Originally published on 18 July 1925, Adolf Hitler’s semi-autobiographical rant, Mein Kampf, sold moderately at first. A second book, a follow-up written in 1928, was never published. However, by the end of 1933, Hitler’s first year in power, Mein Kampf, the ‘Bible of National Socialism’, had sold over a million copies. By 1939, at the outbreak of war, it was outselling all other titles in Germany with the exception of the Bible. Honeymooning couples were given a copy of Mein Kampf to savour, and no patriotic German home could be seen without a copy taking pride of place on the bookshelves. Although Hitler later claimed he regretted writing it, Mein Kampf made the German dictator a very rich man.
The earlier chapters concerns Hitler’s upbringing, his formative years in Linz, Vienna and Munich, his desire to be an artist and his service during the First World War. Then begins the sledgehammer prose – some 600 pages of it. The book has not seen the light of day in Germany since the end of the Second World War but, contrary to popular belief, it is not banned there. Using the Swastika and the Nazi salute for non-educational purposes are forbidden in Germany but not the purchase or reading of the central ideological tenet of Hitler’s thinking. However the state of Bavaria, which seized the copyright to Mein Kampf after the war, has steadfastly refused to re-publish the book fearing it could fuel racial tensions and be exploited by neo-Nazi groups.
‘My 4½ Year Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice’
Hitler was serving a jail term following his failed attempt to seize power in the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch. He was tried for high treason and could have faced the death penalty but got away with a lenient sentence of five years. In the event, he served less than nine months, being released in December 1924. Although frequently depressed and talked of suicide, Hitler used his time in prison constructively, dictating to his deputy, Rudolph Hess, his autobiographical, ideological tirade. Published in two volumes, the first on 18 July 1925, and the second in 1926, Mein Kampf was originally entitled ‘My 4½ Year Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice‘; the new title being suggested by his publisher.
Much of Mein Kampf is devoted to race; the need for a pure race of German Aryans untainted by the blood of different ethnic groups. The Aryan race was of the highest order, the ‘bearers of culture’; the Jewish race of the lowest. ‘The whole existence (of the Jews) is based on one great single lie… that they are a religious community while actually they are a race – and what a race!’
Hitler’s stated aim was to eliminate the ‘hydra of World Jewry’ from society. Jews are referred to throughout the book by various unpleasant metaphors: parasites, germs, vermin. He expounded at length on the need for Lebensraum, the provision of extra living space for the growth of the German population at the expense of the Slavic races of Eastern Europe. Hitler took Darwin’s concept of the ‘survival of the fittest’, nature’s continual struggle for life or death, and applied it to race. For the Aryan race to survive, not only had it to prove the strongest, but it was necessary to stamp out weaker, inferior races. And of course no ‘race’ was an inferior or as weak as the Jew.
Rupert Colley’s novella, set during World War Two and Paris in 1968, The Woman on the Train, is now available.
Also, gathered together in one collection, 60 of Rupert Colley’s history articles, The Savage Years: Tales From the 20th Century.