Mein Kampf: Origins and History
To be honest I think there will be 5 more posts on the introduction alone, there is just a lot of information that is given, and it is quite lengthy, but there is quite a lot to go.
Mein Kampf has two volumes one called ‘A Reckoning’ and the other called ‘The Nazi Movement’. The second volume was published a year later, after the first print of Volume One was printed 10,000 times! By around 1929, 23,000 copies of Volume One and only 13,000 copies of Volume Two, because it didn’t do so well. The original price was RM 24, which might have been around 2 US Dollars, but a year later both editions in one copy were selling for RM8. At this time the party popularity rose significantly, with the votes rising by 6.5 million, and membership was around 400,000. By the end of 1933 (after Hitler had been in power for 1 year) over a million and a half copies had been sold! So everyone who wanted to be someone had a copy, by no means did they read it. Quickly the book was distributed everywhere and for whatever reason, even at weddings, ceremonies, students and for ‘meritorious service’. And in 1936 a Braille version was created. During Hitler’s life probably around 8-9 million copies were sold!
And as Hitler rose to power, it began to be translated, first the English version by Captain E.S. Dugdale, was considerably cut back and in the US it was titled ‘My Battle’ and in the UK it was ‘My Struggle’. Extracts were even printed in The Times newspaper. A complete text in English was not published until 1939, and at that time 89,000 copies of the abridged version had been sold.Quickly more translations became available not only in English but in Danish, Swedish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese, French, Finnish, Tamil, Czech and many more, all before 1945.
In 1922 Hitler had planned to write a highly polemical attack (which means that he was attacking the people instead of the actual topic) against a variety of nationalist organisations in Germany, and it would be called A Reckoning. Which was the title for the first volume. One of his friends decided to persuade Hitler to write his autobiography.But it wasn’t quite an autobiography as such, but more a mixture of his political ideas, which wasn’t the sort of thing the friend wanted.
Everything was written by Hitler himself because the style undoubtedly shows that it was not someone else, only the title wasn’t his choice. Because he wanted it to beA Four and Half Years Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice: A Reckoning with the Destroyers of the Nazi Party Movement.Which is clearly too long winded, I don’t even know if that would all fit on a cover! But his friend, Max Amann suggested a more simple title, the one we have today.
Mein Kampf turns out to be the only major work of Hitler (maybe not such a bad thing) but he did try to draft a second book with a similar message, but it was never published while he was alive. In fact the book was locked away, and then stolen by the Allies once Germany had been defeated. It was not found until 1958 when Gerhard L. Weinberg uncovered it and then published it under the original title Hitler’s zweites Buch (Hitler’s Second Book) in 1961. That same year an English translation under the name of ‘Hitler’s Secret Book’ appeared. It is a shorter and ‘more lucid’ statement of Hitler’s ideas on foreign policy, and contained a lot of envy and admiration for the US.
For Hitler the written word was note his forte and he himself disliked authors because all they did was engage in ‘theoretical “activity”‘. It was with the spoken word that he was able to move audiences and rally support. He refined even his gestures to perfect his speeches to invoke the emotion of the public. He was one of the most effective demagogues of the last century, which meant that he simply won over the audience by ‘appealing to their desires and prejudices instead of using rational argument’ (What would we do without Google?). But for someone looking back on the recordings of him, it would be hard for us to accept that it was true. Hitler worked much better speaking than he did writing, but even his speeches written down are terrible, but when spoken (by him) their power can become apparent.
The Structure of Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is not at all just an autobiography, but everywhere you look there are ‘reflections and comments on the political circumstances through which its author lived and the lessons he drew from them’. The book is critical of politics of the time, even when the parties were anti-Semitic. But his ideas and criticisms, are what gives an insight into his mind. He saw himself as ‘the man sent to save and preserve Germany culture and Germany’s national identity amidst the counter-pressures of hostile nationalism abroad and cosmopolitan subversion at home’.
I can’t help but think what would happen if Hitler was ‘born’ now and saw the world as it was now. What would he do? I doubt he would like it, with its ‘evil democracy’ but it is a strange idea to entertain. I can see (almost) why most of Germany agreed with the guy, because he was playing to their fears and all about ‘protecting us and our country’. People get quite worked up about their sense of identity and especially their country. And to be honest most countries are now just lines on a map, considering how international and connected we all are. But everyone still has a need to protect their country from ‘others’ who are here to ‘steal our jobs and money’ and ‘take over’ and ‘destroy our national pride and identity and way of life’. Which is garbage, obviously the sort of people that come to your country shape where it will be in the future, but the idea that they don’t deserve what we have or how we live is plainly wrong.
The book as a whole isn’t entirely illogical or disordered, but each of the chapters are quite disorganised. This (apparently) is because of his inability to ‘exercise any selectivity among his own ideas.’ Because all were of equal importance to him, so must all be included. Ideas on ‘education, the dress of the young (they had a problem with how young people dressed way back then? Were women showing their ankles?), opera, the evil of Jewry, the spread of social diseases, etc.’ Which is why the book is so tediously long and frequently has trivial details and repetitions.
‘It [Mein Kampf] should not be taken seriously as political philosophy but as a guide to Hitler’s version of events and as a window into his mind.’