Vegetarianism of Adolf Hitler
Scholars agree that, in addition to being a teetotaler and a non-smoker, Adolf Hitler practiced some form of vegetarianism. The vegetarianism of Adolf Hitler is believed by most experts to have been based on Richard Wagner's anti-Semitic historical theories which connected the future of Germany with vegetarianism.
Proctor, Robert N. (1999). The Nazi War on Cancer. Princeton University Press, p. 136:
Several of [Hitler's] biographers point to the influence of nationalist antisemitic composer, Richard Wagner.
See also: Moore, Gregory. (2002). Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor. Cambridge University Press, pp. 155-157:
Wagner, the leading apostle of Aryan Christianity, whose attempt to fuse vulgar anti-Semitism with the 'noble' - and therefore 'Aryan' - Christan 'morality of pity'. . . This insidious form of anti-Semitism. . . seized upon by Wagner, sought to purge the Christian religion of 'foreign' Jewish elements, holding that the essence of Christianity, so close in spirit to Eastern religions, must be of Aryan provenance. Wagner suggested. . . that 'it is more than doubtful if Jesus himself was of Jewish extraction'. . . These basic themes are reprised in a series of essays written by Wagner in the late 1870s. . . The 'degeneration of the human race' - which Wagner also refers to in more conventional terms as 'man's historic fall' - was initially triggered, he believes, by the 'departure from its natural food'. An antediluvial, irenic and above all vegetarian people were driven by the famine which followed catastrophic climatic and geological upheavals to renounce their natural diet and consume flesh. . . the second source of corruption which Wagner cites: the interbreeding of the Aryan with the Jew, a centuries-long 'tainting [degenerierende Vermischung] of the hero-blood of noblest races with that of former cannibals now trained to be business-agens of Society'. As the quintessence of Jewishness, this carnivorous, bloodthirsty 'predator' - and here Wagner is ressurecting the ancient anti-Semitic legend of the blood libel - is the ultimate source of the vitiation of our blood', the pollution of the once proud German-Aryan race. . . . According to Wagner, spiritual renewal, which can be attained through vegetarianism. . . brings with it the regeneration of the race.
Arluke, Arnold; Clinton Sanders (1996). Regarding Animals. Temple University Press, pp. 144, 150:
In an essay, entitled "Heldentum und Christenheit" (Heroism and Christianity), Wagner articulated an anti-Semitic theory of history, which linked vegetarianism to Germany's future. It drew on the racial theories of Joseph Arthur Gobineau, the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, and Wagner's own idiosyncratic brand of Catholicism. Wagner believed that, in abandoning their original vegetarian diet, people had become corrupted by the blood of slaughtered animals. This degeneration was then spread by the mixing of races. Interbreeding eventually spread through the entire Roman Empire, until only the "noble" Germanic race remained pure. After their conquest of Rome, the Germans, however, finally succumbed by mating with the subject peoples. "Regeneration" could be achieved, even by highly corrupted races such as the Jews, through a return to natural foods, provided this was accompanied by partaking of the Eucharist.
Rudacille, Deborah (2001). The Scalpel and the Butterfly: The War Between Animal Research and Animal Protection. University of California Press,:
These authors, together with Robert Procter and other scholars, agree that Hitler and many of his aides were vegetarians who believed that abstaining from meat would not only enhance human health but also spiritually regenerate the human race. Procter, Arluke, Sanders, and others have attributed Nazi dietary habits to the influence of Richard Wagner, the nineteenth-century German composer, who believed that civilization could be regenerated through vegetarianism.
Rudacille 2001, p. 88:
Many contemporary vegetarians vehemently dispute these scholars' claims. Animal rights activist Rynn Berry, who serves as historical adviser to the North American Vegetarian Society, said in a 1999 interview that he was motivated to explore this issue after he published a book called Famous Vegetarians: Antiquity to Present and found that 'people were constantly twitting me about why Hitler was not included.
