biodynamics in nazi germany

There’s a new article by Peter Staudenmaier in the most recent edition of the journal Environmental History; the article is entitled ‘Organic Farming in Nazi Germany: The Politics of Biodynamic Agriculture, 1933-1945’ (read the abstract!). It sheds some (much needed) light on the fate of biodynamic philosophy and practices in the nazi era, and should interest anyone who wants to know more about the history of organic agriculture in general and biodynamic agriculture in particular during those times. The article deals with nazi support for biodynamic farming methods as well as biodynamic proponents’ support for the regime. This is by no means a simple and straightforward matter — within the nazi regime, biodynamic agriculture met both with support and opposition; there was collaboration, ideological overlapping but also animosity. The article describes how the biodynamic method benefited from associations with and support from people in the right places — having this support was essential for the relative success of biodynamics during the time. There are some rather staggering references to opinions expressed in the biodynamic journal, Demeter, like one about awakening the ‘love for the soil and love for the homeland: This must be our goal and our lofty mission, to fight together with our Führer Adolf Hitler for the liberation of our beloved German fatherland!’ But the most appalling aspect of the relationship between anthroposophists and proponents of biodynamics and the nazi regime is perhaps the presence of biodynamic plantations in concentration camps. In the article, Peter writes:

In January 1939, Himmler created a new SS corporation under Pohl’s supervision, the Deutsche Versuchsanstalt für Ernährung und Verpflegung (German Research Facility for Food and Nutrition), known as the DVA. A substantial portion of its operations consisted of agricultural plantations located at concentration camps including Auschwitz, Dachau, and Ravensbrück, as well as estates in occupied Eastern Europe and in Germany. Many of these agricultural projects were biodynamic plantations growing organic products for the SS and the German military, with production monitored by the Reich League for Biodynamic Agriculture. Ravensbrück was the first DVA estate to be converted to biodynamic cultivation, in May 1940. Eventually the majority of the DVA’s plantations were run biodynamically. The DVA also marketed Demeter products, cooperated with Weleda, and contributed financially to the Reich League for Biodynamic Agriculture. Pohl recruited several leading biodynamic figures, including Max Karl Schwarz and Nicolaus Remer, to work on organic enterprises at Auschwitz, although Heydrich and Martin Bormann protested the employment of anthroposophists in SS ventures. […] The centerpiece of the DVA biodynamic operations was the sizable plantation at Dachau, which produced medicinal herbs and other organic goods for the SS. As at Ravensbrück, the labor on the Dachau biodynamic plantation was performed by camp inmates. From 1941 onward, the Dachau operation was overseen by anthroposophist Franz Lippert, a leader of the biodynamic movement from its beginnings and head gardener at Weleda from 1924 to 1940. Shortly after taking over the Dachau plantation Lippert joined the SS, and in 1944 he received special recognition and a bonus for his work there. Lippert published a book for the SS in 1942 based on his work at Weleda and Dachau. [Footnotes have been excluded.]

I highly recommend the article; it is interesting and contains valuable information. (This older list post is also worth reading.)

Ps. I hope that one day most anthroposophists, too, will be able to acknowledge the facts of the movement’s history — and to realize that this history itself does not (and perhaps, in my opinion, should not) prevent anyone from practicing anthroposophical methods, like biodynamic farming, or enjoying the fruits of these methods today. If the fruits actually are fruits. Which, sometimes, they are — literally or metaphorically…