Nazi Hitler & Vegetarianism
Was Nazi Hitler a vegan? Vegans are often accused of having a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. This of course is sometimes the case, people in adapting to their ‘new’ identities may well struggle to communicate the factors that have influenced their change, and what it means. Others of course are from conservative middle class backgrounds and can hardly avoid the trait.
However the fact that the person in question has made a change in their life which quite often is geared towards reducing the suffering of others, is quite a big step in itself, and it is more likely that their ego creases will be ironed out as they learn to relate to others. Nevertheless, the expression ‘vegan nazi‘ also comes up now and again, often in reference to the claim that Hitler was a vegetarian, inferring that many if not all vegans are nazis! In the process of rounding up non-vegans for the slaughter. There is some interesting info about Nazism and animal welfare which we’ll consider, however, was Hitler really a vegetarian?
Nazi Hitler was not a vegetarian
Before we see the evidence that Hitler wasn’t a vegetarian, it’s important to look at where the argument that he was comes from, because it’s an argument that’s rarely made honestly. People who insist that Hitler was a vegetarian usually just “heard it” somewhere, and immediately assumed it was true. And yet, if you tell them that Hitler wasn’t actually a vegetarian, these same people who instantly believed in Hitler’s vegetarianism without question, will suddenly demand all manner of proof that he wasn’t.
Why do they require such a high standard of evidence that Hitler was not a vegetarian, when they require no evidence at all that he was? Apparently many people want to believe that Hitler was a vegetarian. Perhaps they’re threatened by vegetarianism because it implies that they’re doing something wrong. But armed with the (mistaken) idea that the infamous Hitler himself was a veggie, that allows them to easily dismiss the whole concept of vegetarianism in one fell swoop. “Hitler was a vegetarian, therefore vegetarianism itself must be flawed!” Of course, that’s a patently retarded argument. But the point is, many people are eager to believe it, which is why they require no proof at all when they hear that Hitler was a veggie, and then suddenly demand reams of supporting evidence when someone suggests he wasn’t.
If you think I’m exaggerating about the importance that anti-veggies place on the idea that Hitler was a vegetarian, look at this letter that someone wrote to award-winning author John Robbins, who has written several books promoting a meatless way of eating:
You people who say that we would all be more peaceful if we ate a vegetarian diet always seem to forget that Adolph Hitler was a vegetarian. That pretty well destroys your belief system, doesn’t it? (FoodRevolution.org)
My god, take a look at that: It pretty well destroys your belief system?! That’s how important Hitler’s alleged vegetarianism is to many non-veggies. Their belief is that if Hitler were a vegetarian, then vegetarianism itself is completely invalidated. Is it possible to be any more ridiculous than this?
Thinking people will realize that it wouldn’t matter even if Hitler had been a vegetarian. That is, it would not “pretty well destroy [our] belief system”. Bad people occasionally make good choices. This shouldn’t be so difficult to understand. Had Hitler actually chosen to be a vegetarian, that would simply have been one of the better choices he made. If Hitler were fond of chess, that wouldn’t invalidate chess. In fact, one of the best players in the history of the game, Bobby Fischer, was a raving anti-Semite, but nobody stops playing chess because of that.
And what if Hitler had been fond of chess? Would non-chess players taunt those who do play the game about that? No, because people who don’t play chess generally don’t give a flying flip about whether other people play it or not. They don’t feel threatened by someone being a chess-player. But once the issue is vegetarianism, it’s a different story. This should lay bare the motivations of those who champion the idea that Hitler didn’t eat meat.
And of course, even if Hitler had been vegetarian, likely every single other mass-murderer in history was not. If you were keeping score, that would be, Vegetarian Mass Murderers: 1, and then Non-Vegetarian Mass Murderers: 100’s.
And now we come to a curious battle: Hitler vs. Benjamin Franklin. Franklin was a vegetarian only for about a year, from the ages of 16 to 17 (ivu.org, 08016.com), but of course most people don’t know that. If a meat-eater is (mistakenly) told that Franklin was a vegetarian, they’ll often demand to know whether he ever ate meat, and if it’s admitted that he did, well, then that’s their “Aha!” moment. They’ll triumphantly exclaim, “So Franklin wasn’t really a vegetarian, was he?!” I’m sad to have witnessed numerous conversations that actually went that way.
