The Propagander ™ FAQ: Was Hitler a Vegetarian?
Was Hitler a Vegetarian?
Starting in the early 1930s, Adolf Hitler began experiencing episodes of sharp, cramping pain in his right upper abdomen. The pain appeared shortly after meals, and when it did, Hitler would usually leave the room. Sometimes he returned 'after the spasm had passed', as Albert Speer described it, and sometimes he did not return at all. 'After every meal the pain begins!' Hitler exclaimed in exasperation. Occasionally the pain began during a meal, and Hitler, obviously greatly distressed, would leave the table. He also complained of abdominal distension accompanied by duller pain and frequent belching. From the start, the cramping pain appeared for no evident reason and then disappeared after a time. There were days marked by incapacitating pain, days with only nagging soreness, and intervals of weeks to months without pain. But the pain always returned, and it was to do so for the rest of his life. He was in his early forties at the time and he had never before been seriously ill . . . . Although Hitler did ask for opinions, no one could convince him to undergo the needed examinations for his abdominal pain.
What he did do about his illness was entirely in character: he treated himself. Gradually, he adopted an eccentric diet that was nearly vegetarian. Guided, no doubt, by the effects of particular foods on his pain, he eliminated rich pastries and meat and continued to eliminate foods until his basic diet was vegetables and cereal--a major change for a man who had a reputation as a lover of cakes and sweets. 'Even bread and butter gave him trouble. Zwieback, honey, mushrooms, curds, and yogurt became his standard diet.' At times, even milk products were eliminated and some vegetables, especially cabbage and beans, were also troublesome. Though occasionally he lapsed and would again try the rich foods he previously had enjoyed, Hitler generally followed a very stringent diet from the middle 1930s on.
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.In a 1938 magazine article published in the UK, Ignatius Phayre 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 Presidential 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 diatetic standards which Hitler exacts.The most often quoted documentation of Hitler's alleged vegetarianism is located in Hitler's Table Talk: 1941-1944, a collection of stenographic transcripts edited and compiled by Martin Bormann and translated by Hitler biographer Hugh Trevor-Roper. They are suspect as a primary source due to Bormann's involvement and the fact that the original shorthand notes have never been found. Here is the extent of this evidence:
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.Table Talk, January 22, 1942:
At the time when I ate meat, I used to sweat a lot. I used to drink four pots of beer and six bottles of water during a meeting . . . . When I became a vegetarian, a mouthful of water was enough.Table Talk, August 20, 1942:
I am no admirer of the poacher, particularly as I am a vegetarian.April 26, 1942: From the Diary of Josef Goebbels:
An extended chapter of our talk was devoted by the Fuehrer 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.From The Enigma of Hitler, by Belgian SS General Léon Degrelle:
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.Hitler's secretary, Traudl Junge, wrote that Hitler "always avoided meat" in her memoirs, and revealed that Hitler's one-time Austrian cook would sometimes add some fat to his soup: "Mostly the Fuehrer would notice the attempt at deception, would get very annoyed and then get a tummy ache. At the end he would only let Kruemel cook him clear soup and mashed potato." Hitler would later hire Constanze Manzialy, who would cook his meals in the Fuehrer Bunker until his demise.
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 . . . . His asceticism was a fiction invented by Goebbels to emphasize his total dedication, his self-control, the distance that separated him from other men . . . . In fact, he was remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic. His cook, an enormously fat man named Willy Kannenberg, produced exquisite meals and acted as court jester. Although Hitler had no fondness for meat except in the form of sausages and never ate fish, he enjoyed caviar.In an interview with Rudolf Hess' wife, she said that Hitler was a practising vegetarian except for an extreme likeness for Leberknödl: "From that moment on, Hitler never ate another piece of meat, except for liver dumplings."
There's absolutely no evidence he was a vegetarian. It simply isn't true . . . . Mainstream historians have an elastic definition of vegetarianism. They don't hold Hitler to the same standards as a practicing ethical vegetarian. You can't be a vegetarian and eat liver dumplings . . . . It's too good a story to spoil it with the truth. They relish the paradox that a genocidal tyrant might have observed a Gandhian diet . . . . Nonetheless, it doesn't hurt to have it finally settled on the record that Pythagoras, Leonard da Vinci, Tolstoy, Shaw, Gandhi, and Singer were vegetarians, but that Mr. Hitler--who liked his pigeons stuffed and roasted--was not.In Hitler's Last Days in the Bunker, he ate very little meat and avoided even his beloved Leberknödl. However, an examination of the plethora of medications given him by his quack doctor, Theodor Morell, reveal that they contained many animal-derived additives. Of course, Hitler could not have been aware of this.
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