Sumer, one of the earliest and most powerful of the
ancient Mesopotamian city-states, managed its slaves the
same way it managed its livestock. The Sumerians castrated
the males and put them to work like domesticated animals,
and they put the females in work and breeding camps. The
Sumerian word for castrated slave boys--amar-kud--is the
same word the Sumerians used for young castrated donkeys,
horses, and oxen.
--from Chapter 1
Henry Ford, who was so impressed by the efficient way
meat packers killed animals in Chicago, made his own special
contribution to the slaughter of people in Europe. Not only
did he develop the assembly-line method the Germans used to
kill Jews, but he launched a vicious anti-Semitic campaign
that helped the Holocaust happen.
--from Chapter 3
Although the purpose of the German killing centers was
the extermination of human beings, they operated in the
larger context of society's exploitation and slaughter of
animals, which to some extent they mirrored. The Germans did
not stop slaughtering animals when they took up slaughtering
people. Auschwitz, which its commandant Rudolf Hoss called
"the largest human slaughterhouse that history had ever
known," had its own slaughterhouse and butcher's shop. The
other death camps likewise kept their personnel well
supplied with animal flesh. Sobibor had a cow shed, pigpen,
and henhouse, which were next to the entrance to the tube
that took Jews to the gas chambers, while Treblinka had a
stable, pigpen, and henhouse located near the camp barracks
of the Ukrainian auxiliaries.
--from Chapter 5
When young Singer set out to become a writer in Warsaw,
he purchased an account book in which he jotted down
sketches, sayings, and ideas for stories, novels, and plays.
One of his entries was about the Ten Commandments and how
they might be improved. He wrote that the Sixth Commandment-
-"Thou shalt not kill"--should apply to all God's creatures,
not just human beings. As if to emphasize this point, Singer
added an Eleventh Commandment: "Do not kill or exploit the
animal. Don't eat its flesh, don't flail its hide, don't
force it to do things against its nature."
--from Chapter 7
That's when the first of three things happened to him
that changed his life. He and his wife went on a short trip
to Mexico where they decided to do what one is supposed to
do there--watch a bullfight. "When the first animal was
killed, I broke down--emotionally and physically. I had
never witnessed such unabashed animal torture before and
simply couldn't believe what I saw--the suffering of the
desperate animal and the blood lust of the cheering crowd!
They couldn't wait to see the next animal brought in and
tortured. I left, and the memory of what I saw haunted me
for several years."
--from Chapter 8
Hitler and Animals
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" and Slavic
"rabbit-family" whom Stalin had molded into a totalitarian
state. After Hitler conquered Russia, he 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 had contempt for his own people,
referring to them as "the great stupid mutton-herd of our
sheep-like people," and when the defeats mounted late in the
war, he blamed them for not having risen 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 the same 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 his biographer Ian Kershaw, "any relationship
was based upon subordination to his mastery."
Although Hitler consumed animal products such as cheese,
butter, and milk, he often 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."
Hitler discovered that when he reduced his meat intake, he
did not sweat as much, and there were fewer stains in his
underwear. He also became convinced that eating vegetables
improved the odors of his flatulence, a condition that
distressed him terribly and caused him much embarrassment.
Hitler, who had a great fear of contracting cancer, which
killed his mother, believed that meat eating and pollution
Nonetheless, Hitler never 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."
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. The
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 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 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
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.
Hitler was, in fact, "remarkably self-indulgent and
possessed none of the instincts of the ascetic," writes Payne.
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 and 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
nonviolent philosophy of strict vegetarians and ridiculed
Gandhi. Hitler's most basic belief was that nature is ruled by
the law of struggle and only the strong prevailed. 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 sentence: "He
who does not possess power loses the right to life."
The reputed 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, Horkheimer and Adorno maintain, their choice
falls on intimidating animals such as Great Danes and lion
cubs, which are 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," they write. "The Fascist's passionate interest in
animals, nature, and children is rooted in the lust to
persecute." While with their hand they might negligently
stroke a child's head, or an animal's back, that same hand
could just as easily destroy them. "The petting demonstrates
that all are equal in the presence of power, that none is a
being in its own right. A creature is merely material for the
master's bloody purposes."
--from Chapter 5