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7th World Vegetarian Congress 1929

Steinschönau, Czechoslovakia

Steinschönau is now know as Kamenicky Senov and is in the Czech Republc.

From the Vegetarian Messenger (VSUK magazine), August 1929:

International Triennial Congress.
We print elsewhere a report, by Mr. Frank Wyatt, of the proceedings of the seventh International Vegetarian Congress, held at Steinschönau, in North Bohemia. It was known to be a risky experiment to go from Stockholm (1923) and London (1926) to this small country-town, but the venture was completely justified by results. The attendances throughout were larger than in any great city in which the Congress has been held. Local vegetarians were proud to have the delegates from many nations in their midst and the interest shown by the general public was greater than at any previous Congress.

The British Societies were represented by four delegates and it is worthy of note that each delegate is a member of both the Vegetarian Society and the London Vegetarian Society. It is also gratifying to place on record that the two Societies joined in one national report, presented by Mr. James Hough, and co-operated throughout the Congress in the many events in whch the British representatives were asked to take part.

The Congress was not without its revelations and perhaps the most remarkable of all was that of the Bulgarian delegate who told us of a White Brotherhood in his country, numbering 35,000, every member of which is an abstainer from fish, flesh and fowl as food, from intoxicating liquors and from tobacco.

It was especially pleasing to the British delegates that Doctor Walter Walsh's lecture on "Vegetarianism and World Brotherhood" was accorded a great reception and was spoken of as being worthy to be placed first of the many fine speeches of the Congress.

The assemblies were remarkable for the enthusiasm coupled with serious work maintained from the opening to the closing hour.


The following report was printed in both The Vegetarian Messenger (Manchester) and The Vegetarian News (London) shortly after the Congress (photos from The Vegetarian News):

THE INTERNATIONAL VEGETARIAN CONGRESS IN CZECHO-SLOVAKIA.

To have visited the Seventh International Vegetarian Congress, held last month, in Czecho-Slovakia, and to have contacted afresh the enthusiasms of vegetarians from other lands, impresses the visitor - and the more so as he looks back upon it - with an overmastering sense of privilege. It was, at one and the same time, an entirely thrilling experience, and a realisation of how great a service the vegetarian movement has to offer to the world. Plainly, that message is not only one of individual upliftment it is a message of international goodwill as well. Nor, if the lessons of the past month have been well learned, does it seem to be possible by any means to dissociate the two. Here in very truth, was an enthusiasm which must ultimately overleap all boundaries, not merely of language but also of race. But it was by virtue of its own inherent power that such things would one day become pos-sible. Brotherhood, in such a case, was not something merely superadded, it was part of life itself. It was the distinctive mark of the vegetarian movement - this altruistic quality - and it was on this account that its extension was fraught with the deepest issues, not only for the vegetarians themselves but also for the world at large.

The very list of speakers at the Congress was impressve. Including as it did, the names of Professor Batek (Prague). Professor Ruzicka (Pressburg), Dr. Ragnar Berg (Dresden), Dr. Walter Walsh (London), M. Pamporov (Sofia), Freifrau Nataly von Reifentahl (Dresden) and, last though by no means least, Dr. Johannes Ude, Professor of Theology in the University of Graz. whose wonderful eloquence must certainly be accounted one of the outstanding features of the Congress. The present is an age of wireless, and it is customary to declare that oratory, as a fine art, in these days is sadly out of date. To listen to Professor Ude, however, on any one of the half-dozen occasions on which he spoke, was to realise - notwithstanding that his words were in an unfamiliar tongue - that the art of public speech is still a living one. Even as we write the magic of that final "Ich will," in his speech on the Tuesday afternoon, yet continues to thunder in our ears. Would that it might echo and re-echo likewise in the ears (and also in the minds) of all those whom vegetarians would fain make to understand!

As for the warmth and graciousness of the welcome offered to the delegates, it is hard to see in what way these could have been exceeded. Herr Dürr and Herr Feix (both of whom will be remembered as visitors to the last International Congress, held in London three years ago) alike won golden opinions for the way in which they exercised their respective functions - the former as President of the Congress, the latter as its Secretary and chief organiser - while, as for the inhabitants of Steinschönau (the small town of six thousand inhabitants in the province of Bohemia, in which the Congress was held), each and all, from Vice-Burgermeister Karl Laurenz, downwards, appeared to vie with one another in the attempt to give to every guest the very best that not only the town but the district also had to offer. The whole town, indeed, seemed to be en fête for the invited guests, the principal buildings, as well as the houses at which visitors from abroad were being entertained, being decorated. As for the individual hospitality, so freely dispensed to the fortunate recipients, it need only be remarked that the delightful gesture of handing to each guest on arrival the latch-key of the house at which he or she happened to be staying, was entirely typical. Thirteen nations in all were represented at the Congress - Czecho-Slovakia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Holland, Switzerland and Great Britain - while the interest aroused by the proceedings may be gauged from the fact that considerably more than five hundred people listened to some of the principal speeches, these evidently including a large proportion of visitors to Steinschönau who had been brought thither by the attractiveness of the occasion. The Vegetarian Society and the London Vegetarian Society each sent two delegates, the former being represented by Dr. Walter Walsh and Mr. James Hough, and the latter by Mrs. Harold Goddard and Mr. Frank Wyatt. It was at least a source of satisfaction to the British delegates themselves that all four were actually members of both societies.

