The Poisonous Mushroom
Clemens & Blair, 2020, full color, paperback, 74 pages.
Among the most controversial of Nazi publications was a book for children, published in 1938 under the title Der Giftpilz—or, The Poisonous Mushroom. Here, the Jewish threat to German society was portrayed in the most simplistic and elemental terms. The author, Ernst Hiemer, put together 17 short vignettes or morality stories intended to warn children of the dangers posed by Jews. Jews were depicted as conniving, thieving, treacherous liars who would do anything for personal gain. ‘Avoid Jews at all costs,’ was Hiemer’s message.
Though aimed at children aged roughly 8 to 14, Hiemer’s lessons were intended for all readers—older siblings, parents, and grandparents. Following Hitler’s lead, and not without justification, Jews were presented as a profound threat to German society; they had to be shunned and ultimately removed from the nation, if the German people were to flourish.
Long out of circulation, and banned in Germany and elsewhere, this new edition reproduces a work of historical importance—including full color artwork by German cartoonist Philipp Rupprecht (“Fips”). The book was repeatedly cited at the Nuremberg Trials as evidence of ‘Nazi cruelty’, and was used by prosecutors to justify a death sentence for its publisher, Julius Streicher. If only for the sake of history, the reading public should have access to one of the more intriguing and notorious publications of the Third Reich.
Chapter 1: THE POISONOUS MUSHROOM
Chapter 2: HOW TO IDENTIFY A JEW
Chapter 3: HOW THE JEWS CAME TO US
Chapter 4: WHAT IS THE TALMUD?
Chapter 5: WHY THE JEWS LET THEMSELVES BE BAPTIZED
Chapter 6: HOW A GERMAN PEASANT WAS DRIVEN FROM HOUSE AND FARM
Chapter 7: HOW JEWISH TRADERS CHEAT
Chapter 8: THE EXPERIENCE OF HANS AND ELSE WITH A STRANGE MAN
Chapter 9: INGE’S VISIT TO A JEWISH DOCTOR
Chapter 10: HOW THE JEW TREATS HIS DOMESTIC HELP
Chapter 11: HOW TWO WOMEN WERE TRICKED BY JEWISH LAWYERS
Chapter 12: HOW JEWS TORMENT ANIMALS
Chapter 13: WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT THE JEWS
Chapter 14: MONEY IS THE GOD OF THE JEWS
Chapter 15: HOW MR. HARTMANN BECAME A NATIONAL SOCIALIST
Chapter 16: ARE THERE DECENT JEWS?
Chapter 17: NO SALVATION WITHOUT SOLVING THE JEWISH QUESTION
Thomas Dalton, PhD
The following children’s book was written during Nazi Germany’s height of power, in 1938. Hitler’s government had overcome the corruption and decay of the Weimar Regime that had ruled Germany after World War One, and, amidst a global depression that was destroying the lives of millions in the West, succeeded in raising up a crippled and defeated nation to become a world power. As with all successful nations, its leaders sought to promote their values and their worldview among the public, and especially among the youth. Hence it is not surprising that someone should have undertaken to write a children’s book condemning the primary domestic enemy of the German people: the Jews.
Hitler, of course, had long attacked the Jews as enemies of the German nation. And not without good reason. To his east was the communist Soviet Union—a nation created by Jews (Lenin and Trotsky), founded on the Jewish-Marxist ideology known as Bolshevism, and run, for many years, by Jews. Upon coming to power in 1918, Bolshevik Jews proceeded to launch a brutal civil war that led to the deaths of at least 20 million Russians, and perhaps many more. The rest of that nation was enslaved in a crushing Soviet system that scarcely needs describing. By the 1930s, this very Soviet Bolshevism was growing in power, and threatening to invade central Europe. To Hitler’s west, in England and the USA, were the capitalist Jews who hated him and the Nazi party that had overthrown the Weimar Jews; these capitalists badly wanted to crush the German nation economically, if not militarily. And then thirdly, internally, were the 500,000 German Jews who also hated Hitler and the very German people who elected him to power. Therefore, Hitler was threatened by Jews left, right, and center.
Thus it is unsurprising that Hitler and others of the Nazi leadership would speak of Jews in the harshest of terms: as enemies of the people, as destroyers of nations, as a disease, as a threat to morality and common decency. And indeed, Hitler was not alone; German philosophers and scholars had, for many years, spoken out on the deleterious effect of Jews on the German people. And before that, for centuries, perceptive scholars of many nations and ages had condemned the Jews as a dangerous and malignant people, as crude materialists, as deceptive and immoral liars, as hateful misanthropes, and as parasites on other nations. Hitler was only the latest in a long line—stretching over 2,000 years—of men who detested the Jews, and who sought to free their people from the malicious Jewish influence.
