Ah yes, Hitler.
The person everybody LEAST wants to be compared to.
There are specific reasons why some meat-eaters resort to asking us if we (as vegans or vegetarians) are aware that Hitler was a vegetarian. These are explored very eloquently in this podcast by Colleen Patrick Goudreau.
I am merely going to present you with appropriate responses for when this insane myth gets regurgitated in your presence.
Some responses are ridiculously long – I wanted to get all the points in! But take from them what you think will have the most impact on the offender!
So here we go:
Moron Mcgee: Did you know Hitler was a vegetarian?
You: [choose one or several of the following] -:
1. Your offensive question has two subtexts that you are seemingly eager for me to understand:
a) Hitler was vegetarian – therefore I, as a vegetarian/vegan, am like Hitler
b) Hitler was vegetarian – and also a genocidal maniac. Therefore vegetarianism/veganism promotes genocide
With regard to lovely subtext a):
Mao (responsible for 78,000,000 deaths), Stalin (responsible for 23,000,000 deaths), Leopold II of Belgium (responsible for 15,000,000 deaths), Vlad III (famous for roasting children and feeding them to their mothers) Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Kim Jong Un, Ho Chi Min (AND MANY, MANY OTHER MURDEROUS, TYRANNICAL DICTATORS) were all meat-eaters.
By your logic – this means you, as a meat-eater, must be like them.
With regard to lovely subtext b):
As we can see above, most genocidal despots tend to be meat-eaters. Your logic would therefore assume that it is meat-eating that promotes dictatorial urges and genocide.
2. No, Mr Mcgee, Hitler was categorically not a vegetarian by any accepted definition.
We know he most definitely was not vegan.
The definition of ‘vegetarian’ according to the Oxford Dictionary is:
A person who does not eat meat or fish, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.
According to reputable Hitler biographers Robert Payne and Albert Speer, Hitler had a penchant for ham, Bavarian sausages, liver and game. In his book ‘The Life And Death Of Adolf Hitler‘ (1995) Payne states that Hitler’s ‘vegetarianism’ was propaganda spread by Goebbels to make Hitler seem more ascetic and in control of his basest desires:
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…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…Although Hitler had no fondness for meat except in the form of sausages, and never ate fish, he enjoyed caviar. He was a connoisseur of sweets, crystallized fruit and cream cakes, which he consumed in astonishing quantities. He drank tea and coffee drowned in cream and sugar. No dictator ever had a sweeter tooth.
Chef Dione Lucas was not only an eyewitness to Hitler’s meat-eating, but in her book Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook (1964) recounts often being asked, when she was a hotel chef in Hamburg, to make Hitler’s favourite dish – stuffed squab (pigeon).
Not even by the loosest definition of the word are pigeon, sausages and caviar vegetarian.
Another fact that helps promulgate this myth is that on at least one occasion, Hitler was put on a temporary vegetarian fast by his doctor to help combat his problem of excessive flatulence and sweating – caused by excessive consumption of processed meats!
From the book Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment Of Animals And The Holocaust (2002) by Charles Patterson phD:
Hitler discovered that when he reduced his meat intake, he did not sweat as much, and there were fewer stains in his underwear. He also became convinced that eating vegetables improved the odors of his flatulence, a condition that distressed him terribly and caused him much embarrassment. Hitler, who had a great fear of contracting cancer, which killed his mother, believed that meat eating and pollution caused cancer.
Nonetheless, Hitler never gave up his favourite meat dishes, especially Bavarian sausages, liver dumplings, and stuffed and roasted game.
Patterson writes of when Hitler got into power in 1933:
…he banned all the vegetarian societies in Germany, arrested their leaders, and shut down the main vegetarian magazine published in Frankfurt…during the war Nazi Germany banned all vegetarian organizations in the territories it occupied, even though vegetarian diets would have helped alleviate wartime food shortages.
Why would Hitler have done this if he was vegetarian?
Some have talked about Hitler’s love of animals, particularly of his dogs.
Firstly, he may well have loved his dogs. It is not unheard of to love those beings that surround YOU, but be unable to empathise with those you don’t know. Secondly, it is reported that he loved his dogs because they were subordinate to him and he could control them. Again, Charles Patterson:
Hitler was fond of dogs, especially German shepherds (he considered boxers ‘degenerate’), whom he liked to control and dominate. At the front during World War I, he befriended a white terrier Fuchsl (Foxl), who had strayed across enemy lines. Later, when his unit had to move on and Fuchsl could not be found, Hitler became distraught. ‘I liked him so much,’ he recalled. ‘He obeyed only me.’
Hitler often carried a dog-whip and sometimes used it to beat his dog the same way he had seen his father beat his own dog.
In Hitler 1936-45: Nemesis (2000), another esteemed Hitler biographer, Ian Kershaw, writes:
…but with his dogs, as with every human being he came into contact with, any relationship was based upon subordination to his mastery.
3. You might want to think about why you deemed it appropriate to compare my life choices to those of the most reviled human being of the twentieth century.
I’m just trying to live in alignment with my values of compassion for all life, respect for my health and that of the planet, and taking the best action possible to help combat world hunger – and you want me to know that you think I’m comparable to a dictator that had approximately eleven million Jews, Poles, gays, gypsies and disabled people exterminated.
Do you care to explain more?
4. I’ve already referenced The Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment Of Animals And The Holocaust by Charles Patterson. This influential book (that has been translated into fourteen languages) very eloquently and eruditely compares intensive animal farming with concentration camps. This is an unarguable and valid comparison. Both deal in commodified beings that are made to work until such time as the person in power decides they are to be slaughtered.
As you condone this practise by buying its end product (meat, milk and eggs), I think you’ll find it’s you that has more in common with Hitler and the Nazi’s beliefs.
5. When selecting a famous vegetarian (even though Hitler wasn’t – so you didn’t even fact check), why, I wonder, didn’t you think of Ghandi or Buddha? Not that I’m comparing ordinary vegetarians like myself to them, but you wanted to bring up a vegetarian person that’s had a huge impact on the world, why didn’t you choose one of these guys? And most would agree that they were both bigger and more influential than Hitler. Why do YOU think it didn’t serve you to reference THEM?
6. [if you are vegan] I am vegan. This is different to being vegetarian. While vegetarianism is better than meat-eating to a point, it is still not avoiding cruelty and barbarism toward animals. Vegetarians still eat dairy and eggs. Milk comes from abused cows whose male babies are often killed, and dairy cows themselves are killed when they are spent. The egg industry is similarly cruel with millions of baby male chicks being gassed, suffocated or put into a meat grinder alive because they are superfluous to requirements.
There has NEVER been a vegan mass-murderer. I urge you to attempt to find one and prove me wrong.
7. F**k off.
8. Only joking about number 7. Sort of.