Pythagorean Publishers (P.O. Box 8174, JAF Station, New York, NY 10116), 2004. 81 pages, paperback. $10.95.
Reviewed by Merritt Clifton
Rynn Berry, the late historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society, who died on January 9, 2014 after collapsing during a New Year’s Eve jog in New York’s Central Park, established his reputation as a meticulous historian of vegetarianism and veganism with Famous Vegetarians & Their Favorite Recipes (1989). He followed up with
Food For The Gods: Vegetarianism and the World’s Religions (1998).
While researching Famous Vegetarians, Berry discovered a wealth of evidence that contrary to longstanding malicious rumor, Hitler was never a vegetarian, and never an animal-lover either.
Evidence not hard to find
The evidence was not hard to find, appearing mostly in contemporary journalism describing what Hitler had for dinner.
In addition, Hitler actively persecuted the several German vegetarian societies that existed when he took control of the German government. Though ignored by mass media, this persecution has been noted by other historians, including Anna Bramwell in Ecology In The 20th Century (1990), a volume not particularly sympathetic toward animal advocacy.
Further, as documented in 2003 by Boria Sax in Animals In The Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust, the 32 alleged Nazi “antivivisection” and “animal rights” laws were mostly thinly disguised cover for oppressing Jews, gypsies, and other minorities. The first two banned kosher slaughter; the last one barred Jews from keeping pets.
Emphasized increasing the meat supply
Nazi agricultural policies emphasized increasing the meat supply through the introduction of factory farming (also pushed by the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin). As Berry and Sax both point out, Hitler never so much as mentioned vegetarianism in response to the meat shortages experienced throughout Nazi-occupied Europe during the
Even Hitler’s purported affection for dogs, played up in propaganda directed at Britain and the U.S., was belied by an SS training routine which required recruits to teach various drills to young German shepherds, and then break the dogs’ necks as part of their final examinations.
After more than 15 years of refuting the Big Lie that Hitler was a vegetarian through countless letters to mass media that ignorantly repeat it, Berry has organized the facts concisely in Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover, with a bibliography,
for the use of anyone who may wish to take up the argument. But Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover is not likely to end the debate.
“Hitler lapsed frequently, if not daily”
“It is true that Hitler was inconsistent at times and that there was the odd extreme exception, but he ate what is by any stretch of the imagination a vegetarian diet,” Hitler biographer Ian Kershaw contended to Stefanie Marsh of The London Times in March 2004, soon after the book appeared.
“Hitler lapsed frequently, if not daily,” responded Barry. “You cannot be a vegetarian and eat liver dumplings.”
Berry believes the myth of Hitler as vegetarian was concocted by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, while Goebbels was trying to portray Hitler to the British public as a Gandhian ascetic and peacemaker.
Berry does not mention another possible explanation. Charlie Chaplin in 1940 satirized Hitler in The Great Dictator (1940), also playing The Little Barber, a Jewish lookalike for the dictator who inadvertently takes the dictator’s place.
In a famous scene from the film, the suspicious Commander Shutz comments of The Little Barber’s un-dictator-like behavior, “Strange, and I thought you were an Aryan.”
Responds The Little Barber, “No. I’m a vegetarian.”
Could the Little Barber’s remark have become crossed in the public imagination with the reality of Hitler?
Something similar is known to have occurred involving World War II propaganda films made by the late Ronald Reagan. Decades later, as U.S. President, Reagan several times described the invented characters and roles that he played as historical people and incidents. Though caught by some news media, Reagan’s errors mostly
went unrecognized by his audiences.