That’s important because the same people have much softer criteria for Hitler. Franklin could have eaten meat once every four years and his vegetarianism would be dismissed as a fraud, but if Hitler ever ate a potato, then bang! He’s vegetarian. This is important because there are numerous accounts of Hitler eating meat throughout his life, and incredibly this is just brushed off by those who say Hitler was a veggie. But the standard for Franklin is different: Franklin has to avoid meat 100% of the time, for his entire life, from the day he’s born to the day he dies, unwaveingly, otherwise he’s not really considered a vegetarian at all. It’s like if Hitler ever had a meatless meal then he’s a vegetarian while if Franklin ate fish once after sixty years meat-free then he’s not.
(To be clear, as we said earlier, Franklin was a vegetarian only for about a year, but most people don’t know that. I’m talking about how people have different standards for Hitler’s vegetarianism vs. anyone else’s.)
So what constitutes being a vegetarian? Most would agree that it’s a deliberate decision to not eat meat, for whatever reason. By that criteria Franklin was a vegetarian for a about a year, and for the rest of the time he wasn’t. For Hitler, there’s no compelling evidence that he stuck with a real veggie diet for any appreciable length of time. Multiple sources document him as eating meat throughout the 1930’s. (See below.) Shortly before his death (in 1941 and 1942) he claimed to be vegetarian, and “Hitler was a vegetarian!” proponents have latched all over this. Because, Hitler wouldn’t ever lie, or even exaggerate, would he? I mean, this is Hitler we’re talking about, and who on Earth would ever question Hitler’s commitment to the truth? After all, if you can’t trust Hitler, then whom can you trust? If you were going to pick one person in the whole world whose word you would definitely accept unquestioningly, that person would be Hitler, right? I mean, surely we can believe that every word that ever came out of Hitler’s mouth can safely be believed to be the absolute truth without any doubt at all, right?
Rynn Berry adds, “To be sure, Hitler professed to be a vegetarian…, but the primary sources that I have cited in my book show that while he paid lip service to vegetarianism, he was not consistent in his practice of the diet.” (source)
The fact is, many people use the word “vegetarian” to describe diets that aren’t vegetarian at all, and Hitler’s case is no exception. An article from May 30, 1937, ‘At Home With The Fuhrer’ says, “It is well known that Hitler is a vegetarian and does not drink or smoke. His lunch and dinner consist, therefore, for the most part of soup, eggs, vegetables and mineral water, although he occasionally relishes a slice of ham and relieves the tediousness of his diet with such delicacies as caviar …” (source) So when Hitler says he’s a vegetarian, he’s almost certainly using it in this context: He’s a “vegetarian” who eats meat. That’s like someone saying, “I’m not a bank-robber! I only do it once a month.”
Still, for those who insist that we take Hitler at his word literally about his claiming to be a vegetarian in the 1940’s, we have this gem from The Hitler Book, about Hitler’s daily routine in 1944: “After midnight [Eva] would direct that there should be another light snack of turtle soup, sandwiches, and sausages.” (source)
If Hitler was really a vegetarian, he was a sausage-eating one.
Below are some articles which give the details about Hitler’s true diet.
From John Robbins’ Food Revolution:
Robert Payne is widely considered to be Hitler’s definitive biographer. In his book, Hitler: The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler, Payne says that Hitler’s “vegetarianism” was a “legend” and a “fiction” invented by Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda. According to Payne:
“Hitler’s asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoked nor drank, nor did he eat meat or have anything to do with women. Only the first was true. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages and kept a mistress, Eva Braun… His asceticism was fiction invented by Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men. By this outward show of asceticism, he could claim that he was dedicated to the service of his people. In fact he was remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic.” (more…)
From the Toronto Vegetarian Association:
While it is true that Hitler’s doctors put him on a vegetarian diet to cure him of flatulence and a chronic stomach disorder, his biographers such as Albert Speer, Robert Payne, John Toland, et al, have attested to his liking for ham sausages and other cured meats. Even Spencer says that Hitler was a vegetarian from only 1931 on: “It would be true to say that up to 1931, he preferred a vegetarian diet, but on some occasions would deviate from it.” He committed suicide in the bunker when he was 56 in 1945; that would have given him 14 years as a vegetarian, but we have the testimony to the contrary of the woman chef who was his personal cook in Hamburg during the late 1930s – Dione Lucas. In her “Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook,” she records that his favorite dish – the one that he customarily requested – was stuffed squab (pigeon). “I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite with Mr. Hitler, who dined in the hotel often.”
