Werner Kollath and Political Hygiene
From Key Point Dialog
In the foreword to his book "Civilization-Induced Diseases and Death Causes", published in 1958, Werner Kollath writes:
"Through long-term experiments on animals it has been possible to this author to prove that long life must not necessarily be connected with perfect health. The life expectancy and health can be separated from one another through certain dietetic methods, so that acute deficiency diseases are avoided, while chronic deficiency consequences arise. Through their influence it seems that gradually all the organs of the body can develop illness, which gives rise to the symptoms of the human civilization and aging diseases. It was also possible to show that through certain specific improvements of the diet the occurring of those diseases can be successfully prevented [...].
On the other side, Seyle has shown that quite similar organ illnesses can be induced in animals through bodily over-exertion. To this cause complex Seyle introduced the term 'stress' [...]. In men, the described changes can arise also through harmful emotions and attitudes such as worry, grief, mental overwork etc. The reason that such seemingly heterogeneous causes lead to those developments lies in the reaction of the whole organism that is controlled by the nervous system.
So came 'human behavior', both of the individual and of the society, as well as their mutual relationships, in the focus of medicine, especially of the hygiene. We can today readily think of describing multiple aspects of our social life as 'disease', whereby today's growth trends pose a special danger. [...]
There can be no doubt that a successful combat of thus induced diseases would have enormous effects. It is therefore important to realize that there are disease causes that have hitherto been neglected, which arise for example in faulty nutrition, faulty attitudes of the individual and faulty organization of the human society. It is on the other hand possible to examine experimentally not only the individual diseases, but also to submit the behavior of the people and their societies to natural-scientific research. [...]
This author proposes to describe this large research area that now lies before us by the name 'Political Hygiene'."
In the same book Kollath writes:
"Human diseases are [...] symptoms of deeper disturbances, which have seized the human communities and the environment, especially the fertile soil. Their cause is the man with his one-sided way of acting."
To remedy such diseases, and more generally the decline in happiness or wellbeing which they point at, a different approach to health and medicine is needed. The task of Political Hygiene is to provide the necessary insights and guidelines, so that we may use all our resources, human, technical and natural, towards our environment's true wellbeing. In "The Grains and the Human - A Life Partnership" Kollath writes:
"We speak about politics, abut economic interests, about technological progress, about natural science discoveries, about atoms and their fission [...] and about innumerable other things that fill the newspapers [...] but not about whether all these things truly increase the human happiness, if the people have truly remained healthy, or whether hidden dangers might be lurking in the future, whose first signs we may already recognize in the growth of the civilization diseases."
In "Civilization-Induced Diseases and Death Causes" Kollath wrote: "- "It can easily be shown that we cannot say anything precise scientifically about the concept of health."
Kollath's own life is a vivid proof that the issue of empowering the people to have understanding and control of their own and their environment's wellbeing is a profoundly political one.
In Kollath's biography, Elisabeth Kollath writes:
"The book Civilization-Induced Diseases and Death Causes is the first joint work with Karl F. Haug Publishing House, which then still under the personal leadership of Karl Haug had its headquarters in Ulm.
The book was intended to be the first volume of a Publication Series on Political Hygiene, which Werner Kollath wanted to issue together with the publishing house. It ended with this first volume."
After summarizing various awards and recognitions for Kollath's first book, "The Foundations of Hygiene", which was published in 1937, Elisabeth Kollath continues:
"There were, however, not only recognitions, but also opposition, which was caused by the third part of the book, the one which talked about nutrition. It was then that the food industry became conscious of this man, who was in the position to disturb their order of things. The sugar and chocolate industry came first and demanded with threats the withdrawal of the entire work, or at least to cover the pages by which it felt attacked. Kollath refused, and that was the beginning of the battle against the "Enemy Kollath" which would continue throughout his life.
The canned-food industry came out somewhat later, and soon also the pharmaceutical industry assumed an antagonistic position."
When threats did not succeed, dysqualifications in press and intrigues were staged to eliminate Kollath. Elisabeth Kollath writes:
"Kollath, to whose upright being every form of plotting is foreign, suffered under such attacks, which - although always changing in form - remained in essence the same. "
On October 23, 1961, Kollath wrote in his diary:
"The unrest never stops. They attempt to rush me to death and will in the end succeed. I am not able to cope with the concerted attack of the scientists and the industry. [...] It is as if the world has gone crazy. My experiments are right, but the interpretations for the people do not get accepted, they are not acknowledged. Systematic plotting of the suppleticants.
Slowly I prepare myself for a dignified, otherwise belated withdrawal. Pity, I could have done a lot more! I am tired of nonsense."
You may find more similarly illuminating histories in these Anecdotes About the Nutrition Pioneers by Heinz Scholz (in German).