home of the jaguars

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Throwing it back to 2012 and 2 bundles of jaguar joy. 😻😻 As jaguar numbers decline, each birth in the Species Survival Plan (SSP) helps to establish an assurance population for animals in danger of becoming extinct. Wild jaguars are in serious trouble. Over 30% of the rain forests they call home have been destroyed—and when the rain forests disappear, jaguars disappear. Even though we’re hard at work at the San Diego Zoo, we’re also busy on the front lines of jaguar conservation. Be a hero for wildlife and support our efforts: http://bit.ly/SDZGWCjag

FEBRUARY 10 - Aimée & Jaguar (1999)

On this day in 1999, the film Aimée & Jaguar was first released in its home country of Germany. Set during World War II, the movie tells the true and devastating love story of Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim, one the wife of a respected Nazi soldier and the other a Jewish journalist hiding in plain sight at a Nazi controlled newspaper.

The film begins in Berlin in the 1990s; two old women meet in a nursing home, and when the narrator sweeps back in time to 1943, you know you are in for a decades-long story that will stick with you long after the credits roll. The foundation of Aimée & Jaguar is something we’ve all seen before: bored housewife is swept off her feet by the charismatic and dangerous queer. However, what makes Aimee & Jaguar stand out from the crowd of a dozen other lesbian movies is the lingering knowledge that these were real women who actually lived and loved in the city that was the heart of the Nazi empire; a gang of lesbian friends all sitting around a table joking and playing cards, or a Jewish woman in full suit and top hat waltzing around a ballroom with her lover are the type of images that I never would have associated with 1940s Berlin before I saw this movie. They are the type of lived experiences that have been buried under the mythologizing of WWII-era Europe, and it is through Aimée & Jaguar that you are able to see that, even though it was stifled under the rise of fascism, Germany’s thriving gay culture of the 1920s and 1930s was still there, still dancing and laughing and kissing no matter how many closed doors and curtains it was forced to hide behind. At the beginning of the movie, I wondered why it wasn’t titled Lily & Felice or something more obvious, but by the end I had come to realize just how crucial Lily and Felice’s pet names were to their relationship, and just how important sublimated identity was during this time for lgbtq people, for Jewish people, and for any marginalized person living under Hitler’s rule.

The real Felice Schragenheim and Lilly Wust as pictured in Erica Fischer’s novel. The text at the bottom reads: (Left) Felice, in a photo taken by Lilly, on the Havel River, August 21, 1944. (Right) Lilly, in a photo taken by Felice, during the summer of 1944 on the balcony of Lilly’s apartment at Friedrichshaller Strasse 23. 

Before the film was released, Lilly and Felice’s story was told in novel form by Erica Fischer in her bestselling book Aimée & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943, which you can check out here! Or hear the story told through Lily’s own words in this 2001 interview with The Guardian.

And of course, here’s a link to the full movie on YouTube!

-LC

no one talks about the fact that Kaz and the rest of MSF spent three years living in the middle of nowhere in Colombia, so he likely

  • has had a face-off with at least one jaguar
  • puts mosquito netting on everything, may use DDT despite known environmental concerns because yeah, it’s important for the future of the planet or whatever, but it’s more important his people not get malaria
  • had a healthy respect for venomous spiders, snakes, and scorpions, and checks his boots before he puts them on
  • since he has a high rank in medicine, probably learned really shitty field medicine with makeshift tools and minimal supplies
  • possibly learned to drive with that jeep on dirt roads, because when else would he have learned to drive
  • and, on an unrelated note, since the only vehicles they own are probably that jeep and Snake’s bike, has probably ridden double with Snake on that bike at least once out of necessity
aimless

Rafael was restless. Home offered no comfort as the jaguar was still prickly, wearing all the fabric he swore the girl possessed and continuing to sleep on the couch. If she was aware how charming he found her little glasses perched on her nose, she probably would have disposed of them as well. 

Sighing softly, he looked up from the outspread island maps and stretched. The crick in his neck indicating he had been in this position far too long. He stood slowly and packed up his things, leaving a generous tip in the jar on the counter to offer a small apology for occupying a table for so long. He stepped out of Southern Moon and began to walk with no particular direction in mind.

Pacuare Lodge- Costa Rica

Due to its location in a rainforest of the Talamanca Mountains, when you stay at this Eco Lodge, you are truly sleeping amongst nature. The rainforest is home to Sloths, Jaguars, Ocelots and Monkeys. The lodge is at the edge of a river, where you can go white water rafting.

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Felice Rahel Schragenheim (March 9, 1922, Berlin - December 31, 1944, Bergen, Germany) was a Jewish resistance fighter during World War II. She is known for her tragic relationship with Lilly Wust and death during a march from Gross-Rosen concentration camp (today Poland) to Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany or, not later than, March 1945 in Bergen-Belsen.

Because she was Jewish (and not because of her homosexual relationship with Lilly Wust), Schragenheim was deported from Berlin to KZ Theresienstadt (now Czech Republic) on September 8, 1944 by national-socialist Gestapo (transport nr. I/116). On October 9, 1944, she was deported from Theresienstadt to the extermination facility KZ Auschwitz Birkenau to be put to death (transport nr. Ep). As the gas chambers and crematoria were dismantled and blown up between November 1944 and January 1945, the mass extermination in Auschwitz came to an end, gradually. The inmates, also Felice Schragenheim, were taken to a death march to KZ Groß-Rosen, maybe later to a death march to KZ Bergen-Belsen. Date and place of her death are unknown. Officially, the date of her death was defined as December 31, 1944 by a Berlin court in 1948. Relatives set a memorial stone in Bergen-Belsen, naming “March 1945” as her death date. (x)

“It was the tenderest love you could imagine,” says Lilly, now 89, who lives a secluded life in a small apartment in Berlin. “I was fairly experienced with men, but with Felice I reached a far deeper under-standing of sex than ever before.” It was a shock to Lilly to realise she had fallen in love with a woman, but she says in many ways all the signs were there. Her obsession with a female teacher had seen her expelled from one school. “She was Jewish. I think I was always attracted to Jewish girls, and they to me,” she chuckles.

