Firma Carl Hagenbeck, located at St. Pauli, in Hamburg, Germany
, was founded in 1848 and the first elephant arrived in 1860.
at least a thousand lions, three to four hundred tigers, six to seven hundred leopards, a thousand bears of different varieties and around eight hundred hyenas. Some three hundred elephants had passed through his hands. He had sold seventeen rhinoceroses of the three Indian Species
and nine of the African, while one hundred and fifty giraffes and six hundred antelopes of diverse Species
including the rarest, largest, and most beautiful, had been traded by the company.
In 1910 the Ringlings revived the Forepaugh-Sells Circus and purchased an act from Hagenbeck in Germany that consisted of three young elephants "Nellie", "Jennie" and "Rio" included in the act were several Great Dane dogs.
Matthias was in the Red Sea on his way home on the s.s. Axenfals when the radio picked up the news of the outbreak of war and this was broadcast from the bridge. Matthias had eleven elephants with him on board. The captain steamed as fast as he could to the as it then was Italian colonial Port of Massawa.
From there the elephants were taken to Brindisi on an Italian tramper and thence went to Stellingen by rail.
The worst part of it, however, was the fire, which was now quite beyond control. When the first incendiaries came down on the roof of the elephant house and this burst into flames, our resourceful chief keeper, Fritz Theisinger,
quickly loosed his fourteen elephants, which he had kept tethered by only one hind leg, and led them outside. There they could try to avoid the incendiaries which were falling everywhere, and they took refuge in the large pool. Next, aided by the Czech P.O.W.s, he made an attempt to save the house, but at this point the P.O.W.s lost their nerve and ran away.