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". …