Lilly and Felice first got to know each other through a young Jewish girl who was caring for Lilly’s children. “There was an immediate attraction, and we flirted outrageously,” Lilly recalls. “I began to feel alive as I never had before.” Felice, who had tried in vain to emigrate - to Australia, Britain and the US - seemed resigned to staying in Berlin, even after Goebbels’s declaration that Berlin would be “Judenfrei” or Jew-free by April 20 1943, Hitler’s 54th birthday. She would come to tea at Lilly’s almost daily, bringing flowers and poems. In between, the two would write to each other.

In March, Lilly was taken into hospital with dental sepsis, and Felice brought red roses every day. For the first time, Lilly allowed Felice a glimpse of her real feelings, giving her a wish-list on a page from her diary: “Cream, your handkerchief, writing paper, your love for me alone, needle and thread.” Felice replied with a poem which ended with the lines: “There’s just something I’m desperate to know/ How it is to lie on your breast and dream of your lips?” On March 25, the two became “engaged”, signing written declarations of their love, which they sealed with a marriage contract three months later. “She was my other half, literally my reflection, my mirror image, and for the first time I found love aesthetically beautiful, and so tender,” Lilly says today, gazing at a studio portrait of Felice.

Felice would disappear, for days at a time, to carry out her underground activities to enable fellow Jews to escape. One night, Lilly, who knew nothing of her double life, implored Felice to tell her where she had been. “She told me she was a Jew and immediately I took her in my arms, and I loved her even more,” says Lilly. They cried all night, she says, and spent their next few months together fearing night-time noises, unexpected knocks on the door, and the sound of every vehicle drawing up outside. Lilly would wake Felice with “butterfly kisses” when nightmares caused her to grind her teeth. And Lilly had never guessed that her lover was Jewish? “I never had any idea. I hadn’t realised that she had no ration card - as a large family, we had plenty of food to go round.” They spent their days in the flat, looking after the children, talking about literature and politics, and following the course of the war on a big wall-map.

They hid their love from all but a few very close friends. On August 21 1943, they packed a picnic and went to the Havel lake. There, using a self-timer, they took the only pictures that exist of the two of them alone, embracing and kissing in their bathing suits. On their return to the flat, eight men sprang out of the shadows and carted Felice away, the underground Jew whom they, the Gestapo, had been trying to find for months. The day after her arrest, Lilly found a love poem which Felice had dropped into her coffee cup.

Lilly took the risk and visited Felice just a couple of times in Schulstrasse, in north Berlin, where Jews were held before their next destinations were determined. From the various places Felice was held captive - Theresienstadt, Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen - she managed to smuggle out letters to Lilly, signing them “Your caged Jaguar” and promising to be home soon. Lilly sent letters back not knowing if they would reach Felice. At the end of September, Lilly made a risky visit to Theresienstadt in Bohemia in an attempt to rescue Felice, and managed to secure a meeting with the camp commandant. He reacted to her request by throwing her out. Ironically, that visit, motivated by love, may have sped up Felice’s demise. Lilly faced years of accusations from Felice’s friends who blamed her for causing Felice’s death.

Felice sent her last-ever letter on December 26 1944. The winter temperature had reached -15C, so she thanked Lilly for the gifts of gloves, socks and woollen lung-protector. “It’s amazing what one is capable of without a jumpsuit and long-johns. I love you very much. You, your parents, and the boys - all my love, Jaguar.” It took Lilly a further four years to discover, via the UN’s Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, that Felice had died - probably of tuberculosis - just five days later.

The following years were a blurred mix of depression, cold and hunger for Lilly. She divorced her husband and, towards the end of the war, befriended three Jewish women and sheltered them in her basement. In 1946 she was forced to swap Felice’s 50 pairs of silk stockings for supplies of coal and bread. Later she took an overdose, one of several attempts at suicide, before being saved by a friend.

“I was alone for years,” she says. “For about three decades I lived totally within myself. Only on Sundays did I allow myself the privilege of thinking about Felice and I have never stopped loving her.” In September 1981, Lilly’s son, Bernd, collected the Order of the Federal Republic of Germany on her behalf, which she had been awarded for sheltering the Jewish women. Neo-Nazis responded by smearing her door with faeces. It was only then that her story started to emerge. “I suddenly felt that I owed it to Felice, so that people would know who she was.”

A book by the Austrian writer and journalist Erica Fischer resulted, followed by an exhibition on the life of Felice Schragenheim, a theatre production, and then the film, directed by Max Färberböck, who co-wrote the screenplay with British writer Rona Munro, best-known for her work with Ken Loach.

Lilly keeps the key to a suitcase of the Aimee and Jaguar letters and poems, round her neck. “I open it every August 21 [the anniversary of her departure] and indulge myself with memories,” she says. When she dies, the suitcase is promised to the Yad Vashem Memorial Institute in Jerusalem. Often she feels her lover to be close by. “Twice since she left, I’ve felt her breath, and a warm presence next to me. I dream that we will meet again - I live in hope.” (x)