Today’s the feast of St. Hubert, patron of hunters, archers, and trappers . Usually on this particular day, I reflect on the role that animals have played in military expeditions and their aftermath. But not today, friends! Today, we’re going to talk about another facet of this – the role that his legacy played in the recovery of Austria after WW2.
So first, some background: St Hubert lived in the 8th century and known for good stewardship of forests and wildlife, and eventually, in the 1600s, the Order of St. Hubert was founded (and eventually became the International Order of St. Hubert – or IOSH). The order was a place where nobles could hone their hunting skills while respecting the life of the animals they culled. Sometimes this meant having the patience and skill to wait for a killshot instead of just wounding an animal and leaving it to suffer, and sometimes it was about gratitude for having the carcass to feed families and communities. It’s about ethical hunting practices to avoid cruelty and preserve dignity of the animal that gave it’s life to provide nourishment to the hunter and their community.
As I was researching this article, I found some articles that pegged the IOSH as a secretive aristocratic hunting society (“complete with robes, grand titles, and secret ceremonies!” “The illuminati of the Hunting world!”) Wow. Sure, they promote ethical hunting and land conservation, but, they have *SECRETS *. And don’t get me wrong, I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next one. And yes, the original point of the order was to help nobles develop decent skills so that if/when war broke out (and we’re talking the 1600’s here– there were always squirmishes breaking out over the gazillion royal families all over a Very Different Europe). And honestly, it sounds a lot like the Federation of Angler’s and Hunters, but with more nobility and privilege and fancy things like falconry. Srsly, part of the mission statement is even to ensure that the economic benefits derived from outdoor sports support the region where the activities happen. So it sounds pretty philanthropic to me. But my sources here *are* the Internets, so take that for what it’s worth.
But back to Austria with us, yes?
Eventually, as Nazi Germany was rolling through Europe, Hitler had placed his second in command as the German huntsmaster. But the Government Appointed huntsmaster wasn’t part of the ISOH. Hitler demanded that his Nazi commanders be admitted to the IOSH. When they were denied admission, Hitler didn’t like that so much, so he banned the order from German-held Austria, and his second in command executed the Grand Prior of the order to punctuate the sentiment. Still, After WW2 was over, members of the IOSH were asked to use their hunting skills to provide winter food for Austrians to help them survive the harsh winter as they rebuilt the infrastructure damaged or destroyed by the Nazi forces.
So where am I going with this? Why would the Grand Prior deny them – just to say “we don’t want you here” and humiliate the Nazis? To be a point of resistance against the Nazi war machine? That’s for historical scholars more invested than me. But it does seem like if you’re willing to deny the whims of a megalomaniac and his heavily armed friends, choosing to die instead of capitulate, it’s a statement bigger than “Hmmm. Your references didn’t check out”.
During wartime, there are always people willing to help the resistance, in small and large ways. They help others find safe passage, they draw the line of what they’re willing to endure. They do things like hide Jews in attic rooms, and start relationships with enemy occupiers to help feed information to resistance groups, and become translators for foreign militaries that are trying to help. And sometimes they die for that declaration.
During this time of remembrance, I’m going to look at the ways that civilians have aided the Canadian Armed Forces and their Allies. I feel like their stories are aren’t always told with the same fanfare as military history, told by the victorious. But they’re there, quiet and unassuming as they always have been.