Will the Real Nazis Please Stand Up?!! (Part 3b)

Part 3b:  Nazi Social Policy – Animal Rights, Environmentalism, Vegetarianism


Hitler was an anti-Christian, pro-evolution, pro-euthanasia and pro-abortion (except for Aryans), pro-gun control, socialist vegetarian; he waged aggressive no-smoking campaigns and animal rights campaigns.  This, in itself, does not prove that any of these things are wrong (the “reductio ad Hitlerum” fallacy).  But it could be that Hitler arrived at the same conclusions on social policy as post-WWII liberals because he was being consistent with basic philosophical beliefs that he and post-WWII liberals have in common, namely statism and biological evolution.  And the fact that Hitler’s ideology overlapped to a large degree with modern liberalism serves to refute the common liberal charge that Nazi ideology can be equated with “right-wing conservative Christianity” in the modern American sense.

I covered Hitler’s theology in the part 1 of this essay.  I showed that, while Hitler used Christian rhetoric at times, he rejected several major tenets of Christianity and that his true belief was in nature worship.  I covered the Nazi gun control agenda in part 3a.  Here I continue presenting the liberal policy agenda of the Nazis in some other areas.  I present the issues of socialism and evolution in later posts, although there is overlap with the issues presented here that require them to be mentioned.

Environmentalism/Animal Rights/Vegetarianism

Hitler was a vegetarian, as many of his close associates affirmed, particularly once WWII began, although some claim that he ate some meat occasionally.[1]  He would tell dinner guests the graphic details of a slaughterhouse that he visited in order to shame his guests into not eating a “corpse.”[2]  Hitler’s vegetarianism was not just a personal health-kick.  It was what he thought was necessary to make the master race healthier, but it was also integral to his nature-worshipping, Christianity rejecting worldview. Goebbels says,

We come back to religious questions again. The Fuhrer is deeply religious, though completely anti-Christian. He views Christianity as a symptom of decay. Rightly so. It is a branch of the Jewish race. This can be seen in the similarity of religious rites. Both (Judaism and Christianity) have no point of contact to the animal element, and thus, in the end, they will be destroyed.  The Fuhrer is a convinced vegetarian, on principle. His arguments cannot be refuted on any serious basis.  They are totally unanswerable.  He has little regard for homo sapiens. Man should not feel so superior to animals.  He has no reason to.  Man believes that he alone has intelligence, a soul, and the power of speech.  Has not the animal these things? Just because we, with our dull senses, cannot recognise them, it does not prove that they are not there.[3]

Hitler’s attachment to “the animal element” led him to be an opponent of vivisection, even though, according to Nazi press chief Otto Dietrich, he regarded humanitarianism as “a mixture of cowardice, stupidity and intellectual conceit.”[4]

Arnold Arluke and Boria Sax created controversy when they published “Understanding Nazi Animal Protection and the Holocaust” in 1992.[5]  In Sax’s later book, Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust, he relates:  “That the Nazis might be capable of humane legislation was such a disconcerting idea that even the detached, academic style of our paper could not make it acceptable to many people. The topic of animals, like the Holocaust itself, evokes passions of great intensity and confusion.”[6]

Within months of gaining power, the Nazis passed laws regulating the slaughter of animals and banning vivisection, with some exceptions, in regions of Germany.[7]  On the radio in August 1933 Hermann Göring announced an end to the “unbearable torture and suffering in animal experiments” and promised “to concentration camps those who still think that they can continue to treat animals as inanimate property.”[8]  Animal protection efforts continued to be a prominent part of the Nazi agenda:

In 1934, the new government hosted an international conference on animal protection in Berlin. Over the speaker’s podium, surrounded by enormous swastikas, were the words “Entire epochs of love will be needed to repay animals for their value and service” (Meyer 1975). In1936 the German Society for Animal Psychology was founded, and in 1938 animal protection was accepted as a subject to be studied in German public schools and universities.”[9]

The Nazis enthusiastically promoted all the causes of late twentieth-century American environmentalists:  Vegetarianism, organic farming, homeopathic medicine, animal rights laws, special protection of certain species of animals and plants, creating nature preserves to block development.  Peter Staudenmaier, in “Fascist Ecology: The ‘Green Wing’ of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents,” documents the extent of environmentalist legislation during the Nazi era:

The prominence of nature in the party’s philosophical background helped ensure that more radical initiatives often received a sympathetic hearing in the highest offices of the Nazi state. In the mid-thirties Todt and Seifert vigorously pushed for an all-encompassing Reich Law for the Protection of Mother Earth “in order to stem the steady loss of this irreplaceable basis of all life.” Seifert reports that all of the ministries were prepared to co-operate save one; only the minister of the economy opposed the bill because of its impact on mining. . . .

