|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Vegetarian World Forum
No. 3 Vol. 2 - THE VEGETARIAN - AUTUMN 1948 pp.32-33
VEGETARIANS IN GERMANY
Vegetarians over here may not be aware of the excellent work being done by our fellow-workers in Germany. It is only recently that fuller details of this work have come to light, and readers may be interested to know something about it.
The main society in Germany is the "Vegetarier Union" of Ebhausen in the French Zone, which claims a membership of over two thousand. The "Vegetarier Union Deutschland" - located at Siittorf in the British Zone - has about two to three hundred members. Herr Adolf Briest, the former President, now replaced by Herr Heinrich Frantzen, will be known as the organizer of the Congress at Hann.Muenden. There are, besides these two main societies, several smaller ones, in which all the four Zones, including the Russian, are represented.
It would be easy to paint a wholly rosy picture of the vegetarian movement in Germany, passing over the thorn in its side without a word, but we are a strong enough body now to face facts squarely and be honest about our failings: the fact is that unhappily much valuable time and energy have been lost to the movement by the quarrel which has existed for some time between the two leading societies, a quarrel in which the V-U Deutschland has threatened legal action, and which has led to acrimonious articles in the organ of that society, Der Förderer, as well as in the Press. Such action is regrettable, and it is to be hoped that some compromise will he found which will prove acceptable to both sides, so that the whole energies of the devoted workers in Germany can be concentrated on urgent needs of their members.
The work of the Vegetarier Union of Ebhausen, to which a many of the other societies are affiliated, will give the extent of the effort being made by German Vegetarians to assist in the recovery, both spiritual and economic, of their country. Owing to the paper shortage in the French Zone, Herr Rall, the Secretary, has not yet been able to publish a magazine, but he hopes soon to obtain the necessary permits. At present the Society sends out to all its members a periodical news-sheet, keeping them in touch with its work. A youth group, with its own news-letter, is also flourishing, with Frau Rall playing a leading part in its work.
The Society also acts as a clearing-house for food parcels and gifts of clothing from friends abroad; the need is limitless, and some of the stories revealed by letters of thanks have been heartrending. Many vegetarians in this country still imagine that all their fellows in Germany long ago gave up trying to keep to their principles owing to food shortages. This is not true. Indeed, many of them have taken the further step and have become vegan. In at least one case known to the writer, a member remained a vegetarian throughout two and a half years in the army. Such perseverance has often involved much sacrifice and hardship, and it would be well for vegetarians in more fortunate lands to remember this example of courage given to us by men and women in a country which too many still regard as being corrupt and spineless.
Naturally, the needs of the children take first place in the relief work of the V-U. Herr Rall himself has three small children and knows at first hand the particularly heavy toll which undernourishment is taking amongst Germany's youth. While on the subject of food, it must not be forgotten that the vegetarian societies of Germany were largely instrumental in obtaining concessions for vegetarians in the British and U.S. and parts of the French Zones. These concessions may seem small (approximately 2½ ozs. of cheese for 4 ozs. of meat, and half an egg for 4 ozs. of fish), but they have proved a great help, when available.
The Society also runs an employment bureau for vegetarians, where a particular effort is being made to help those who are homeless as a result of the frontier changes in the east. Barter of foodstuffs and clothing is also encouraged through a similar service which seeks to offer an outlet for local surpluses. In this connection, it is illuminating to discover that free gifts of food do not come only from outside Germany, for many of the more fortunate members have been freely giving away to those in need the surplus of food which they have grown in their gardens, particularly fruit.
One of the outstanding efforts of the Ebhausen Society has been pioneer work in trying to establish vegetarian, or rather vegan farm settlements. Particular stress is laid, in its plans, on the need for growing more fruit and nuts. Here again restrictions on land purchase are proving an obstacle, but one such small settlement is reported as haying already been started. This scheme is linked up with the lively interest throughout vegetarian circles in Germany in the economic side of the vegetarian way of living. Societies are persisting in their efforts to interest the occupying authorities in the vegetarian solution to the economic problems of the country.
Turning to propaganda, Herr Rall, a publicity agent by profession, has proved a great asset to the Society; besides producing large numbers of printed leaflets, he also runs a correspondence course in vegetarianism. Other bright ideas include a suggested prize for a novel with a vegetarian message, a call for children's fairy tales without gruesome and gory details, the proposed establishment of a lending library of vegetarian literature, the compilation of a list of professions of all members, with a request that vegetarians should support each other in business as well as making social contact, and finally the active support of industries producing vegetarian goods or substitutes for animal products such as shoes of synthetic materials or vegetarian sausages.
The rules of the V-U show that it seeks as its ideal what we in this country call veganism, though it does not seek to impose it upon its members; further, it aims at abolishing the use of narcotics, intoxicants and stimulants. An interesting departure from the priciples of our own societies is to be found in its insistence that vegetarianism means abstention from bloodshed in all its forms, including war. Its three-point programme is based on the ethical, health and economic arguments, but the main weight is upon the ethical principle.
The devotion of the workers for this new way of life in Germany can perhaps best be appreciated when it is realized that for most of them it involves great sacrifice; they gladly offer their help in their free time after a heavy day's work, and this in a land where rations are admitted on all sides to be meagre, and where hunger is a frequent companion for many. It would be a lesson in humility indeed to pay a visit to some of these centres of vegetarian idealism.
Something of the deeply sincere nature of the movement in Germany can be seen in the practice, urged on all its members by the V-U, of observing a minute's silence every evening before nine o'clock as a moment for prayer and meditation centred upon the principles of the movement and its aims, thus helping to bring all members together in thought in the Silence, strengthening them in their resolve. Here, surely, is one way in which we all can help our fellow-members in Germany, and indeed throughout all the world, by linking our thoughts and aspirations with theirs, and joining together to create a world-wide fellowship of vegetarians.
GERMAN VEGETARIAN SOCIETIES
DEUTSCHER VEGETARIER VERBAND
A Society has just been established at Nurnberg and in Sontra district of Kassel Herr Oswald Kiehne has founded Gemeinschaftswerk der Vegetarier (Community of Vegetarians).