The serious work of the Congress was sandwiched in between engagements mainly of a social character, in the course of which, opportunity was also given of viewing some of the most delightful scenery which the district round Steinschönau has to offer. On the morning after arrival - i.e., on Sunday, July 7th - the delegates were invited to join in the annual foregathering of Czecho-Slovakian and German food-reform and nature-cure societies on the summit of the Lausche, a magnificent view-point situated on the very frontier of the two countries. Here it was, in most cases, amidst the most entrancing and picturesque surroundings, that the first meeting of the foreign delegates with one another took place, the return journey being made by car in the late afternoon to the point of starting at Steinschönau fifteen miles away.

On the following morning the work of the Congress began in real earnest, the place of meeting being the Town Theatre in Steinschönau itself. The first day was occupied, in the main, with discussions, relating to the internal affairs of the International Vegetarian Union, for - irksome though this must appear to a the some - such business, through sheer force of circumstances, can only be discussed by the delegates of the constituent societies on these triennial occasions. Gratitude and courtesy alike demand that warm thanks should be tendered to the retiring Hon. Secretary of the Union, Herr Oluf Egerod, of Copenhagen, to whose efforts so large a share of the success of this year's Congress is manifestly due, and who rendered invaluable service throughout the Congress as interpreter-in-chief on every occasion. As a result of the lamented death of Professor Nolthenius, elswhere referred to, Herr Egerod will now take over the position of Hon. Treasurer of the Union. surrendering the duties of Hon. Secretary to Herr Hans Erwin Feix, Secretary of this year's Congress.

Space would fail us to tell of all the later incidents of the Congress, but we certainly must not forget to chronicle the events of Monday evening when the official banquet took place at the Hotel Merkantile. Herr Kittel, the schoolmaster of Steinschonau. was in the chair, being supported in the vice-chair by Herr Moritz Schnitzer, of Warnsdorf [=Varnsdorf, Czech Republic] (at which town the society giving hospitality to this year's Congress has its headquarters). The occasion was also honoured by the presence of a representative of the Czech-Slovakian Government, as well as by that of the Vice-Burgermeister of Steinschönau and of a large and in influential representation of the glass manufacturers, for which industry the town and district are justly famous. And here a delightful surprise was in store for each one of the foreign delegates present. Vice-Burgermeister (Herr Karl Laurenz), on behalf of himself and his fellow manufacturers, asking each one to accept a beautiful specimen of the glass-worker's art as a memento of the occasion. While Steinschönau has its factories, by means of which it carries on a large export trade to all the world, within its borders industry and craftmanship yet remain very closely allied, after a manner with which, unhappily, few English people are now familiar. The vase presented to the foreign representatives, it should be said, was specially designed for the occasion under the direction of Herr Emil Kromer, a teacher of the municipal school of design, which the delegates were invited to visit two days later. A picture of the vase itself and a portrait of the designer both accompany this article. Subsequent to the presentations and an opportunity having been given for several of the foreign delegates present to respond, the Secretary of the Congress wound up that section of the proceedings by reciting a poem, specially composed for the occasion by Herr Wilhelm Hessel, in which the presence of the visitors and the claims of international brotherhood were both alike celebrated.

The second day of the Congress (Tuesday, July 9th) was not less memorable, several of the more notable speakers present contributing to a veritable feast of oratory. The session began with a lengthy address by one of the Czecho-Slovakian representatives Professor Ruzicka, of Pressburg, who, apart from his medical qualifications is an ardent advocate of the "Back to Nature" movement, looking to the encouragement of agricultural pursuits and to what in this country might be described as the fostering of "garden city" methods as a means of fundamental social reform.

Dr. Ragnar Berg (Dresden) followed with a valuable and interesting paper, entitled "The Biological Significance of Vegetarianism." In his introduction, Dr. Berg, stressed the point that primitive man tended to be vegetarian and that, practically speaking, it was only within the last fifty years the Central and Md-European peoples had taken considerably to flesh-eating - a in which England, unfortunately, had led the way more than hundred years earlier. The flesh-eating habit, however, was based on a false theory of values, largely owing to the mistaken belief that a high protein ratio in the diet was a necessity. Even to day, said the lecturer, extraordinary variety of opinion existed among scientific men as to the actual quantity of protein required. As a matter of fact, and as a result of his own experiments among human beings, be himself had been able to prove that the protein ratio was actually a variable one, the minimum amount required being largely dependent upon the quantity of the alkaline elements also included in the diet in each individual case. (By courtesy of the author, the paper appears verbatim in this months issue of The Vegetarian News).

