Rudolphina's Dogs

Rudolphina Menzel's love story with the dog world started off on the wrong foot. At four years old she was attacked by the neighbor’s dog - it was love at first bite. At fourteen she was already known around the neighborhood as the girl who collected all the stray and wounded dogs in the area. Her parents refused to let her keep dogs in the house, in the hope that their daughter would grow out of this un-ladylike habit. In response, Menzel saved her allowance and paid the neighbors to watch her dogs, that at one time amounted to almost twenty.  

 Rudolphina Menzel and friends  (PHKH\1294768)

 Dog training for security (A293\104)
Left: Rudolphina Menzel and friends in front of the Palestine Research Institute for Canine Psychology and Training, 1942 (PHKH\1294768) | Right: Dog training for security, from the archive of Rudolphina Menzel (A293\104)
Hebrew dogs at the service of the Third Reich
Rudolphina Menzel was born on 1891 in Vienna, to a wealthy family. She received a PhD in biology, psychology and chemistry from the University of Vienna, and was active in Zionist student bodies during her student years.  After completing her studies in 1915, she married Rudolph Menzel, a physician. Menzel the husband shared his wife's devotion to dogs, and in a few years the couple opened a dog ranch at their home, where they bred and trained dogs. They also performed groundbreaking psychological research on the dogs, and gave courses on training dogs for security purposes. An unusual feature of the "Menzel dogs" was that, in accordance with their trainers' ideological tendency, they were taught to follow commands only in Hebrew. Most of the dogs were sent to the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine, but some were purchased by the Austrian police and the German army. And so, in the kind of ironic twist reserved for history alone, the first dogs of the German army, later to become the army of the Third Reich, obeyed only Hebrew commands.
Soldiers on all fours
In 1938, following Hitler's demand that the couple lend their dog training services to the Nazi military, they fled from Austria to Palestine. Once here, they set out to turn their vision into reality – training dogs to protect the Jewish Yishuv. Menzel founded the Canine Research and Training Institution in Kiryat Motzkin, where the couple continued their research and developed an evaluation system that assessed dogs' suitability for "military service".  One of Menzel's most important achievements in this respect was training dogs to detect land mines. The Hagana canine unit was founded with Menzel's professional guidance. This unit formed the basis of the Oketz unit – the canine unit of the Israel Defense Force.  
 The directors of the dog training program of the IDF (PHKH\1294769)A293104-8p.jpg
Left: The heads of the IDF Dog Training Center with Rudolphina Menzel as professional advisor, November 1948 (PHKH\1294769) | Right: Menzel during a session of dog training, from the archive of Rudolphina Menzel )A293\104(
A substantial part of Menzel's endeavors also had to do with training guide dogs for the blind. Her institution was the leading institution in the field in Israel.
Menzel's personal archive is kept at the CZA. It includes a large number of photos that document the beginning of dog training for security purposes in Israel, as well as personal and professional correspondence and articles.