Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hitler Farted!

Der Führer’s meat-powered flatulence disorder — and part-time vegetarian curative

Though modern historical scholarship has conclusively proven that Adolph Hitler was not actually a vegetarian*, many people even today still persist in believing that he was. Actually, Nazi Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels first started spreading this strategic misinformation more than 75 years ago to cloak the chancellor in an otherworldly aura simply so he’d be seen as Germany’s saintly savior. But, like most myths, this one does actually contain at least a tiny grain of truth — only in this case it’s a pretty humiliating back-story that the Third Reich’s arch-villainous architects kept carefully hidden from the outside world.

In reality, Herr Hitler periodically practiced vegetarianism to combat the “excessive flatulence” from which he chronically suffered. The Führer’s ongoing gastric struggles have been corroborated by many reliably authenticated sources, including his own personal physician, Dr. Theo Morell, who wrote in his journal that he once witnessed Hitler endure a bout of “colossal flatulence…on a scale I have seldom encountered before.” In his groundbreaking book Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust, author Charles Patterson wrote that Hitler found “fewer stains in his underwear” when he reduced his meat consumption, and “became convinced that eating vegetables improved the odor of his flatulence.” However, Hitler biographers attest that he certainly didn’t stick with vegetarianism, and in fact was a bona fide glutton for ham, liver, sausage, and (his favorite) stuffed squab.

A friend and creative collaborator of mine from college once explained to me his “cosmic anchor” theory of comedy, which basically propounds that farting is the most primordial form of humor (because the anus is like a second mouth that “speaks” behind our backs and beyond our control, like some mutant strain of rectal Tourette Syndrome). Just think of the hysterical irony, in this particular instance, of a flatulent fascist dictator who can’t seem to stop “talking out of his ass,” as it were. I can just see Hitler at a sprawling public rally delivering a raging rant accusing the Jews of being foul and disgusting animals, banging his fist on the podium and Seig Heiling the rabid crowd — and during a dramatic pause in his spittle-flecked harangue, blasting a massive bugler out the back of his beige jodhpurs that is picked up by the custom Neumann CMV3 condenser microphone and broadcast over loudspeakers to the entire crowd and live radio audiences throughout occupied Europe! Actually, Hitler liked keeping vicious attack dogs around for his amusement (meaning he enjoyed brutally beating them into submission), so in this and other scenarios, he probably would have blamed them for his own embarrassing bumburps!

The Farter Solution: How to avoid the “gas chamber”

Despite all these fun-poking antics aimed at smelly old man Hitler for his congenital gas-passing ailment, I do feel it’s worth exploring whether he was onto something…maybe our bodily emissions can be better managed (to smooth social interactions and slow climate change) through improved dietary habits. While there seems to be no real consensus about whether a vegan diet produces less toxic wind than eating meat, dairy and/or eggs, here are a few claims (provided with a general disclaimer about not actually knowing their scientific merits) that I’ve gathered on the subject:

• According to one article published in 1913 (which Hitler himself must have surely read), “The longer the feces are retained in the intestine, the longer the bacteria act upon them, thus causing fermentation and decomposition…A plentiful meat diet also favors the formation of gases (because) the digestive fluids are not able to fully digest it.” Of course, those prone to flatulence are advised to avoid foods that leave “residual matter” in their wake, such as cabbage and beans (the proverbial “musical fruit”).

• A Q&A in the online magazine VegFamily suggests that sticking to a healthy vegan diet of fresh fruits and vegetables, organic whole grains, and lots of water produces relatively little flatulence. Echoing the claims made in the article cited above, respondents assert that (just like meat) processed vegan “junk food” takes longer to digest than natural foods, and therefore results in greater amounts of gas.

• The lifestyle website AskMen.com declares that “Vegetarians might fart as often as meat-eaters, but their ‘serenades’ do not smell as much because vegetables produce less hydrogen sulfide. The more sulfur rich the foods you eat, the more your farts will stink because bacteria will generate sulfides and mercaptans as they break down the nutrients.” Their preventative advice includes steering clear of fumigant foods such as cauliflower, taking Bean-O supplements, and ingesting herbal essences like chamomile, peppermint, sage, and marjoram.

* While Hitler openly praised vegetarianism (mainly because he idolized the classical composer Richard Wagner), the National Socialist Party legally outlawed independent vegetarian societies throughout the Fatherland and their expanding empire, forcing these groups to either join the centralized Nazi Living Reform Movement or disband. So, while vegetarianism itself wasn’t strictly criminalized under fascism, all autonomous organizations were, specifically meaning they could no longer choose their own socio-political positions or espouse non-violent philosophies. Nevertheless, in bold defiance of the totalitarian state, courageous vegetarians continued to hold clandestine meetings that were unaffiliated with official government institutions, routinely risking enslavement and probable extermination in concentration camps.

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