Was Hitler vegetarian? Referencing several of his biographers and scholars, we take a look at the validity of this claim. As well as ask: even if Hitler was vegetarian, why would it matter?
If you ever have an extended conversation about veganism, and maybe even one not so extended, there are two things that I guarantee will be brought up: bacon and Hitler. Though “Hitler bacon” would be a new one.
I’m going to address the validity of the “Hitler was vegetarian” argument after I first address its value. Let’s say Hitler was a vegetarian—or a vegan even. So what? How about all of the horrific people in history who were not vegan or vegetarian? Does that mean that every person who consumes animal products is automatically on the same level as Stalin, Osama Bin Laden, Jeffery Dahmer, or countless other animal-consuming sociopaths throughout history? It’s simply not a valid argument, or really an argument at all. So lets get down to the facts about Hitler himself, shall we?
Hitler was far from vegetarian—though there are reasons why people believe he was. According to historian, Robert Payne, in his text The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler, the myth of Hitler’s strict vegetarianism was more or less a PR campaign orchestrated by Hitler’s minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels. Payne states that,
Hitler’s asceticism played an important part in the image he projected over Germany. According to the widely believed legend, he neither smoke nor drank, nor did he eat meat or have anything to do with women. Only the first was true…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 outwards show of aestheticism, he could claim that he was dedicated to the service of his people.1— Robert Payne, The Life and Death of Adolf Hitler
In reality, Payne writes, Hitler was “remarkably self indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the aesthetic.”2
Beyond this PR campaign to portray Hitler as a master of self-control, there is some credence to his eschewing of meat at times. In his mind-blowing text Eternal Treblinka: Our treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, author Charles Patterson illuminates some of Hitler’s rather unsightly medical conditions, saying that Hitler “suffered from indigestion and episodic stomach pains that had troubled him from adolescence, as well as from excessive flatulence and uncontrollable sweating…he discovered that when he reduced his meat intake, he did not sweat as much and there were fewer stains in his underwear.”3 He apparently also believed that increasing his vegetable consumption improved the odors of his flatulence.4
Regardless of his conditions, Hitler never gave up his indulgences of his favorite meat dishes—which, according to Dr. Fritz Redlich in his text Diagnosis of a Destructive Prophet, were Bavarian sausages, liver dumplings, and stuffed and roasted game.5
Not only was Hitler not a vegetarian, he was also vehemently against vegetarianism. Patterson writes that,
[when Hitler] came to 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.6— Charles Patterson, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust
A huge tenent of veganism—and I’m not talking a vegan diet here, but actual veganism—is compassion towards animals. Hitler’s treatment of animals was much like his treatment of humans: abrasive, abusive, and cruel. Hitler would often carry around a dog-whip and viciously beat his dog in public.7 Biographer Ian Kershaw writes that “with his dogs, as with every human being, he came into contact with, any relationship was based upon subordination to his mastery.”8
Hitler based his entire treatment of the Jews on the assembly line slaughterhouses of the United States; he idolized Henry Ford,9 whose inspiration for his revolutionary assembly line system came from visiting a Chicago slaughterhouse as a young man.10 Hitler essentially built his own assembly line slaughterhouses, replacing the animals with human beings. As Gary Yourofsky says, if you walk into any slaughterhouse today, remove the animals and replace them with people, you have recreated Dachau and Auschwitz.
As you can see, Hitler was as far from a vegetarian as you can get. But again, even if he were, that does not hinder the vegan argument. I hope this helps clear up this persistent myth. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Leave them in the comments below!
— Emily Moran Barwick
Ah yes if (fake) patriotism is “the last refuge of scoundrels” as the famous quote goes, the “Hitler was a vegetarian” (translation: you want to protect animals? That’s morally the same as mass murdering humans!”) is the last refuge of “I can’t think of a real argument again, but I reeeeally don’t like you vegans” ;-)
You did a good job (in fact amazingly fact packed for only 2 mins) including that it’s NOT RELEVANT..but I’d like to add some others just for emphasis, that it’s logically nonsense even if Hitler HAD been (which he wasn’t) so here goes:
1. Long long time ago as an undergraduate I worked at the library and one day some patron returned an unusual book, both in its small dimensions and its bright green cover…so I was curious…and I had to explain how on earth I got to finding let alone (curious) then reading over Gaddafi’s “Little Green Book” Well in his book he talks about a bunch of nice ideas including that men and women are/should be equal. So by the “Hitler was a vegetarian logic” the fact that Gadaffi was for equality (or said he was) does that mean we have to be against it?
2. During the Cold War a famous and long lived pro-peace American whose name escapes me pointed out that opposing peace because the USSR made some steps towards peace was like saying, “the Soviets are against Cancer…the Soviets are bad..therefore we should be FOR cancer!”
3. Even had Hitler been an ethical vegan, does that mean any ethical behaviour by horrible people proves that behaviour was BAD? Well many horrible “monsters of history” were also kind (not all of them but some) were kind to their own kids. By this “Hitler was a vegetarian [let’s even imagine Ethical Vegan] therefore it’s bad” we’d have to say, “this or that mass-murders also loved and was gentle with their own kids, for ethical/loving reasons, therefore, loving and being kind to your own kids it horrible too!” ;-)
Those are my favorite rebbuttals of the “logic” used there..hope you or some readers might enjoy using some of them some day :-)
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
great points! and i’m so glad that you enjoyed the video. thank you for the extra ammo :)
I always answer this by saying, ‘Well, IF he was, at least there was one good thing about him”.
I really don’t think anyone really knows the answer to this. Not many of us were born vegetarian, so maybe at one point in his time, Hitler was, albeit briefly.
The point really is, vegans are missing the point when this comes up. Vegans should say, ‘Well, great! I hope so because at least that was one good thing about him, if it’s true!’
Because non-vegans know damn well that’s not a logical statement anyway. MANY nonvegans are murderers too and they know this of course. Stop entertaining this debate vegans; you’re wasting your time. Nonvegans who say foolish things like that don’t want to change right now and are just making silly, weak statements.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
great points ;) the whole argument is moot, as you say