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Bear Who “Fought Nazis” to Be Commemorated

Statue to be placed in Scotland where he retired after World War II

A $300,000 monument is planned to commemorate the life of Private Wojtek, a brown bear who served alongside Polish soldiers when their country was invaded by Germany at the start of World War II. Wojtek lived out his years after the war in Edinburgh Zoo.

A mock-up of the planned work, by Scottish sculptor Alan Herriot, shows soldier Peter Prendys, whom the bear had befriended, with his hand on the shoulder of the 6-foot tall 500-pound gentle giant, which is how the pair always walked together around the camp of the resistance soldiers.

Wojtek, which means “happy warrior,” came into the Polish Army as a cub. How much of that was his choice is not recorded, but he quickly took on the role of mascot to the 22nd Company of Polish Army Corps.

When Poland was taken over by the Nazis, Wojtek, along with his company, joined the Allied war effort in Italy. The soldiers kept the bear safe from the horrors of the desert war, and spent his time playing and wrestling with the troops, occasionally getting stuck up a palm tree, and once surpassing himself by cornering an Arab spy.

He is best remembered for his role in the brutal battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, where he voluntarily helped his comrades unload boxes of artillery shells for the Allied guns under fire.