English Translation of Mein Kampf
The first English translation as previously mentioned was written by Edgar Trevelyan Stratford Dugdale, who was actually a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles. Hitler’s publisher had even registered the title in America for copyright protection in 1925 and 27. In 1928 the rights to an English translation were offered to a British firm, and was assigned to Curtis Brown Ltd. Cherry Kearton was the first to be ‘assigned’ to translated the book in 1928, but because the Nazi party wasn’t all that big yet in Germany, it would be too expensive, long and dreary to be of any value for them to translate it.
It was Mrs. Dugdale that suggested to her husband that he should acquire the translation rights and ironically that ‘Victor Gollancz who “publishes a good deal for the Jewish market” might be interested in publishing it’. I know that there really could be abillion connections between Hitler and a Jew and how ironic it was that they did something together, but it is still interesting! So with the publisher’s approval, Mr Dugdale set about to write an abridged translation. But no one wanted to actually publish his work, because it wouldn’t be worth it, that was until 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor. Hurst and Blackett (a publisher) were interested and bought the rights for publishing for £350 and Dugdale approached them with his abridgement, and everything was alright.
But a certain Dr. Hans Wilhelm Thost, the London correspondent for Hitler’s Nazi newspaper, decided to get involved, and declared that ‘the party’ hadn’t approved the publication, even though the contract had been signed and approved by the publisher. So the abridged version was returned even shorter and censored, but we will never exactly know which parts were expurgated and which were just left out in the first version as the records were destroyed by a bomb. The final copy appeared in October 1933, even though it was without Dugdale’s name as translator in the UK.
By late 1938 nearly 90,000 copies of the abridged version had been sold, with the total net royalties being just over 1000 pounds. Over in America the book was also published, and had many protests by the Jewish community. The price was only $2, and sales were sluggish only 7,000 copies by 1937. A second edition with a fancier cover and a comment by a vigorous anti-Nazi was sold, and sales boomed (even if it was 50 cents more expensive and Germany were outraged!). And in 1939 plans were laid to produce an unabridged copy and 10 prominent figures came together for the project. Helmut Ripperger, was the translator, this time of the whole text, and the other figures helped also, and provided an 80,000 word commentary (I bet that this introduction is more than that!). Then a challenge from another publisher with their own full translation was thrown into the mix, and it went to court, but after both were published. And the second publisher were fined damages, which didn’t even cover the other’s legal costs.
The royalties by 1971 for the US were over $90,000. The second publisher’s translator didn’t even finish it because he refused, so others finished what he started. In 1942 a new translation by Ralph Manheim, which is who translated for this edition, was commissioned by the American Historical Association. Over in the UK, a translation was ordered by a translator in Germany, who translated Hitler’s speeches, and the project ended multiple times, and then the translator was kicked out of the Propaganda Ministry and returned to Britain. Later they wanted to recover their manuscript, but Germany forbade it, eventually they retrieved a rough draft and published it without authorisation from Germany. By 1939, 32,000 copies had been sold and until 1969 Mein Kampf was banned from being published again. It is quite strange how intense the battle for translation was for this book, and it is something I would have never thought about.
Mein Kampf, the British Foreign Office and Appeasement
Contrary to popular belief the Foreign Office did not ignore it and because of that they didn’t suppress it. Evidence from the archives paints a different picture one that is complicated. Of course they did not ignore it, and they investigated it and analysed it, they would be foolish not to. The ambassador in Berlin told everyone that Hitler loved military might and wouldn’t be afraid to attack, when the time was right and Germany had strength in their military. But then they ignored the book, and not the idea of Hitler and his war. Apparently the Office never even checked what had been left out in the abridged version, so were missing quite a chunk of what Hitler was saying. They then found a German copy and undertook a comparison, late in 1933. And it wasn’t until 1936 that someone actually wrote about the most important passages, and told the Office about the differences.
Probably much too late the US and UK started the realise that Hitler had some sinister intentions, and should be taken seriously. It wasn’t that they were ignorant of the book, it was the fact that they were hoping Hitler wasn’t planning something bad. It is normally best to expect the worst, but they were hoping for the best, and delayed reaction, if they had done something earlier, who knows what would have happened next.