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The price of puritanism

“Hitler remained closely involved with the crusade against tobacco to the very end. He banned smoking at his Austrian base, the Wolf’s Lair, and in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin. In 1942, he voiced regret that he had ever allowed his troops a tobacco ration; a ration he would soon be forced to increase to boost morale when the war went from bad to worse. In 1943 he made it illegal for persons under the age of 18 to smoke in public places. A year later, with the Third Reich crumbling around him, Hitler personally ordered smoking to be banned on city trains and to protect female staff from second-hand smoke.”

“Hitler committed suicide in April 1945 and, after burning his body, SS troops lit cigarettes in the Fuhrerbunker for the first time. Within weeks, cigarettes became the unofficial currency of Germany, with a value of fifty US cents each. Hitler ultimately, if inadvertently, succeeded in reducing smoking in Germany but only by bringing the country to its knees.”

Pages 76 to 76 of Velvet Glove, Iron Fist: A History of Anti-Smoking, by Christopher Snowdon.

23 comments to The price of puritanism

  • Ouch. Chris is very good indeed but a slight slip there. Wolf’s Lair was the Eastern Front HQ, in East Prussia, not in Austria.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Yes, the correct name was the “Eagle’s Nest”, I think.

  • spinx

    And the Eagle’s Nest was (and still is) in Bavaria not in Austria.

  • John K

    I wonder where the Huns got their baccy from in the war? I would imagine it would have to have been from the Balkans and Turkey. No Virginia tobacco in their gaspers for the Jerries, no wonder they were so bad tempered.

  • Even branded cigarettes taste different in turkey…

  • Richard Thomas

    Can we just declare Godwin, close this thread and go home?

  • Buzz Buzz

    It’s hard to take seriously any source that jumps directly to Hitler comparisons as part of their propaganda effort.

    Harder still when said source can’t even bother to get the major, common-knowledge items right (e.g. Wolf’s Lair vs. Eagle’s Nest, Bavaria vs. Austria) when making said Hitler comparisons.

    Sure, maybe all of the lesser-known details he ticks off in the remainder of his Nazi comparison are 100% accurate and not exaggerated for effect, but why would anyone listen to such a zealot after he pisses away his credibility and trustworthiness by factually botching the easy parts of his Godwinization effort?

    He does the anti-anti-smoking cause no favors with this type of screed.

  • Buzz Buzz does have a point. Still, this whole Godwin thingy has been way overplayed, if you ask me. I’m sick and tired of not being able to mention Hitler as often as I like. Here: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Hitler. Hitler. Hitler. Take that, you godwinist smitebot!

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Buzz Buzz, I find it rather hard to take you seriously, also.

    It may seem like a cheap shot, but it is worth pointing out that some of the vilest regimes in human history have either tried to stamp out certain human habits on the grounds of health, or, as in the case of Mao’s China, tried to encourage people to smoke, for equally silly reasons.

    As for the single inaccuracy in the quote I used, so what? The substance of the book’s point is sound. And its account of the history of hysteria – and more reasoned – attacks on smoking is comprehensive and impressive. He’s certainly not a zealot, but rather, someone who has gone to painstaking detail in demonstrating the kind of mentality that is often associated with puritanical attitudes to smoking and much else.


  • Buzz Buzz

    If the book is intended to criticize the “history of hysteria” of the anti-smoking movement, then hysterical comparisons of that movement to the Nazis (or Mao’s China!) might not be the best line of argument to deploy in response.

    And if the glaring inaccuracy in the Hitler comparison you chose to excerpt and highlight is an example of the “painstaking detail” the author engages in, well, then, as you said…


  • PersonFromPorlock

    I recall reading that at least in his early years in power, dinner guests chez Hitler were invited to light up after dessert. So it seems that early on, the real Nazis had a better grasp of the requirements of hospitality than the anti-smoking ones do. It may be that the term “anti-smoking Nazi” actually – and unbelievably – manages to libel the real thing.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Buzz Buzz, the book examines the wide array of groups that have for various reasons hated smoking, ranging from pressure groups that wanted to tax tobacco to totalitarian regimes of the sort described. As I said, one minor error does not detract from what is a book that you would do well to read instead of criticising in nitpicking, pompous fashion.

  • West

    It’s a list, consisting of 3 items, not a clarification of one item and mention of another.

    It’s this:

    He banned smoking at his Austrian base, the Wolf’s Lair, and in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin.

    Not this:

    He banned smoking at his Austrian base; the Wolf’s Lair, and in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    I really am puzzled why liberals have such a problem with Hitler.

    Not only was he an anti-smoking fanatic, he was a vegetarian and a nature-lover. He was also an advocate of a pan-European customs union and a single European currency. Finally, one of his first acts upon taking power in Germany was to pass what was, for the time, a strict law against animal cruelty.

  • spinx

    It’s this:

    He banned smoking at his Austrian base, the Wolf’s Lair, and in the Fuhrerbunker in Berlin.

    Fine, except that Hitler didn’t have an Austrian base.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    spinx, well, whatever. No doubt some of you guys have AH’s postcode and mortgage reference number.

  • Schrodinger’s Dog: it’s his lack of subtlety.

  • spinx

    spinx, well, whatever. No doubt some of you guys have AH’s postcode and mortgage reference number.

    Charming! Though I suppose expecting gratitude for correcting an error was probably too much to expect.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Spinx, I was being slightly rude because a commenter seemed to damn an entire book based on a single error. It royally pissed me off. What is this, a nit-picker’s convention?

  • bloke in spain

    As we seem to be ignoring Godwin for the moment, it would be interesting to learn how many readers have ever actually read Mein Kampf. For years I’ve been hearing Hitler thought this, Hitler believed that, Hitler said the other but I’ve rarely come across anyone who’s read the man in the original.
    Any confessions?

  • Christopher Snowdon

    It is a list, albeit one with room for confusion. My own confusion in placing the Berghof in Austria is one I have to own up to. It’s on the Austrian border but in Bavaria. My slip. No excuses but this isn’t a book about WWII, Hitler isn’t a major figure in it and I don’t think Godwin’s Law applies to history books.

  • Laird

    bloke in spain, I’ll admit to having read some of Mein Kampf, but I never finished it. It’s still sitting on my shelf, patiently waiting for me to get back to it. Someday.

  • So I take it it wasn’t a real page turner?