Hitler believed that a vegetarian diet could both alleviate his personal health problems and spiritually regenerate the human race. In spite of these beliefs, reports state that Hitler occasionally ate meat during the 1930s. While Hitler reduced his meat consumption, he may have not eliminated it entirely, with culinary accounts indicating a sporadic preference for sausage, squab, liver dumplings, ham, and caviar. As a result, many vegetarians dispute the claim that Hitler was a vegetarian.
Most of Adolf Hitler's biographers assert that he was a vegetarian from 1931 until his death in 1945. They believe that Hitler's diet was influenced by essays of composer Richard Wagner which promoted vegetarianism. Hitler idolized Wagner as a young adult, saying: "I don't touch meat largely because of what Wagner says on the subject. "
When Hitler was 22 years old and living in Vienna, he first experimented with a vegetarian diet in an attempt to cure a chronic stomach ailment. In a 1911 letter Hitler wrote: "I am pleased to be able to inform you that I already feel altogether well. . . . It was nothing but a small stomach upset and I am trying to cure myself through a diet of fruits and vegetables. " Biographers Robert Proctor and John Toland propose that Hitler may have interpreted his stomach cramps as an early sign of cancer, a disease that killed his mother Klara Hitler when he was 18. Proctor describes Hitler as "a vegetarian, of sorts" who ate meat on occasion: "Hitler was indeed, for the most part, a vegetarian — though he did occasionally allow himself a dish of meat. "
There is some anecdotal evidence that Hitler continued to eat meat after his experiment with a vegetarian diet. Dione Lucas's 1964 Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook included a recipe for squab (four week-old fledgling pigeon) with a short anecdote: "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 at the hotel often. Let us not hold that against a fine recipe though. "
After the war Rudolf Diels (who headed the early Gestapo for a year before narrowly avoiding execution) wrote that Hitler sometimes ate Bavarian Leberknödel (liver dumplings) but only when they were prepared by his photographer friend Heinrich Hoffmann.
Historian Thomas Fuchs reports that Hitler's experiments with vegetarianism as a young adult were "far from absolute in his adherence": "In the early, frantic days of Nazi organizing, he was often too busy to sit down to a full meal. He ate on the run, gnawing chunks of sausage. . . in September 1931, he manifested an active loathing for meat," which followed the suicide of Geli Raubal, "the niece with whom Hitler had been in love".
Biographies by the German journalist Joachim Fest and British historian Ian Kershaw also state that Hitler almost became a vegetarian after the 1931 death of Geli Raubal, an event which is said to have left Hitler in great distress. American author and historian John Toland concurs, noting that after Raubal's death Hitler almost became a vegetarian: ". . . he meant it. From that moment on, she [Frau Hess] said, Hitler never ate another piece of meat except for liver dumplings. 'Suddenly! He ate meat before that. It is very difficult to understand or explain. "
However, accounts differ as to the exact nature of Hitler's "vegetarianism". Six years after Raubal's death, Hitler was still said to be eating the occasional dish of meat, including pork and fish eggs. In a May 30, 1937 article in The New York Times entitled "Where Hitler Dreams and Plans", Otto D. Tolischus wrote: "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, luscious fruits, and similar titbits. He is outspoken about having a sweet tooth and loves confectionery, especially chocolates. "
According to stenographic transcripts translated by Hugh Trevor-Roper of conversations between Hitler and his inner circle which took place between July 1941 and November 1944, Hitler regarded himself as a vegetarian (however, British historian Alan Bullock argues that Hitler would not allow the use of a tape recorder and that the written transcripts were edited by Bormann). According to these transcripts dated November 11, 1941 Hitler said, "One may regret living at a period when it's impossible to form an idea of the shape the world of the future will assume. But there's one thing I can predict to eaters of meat: the world of the future will be vegetarian. " On January 12, 1942, he said, "The only thing of which I shall be incapable is to share the sheiks' mutton with them. I'm a vegetarian, and they must spare me from their meat. "
In private conversations, Hitler often recited the benefits of eating raw vegetables, fruit, and grains, particularly for children and soldiers. In an attempt to disgust dinner guests and provoke them into shying away from meat, he reportedly told graphic stories of visits he had made to a slaughterhouse in the Ukraine. Food writer Bee Wilson notes: "It amused him to spoil carnivorous guests' appetites. . . As they put their forks down in disgust, he would harangue them for hypocrisy. 'That shows how cowardly people are,' he would say. 'They can't face doing certain horrible things themselves, but they enjoy the benefits without a pang of conscience. '"
In a November, 1939 article for the English magazine describing Hitler's mountain home, The Berghof, Ignatius Phayrethe wrote, "A life-long vegetarian at table, Hitler's kitchen plots are both varied and heavy in produce. Even in his meatless diet Hitler is something of a gourmet—as Sir John Simon and Anthony Eden were surprised to note when they dined with him in the Presidial Palace at Berlin. His Bavarian chef, Herr Kannenberg, contrives an imposing array of vegetarian dishes, savoury and rich, pleasing to the eye as well as to the palate, and all conforming to the dietic standards which Hitler exacts."
