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
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 Congo escapes from the Schädelplatz. Months later, when I read the Wehrmacht’s 1940 plans for the occupation of Burton 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
with the Jeep. So I had an image of the avenues of America 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!