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Mein Diat - Adolf Hitler's diet
New Statesman,  Oct 9, 1998  by Bee Wilson
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Everyone knows Hitler was a vegetarian. This cliche is trotted out whenever the veggies threaten to get above themselves. Even the saintly Delia cites it as a stain on the vegetarian community. If the most wicked man in history abstained from meat - or so the cliche insists - then a vegetarian diet loses all its virtue.

But they never stop to ask what kind of vegetarian Hitler was. In fact, he was a highly idiosyncratic, not to mention creepy, vegephile, with almost nothing in common with the Linda McCartneys of this world.

For a start, his distaste for meat knew no pity of animals. At mealtimes he often boasted - in graphic detail - of a slaughterhouse he had visited in Ukraine. It amused him to spoil carnivorous guests' appetites. As they put their forks down in disgust, he would harangue them for hypocrisy. "That shows how cowardly people are," he would say. "They can't face doing certain horrible things themselves, but they enjoy the benefits without a pang of conscience."

During a wretched adolescence in Vienna, Hitler was practically vegan - but only through necessity. He eked out a thin existence on soup, corn pudding and margarine. Conversion to true vegetarianism actually came very late in life. Writing Mein Kampf in prison in 1924, he chewed sausages and herring with the worst of them. Only after the suicide of his niece, Geli Raubal, in 1931 did he suddenly renounce Fleisch und Wurst, more out of a nauseous guilt than idealism.

His diet thereafter was free of flesh, but bolstered with a medley of quack supplements, administered with zeal by Theodor Morell. A florid charlatan, Morell took an intense interest in the Fuhrer's digestion. On 9 August 1941 he recorded that Hitler's lunch was "ice-cream, boiled potatoes and strawberries". On 10 August it was "an asparagus salad" and the day after, "gruel, porridge, strawberries".

Hitler had an unattractive obsession with wind. On 3 July 1943, Dr Morell records, "the Fuhrer mentioned how much he would like pea and bean soups and such like, but he doesn't dare because of flatulence". Sure enough, on 30 December 1944, the leader indulged himself with a green pea soup and suffered "a queasy stomach with gaseous build-up".

The Fuhrer's diet was pretty dull. At the Berghof in Bavaria, he regularly had two fried eggs with creamed potatoes, rounded off with an infusion of cumin and some diet biscuits. He adored raw linseed oil and had it liberally doused on baked potatoes. Hot apple strudel was another favourite, which he gobbled in the small hours during talks with Nazi officials. He ate greedily and at odd times, and so it was no surprise that his stomach frequently seized up, causing Morell to prescribe stewed apple and tea.

Hitler's diet struck those around him as strange - as he intended it to. Food was yet another way of marking the Fuhrer out as special and different. At the dinner table, all eyes were on Hitler and his mashed linseed or muesli. Then he would draw added attention by moaning about how hard it was to find appetising vegetarian dishes.

This situation improved when the 24-year-old Marlene von Exner became his dietician in 1943. Exner was a talented chef and knew how to please. Hitler really appreciated the voluptuous vegetable soups she made for him - so velvety and rich. Little did he realise that the extra kick derived from marrowbone. Exner secretly added it because she despised his diet.

So - technically - Hitler wasn't a vegetarian after all.

COPYRIGHT 1998 New Statesman, Ltd.
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