In a diary entry dated April 25, 1943, Josef Göbbels described Hitler as a committed vegetarian, writing, "An extended chapter of our talk was devoted by the Führer to the vegetarian question. He believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. After the war, however, he intends to tackle this problem also. Maybe he is right. Certainly the arguments that he adduces in favor of his standpoint are very compelling. "
Martin Bormann, who as head of the Party Chancellery (and private secretary to Hitler) is considered by most historians to have been the second most powerful Nazi official in Germany, built Hitler a large greenhouse at Berchtesgaden in order to keep him supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the war. Personal photographs of Bormann's children tending the greenhouse survive, and by 2005 its foundations were among the only ruins associated with the Nazi leadership still visible in the area. Finally, in his personal life Hitler showed anti-meat tendencies. Hitler disapproved of cosmetics since they contained animal by-products. He frequently teased his mistress Eva Braun about her habit of wearing makeup. . In his post-war reminiscence The Enigma of Hitler, Belgian SS General, and friend of Hitler's, Léon Degrelle wrote: "He could not bear to eat meat, because it meant the death of a living creature. He refused to have so much as a rabbit or a trout sacrificed to provide his food. He would allow only eggs on his table, because egg-laying meant that the hen had been spared rather than killed. "
Author Rynn Berry maintains that although Hitler reduced the amount of meat in his diet, he never stopped eating meat completely for any significant length of time. Berry argues that many historians use the term 'vegetarian' incorrectly to describe someone who simply reduced his meat consumption.
Traudl Junge, who became Hitler's secretary in 1942, reported that he "always avoided meat" but that his Austrian cook Krüemel sometimes added a little animal broth or fat to his meals. "Mostly the Führer would notice the attempt at deception, would get very annoyed and then get tummy ache," Junge said. "At the end he would only let Kruemel cook him clear soup and mashed potato. "
In 1943, Marlene von Exner became Hitler's dietitian and reportedly added bone marrow to his soups without his knowledge because she "despised" his vegetarian diet.
There is also a question as to whether or not Hitler's state policies supported vegetarianism. Hitler persecuted and closed German vegetarian organizations and associations like "Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands” (closed by Nazis in 1936), whose members were often arrested and died in Nazi death camps. "Vegetarier-Bund Deutschlands" only started its legal activities after the Nazis lost World War II in 1945.
From 1936 almost until his death by suicide in 1945, Theodor Morell, Hitler's personal physician, gave him "quack supplements" which contained animal components. Morell gave Hitler daily injections of various commercially prepared tonics containing animal by-products including Glyconorm, an injectable compound containing vitamins B1, B2 and C, cardiac muscle, adrenal gland, liver, and pancreas. Other injected preparations contained placenta, bovine testosterone and extracts containing seminal vesicles and prostate to combat depression. At the time, extracts from animal glands were popularly believed to be "elixirs of youth".
Hitler has also been quoted as saying, "there's nothing better than a liver dumpling. "