Thursday, March 8, 2007
The New York Times Book Review
229 West 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
To the Editor,
I must take issue with Mr. Rothstein’s glib characterization of Hitler and his Nazi henchmen, Hess, and Himmler, as vegetarians, in his review of Tristram Stuart’s The Bloodless Revolution (February 25). As the historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society, I am constantly being taxed with having to explain Hitler’s alleged vegetarianism. In researching the matter, I discovered that Hitler was not a true vegetarian. I presented my findings in a book entitled Hitler Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover (Pythagorean Publishers, 2004).
In my book, I cite numerous primary sources that attest that Hitler was not a thoroughgoing vegetarian. Here are a few examples: For instance, one of his closest friends, Frau Hess, asserted that Hitler was a strict vegetarian except for Liver Dumplings. “From that moment on, Hitler never ate another piece of meat, except for liver dumplings.” (His habitual eating of liver dumplings is an important exception that disqualifies Hitler as vegetarian.)
Chef Dione Lucas, who used routinely to prepare meals for him into the early 1930s, actually published Hitler’s favorite recipes in her cookbook, The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook (1964, p. 89) “I learned the recipe when I worked as a chef before World War II, in one of the large hotels in Hamburg, Germany. 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.” (His habitual eating of stuffed squab disqualifies Hitler as a vegetarian.)
In the New York Times of May 30 1937, in an article entitled “Where Hitler Dreams and Plans,” Times reporter Otto D. Tolschuss wrote, “It is well known that Hitler is 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 tidbits.” (His occasional eating of sliced ham and caviar disqualifies Hitler as a vegetarian.)
Hitler biographer, Thomas Fuchs, in his book, A Concise Biography of Adolf Hitler (New York: Berkeley, 2000, p.78), also confirms that Hitler was not a vegetarian. ” A typical day’s consumption included eggs prepared in any number of ways, spaghetti, baked potatoes with cottage cheese, oatmeal, stewed fruits and vegetable puddings. Meat was not completely excluded. Hitler continued to eat a favorite dish, leberkloesse (liver dumplings).”
To be sure, Hitler professed to be a vegetarian (in section 66 of Hitler’s Table Talk, 1941-44), 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. “Vegetarian”–which means, (according to the standard dictionary definition),”the practice of eating only vegetables and refraining from eating meat, fish, or other animal products”– is like that other V word, Virgin: you either are one, or you are not. By that criterion, Hitler was a quasi vegetarian, a would-be vegetarian, or a flexitarian. He was decidedly not a true vegetarian.
With regard to Rudolf Hess, the Fuhrer’s fawning deputy, Hess may have been a vegetarian for a brief space–perhaps as a result of his faddish interest in Rudolf Steiner’s bio-dynamic agricultural theories. In fact, Hess’s biographer, Wulf Schwarzwaller, in his book, Rudolf Hess the Last Nazi (Bethesda, MD: National Press, 1988), suggests (pp. 157, 161) that Hess’s flirtation with biologically dynamic vegetarian foods was just that–a dietary experiment prescribed by a Steinerian doctor. By the time Hess was in Spandau prison in the 1940s, he was back to eating animal flesh with gusto. Schwarzwaller (p. 278) quotes him as complaining to the prison doctor, “The sausages are much too spicy.”
Mr. Rothstein’s statement that Heinrich Himmler, the architect of the Final Solution, was a vegetarian advocate [“Himmler was an advocate,”] is preposterous and utterly without foundation in fact. Nowhere in the biographical literature on Himmler does it state that he was ever a practicing vegetarian. In fact, in the definitive biography of Himmler, Peter Padfield’s Himmler, (New York: Henry Holt, & Co., 1990, p. 352), Padfield writes that Himmler despite his queasiness about the hunting of animals, “was not a vegetarian.”
Finally, to suggest with Tristram Stuart, as Mr. Rothstein does, that many Nazis were vegetarians, [“Many Nazis, as Stuart suggests were either vegetarians or interested in related issues.”] is a gross distortion of the facts. The truth is that not one Nazi was a thoroughgoing vegetarian–not even Hitler himself. I hope that you will be fair-minded enough to print this letter so that readers may judge for themselves whether Hitler, Hess and Himmler were vegetarians. I’m afraid Mr. Rothstein’s review is just one further instance of a pundit’s publicly relishing the (false) paradox that a triumvirate of genocidal tyrants should have been the followers of a Gandhian diet.
North American Vegetarian Society