From a reader:
I was struck by this piece, it was very enlightening (although as one of
your critics pointed out, Staudenmaier does use the conventional academic
notions of right and left that I, like you, find ultimately inconsistent and
I was particularly struck by the Hitler vegetarian diet, the love of animals
and opposition to any forms of vivisection and cruelty towards animals, and
the Hess enthusiasm for things green under the nature-as-divine/pagan (not
just my term, read Thomas Molnar’s “The Pagan Temptation”) theme.
Unfortunately, I know a few people who love animals and hate people. The
tragic irony of the abuse of (generally) sensible concepts about nature and
the environment in the name of a larger, irrational view of how society
should be organized is lost on today’s Green ideologues, and presages an
all-encompassing nanny-state kind of fascism that I fear may someday make
20th century totalitarian regimes seem like a day in the park.
By the way, out of some playful curiosity, I Googled “Hitler’s Diet” on the
Web and got a bunch of items related to the “myth” about Hitler being a
vegetarian. Seems the fanatic vegetarians react vehemently to statements
about Hitler being a vegetarian. I have not researched this question
thoroughly, needless to say; but it is likely true, as I recall, that Robert
Payne did write in his biography of Hitler (which I read a LONG time ago)
that Hitler occasionally ate liver dumplings and threw in the occasional
slice of ham (particularly when he visited Prague after the Nazi takeover of
the second half of Czechoslovakia in March 1939). This doesn’t disqualify
Hitler from being a vegetarian, of course – no vegetarian would ever admit
to cheating once in a while – his diet was by and large vegetarian; and as
John Lukacs points out, so what?
Me: I think the reader’s second paragraph goes a long way toward answering the question at the end of his third. I don’t think the mere fact of Hitler’s vegetarianism is in itself indicative of much. Vegetarianism doesn’t make you a Nazi and I never say it does (Michael Tomasky et al notwithstanding). But the why of his vegetarianism is relevant. It’s absolutely true that Hitler sometimes fell short of the mark in his gastronomic commitments. (There’s even a hilariously defensive book Hitler: Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover that tries to catalog every one of Hitler’s lapses in order to defend vegetarianism from any association with Hitler.) But Hitler saw vegetarianism as part and parcel of much larger ideological commitments, about capitalism, the environment, religion etc. And this ideological soup does indeed have serious echoes in the New Age environmental holism running rampant in certain quarters today.
By the way, the best single book to understand how Hitler viewed these things is Hitler’s own: Hitler’s Table Talk. It’s vastly more important and revealing than Mein Kampf, which is just a mess of a tome. Hitler’s Table Talk really does give you insight into the man.