(Gyspy Roast and the Little Boy from Stolp)

Ideology and Food in the Third Reich and the DDR

In a second-hand bookshop in Vienna I recently chanced upon a cookery book published in that city by the Reichsnährstand organisation in 1940. The Reichsnährstand - it will be recalled - was the organisation responsible for food production and distribution during the Third Reich. The organisation was based in Munich and was initially under the control of the agriculture minister, Darré; then Herbert Backe after Darré’s dismissal. Herbert Backe committed suicide in Nuremberg in 1947. Part of his job had been the ruthless requisitioning of food in the conquered east.

I had hoped that I would find evidence that the same sort of purge occurred in cookery during the Third Reich as had been the case with language and people: would foreign recipes have been banned from the ‘repertoire de cuisine’ - those from ‘inferior’ races in particular? (my use of French highlights another problem: one notes that Getrud Scholtz-Klink uses the word ‘Speisezettel’ for menu; Marianne Günther - like everyone else at that time - calls sauce ‘Die Tunke’.i There must be many more examples of a linguistic purge in cooking). Take a banal, household dish, for example, would there be a ‘Zigeunerrostbraten’ or gypsy roast? Or gypsy pork chops? Would there be any of the Jewish dishes so common to Vienna - for example: Jewish potato salad or the famous stuffed carp or gefiltefisch, more formally called Karpfen auf jüdische Art in German?

And what would it say to the Frankfurter?

In Frankfurt I had been told that the famous sausage had always been made from beef, to make it more palatable to the many Jewish bankers who had lived in the city. To this day pure beef Frankfurters are made by the company of Gref-Völsing. Were they made during the Third Reich? If they were, how did the National Socialist bosses explain away their non-Teutonic ingredients?

As it was the book turned out to be a disappointment. It was anything but ideological. Besides being a normal, if rather dull cookery book, it aimed to teach wartime Viennese women to make the best of the shortages in supplies; of the paucity of produce on the market stalls in the Naschmarkt.

The Reichsnährstand was highly motivated when it came to making housewives come to terms with their lot. They could attend courses organised by the RNst department of home economics (or domestic science) to teach them how to keep within a tight budget. In Vienna, for example, such courses took place in 1941 in the department stores on the Mariahilferstrasse such as the Kaufhaus Herzminsky. Many of these had only recently been Aryanised. The courses lasted a day and women learned how to use fresh ingredients, fish and make the famous ‘Eintöpfe’ associated with the Winterhilfe campaign.ii The Winterhilfe was meant to make you save money to give to the poor. Instead of a Sunday feast you made do with a stew. Once again the message was an austere one.

The RNst favoured dishes prepared in advance, such as pastry and jams;iii the demonstrations taught housewives to use fresh vegetables and spreads;iv how to preserve dishes and fruit like apples, pears and tomatoes and how to make cakes without eggs or fat.v A teacher was brought in from the old federal Weinbauschule in Klosterneuburg, where the director was none other than Friedrich Zweigelt, the man responsible for creating no fewer than four grape varieties in his time, including the one that bears his name. A convinced Nazi he expelled all the Jews under his roof in 1938. He was purged in his turn in 1945.

Perhaps I was barking up the wrong tree with the Nazi cookbook, and it was merely a practical manual for how to save and deal with the shortages imposed by a war economy. Similar manuals would have been published in Britain, after all. If that was true, then possibly other organisations took a more ideological stance? I examined the works of the leading women of the regime; particularly the leaders of the BdM, or Bund deutscher Mädel, which indoctrinated girls between the ages of ten and twenty-one.

Trude Mohr was one of its leaders until she married and became a mother. As Trude Bürkner, however, she continued to write for the cause. In 1938 she brought out the first edition of Vom heiligen Brot - Tischspruche für das National Sozialistische Haus illustrated with woodcuts by Hein Pauser showing hardy German peasants dipping their nourishing rye bread in a huge bowl of protein-rich quark.