From “The Animals’ Agenda”
1996 issue, attributed to Roberta Kalechofsky
In their efforts to discredit animal rights activists, supporters of animal research periodically proclaim to the media that Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian and that the Nazis did not engage in animal research.
The implication is that these ‘revelations’ suggest a sinister similarity between Nazis and animal rights ‘zealots’ and serve as a warning that animal advocates have an anti-human agenda.
But the real story about Hitler and the Nazis is miles from the myth. One legitimate response to such claims is that it doesn’t matter whether Hitler was a vegetarian; as Peter Singer said, “The fact that Hitler had a nose doesn’t mean we’re going to cut our noses off.”
Biographical material about Hitler suggests a contradictoriness in reports about his diet. He is often described as a vegetarian who nevertheless had a special fondness for sausages and caviar, and sometimes ham. One of his biographers, Robert Payne (“The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler) took exception to the view of Hitler as an ascetic, and said it was deliberately fostered by the Nazis to project an image of Hitler as pure and dedicated.
Wrote Payne: “Hitler’s asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoked nor drank, nor did he have anything to do with women.
“Only the first was true. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages, and kept a mistress… “His asceticism was a fiction invented by (Nazi propagandist Joseph) Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men…” Biographer John Toland (“Adolf Hitler”), describes Hitler’s early student diet as consisting of “milk, sausage, and bread.”
Moreover, Hitler never promoted vegetarianism as a public policy for either health or moral reasons. His lack of policies and public support for vegetarianism is significant in a leader who rigorously enforced other health policies, such as anti-smoking and anti-pollution legislation, and pregnancy and birthing measures for women.
The rumor that the Nazis passed an anti-vivisection law is also filled with contradictions. No such law was passed, although the Nazis reported that such a law existed. The Nazis allegedly passed an anti-vivisection bill in 1933.
“Lancet,” the prestigious British medical journal, reviewed the Nazis’ law in 1934 and warned anti-vivisectionists not to celebrate because the Nazis’ law was no different, in effect, from the British law that had been passed in 1876, which restricted some animal research, but hardly eliminated it. An enormous amount of research on animals continued to be carried out by Nazi doctors.
The evidence of Nazi experiments on animals is overwhelming. In “The Dark Face of Science,” author John Vyvyan summed it up correctly:
“The experiments made on prisoners were many and diverse, but they had one thing in common: all were in continuation of or complementary to, experiments on animals. “In every instance, this antecedent scientific literature is mentioned in the evidence, and at Buchenvald and Auschwitz concentration camps, human and animal experiments were carried out simultaneously as parts of a single programme.”
It is important that the facts be known so that the myths about Hitler and the Nazis cannot be used against the animal rights and vegetarian movements.
Animal rights advocates should not let these false claims appear in the media unchallenged. The record must be set straight.
Roberta Kalechofsky is a writer, publisher, and the president of Jews for Animal Rights
Review of Hitler: Neither vegetarian nor animal lover
Article from the International Vegetarian Union
‘Nazi Germany was the first country to ban vivisection in the world, enacting a total ban in April 1933. The measure to ban vivisection was a huge concern and was put forth to the Reichstag as early as 1927. High ranking Nazis such as Hermann Goring, Heinrich Himmler and Adolf Hitler were very concerned about animal conservation, particularly pertaining as to how animals were butchered.’
So be very cautions about vegan is the messgae here? Just incase they go on a killing spree.
Hermann Goring, who was established as the Prime Minister of Prussia, had this to say:
“An absolute and permanent ban on vivisection is not only a necessary law to protect animals and to show sympathy with their pain, but it is also a law for humanity itself…. I have therefore announced the immediate prohibition of vivisection and have made the practice a punishable offence in Prussia.
Until such time as punishment is pronounced the culprit shall be lodged in a concentration camp.”
Interesting, it seems there are many vegan that just might agree with this with the same consequence owed to criminals of similar nature, of whom assault vulnerable others.
In 1934, a national hunting law was passed to regulate how many animals could be killed per year, and to establish proper ‘hunting seasons’. These hunting laws have now been applied in most western countries.
Additionally, in 1935, another law was passed, the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz (Reich Nature Protection Act). This law placed several native species on a protection list including the wolf and Eurasian lynx. Additions were added later as to afforestation and the humane slaughter of living fish.
Without this law it is likely some species would have completely disappeared from Germany’s forests.
Animal welfare in Nazi Germany – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_welfare_in_Nazi_Germany
Anti-tobacco movement in Nazi Germany http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tobacco_movement_in_Nazi_Germany