The first speaker in the afternoon was Dr. Walter Walsh (London), whose address, delivered to a crowded assembly, brought him a remarkable ovation at the close. Unfortunately, we have space for only the briefest summary, but the reader will like to know that a full report is to appear in THE VEGETARIAN MESSENGER for next month. Dr. Walsh's subject was "Vegetarianism in relation to World Brotherhood." Prefacing his argument with the statement that "If we are zealous for food reform, for the abolition of blood-foods, it is because we believe a mercy-diet to be the simplest of all means to the most desirable of all ends," the speaker went on to declare that "human rights will never be fully granted as long as animal rights are denied." Having adopted the bloodless altar, said Dr. Walsh, they must go on to adopt the bloodless dinner table as well, and from that it would be but a step that mankind should henceforth refuse to tolerate those bloody battle-fields which were the very negation of human brotherhood. Wars and massacres did not germinate among those who practised a mercy diet. "If," concluded the speaker, "we would have war to cease, if we would have oppression and injustice cease, if we would have slavery and exploitation cease, if we would have the Golden Age arrive and the fabled Eden become a historic reality, we must foster that spirit of universal pity and justice without which world-brotherhood remains a vain and impossible dream."

As already stated, the speech of Dr. Johannes Ude (Graz) delivered at the afternoon session, was one of quite amazing eloquence, so much so that we despair of conveying to the reader, through the medium of a mere summary, any adequate understanding of the extraordinary reaction it produced on those who heard it. Dr. Ude is not only a theologian, his academic quali-fications have also been earned in the field of philosophy, of natural science and of economics; and the response of his audience to what he had to say was the more remarkable seeing that it was the seemingly dry-as-dust subject of economics with which, on this occasion, he had elected to deal. Evidently, however, Dr. Ude is a teacher who finds it quite impossible to do his thinking in water-tight compartments, and so he began by laying down the principle that what is wrong ethically cannot be justified economically, and vice versa. Human well-being and ethical behaviour, he said, necessarily went together. The use of the produce of the land for the purpose of feeding cattle involved an enormous waste of material, even to the extent of 75 to 80 per cent., and an area of land capable of supporting seven vegetarians could sustain but one flesh-eater. Were all the people of Europe to become vegetarians it would be possible to support a population of almost four times the present size. Dr. Ude proceeded to quote some interesting figures showing the waste involved in his own country of Austria as a result of pig-breeding, linking up his subject finally with the waste associated with the use of alcohol and tobacco, which substances, as he re-minded his audience, most vegetarians also forebore to consume.

The economic loss, said the speaker, arising from damage to health caused by tobacco and alcohol was enormous, and it was impossible to dissociate these from the question of abstinence from flesh foods. In general, it might be said that the vegetarian put into practice the important economic principle of the smallest expenditure to the greatest advantage. Vegetarianism, said Dr. Ude, always and every-where, proclaimed itself as the ideal mode of life ; and thereupon as if to gather together all the various threads of his argument. bringing the whole under the dominance of one final act of will - came the emphatic declaration already referred to in our second paragraph.

The evening was given up to a concert of quite astonishing quality (the performers consisting entirely of amateurs, at which Herr Emil Kromer, above mentioned, conducted. The first part of the programme comprising elaborate modern works by Tschaikowsky, Wagner and other composers ; the second part consisting of a stage presentation of Mascagni's 0pera, "Cavalleria Rusticana".

The last formal session of the Congress was devoted to discussion of the various addresses that had gone before . Mr. James Hough, Secretary of the Vegetarian Society, was given the honour of submitting the following resolution, which Dr. Ude, with his accustomed eloquence and high authority, seconded

"That this International Vegetarian Congress desires to urge that an inquiry be instituted by the appropriate depart-ment of the League of Nations into the question of the food supplies of the populations of selected countries in regard to the effect of those supplies on world peace."

A resolution moved by a Czecho-Slovakian delegate expressed the "joy and satisfaction" of the Congress that friendly co-operation under vegetarian auspices, had been possible as between Czechs and Hungarians at that Congress, notwithstanding the differences existing between their respective Governments.

The proceedings terminated with enthusiastic expressions of thanks to the citizens of Steinschönau for the welcome offered to the Congress, Vice-Burgermaster Laurenz once more responding.

The same evening the Esperantists held a largely attended meeting at which Professor Batek, of Prague, was the chief speaker, and with this the three-days of speech-making came to an end.

Next morning the visitors were astir soon after 5 a.m. with their preparations for what proved to be a memorable excursion (alas! that for most of them it should also be the first stage in the homeward journey too) along the River Elbe to Salesel and thence back to Aussig, where a final leave-taking as between hosts and guests was due to take place that evening. It was a day of brilliant sunshine, of glorious scenery and of good fellowship, and with the same admirable organisation behind it all, as the preceding days had shown, what more could there he for the heart of man - or woman - to desire?

In Herr Feix, whose remarkable organising abilities were so manifestly apparent throughout the Congress. the International Vegetarian Union may certainly congratulate itself on having found, for the office of Secretary, one who may be safely relied upon to use to the full every ounce of opportunity which falls within his hands. In congratulating him, as already said, we likewise con-gratulate ourselves, and all those also who realise how great a power for national and international upliftment vegetarianism as an active force, bids fair one day to become. F.W. [Frank Wyatt]