If there is a message at all to Trude Mohr’s book, it is to extol the ‘blessed simplicity’ of peasant food. She quotes a poem by Georg Stammler:

Wer jeden Tag nur Kuche ißt,
Pasteten und Kapaunen,
der weiß ja nie, wann’s Sonntag ist,
er kennt nur schlechte Launen.

(Who every day but cake consumes
Pies, capons and such rich foods,
Will feel no joy when Sunday looms
Will only know bad moods.)

Her successor, the child psychiatrist Jutta Rüdiger, wished to promote a “real socialist mentality” in girls.vi One gets the impression that the ‘socialism’ in National Socialism took the front seat when it came to the BDM - Lydia Gottschewski’s language is similar - she tries to reconcile Nazism and the women’s movement and the goal of equality.vii Indeed, the whole food issue in the Third Reich points up how ‘two faced’ the Movement was, and how ‘socialistic’ it was in its lower echelons.

Jutta Rüdiger appears to have had no time for old-fashioned, girlish things, such as cooking or embroidery. BDM work was defined as two thirds sport and one third ideology. Cooking was not in the curriculum at first.viii The role was to foster and teach. Marianne Günther was at best a reluctant BdM leaderene and village schoolmistress. In her more private existence she lived to eat: East Prussia in wartime was just one cake after another. She felt no joy at Sunday’s approach. At one confirmation there were forty six tarts! Political ideology never got in the way of a good meal in East Prussia, and I presume that was true of all farming communities.ix

The girl - according to Hitler’s Mein Kampf - was “the coming mother”x. A healthy body was a healthy National Socialist mind: sport was far more important than cooking. Women were to provide the Reich with strong workers and soldiers.

Of course one thing should be born in mind: Jutta Rüdiger - probably Trude Mohr - too - were middle-class Germans who would have hardly done their own cooking. They would have procured the services of a cook. This would have been particularly true of the early BDM leader Clementine zu Castell, who came from a princely family. Only peasants cooked their own food after all. In Das deutsche Landfrauenbuch Anne Marie Koeppen produces a picture of a chimney groaning under the weight of flitches of bacon. The legend reads: „Bei einer gutter Wirtschafterin wächst der Speck am Balken”.xi

As a vegetarian Adolf Hitler’s views on food would not have appealed to many contemporary Germans. There were caterers at the Chancellery who dealt with the necessary state banquets, but the culinary image of the Third Reich was more the Führer’s public profile than the semi-private domain of Hermann Göring where hungry diplomats might look forward to a half-way decent meal. Hitler made it plain: the peasant was at the heart of his brand of national socialism; and peasant food was the politically correct thing to eat. Other books on the joys of peasant life are keen to show the reader how to use plants either as food or medicine.xii The stress was on health. National Socialist scientists were at the forefront of research into the way fresh food can be used to prevent cancer.

Carl Moll typifies this approach which is reminiscent of modern German women’s magazines: “Most people eat too often and too much”. “Food must be simple, sufficient, natural and good value.” He proposes herrings, for health’s sake; as well as tomatoes - hardly altdeutsch. Tea (the Führer’s favourite beverage) receives his support; not “expensive foreign black tea” but German herbal tea.xiii

There were, of course, domestic science courses, and a small part of these was dedicated to cookery. Again the “The peasantry is the source [for the] renewal of the blood of the German people”. The tasks to be examined included how to order the correct ingredients for “simple of festive lunch or dinner, or to make a cake with a correct appraisal of the ingredients in the proper quantities.” With an eye to economic conditions in the National Socialist autarky the candidate had to know how to use “vegetables, potatoes (sic), ‘Quarg’ (sic), fish, the extensive use of leftovers, thrift in using eggs and fat etc…” The apprentice also had to know how to judge a good raw chicken or fish, how to prepare a large piece of meat, and in areas where it is customary, to know how to slaughter a sheep or a calf.xiv

