20 Odd Historical Facts That Actually Exist

Vacationing German couple during the polar bear craze. The Guardian

19. The German Polar Bear Craze

Over the past three decades, Frenchwoman Jean-Marie Donat amassed a collection over 10,000 vintage photos of 1920s and 1930s Germans, including plenty of Nazis, posing with men dressed up as polar bears. Polar bears became all the rage in Germany, starting in the early 1920s, when the Berlin Zoo acquired a pair of polar bear cubs. The cute new additions caught on with the public, and proved so wildly popular that the result was a mini boom in furries and polar bear costumes.

SS men goofing around (violently, natch) with somebody in a polar bear costume. Jean-Marie Donat Collection

For a fad, the German polar bear was more than a mere flash in the pan: it went on for decades. Year after year, cheerful Germans of all walks of life and ages, routinely snapped photos of themselves posing with polar bears – or folk in polar bear costumes – as the country underwent radical changes. The Weimar Republic weakened and collapsed, the Nazis seized power, the Third Reich kicked off its horrors, World War II was fought and lost, Germany was occupied – and throughout it all, Germans kept up the polar bear fad. It was only in the late 1940s, that the fad finally faded.