Memories of a beloved keeper and his polar bears

Sep 22nd, 2017 | By | Category: The Memory Lane

22.9.2017 by Mervi

Today it’s exactly nine years ago Thomas Dörflein had to leave us. Earlier this week we even received the sad news of Lars passing. This memory page is dedicated to the magic family of three polar bears and their keeper.

The photos don’t need so many comments …. they bring back bitter sweet memories for us all.

Little Knut was so happy when TD came back from his vacation.



A chat between Knut and his stepfather


The early hours in the Autumn


Once there were five polar bears in the Berlin Zoo. What happy days they were!

Lars lived together with Tosca, Nancy and Katjuscha. Now only Kati is left ….

It was fantastic to see the interaction between Lars and TD. I can still hear ‘Lars hoch’ …..

Viktor made this picture of Lars and Knut. There’s a difference in size but not in looks.

Even though Tosca couldn’t take care of Knut there must have been some kind of bond between the mother and the son.

We could witness some lovely scenes with Tosca and Knut playing together.

Now they can be together forever – with Lars and Thomas Dörflein.

This is one of the loveliest moments of Knut’s childhood. His stepfather brought him to meet Lars – the biological father.


Ralph saw Lars in Aalborg just a day before his passing. These are some of the last photos taken of our beloved bear.

 photo LarsbyRalph3.jpg

 photo LarsbyRalph1.jpg

 photo LarsbyRalph2.jpg

I chose a little selection of ‘magic moments’ for this page but you can find lots of photos and reports in this magazine. While looking for these photos I made a journey back to the happy days – a journey that made me smile but also brought tears in my eyes. The magic is still there!

Links to two videos von Daniel Remsperger

Thomas Dörflein – Der Bärenvater Teil 1

Thomas Dörflein – Der Bärenvater Teil 2

Photo credits: SylviaMicky, Gudrun, Viktor, Monika aus Berlin, Ralph – Thank you, all!

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  1. Dear Mervi et al.
    these touching words and the beautiful pictures brought the tears. to my eyes.
    The only consolation is, that Thomas Dörflein and his bears feel no pain any more.
    Thank you Mervi.
    Hugs Heidi

  2. Dear Mervi,
    for 9 years I was shocked as Thomas Dörflein passt suddenly away. Time heals all wounds. Thank you for the bitter sweet memory pictures of Knut and TD.
    The wound from the passing away of Lars needs more time for healing.

  3. Liebe Mervi,

    alle unsere geliebten Eisbären und alle anderen Bärenarten im Zoo Berlin sind untrennbar mit Thomas Dörflein verbunden.

    Danke für die heutige Erinnerung an ihn zu seinem Todestag vor allem mit die beiden Videos von
    Daniel Remsperger. Auch nach acht Jahren ist jede Szene noch so nah, dass einem die Tränen kommen….

  4. Liebe Mervi!

    Danke fuer schöne Erinnerungen. Wie schnell ist 9 jahre gegangen. Wir haben so wunderäre Erinnerungen.


  5. Dear Mervi!
    Thank you for this affectionate tribute to Thomas Dörflein and for taking us along the memory lane again!
    Thomas Dörflein was what we call in German: “eine coole Socke”.Unfortunately there is no appropriate translation into English. To be precise I didn´t find any…
    Without Thomas there would have been no Knut…

    There are some memories I can still recall clearly. When I do a film starts in my head and I can even remember the sound: the voice of Thomas Dörflein, the voice of Doris and other people who were addicted to Knut, the soft sound when Knut was sucking on whatever – it was like a small tractor – the happy voices and laughter of children at the enclosure or at the pane during the feeding – and the weeping of many people after Knut passed away.