From the British Library’s collections I looked at a handful of cookery books and looked at the content list of one in the University Library in Stuttgart on the web - possibly a manuscript - which contained a recipe for a “Nazi-Kuchen” and a “Kriegsstollen” - but so far I had yet to see evidence of an ideological change in the nature of German cooking. Just as I was on the verge of abandoning my quest, however, I turned to Gertrud Scholtz-Klink of the NS-Frauenschaft. Writing in the early years of the Third Reich, she speaks of the shortage of meat: a constant theme in the Nazi autarky.xv

“But what has the shortage of meat to do with professional training and professional training to do with the housewife? I would like to provide you with a real example. We know that a lot of the time we have little meat of this and that sort and we are aware on the other side that we provide professional training of cooks in restaurants, the cooking staff in inns, housewives and domestic staff. Now we see a good many men and women in our cities who perform their daily labours away from home and we hear them ask ‘Tell me, can’t you direct me to an inn in which I won’t be obliged to eat the same old meat in the same old sauce, but where I can find more potatoes and vegetables and salad?’ Now we are directing our professional training and our restaurant personnel to become the best cooks in the world. What would it be if we were to amalgamate the practical and the necessary and, for example, erect a Reich competition to find the woman who could put together a wonderful menu containing lots of vegetables, potatoes and salads, and without including - or including far less - meat? If the Führer says, we have too little foreign exchange to import all that meat that we cannot provide ourselves, and which we have always imported, then the housewife can provide a proof of our good, professional training by saying quite simply: we have bread, we have enough potatoes and there is sufficient milk and sugar to hand to provide for the whole year. Now we are going to provide menus in which we just cook potatoes in the evenings and make lovely things out of them; through an adept use of raw ingredients … [we will make] beetroot, radish salad, celery salad and all those lovely simple things. Also in the evening we don’t need - like many households - to put sandwiches on the table. No, in millions of households for the time being we will cook the healthy potato and leave meat to those who do heavy labour; for one thing it does no damage to many people who perform light or intellectual work to eat less meat, their figures in particular…”xvi

Abstaining from meat would help Germany in its hour of need. Meat was for the labouring man, the soldier… In the spirit of sacrifice Germans would eat the potato that was introduced into Prussia by Hitler’s hero, Frederick the Great.

So there it is: a directive to the Gewerbeschulen. Now I must try a new tack: I must see if the NSF leader’s recommendations were indeed followed up, and whether cookery schools had a particular manual to teach the new Nazi cooking; and I shall be looking less for a purge, than those healthy modern staples of salads - with a few potatoes thrown in.

Of course the Third Reich had its sybarites, and the sybarite in chief was Hermann Göring. His nemesis was the austere Joseph Goebbels. When Goebbels became commissioner for Total War after the defeat at Stalingrad, Goebbels could not wait to close down the Reich’s remaining luxury restaurants. Horchers - “that Schlemmerlokal” owned by Göring’s friend Otto Horcher, topped the list. Göring was able to keep it going a few more months by turning it into a Luftwaffe club, but in November 1943 Horcher was completely out of place in Germany’s war economy. The restaurant moved to Madrid, where it has been ever since.xvii

Not for nothing was Göring the Reichsforstmeister - hunter in chief. For the traditional German game - hunting it and eating it - was the proof of a manly devotion to providing for his family.xviii Game was the respectable, German food; it was also aristocratic and worked to unite the more ‘salonfähig’ Nazis with the old nobles. Asked what Horcher had specialised in since its inception in 1904, Gustav Horcher told me “Game, we always specialised in game.”xix

Once the war started coupons ruled. All food was bought on ration cards. Game, on the other hand was not paid for with coupons. The coupon hit urban Germans hardest: in rural communities there was more food to be squirreled away. Game and wild mushrooms could still make the fame of Horchers’ sister restaurant in Vienna, Zu den drei Husaren, and places that knew you would not ask you for coupons anyhow.xx Guests at official functions had to bring their books and pay for what they consumed. At the screening of the propaganda film Kolberg in April 1945, Goebbels made his invitees pay. After they left however, even that ‘Robespierre’ of the Third Reich delved into his supplies and brought out every imaginable luxury from his kitchen and cellar to entertain the lucky few who remained behind.xxi

I shall close with the example of the fortunes of a cheese that had its ups and downs in the twentieth century: the Stolper Jüngchen. It was once one of the chief glories of Stolp (now S?upsk) the town the locals liked to call the ‘Paris of Pomerania’: among other things the birthplace of the artists Georg Grosz.

