Postcard from... Berlin


Tony Paterson
Wednesday 07 August 2013 18:43

The placard shows a blonde mother handing out slices of brown bread to her blonde little girls. In the background an equally blonde boy in a Hitler Youth uniform smiles as he prepares to tuck in to the family feast. “Eat wholegrain bread. It is better and healthier!” reads the caption underneath.

The Nazi propaganda poster was distributed in 1939 in an attempt to slow the consumption of bread made from imported wheat. But this week it has been used to bash Germany’s Green Party for daring to suggest that schools and office canteens could improve the nation’s health by offering meals without meat one day a week.

The proposed “Veggie Day” – hailed by some as an opportunity to make a “ personal contribution to environmental protection” – has backfired badly. Germany’s mass circulation Bild newspaper has sided with conservative politicians who say the idea smacks of the nanny state.

The Nazi poster was put online by Lars Lindemann, a German liberal MP who said the idea bore the hallmarks of totalitarianism. “Nobody should tell me what I should eat on a certain day,” he fumed.

Germans are often lambasted for being obsessed with rules, but the traumas of Nazi rule and Stasi surveillance have also instilled a deep suspicion of state control. This helps to explain why they have been particularly horrified by the revelations of spying by America’s NSA, yet drive as fast as they like on Autobahns. They also still light up in “smoking pubs” – not least because Hitler tried to ban smoking. “Veggie Day” seems like a non-starter.

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