One of Hitler’s earliest comrades was Julius Streicher—a school teacher and political organizer from Nuremberg. Though never a ranking member of the Nazi government, Streicher eventually became the local district leader in Nuremberg, all while producing and disseminating pro-Nazi, anti-Jewish literature. His primary means was the small newspaper Der Stürmer, which he published from 1923 until the end of the war. Among his co-workers there was a man named Ernst Hiemer—also a school teacher, and also strongly committed to the Nazi program. In addition to serving as chief editor of Der Stürmer, Hiemer wrote books for children that featured anti-Semitic themes and morals. The first and most notorious of these was Der Giftpilz—“The Poisonous Mushroom.” The book featured notable sketches and artwork by a prominent cartoonist, Philipp Rupprecht. The full text and artwork are reproduced here.
The German title of the book, Der Giftpilz, is a straightforward compound word: gift (poison) + pilz (mushroom). The metaphor here was likely drawn from Hitler’s terminology, especially in his primary work Mein Kampf. There, Hitler repeated referred to the “poisonous” nature of the Jews; he makes mention of “this poison” (dieses Gift) of global Jewry, of their “poisoning the soul” (die Seelen vergiften) of the German people, of the Jews’ “poisonous clutches” (giftigen Seuche), of “Jewish poisoners of the people” (jüdischen Volksvergifter), and of Jewish attempts to destroy a nation’s racial purity through “a continuous poisoning of the individual” (dauernde Vergiftung der einzelnen). Later in the book he refers to the Jews as an “international world-poison” (internationalen Weltvergiftung). The ‘mushroom’ metaphor occurs only once; in Volume One, Hitler refers to the Jews as the “eternal fungus” (ewiger Spaltpilz) of humanity—though there is a double-entendre here, in that the word Spaltpilz also colloquially refers to a disruptive force in society.
The text of this book is of course aimed at children, roughly those aged 8 to 14, though with messages for older teens and even parents. Each of the 17 small chapters consists of a short vignette or morality play intended to show the dangers of Jews in German society. Some are purely fictional, but most have some basis in fact, and are drawn from actual events in history. Many Jews indeed have a characteristic look, such as a big nose, bushy eyebrows, or being short (chapter 2)—though today, plastic surgery hides many of these features. Jews indeed adopt local languages and names (chapter 3) while still retaining an essentially Jewish mindset. The Talmud (chapter 4) does in fact have many anti-Gentile passages, many of which are drawn from the Old Testament. To hide their presence, Jews often did ‘convert’ to Christianity (chapter 5), though without giving up their true beliefs. Jewish bankers did indeed frequently make loans to farmers at exceptionally high interest rates (usury), and if the farmer could not pay, the Jews were quick to seize his land (chapter 6).
Later chapters refer, for example, to Jesus’ view of the Jews (chapter 13). Jesus did indeed call them “a brood of vipers” (Matt 3:7, 12:34, 23:33), and the Jews did say “Let him be crucified” (Matt 27:22). Luke (15:14) calls the Jews “lovers of money”. In John (8:44), Jesus says “You [Jews] are of your father, the devil” who was a “murderer” and “the father of lies.” In his text, Hiemer simply takes such messages and casts them in the form of simple stories.
Upon its release in 1938, the book sold well, running to a circulation of around 60,000. We should note that this was well before the “Holocaust” allegedly began (in late 1941), and even before such incidents as Kristallnacht (November 1938). There was no question, at this time, of physically harming Jews; Hiemer and Streicher simply wanted to warn the people, and especially children, of long-standing hazards of dealing with Jews. The book ends with a reference to the urgency of some kind of “solution” to the Jewish Question, but the nature of that solution is left entirely open. From Streicher’s other writings, we know that he had advocated deporting German Jews to some location outside of Europe, such as the island of Madagascar, but this notion did not find its way into The Poisonous Mushroom.
Eventually, of course, war did come to Germany and to all the world, and indeed there was a prominent Jewish hand in that war. Germany would ultimately lose, as we know, and Hitler would perish at his own hand. Globally, some 60 million people would die.
Both Hiemer and Rupprecht, however, would survive the war. Rupprecht was captured, sentenced to hard labor, and released in 1950. He died in Munich in 1975. Hiemer spent nearly four years at Stalag 13, was released, and died in 1974. For his part, Streicher also survived the war years; he was captured and put on trial as a “major Nazi war criminal” during the Nuremberg trials. He was found guilty, sentenced to death, and hanged in October 1946.
The Poisonous Mushroom remains, to this day, a fascinating remnant of the Nazi era, and as explicit documentation of the beliefs and ideals of at least some members of the National Socialist system. Such a book is unimaginable today, but at the time it did serve an important purpose for Germany society. It was a true reflection of the times.