With Hess’s enthusiastic backing, the “green wing” was able to achieve its most notable successes. As early as March 1933, a wide array of environmentalist legislation was approved and implemented at national, regional and local levels. These measures, which included reforestation programs, bills protecting animal and plant species, and preservationist decrees blocking industrial development, undoubtedly “ranked among the most progressive in the world at that time.” Planning ordinances were designed for the protection of wildlife habitat and at the same time demanded respect for the sacred German forest. The Nazi state also created the first nature preserves in Europe. . . .

Along with Darré’s efforts toward re-agrarianization and support for organic agriculture, as well as Todt and Seifert’s attempts to institutionalize an environmentally sensitive land use planning and industrial policy, the major accomplishment of the Nazi ecologists was the Reichsnaturschutzgesetz of 1935. This completely unprecedented “nature protection law” not only established guidelines for safeguarding flora, fauna, and “natural monuments” across the Reich; it also restricted commercial access to remaining tracts of wilderness. In addition, the comprehensive ordinance “required all national, state and local officials to consult with Naturschutz authorities in a timely manner before undertaking any measures that would produce fundamental alterations in the countryside.” [10]

The Autobahn was designed to display technology in harmony with nature, even though building it required the razing of thousands of acres of land.  It was built with curves that blended with the natural landscape, and the goal at least was to use shrubbery that was only native in order to reinforce German racism.[11]  Like the other health legislation of the Nazis, this was to contribute to the health and vigor of the native Germans.  The Nazi landscape architect Alwin Seifert who helped develop the Autobahn believed that “no healthy Volk will grow in a sick landscape.”[12]

Wikipedia: Layout of the Drackensteiner Hang project: to negotiate the steep terrain with minimum disturbance, the two directions were routed on different sides of the mountain.

Wikipedia: Layout of the Drackensteiner Hang project: to negotiate the steep terrain with minimum disturbance, the two directions were routed on different sides of the mountain.

Wikipedia: The Reichsautobahn as part of the beauty of Germany: 1942 photograph of the viaducts at the Drackensteiner Hang.

Wikipedia: The Reichsautobahn as part of the beauty of Germany: 1942 photograph of the viaducts at the Drackensteiner Hang.

Staudenmaier documents the ideological origins of Nazi environmentalism.  The first of the modern German environmentalists was Ernst Moritz Arndt, who wrote On the Care and Conservation of Forests in 1815.  His view of the environment was based on a monism in which humans and rocks are of equal value:  “When one sees nature in a necessary connectedness and interrelationship, then all things are equally important — shrub, worm, plant, human, stone, nothing first or last, but all one single unity.”[13]  But despite this vision of unity, he was a virulent racist and nationalist, emphasizing the value of German soil and German blood.  (In German, “blood and soil” are the alliterative “Blut und Boden.”)

After Darwin’s publication of On the Origin of Species, evolution became integrated into German environmentalism.  Staudenmaier writes:

In 1867 the German zoologist Ernst Haeckel coined the term ‘ecology’ and began to establish it as a scientific discipline dedicated to studying the interactions between organism and environment.  Haeckel was also the chief popularizer of Darwin and evolutionary theory for the German-speaking world, and developed a peculiar sort of social darwinist philosophy he called ‘monism.’ The German Monist League he founded combined scientifically based ecological holism with völkisch social views.  Haeckel believed in nordic racial superiority, strenuously opposed race mixing and enthusiastically supported racial eugenics. [14]

He held a naturalistic, yet Romantic, view of the oneness of nature, which included the oneness between society and nature.  This allowed the Nazi horror of science being used to treat human beings as lab rats.  Haeckel held that “civilization and the life of nations are governed by the same laws as prevail throughout nature and organic life.”[15]  Haeckel thus helped lay the foundations on which National Socialism would be built.

A hippie-type youth movement began in the early 1900s in Germany.   Known as Wandervögel (‘wandering free spirits’), Staudenmaier recounts that this youth movement included such beliefs as neo-Romanticism, Eastern mysticism, and a “back-to-the-land emphasis [that] spurred a passionate sensitivity to the natural world and the damage it suffered.”[16] Thousands of these youth later came to be aligned with the Nazi movement.

Anti-Semitism became mixed into Romantic agrarianism, environmentalism and opposition to urbanization in large part because of the view of the morality of charging interest for money loans during the Middle Ages. Based on their interpretation of the Law of Moses, Christians regarded all interest-charging as immoral.  Jews interpreted Moses to teach that charging interest to other Jews was immoral, but it was acceptable to charge interest to Gentiles.  So the Jews became the bankers to Christians during the Middle Ages.  If you owed a debt to someone, if someone came to repo your possessions that were pledged as security for a loan, that someone was a Jew.  Jews became characterized as greedy and heartless, on top of being seen as the “Christ-killers.”  This led to Jews being the ones in the 1800s who owned the banks that financed the industrialization, urbanization, and deforestation during the industrial revolution. Jews were seen as modern liberals currently see the “one-percenters,” the “big corporations,” and the “Wall Street fat cats.”  They are “raping the earth” and oppressing the poor for the purpose of their immoral, greedy lust for high profits.  On top of this, because Jews were displaced from their native land of Israel, pre-WWII German environmentalists saw Jews as disconnected from the native soil of Germany and destroying the land and people of Germany.  For the good of the purity of German blood and soil, they needed to be eliminated.