Like all cheese stories, it charts the rise of the co-operative dairy at the end of the nineteenth century, which allowed for a more commercial attitude to cheese making. Pomerania had not been a traditional land of cheese, unlike East Prussia, where the famous Tilsitter was first made - probably from a Swiss recipe - in the first half of the nineteenth century. A small amount of Romadur (small Limburger) type cheese was made, and naturally that Prussian peasant staple - Speisequark. It was only around 1900, however, that there was a shift towards cheese manufacture among some of the co-ops.xxii

Stolp was an exception. They were already winning prizes for their cheeses in Posen (Poznan) in 1911. By 1914 they were turning 70 - 75% of their full milk into cheese, as opposed to 1.2 - 1.4% of the other Pomeranian co-operatives.xxiii

Stolp produced a rich assortment of cheeses: Tilsitter Magerkäse, Holsteiner Magerkäse, Romadur, Limburger, Vollfettkäse, Tilsitter Halbfettkäse, Steppenkäse (vollfett), also Gouda (Fettkäse), Steinbuscher Käse (halbfett), Butterkäse, Roquefort, Camembert, Brie and Quark.

The co-operative had been founded in 1892, initially it concentrated on butter. The shift to cheese was the work of P. Otto, who became director in 1903. In 1917 a Herr Raimund came to Stolp bringing with him Bernhard Hildmann from Fulda as his cheese maker. In 1917 or 1918 they made their first ‘Stolper Jüngchen’ or ‘Little Boy from Stolp’.

Raimund knew that to make good camembert that you needed the right equipment. He therefore introduced an air-conditioned dairy to Stolp. It paid off. Ten years after the first Stolper Jüngchen was made letters and postcards from Stolp were postmarked “Die Stadt des Stolper Jüngchen”. In 1937 the cheese won a gold medal at the World Exhibition in - of all places - Paris. By that time it was being exported to America - in tins.

When Hitler came to power agriculture received a thorough shake up. At first the portfolio was in the hands of the press and cinema baron Alfred Hugenberg, but very soon he was replaced by the Argentinean-born and British public school educated ‘ideologist’ Walther Darré. As Minister for Agriculture, Darré championed the peasant over the large landowner, and the co-operative over the individual producer. A system of austerity was also in force, non-essential production was scaled down if not scrapped.

It was Hermann Göring who was to pronounce the importance of guns over butter. Ironically he was one of the few Nazis for whom butter was an essential commodity. Milk was sold skimmed from July 1937: the cream was used to make butter. Of course, if you had friends, you could obtain some from a farm. Butter production was actually limited to four regions in January 1939. On 29 April 1939 cream production was stopped. Cream was perishable, hard cheese was not. The ban might serve as an indicator that the Nazis were planning war. In September 1939, when war broke out, the RNst banned soured milk, joghurt, whipped cream and other processed milk products. Hard cheeses - and some soft ones - actually increased production as the war progressed: it was easy to keep and was a valuable source of energy and protein.

The aim - laudable enough - was to make sure the people had food for the duration of the war. The concern went back to the failure of supply in the First World War, and the morale-sapping ‘Turnip Winter’ when as many as 600,000 Germans died from malnutrition. Goebbels feared a revolt on the part of the Berliners, who become angry when their bellies are empty.

