Monday, 23 January 2012

Z is for ZIEGE

I mentioned in the last blog entry how I would make up details and later, during my research, discover I’d alighted upon fact. The Ziege is a case in point.

I assumed the Nazis would need some kind of jeep to allow them to negotiate Africa’s terrain – especially in places like Congo where muddy roads and the rainy season would make travel difficult, so it wasn’t too big a leap of imagination to assume they’d have some kind of four-wheel drive. So I put this imagined vehicle into the book in one of the earliest scenes where Burton escapes from the Schädelplatz. Months later, when I read the Wehrmacht’s 1940 plans for the occupation of Central Africa, I came across a reference about developing a ‘multi-terrain automobile’.

Zieges were partly inspired by the Kübelwagen (pictured), a military car designed by Porsche, built by Volkswagen and in which Hitler took a personal interest. Crucially, although over 50 000 ‘Kübels’ were built during the war they were not four-wheel drive (even those deployed in the Sahara for the North Africa campaign). That would have been the innovation that saw the Ziege become the Nazis’ vehicle of choice in the equatorial regions. ‘Ziege’ itself means ‘goat’ an animal well known for its ability to navigate tricky terrain.

One purely speculative idea I had was that this vehicle would eventually be adopted by the civilian car market as happened in America with the Jeep. So I had an image of the avenues of Germania thronging with Volkswagens and BMWs and cutting through them the hulking shapes of Zieges. A Chelsea-tractor or Hummer for the Nazi age – with all the corresponding grumbles. Alternative history or not, some things never change!


  1. PS - just to let you know I've changed the settings on this blog so that anyone can now leave a comment. Do feel free to talk about any of the postings so far...

  2. Trust you to make a goat sound so big and bad and brawny! LOL!

    But it's a great name!

    Take care

  3. Kitty - trust me, goats can be very scarey! ;o)

  4. that is an excellent piece of foresight!

  5. Can you tell me what sources you are using? (Wehrmachts plans?). Would be most interesting

    1. Given the date this comment was posted, I wonder if it's a wind-up!

      If not, some general sources are listed in the historical note at the end of the book. Guy - will you be posting more?

  6. Gilgenbach – thanks for your message and sorry not to have replied sooner. Although several memoranda went round the various German ministries for the conquest of Africa, the Wehrmacht did not produce a master plan or overall blueprint. Instead I had to pick up their intentions from various different sources.

    It’s more than three years since I wrote AFRIKA REICH so unfortunately I can’t remember the details off the top of my head. However, when I next have a few spare minutes I’ll go back through my research notes and let you know where I got the information from.