founded, theoretically everyone could become a hunter, but with that he still had no weapon and no hunting ground.

A shot, even a master shot, is just never the beginning, but always the end

With a new hunting law in 1953, the Politburo members secured interesting hunting areas for themselves. These 129 "special hunting grounds" were expanded and protected more and more. At the same time, until the eighties, the "hunting lodges" were expanded more and more luxuriantly, to true hunting castles, where some ministers employed five cooks alone.

Noble and popular hunting

"Walter Ulbricht was responsible for what happened in the Schorfheide in the fifties." Before that it had been the SMAD, before that Hermann Goring, and before that the "leading dignitaries of the monarchy and the Weimar Republic." Already the Ascanians established a tradition of hunting the rulers there in the 12th century. The fact that almost all rulers in the socialist countries devoted themselves to hunting goes back to the tradition of nobility and people’s hunting – the latter especially in Russia and America, where few people lived on a large territory.

The Zurich ethnopsychoanalyst Paul Parin writes in his book "The Passion of the Hunter": An "enlightened man does not hunt" and also a "Jew does not hunt" – these are "equally laws of occidental ethics. I must count myself among the exceptions."

Parin participated in the Yugoslavian partisan war as a doctor. About Milovan Djilas, passionate angler, fellow fighter and confidant of Tito, he wrote: "Later, as a poet, Djilas knew: No exercise of power over the people, over the weak, remains without criminal deeds. Would it not have been better to give space to one’s own passion and chase the nimble trout …?"

About her documentary about German hunters today, director Alice Agneskirchner told the site: "Hunters know a lot about the forest, wildlife, diseases."

Zurich Zoo Director Heini Hediger, on the other hand, says hunters know little about the animals they hunt: "Hunting offers little opportunity for observation. A shot, even a master shot, is never the beginning, but always the end of an all too brief and usually not very meaningful observation."

Combine that with the fact that, like predators, they don’t hunt out of necessity, but for fun. For many it is true that, according to Heiner Muller, "the misfortune has happened to them that they can kill but not fuck."