Note: If you'd rather watch my YouTube video, you can do so below. It presents virtually the same information:
Most vegans will say no, precisely because Gary Yourofsky condemned this notion in a video and the following Facebook post.
However, this is not the full case and it is important that if you want to speak to people in an informed manner about not consuming animal products, you think critically about what people say and not take them at face value just because it comes from one of your vegan heros.
Yourofsky does not cite his sources, but it is probably from the 1973 book Life and Death of Adolf Hitler in which it is asserted that it is actually propaganda from Goebbels. While vegan and veg sources not wishing to claim Hitler as one of us cite Payne is one of Hitler’s premier biographers, this is not the case. Payne was a novelist and a general biographer with a degree in English. He has written over 100 books, and only one biography of Hitler. His biography of Hitler is not used in current historical discourse, as it is widely believed to be problematic. The book even invents Hitler spending a year in the UK, which never occurred.
So was Hitler a vegetarian? Well, it is pretty clear that by all first and second hand accounts, he was actually a vegetarian by 1942. Before then is when things get a little bit murky.
In 1911, Hitler wrote a letter claiming he was vegetarian (allegedly), however restauranteur Dione Lucas, an English chef living in Hamburg before WWII notes Hitler eating meat at her café as late as the 1930s. Though she did write a book in 1964 attesting to Hitler’s love of the dumplings, she was not, as Yourofsky incorrectly states, Hitler’s personal cook. Ilse Hess, the wife of Rudolf Hess, the Deputy Fuhrer, attested that by 1937, Hitler gave up all meat except liver dumplings. This is in accordance with other first-hand accounts, including those of others in the Nazi Elite.
Hitler’s food taster, Margot Woelke, states that by 1942, all of his food was vegetarian and she does not remember ever being served a dish that contained meat or even fish. She says of the experience, “It was all vegetarian, the most delicious fresh things, from asparagus to peppers and peas, served with rice and salads. It was all arranged on one plate, just as it was served to him. There was no meat and I do not remember any fish.”
Alexander Cockburn, a political journalist writes, “Nazi leaders were noted for love of their pets and for certain animals, notably apex predators like the wolf and the lion. Hitler, a vegetarian and hater of hunting, adored dogs and spent some of his final hours in the company of Blondi, whom he would take for walks outside the bunker at some danger to himself. He had a particular enthusiasm for birds and most of all for wolves. [...] Goebbels said, famously, ‘The only real friend one has in the end is the dog. . . The more I get to know the human species, the more I care for my Benno.’ Goebbels also agreed with Hitler that ‘meat eating is a perversion in our human nature,’ and that Christianity was a ‘symptom of decay’, since it did not urge vegetarianism”
Walter C. Langer writes of Hitler’s vegetarianism in his 1973 book Inside the Mind of Adolf Hitler: “If he (Hitler) does not eat meat, drink alcoholic beverages, or smoke, it is not due to the fact that he has some kind of inhibition or does it because he believes it will improve his health. He abstains from these because he is following the example of the great German, Richard Wagner, or because he has discovered that it increases his energy and endurance to such a degree that he can give much more of himself to the creation of the new German Reich.”
Albert Speer, one of Hitler’s greatest friends and chief architect of Nazi Germany says in his book Inside the Third Reich that Hitler often made fun of his friends for being “carrion” or corpse eaters.
On April 26, 1942, Goebbels writes in his diary, “An extended chapter of our talk was devoted by the Führer to the vegetarian question. He believes more than ever that meat-eating is harmful to humanity. Of course he knows that during the war we cannot completely upset our food system. After the war, however, he intends to tackle this problem also. Maybe he is right. Certainly the arguments that he adduces in favor of his standpoint are very compelling
Yourofsky also quotes the book Hitler Neither Vegetarian Nor Animal Lover on his Facebook page, a book by a vegetarian activist and not a historian. When Historians were asked to comment on it, they told Slate.com, “Mainstream historians don't refute Berry's assertion that Hitler didn't meet contemporary vegetarian standards, but they do have trouble finding meaning in it. John Lukacs, author of Hitler of History, says that the German leader was "mostly a vegetarian," especially after 1938, when Hitler began to worry that his health was failing….But whether he was a strict vegetarian or not doesn't register with Lukacs. "What difference does it make? Hitler never cared much for food," he says, "Except he liked sweets. He had a weakness for creamy cakes, not for chocolates, Viennese creamy cakes. He had pastry cooks make him sweets until the end of his life, even in the bunker."
So while it is clear that Hitler ate SOME meat up until 1942, despite claims featured in the 1937 British Homes and Gardens magazine that called Hitler a “life-long vegetarian at table,” it is possible Hitler believed in vegetarianism, but cheated a bit, or eschewed ate all meat but liver dumplings. It is difficult to say.
There is also the question of Hitler disbanding vegetarian societies. I do not know much about this, but with my knowledge of WWII and the Holocaust, I would say that this is likely because any kind of meeting that was not specifically related to Nazism could have been perceived as dangerous. During that time, as well, it should be noted that vegetarians were allowed to trade their meat ration cards for non-meat items. A little over 8, .000 people supposedly participated in this program.
But I guess the whole core of the matter is…does it matter if he was a vegetarian or not? In the argument against veganism or vegetarianism, it doesn’t hold much weight. Respected historian, Daniel Goldhagen and vegetarian says in the Slate article I mentioned above, "Hitler liked his followers to wear black clothes. Just because I like to wear black doesn't lump me in with him." Unsurprisingly, Goldhagen finds the whole topic off base. "The reason we are interested in this time period is not because of Hitler's diet.”
The only thing that matters is that when presented with information by people you deem credible, stop and think about whether or not they are cherry picking before coming to a conclusion and parroting it to others.