They were enthusiasts for public health and preventive medicine. They believed that additives, preservatives and junk foods caused cancer, as did petrochemical waste and artificial lifestyles. They campaigned for healthier eating habits (more high-fibre bread, less meat). They set up mass X-ray screening campaigns, notably for tuberculosis and breast cancer. They promoted herbalism, homoeopathy, and other "back to nature" remedies. They were into ecological conservation (including "save the whale") and opposed torturing animals in lab experiments. Who were these enlightened champions of positive health and bio-correctness? They were the Nazis.
It has not exactly been a secret that Hitler and his followers held certain beliefs which tally rather chillingly with today's health drives and environmentalism. But it is thanks to the researches of the American historian Robert Proctor that we can appreciate just how far the Third Reich promoted alternatives in science, medicine and lifestyle, many of which - for instance, the idea that cancers have environmental causes - now have large followings among those in the West who might be called "politically correct".
In particular, Proctor shows in this highly original book that paid-up Nazi scientists, aided by others with Party approval, demonstrated the links between smoking and lung cancer. They even identified the dangers of Passivrauchen (passive smoking). Once a chain-smoker, the Fuhrer himself gave up the habit, calling tobacco "one of man's most dangerous poisons". Nazi propaganda gloated over the fact that, unlike Churchill with his cigars, Hitler was a non- smoker - in fact, a teetotaller and a vegetarian as well. Even his dog, Blondi, was a veggie! The Third Reich sponsored far-reaching anti-smoking campaigns, banning cigarettes from many public places and from Luftwaffe premises (allegedly, smoking ruined the tail-gunner's eye). On-duty SS officers were not allowed to smoke, and tobacco advertising featuring sportsmen, seductive ladies and fast cars was verboten. Of course, the anti-smoking crusade, while grounded on science, was wrapped up in the usual appalling Nazi mumbo-jumbo. Tobacco was dubbed the "wrath of the red man" against the Aryan germ plasm, while smoking was associated with "primitives" like gypsies and "degenerates" like Jews. The latter were also reckoned especially liable to stomach cancer, as a consequence of their "greed". Indeed, the race itself was called a "cancerous tumour". Likewise, the campaign was patchy. Hitler knew that he could not deprive soldiers of their smokes (and anyway, the SS had its own cigarette combine). So he targeted women: those who smoked or drank during pregnancy were singled out, on account of what would later be called "foetal alcohol syndrome". …