    What a cool collection of stories there were: “Three Men and a (polar bear)Baby” or “The Golden Girls” featuring Lars – and a soft and heartwarming version of “A man´s got to do what a man´s got to do”…
    Great songs come into my mind as “It´s A Family Affair” or “Nothing Compares to You”, “With A Little Help From My Friends” as well as “Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child”

    Now only Kati is left – and we love her tender.
    But we will never forget what we witnessed and experienced: an indeed magic time!
    Knut and Thomas Dörflein were part of it as well as the Berlin Zoo, the city of Berlin and many visitors from all over the world who came to see Knut. Many of them are still friends. The magic remains!
    We are sad about our losses but we will always remember what we had – together!


  6. Dear Mervi
    Thank you for this reminder of the story of three bears
    and a remarkable man.
    I was able to say goodbye to both Thomas Doerflein and
    Lars but I hoped on both occasions it would be auf wiedersehen. I can never get used to having to lose friends.
    Thanks to the Internet we met in the first place and continue to live the miracle of Berlin.

  7. Thank you for sharing memories of those glorious golden days.

  8. Love any of the pictures you show in this tribute – not only to Thomas DÖRFLEIN but
    it’s a tribute also to any of the polar bears living in ZOO BERLIN at that time
    (love especially the one of LARS (do you know by any chance who made it?).

    OMG! – It’s unbelievable how time runs by!

    Thank you very much, dear MERVI, for the memories!

  9. Dear Mervi,

    Thank you for this lovely tribute
    To TD. What an amazing story
    of a man and his bear….

    So glad we all got to witness
    this…What a magical time!

    He will not be forgotten….

    xo k -j

  10. Dear Mervi,

    Thank you for this lovely tribute. I am smiling through my tears at the thought of the “Dream Team” together forever!

    LG, Christine.

  11. Dear Mervi, thank you for bringing back these memories. Time is going so fast. But when seeing these pics, it just looks like only one day ago.
    Dear Anke, you brought it perfectly well into words. When we close our eyes, indeed, we can recall the sounds of everybody around, the smells and even the sound of the birds and other animals living in the neighborhood. Actually, we all are able to recall every single second that we were having the pleasure of being there. I am wishing Kati a good time as long as possible.

  12. Dear Mervi,

    thanks for a wonderful walk down memorylane. A wonderful but short time. An adventure. A once in a lifetime experience.

    Hugs Inge

  13. Jetzt ist nur noch Kati übrig
    aus diesen Jahren –
    wie die Zeit vergeht…

  14. Dear Patricia!
    Thank you!
    I have to return the compliment: your comments are always to the point!
    I loved you commentary on ” Lars has gone to Knut”!
    It inspired me and had a certain influence on my post here…

    You described your own precious memories and it is touching that we share some of them.
    Every Knutfriend has his own reflections of that time, but in addition there was a closeness between so many different people that was unique and unforgettable.

    Have a nice weekend!

  15. dear Mervi,
    thank you so much for these wonderful pictures of our beloved bears and of Thomas Doerfleiin. what a pity I have never seen Thomas Doerflein and Lars live but I am very glad I have seen Knut once in June 2010.
    All will be for ever close with us.
    Ralph I think you will never forget these special moments or hours with Lars in Aalborg
    Alle Bilder beruehren mein Herz
    dear greetings to all

  16. Liebe Mervi,

    was für eine schöne Erinnerungsseite zum Tod von Thomas Dörflein.
    Du hast wunderschöne Fotos herausgesucht.
    Es ist wirklich traurig wenn man bedenkt, dass Kati die einzigste Überlebende der Schützlingen von TD ist.

    Wie sich die Bilder gleichen. Erst drei Frauen “gegen” Lars, und Jahre später drei Frauen gegen Knut.
    Ja, die Eisbären-Männer hatten es nicht einfach.

    Manchmal kommt es mir vor, als wäre es erst gestern gewesen.

    Sicher ist, dass TD sowie auch alls eine verstorbenen Schützlinge immer in unseren Herzen bleiben.

    Liebe Grüße

  17. Die Videos kenne ich zwar, aber auch diese kann man sich immer wieder ansehen. Schön, auch Kragenbärin Mäuschen auf dem Video wiederzusehen.