An alligator that survived World War II in Berlin and was rumored – wrongly – to belong to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler died at the Moscow zoo.
"Yesterday morning, our Mississippi alligator, Saturn, died of old age. He was about 84 years old – an extremely respectable age," said the zoo.
Saturn was presented at the Berlin Zoo in 1936, shortly after he was born in the USA. He escaped from the zoo by being bombed in 1943.
British soldiers found him three years later and handed him over to the Soviet Union.
How he spent the following years was always a mystery, but since July 1946 the alligator has been a hit with visitors to Moscow.
"The Moscow zoo has had the honor of keeping Saturn for 74 years," the zoo said in a statement.
"For us, Saturn was an entire era, and that without the slightest exaggeration … He saw many of us when we were children. We hope we will not disappoint you."
The zoo reported that Saturn knew his guardians, loved being massaged with a brush – and was able to crack steel tongs and pieces of concrete with his teeth if irritated.
Mississippi alligators generally live 30 to 50 years in the wild, he added.
Saturn may even have been the oldest alligator in the world – it is impossible to say. Another male alligator, Muja, who is in the zoo in Belgrade, Serbia, is also in his 80s and is still alive.
But it is doubtful that any alligator could compete with Saturn if it were to sell his memories.
The most striking detail is the rumor that Saturn belonged to Hitler's personal collection, which is false.
"Almost immediately after the animal's arrival, the myth appeared to be in Hitler's collection, not in the Berlin zoo," reports the Interfax news agency.
It is not clear how the rumor started.
The Moscow Zoo dismissed these reports, noting that animals "do not belong to politics and should not be held responsible for human sins".
The escape that defies Saturn's death in 1943 is unlikely to be explained.
Berlin, the capital of Nazi Germany, was subjected to intense Allied bombing before the end of the war in 1945.
The so-called Battle of Berlin started in November 1943 and on the night of 22 and 23 November there was extensive damage in the areas west of the center, including the Tiergarten district, where the city's zoo is located.
Thousands of people were killed or injured and many of the animals at the zoo also died.
The zoo aquarium building was hit directly. A report said passersby had seen the bodies of four crocodiles on the street outside, thrown there by the force of the explosion.
Saturn, somehow, survived and then lived for three years in a war-torn city, and an unsuitable climate for alligators.
It is reported that it will now be stuffed and displayed in the popular Moscow biology museum, in honor of Charles Darwin.