At the same time as the production of certain dairy goods was being scaled down, production on private estates was also being discouraged. In 1932 there were just under 200 estate diaries in Pomerania, by 1936 that number had been reduced to 116; in 1937 108.xxiv This decline rang the knell for certain individual cheeses that were not offered as part of the assortment made at the large cooperative dairies. It was at this time that the famous Lederkäse went out of production in Schleswig Holstein. It was made on private estates, and it was perishable. It has only been revived in the last decade or so.

Eastern Pomerania and Stettin were ceded to Poland after the war and I cannot say what sort of cheese is made in S?upsk today. The seat of the Stolp cooperative was re-established in Braunschweig in the Federal Republic in 1952, but the real after life of the Little Boy from Stolp was resumed in the Democratic Republic.

Whether it was Bernhard Hildmann, I cannot say, but someone brought the recipe for the Stolper Jüngchen to the island of Rügen, where the briny pastures produced excellent milk. The Little Boy from Stolp re-emerged in the fifties as the Rügener Badejunge - the Bathing Boy of Rügen - one of the DDR’s best cheeses. Even today it enjoys some fame and it is kept alive by the many un-reformed East Germans who still look down their noses at the West.

I hope one day to be able to discover whether good, nationally inclined Germans were still eating gypsy roasts or Jewish stuffed carp in 1944 or 1945, providing they could lay their hands on some pork or a fish. The chances are they merely baptised the dish with some other, less sensitive name. As a soft cheese, however, the Stolper Jüngchen would have ceased production until it was revived on Rügen. There are indications, however, that the nature of what Germans ate changed under the Third Reich; that Germans were made to feel more health-conscious and adopt a more austere attitude to the table: apart from the ‘Bonzen’, Nazis ate to live; they did not live to eat. It is a school that still has its champions, and many of them live in Germany today.


i Marianne Peyinghaus, Stille Jahre in Gertlauken - Erinnerungen an Ostpreußen, Berlin 1985, 127.
ii Karin Berger, Zwischen Eintopf und Fliessband Vienna, 1984, .
iii Ibid, 41 - 42.
iv Idem, 43.
v Idem.
vi Martin Klaus, Mädchen im Dritten Reich, Cologne 1983, 45.
vii Lydia Gottschewski, Männerbund und Frauenfrage - Die Frau im neuen Staat, Munich 1934.
viii Birgit Jürgens, Zur Geschichte des BDMs (Bund Deutsche Mädel) von 1923 bis 1939, Frankfurt/Main 1994, 127, 128.
ix Marianne Peyinghaus, op. cit. 81.
x Birgit Jürgens, op. cit. 146.
xi Klaus, op. cit, 66.
xii See, for example, Marie Berta Freiin von Brandt et al, Die Frau in der deutschen Landwirtschaft, Berlin, 1935, XII.
xiii ‚Gesundheitspflege auf dem Lande’ in Koeppen, Landfrauenbuch, 215 - 217.
xiv Susanna Michael, Der Ländliche Hauswirtschaftslehrling - Leitfade für Ausbildung und Prüfung, 4th and 5th eds, Berlin 1943, 6, 28.
xv Getrud Scholtz-Klink, Verpflichtung und Aufgabe - die Frau im nationalsozialistische Staat, Berlin 1936, 11.
xvi Idem, 11 - 13.
xvii See Giles MacDonogh, The Reichmarschall’s Table, BBC Radio 4. First broadcast 15 March 2005.
xviii Anne-Marie Koeppen, Das deutsche Landfrauenbuch, Berlin 1937, 51.
xix MacDonogh, Reichmarschall’s Table, Gustav Horcher is the son of Otto, and the present proprietor of the restaurant in Madrid.
xx Information from Hansl von Kienast, Vienna, February 2005.
xxi Henrik Eberle and Matthias Uhl, Das Buch Hitler, Bergisch Gladbach 2005, 356.
xxii Franz Bluhm, Die Milchwirtschaft und das Molkereiwesen in Pommern unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der genossenschaftliche Molkereien, Cologne and Vienna 1988, 117.
xxiii Idem, 118.
xxiv Idem, 273 - 274.