Grave of Hitler's Horse, Zachary Taylor's Bathtub
St. Rose, Louisiana
Near the entrance to La Branche Plantation, just off of River Road, marked by a small plaque, is the final resting place of what may be the most notorious equine in history. This is the grave of Nordlicht, "North Light," a chestnut thoroughbred stallion who died, quietly, in the bloody year 1968. Nordlicht's early days were anything but quiet. Born in 1941 -- a life bookended by war -- Nordlicht was, some believe, the horse of Adolf Hitler.
The plaque makes no mention of Nordlicht's dark past, but La Branche's owners are not shy about promoting it in less permanent venues. "La Branche is of statewide significance because of its exceptional Federal woodwork," reads the copy in one brochure. "Visitors are invited to enjoy all the colorful aspects of the grounds, including the authentic slave quarters, the largest pecan tree in the state of Louisiana, Zachery Taylor's bathtub, and the grave of Hitler's horse -- Nordlicht."
La Branche Plantation is currently managed by the Lentini family. This is the story they tell, based, they claim, on unspecified magazine articles and on word of mouth from Nordlicht's last owner, who sold them the property in 1983:
Nordlicht was Hitler's horse. He raced the Nazi circuit in 1943 and 1944 and won the German and Austrian derbies. Undefeated, he was named horse of the year in 1944 and had his image placed on a German postage stamp.
When Hitler tumbled from power, Nordlicht's star fell as well. Baron Thyssen, a onetime Hitler supporter, left the horse to his manager and trainer when he fled to Switzerland. The US Army claimed Nordlicht as a spoil of war and brought him to the United States, where he was purchased by New Orleans surgeon and horse breeder C. Walter Mattingly, who brought him to La Branche Plantation in 1948. Nordlicht was obviously a horse of some renown, as he spent the last twenty years of his life siring numerous offspring at La Blanche.
Nordlicht's later life seems pretty well substantiated, but what about those all-important early years? Are they more fiction than fact? Possibly. But those who demand a higher standard of proof should consider this: if Nordlicht really was Hitler's horse then dozens -- and perhaps hundreds -- of third and fourth generation Nazi thoroughbreds are pounding turf in American racetracks, being fussed over by American teenage girls, and making money for American state-sponsored betting corporations. Powerful interests would prefer to keep such news quiet -- or at least off of a plaque.
Also consider this: St. Charles Parish, where La Blanche is located, has long been known as "The German Coast" for its abundance of German settlers.