Like modern environmentalists, the Nazis rejected the teaching of Genesis that man was created to have dominion over creation.  Nazi biologist Paul Brohmer wrote, “It is anthropocentric if it is assumed that nature has been created only for man.  We decisively reject this attitude.  According to our conception of nature, man is a link in the chain of living nature just as any other organism.”[17]  Arluke and Sax explain that “Nazis abolished moral distinctions between animals and people by viewing people as animals. The result was that animals could be considered ‘higher’ than some people.”[18]  How the Nazis could be both compassionate toward animals but cruel toward humans can be traced to the contradiction inherit in using Darwinism view that all life is related but life improves by survival of the fittest.  The common origin and nature of all life would seem give value to all life, but life lower on the scale of being may have to die for higher life forms to progress and flourish further.  G.K. Chesterton explained it as follows:

Darwinism can be used to back up two mad moralities, but it cannot be used to back up a single sane one. The kinship and competition of all living creatures can be used as a reason for being insanely cruel or insanely sentimental; but not for a healthy love of animals … That you and a tiger are one may be a reason for being tender to a tiger. Or it may be a reason for being cruel as the tiger. It is one way to train the tiger to imitate you, it is a shorter way to imitate the tiger. But in neither case does evolution tell you how to treat a tiger reasonably, that is, to admire his stripes while avoiding his claws.

If you want to treat a tiger reasonably, you must go back to the garden of Eden. For the obstinate reminder continues to recur: only the supernaturalist has taken a sane view of Nature. The essence of all pantheism, evolutionism and modern cosmic religion is really in this proposition: that Nature is our mother. Unfortunately, if you regard Nature as a mother, you discover that she is a stepmother. The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.[19]


[1] “Adolf Hitler and vegetarianism,” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler_and_vegetarianism.  “Hitler’s food taster speaks of Führer’s vegetarian diet,” The Telegraph (2/9/13)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/9859294/Hitlers-food-taster-speaks-of-Fuhrers-vegetarian-diet.html.  “Bitter memories linger of life as Hitler’s food taster,” The New Zealand Herald (9/21/14), http://www.nzherald.co.nz/world/news/article.cfm?c_id=2&objectid=11328527&ref=rss.

[2]  Bee Wilson, “Mein Diat – Adolf Hitler’s diet,” New Statesman (10/9/98), https://www.questia.com/article/1G1-21238666/mein-diat.

[3]  ”The Goebbels Diaries” Translated and Edited by Fred Taylor (December 29, 1939), p. 77

[4]  Otto Dietrich, The Hitler I Knew: The Memoirs of the Third Reich’s Press Chief (New York, NY:  Skyhorse Publishing Inc., 2010), p. 172.

[5]  Arnold Arluke and Boria Sax, “Understanding Nazi Animal Protection and the Holocaust”Anthrozoos 5(1):6-31; 1992. http://www.naiaonline.org/pdfs/Understanding_Nazi_Animal_Protection.pdf.

[6]  Boria Sax, Animals in the Third Reich: Pets, Scapegoats, and the Holocaust (New York:  Continuum, 2000), p. 164

[7]  Arluke and Sax, op cit., p. 7.

[8]  Ibid., quoting Hermann Göring, The Political Testament of Hermann Göring: A Selection of Important Speeches and Articles (AMS Press, 1939), p. 70.

[9]  Arluke and Sax, op cit., p. 9.

[10]  Peter Staudenmaier, “Fascist Ecology: The ‘Green Wing’ of the Nazi Party and its Historical Antecedents,” http://www.spunk.org/texts/places/germany/sp001630/peter.html.

[11]  William H. Rollins, “Whose Landscape? Technology, Fascism, and Environmentalism on the National

Socialist Autobahn,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 85, No. 3 (Sep., 1995).

[12]  Quoted in ibid., p. 510.

[13]  Staudenmaier, “Fascist Ecology,” op cit.

[14]  Ibid.

[15]  Ibid., quoting from Daniel Gasman, The Scientific Origins of National Socialism: Social Darwinism in Ernst Haeckel and the German Monist League (New York, 1971), p. 34.

[16]  Ibid.

[17]  Paul Brohmer, “The New Biology:  Training in Racial Citizenship” (1933), in George Lachmann Mosse, ed., Nazi Culture: Intellectual, Cultural and Social Life in the Third Reich, (Univ of Wisconsin Press, 2003), p. 87.

[18]  Arluke and Sax, op. cit.

[19]  G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (London: John Lane, 1927), pp. 204–05.

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