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Hitler and Animals

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Hitler and Animals

By Charles Patterson
Posted December 2012

Like many of his fellow human beings, Adolf Hitler used animal epithets to vilify other people. He often called his opponents "swine" and "dirty dogs." The Bolsheviks were "animals," and the Russians, a "bestial people," were a Slavic "rabbit-family" whom Stalin had molded into a totalitarian state. After he conquered Russia, Hitler wanted "the ridiculous hundred million Slavs" to live in "pig-pens." He called British diplomats "little worms," and as for the "half-Judaized, half-Negrified" people of America, they "have the brains of a hen." Hitler also had contempt for his own people, referring to them as "the great stupid mutton-herd of our sheep-like people," and as the defeats mounted late in the war, he blamed them for not having been up to the challenge. Hitler called his own sisters "stupid geese."

Whatever deficiencies members of the Germanic Volk might possess, however, Hitler believed the Aryan/Nordic race was infinitely superior to the surrounding sea of sub-human "monstrosities between man and ape," as he made clear in a speech in Munich in 1927:

We see before us the Aryan race which is manifestly the bearer of all culture, the true representative of all humanity....Our entire industrial science is without exception the work of Nordics. All great composers from Beethoven to Richard Wagner are Aryans. Man owes everything that is of any importance to the principle of struggle and to one race which has carried itself forward successfully. Take away the Nordic Germans and nothing remains but the dance of apes.

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 only obeyed me." Hitler often carried a dog-whip and sometimes used it to beat his dog in the vicious way he had seen his father beat his own dog. In the Fuhrer headquarters during World War II, Hitler's female German shepherd, Blondi, offered him the closest thing he had to friendship. "But with his dogs, as with every human being he came into contact with," writes Ian Kershaw, "any relationship was based upon subordination to his mastery."

Although Hitler consumed animal products like cheese, butter, and milk, he tried to avoid meat to placate his "nervous stomach." He suffered from indigestion and episodic stomach pains that had troubled him since adolescence, as well as from excessive flatulence and uncontrollable sweating. The first evidence of his attempt to cure his stomach problems by controlling his diet appears in a letter he wrote in 1911 while living in Vienna: "I am pleased to be able to inform you that I already feel altogether well....It was nothing but a small stomach upset and I am trying to cure myself through a diet of fruits and vegetables." He discovered that when he reduced his meat intake, he did not sweat as much, and there were fewer stains in his underwear. Hitler also became convinced that eating vegetables improved the odors of his flatulence, a condition that distressed him terribly and caused him much embarrassment. He had a great fear of contracting cancer, which killed his mother, and believed that meat eating and pollution caused cancer.

Nonetheless, Hitler never completely gave up his favorite meat dishes, especially Bavarian sausages, liver dumplings, and stuffed and roasted game. The European chef Dione Lucas, who worked as a hotel chef in Hamburg before the war, remembers often being called upon to prepare for Hitler his favorite dish. "I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab [fledgling pigeon about four weeks old]," she wrote in her cookbook, "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." One of his biographers claims that Hitler's meat eating was confined mostly to sausages.

Whatever his dietary preferences, Hitler showed little sympathy for the vegetarian cause in Germany. When he 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. Nazi persecution forced German vegetarians, a tiny minority in a nation of carnivores, either to flee the country or go underground. A German pacifist and vegetarian, Edgar Kupfer-Koberwitz, fled to Paris and then to Italy where the Gestapo arrested him and sent him to the Dauchau concentration camp (see Chapter 8). 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.

According to the historian Robert Payne, the myth of Hitler's strict vegetarianism was primarily the work of Nazi Germany's minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels:

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. He drank beer and diluted wine frequently, had a special fondness for Bavarian sausages and kept a mistress, Eva Braun, who lived with him quietly at the Berghof. There had been other discreet affairs with women. 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.

According to Payne, Hitler was in fact, "remarkably self-indulgent and possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic." His cook was an enormously fat man named Willy Kannenberg, who produced exquisite meals. "Although Hitler had no fondness for meat except in the form of sausages and never ate fish, he enjoyed caviar," writes Payne. "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."

As for compassion and gentleness, these were anathama to Hitler, who believed that might makes right and the strong deserved to inherit the earth. He had utter contempt for the vegetarian nonviolent philosophy and ridiculed Gandhi. Hitler's most basic belief was that nature is ruled by the law of struggle. He wanted young Germans to be brutal, authoritarian, fearless, and cruel ("The youth that will grow up in my fortresses will frighten the world."). They must not be weak or gentle. "The light of the free, marvelous beast of prey must once again shine from their eyes. I want my youth to be strong and beautiful." Hitler once summarized his worldview in a single, short sentence: "He who does not possess power loses the right to life."

The alleged fondness of Hitler and other top Nazis for animals, especially their dogs, has been put into perspective by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno. For certain authoritarian personalities, they write, their "love of animals" is part of the way they intimidate others. When industrial magnates and Fascist leaders want to have pets around them, their choice falls on intimidating animals such as Great Danes and lion cubs, intended to add to their power through the terror they inspire. "The murderous Fascist colossus stands so blindly before nature that he sees animals only as a means of humiliating men. The Fascist's passionate interest in animals, nature, and children is rooted in the lust to persecute." In the presence of power, no creature is a being in its own right. "A creature is merely material for the master's bloody purposes."

From Eternal Treblinka, pp. 125-29


Charles Patterson is a social historian, Holocaust educator, editor, therapist, and author. His first book, Anti-Semitism: The Road to the Holocaust and Beyond, was called "important" by Publisher’s Weekly. The National Council for the Social Studies in Washington, D.C. presented Patterson with its Carter G. Woodson Book Award for his biography of Marian Anderson at a special luncheon at its annual convention in St. Louis, Missouri in 1989. His most recent book is Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust (now in 15 languages). For more information on his writings and activities, see his website.