Thursday, September 24, 2015

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

Title:  Mein Kampf
Author:  Adolf Hitler
Published:  1925
Challenges:  Well-Educated Mind (Biographies)

Q.  What do these three images have in common?

A.  Me, reading Hitler.

Yes, while reading Mein Kampf there was a "face-plant" moment in the middle of the book; often times I put aside (avoided) reading to tend to urgent matters, like my nails; and sometimes I resorted to shorthand during my deliberate note taking, using key symbolic phrases such as, "Blah, blah, blah," to fill in redundant ideas. 

Oh, it was not that terrible, but Mein Kampf was interminable and tedious, at times.  Hitler is like one of those coworkers who talks relentlessly about nothing else except one issue.  I know someone like that, and I thought I was reading about him.  One issue only consumes and defines and energizes him.  It is all he is.  Well, that's Adolf Hitler.

Mein Kampf is on my Well- Educated Mind reading challenge, but I almost skipped it. Why would I want to read the biographical work of one of the most hated dictators?  Why is Mein Kampf even available to read?  Well, I did read it, and I think it should be read by some, especially those concerned with history and political science.  At least for the first half of the book, I actually looked forward to reading it.   

Hitler as a courier, WWI
Because I did not have my own copy of Mein Kampf, but borrowed one from the library, I was unable to deface the pages, as I usually do when I read.  Instead I took 18 pages of notes, front and back.  Unfortunately, I do not really know why I took so many notes because I am unable to review them coherently.  The thought is daunting, as they are all out of order.  However, I got Hitler.  I think I figured out all I need to write up some kind of review about him and his work.  So here we go:

*  Hitler was a model racist.  He believed pure German roots were the prime foundation for the human race.  Germans were a physically strong people, and never should they mix with other groups of people, like the Jews, who would only make them weaker.  The Aryan race, he claimed, was "self-sacrificing" and "the bearer of cultural development."

*  Hitler became racist against the Jews because he believed the Jews hated the German (Aryan) people and wanted to eliminate them from history.  He despised their liberal and immoral ideology and thought they were contaminating the culture with their control of the press and the arts.  He believed they encouraged conflicts between groups of people in order to divert attention away from themselves and their schemes.  He claimed the Jews blamed the German military for its defeat in the War (WWI) and sought to incriminate Germany.

Austrian postcard (1919) of Jew stabbing German soldier in the back

* Hitler did not like democracy because it allowed men to be puppets or cowardly.  He believed in one-man dictatorship.  He said there was nothing noble about hiding behind majorities: "The majority can never replace the man."  He said Western democracy is a forerunner to Marxism.

*  He hated Marxism because he said the Jews were behind this ideology.  Marxism, according to Hitler, was the Jews' attempt to exclude individual humanity and replace it with one giant mass of people.

*  He was one of the founders of the National Socialist German Workers' party, which would later become the NAZI party, where he laid out the principles to bring nationalism back to the German people, make the German (Aryan) race strong and powerful,  and eliminate the Jewish and Marxist stronghold in Germany and Austria.   The main goal of the National Socialists was to "secure for the German people the land and soil to which they are entitled on this earth."

*  Hitler laid out the concept for re-education, too.  He argued that the current bourgeois education for "peace and order" would only continue to weaken the German people.  Instead, the youth should be trained in physical education as much as knowledge.  

Some of his other ideas:
1. Fight against prostitution
2. Encourage early marriage for healthy, resistant off-spring
3. Education must include mental and physical training
4. Cleanse theater, art, literature, cinema, press, and posters (propaganda) of our rotting world

Rare color photo of Adolf Hitler

Some other mentions: 
*  He said, "The great heroic struggle became my greatest inner experience."  Is this the hero-complex syndrome?  
*  He believed freedom of the press was equal to poisoning and lying to the people.  
*  And this: "If the struggle for a philosophy is not lead by heroes prepared to make sacrifices, there will, in a short time, cease to be any warriors willing to die."
*  And finally: "I wanted to enjoy the happiness of living and working in the place which some day would inevitably bring about the fulfillment of my most ardent and heartfelt wish: the union of my beloved homeland with the common fatherland, the German Reich."

Who should read Mein Kampf?  Again, if you are a political science or history major, this is an important work in the grand scheme of the world.  For anyone else, if you actually like listening to that frenzied coworker go on and on about the same topic, then knock yourself out.


o said...

This is definitely one I want to read (in university I read many extracts but never had the time to read the whole book), and one that *should* be read. Hiding from it and not taking the opportunity to understand this man is dangerous in my mind (to understand, after all, is not to like or sympathise with). I don't think everyone should read it, but no one should be made to feel bad for reading it. What's done cannot be undone, but it is crucial to learn from it and to never let it happen again. This book gives a unique insight in its prejudice and flaws and therefore is an opportunity that shouldn't be dismissed.

I'd just add one thing - you say it would be interesting for political science or history majors - it's also of interest to those studying religion, not only because of the Jewish aspect but because of Hitler's almost religious belief and approach to the Aryan race.

Anyway, excellent review - well done, and well done for getting through it :)

Ruth said...

Excellent point, regarding religious students. Hitler twists the Christian faith, which he references often. I know he has been called Christian and his terror has been blamed for his "faith," and now I know why. However, on further examination, one could pick apart his arguments and compare them to the Christian faith quite easily and determine how far away he is from biblical Christianity. Basically, he created his own religion, and he is its god.

There are probably other people who should read this - not just political science, history, and theological students. I didn't think anymore about it though.

Thanks, o !

o said...

No problem - don't think I was criticising though, just adding my two-penneth :)

"Basically, he created his own religion, and he is its god" - I agree, and I wish I could remember better all the things I researched at uni! I was studding Millenarianism and my essay was on Hitler and the Third Reich. I remember his belief in the "thousand years to come", the link with Theosophy, and the runes as well. It was a fascinating topic, and I only wish I still had my finished essay! (It's on an old computer that is now long gone).

I must get round to reading Hitler's autobiography. I once had the opportunity to buy it but didn't because I was short on money. And I never saw it again! One day I'll order it online. :)

Jean said...

Oh, argh, I should read read it someday. I know, when I finally get tired of reading about the USSR, I'll go on a Third Reich kick. That will be cheerful. I hereby promise to read Mein Kampf someday. I managed the Communist Manifesto, despite its being incoherent and boring--I can do this too!

Cleo said...

O, I started reading this biography very excited because, like you, I wanted to understand Hitler's mindset and I thought it was important to learn from it to avoid anything like that ever happening again. Sadly I think I failed. I simply could not understand Hitler's mindset. Unless you can truly believe that you are the most important person in the world, that your fellow countrymen (who have to live up to criteria that you have set up, to be considered countrymen) have to be saved and moulded into a supreme race, and you can virulently despise a whole race of people, it is not understandable. And frankly, after I finished this book, I was glad that I didn't understand it. To truly understand it, I think one needs to be as mad as Hitler. When I simply took his ideas for granted (his ravings, his hatred, his vision for a pure race) then I could understand his actions, but I never did grasp how he developed his ideas in the first place. I think you need to have lived in those times to understand the mindset around him as well. Hitler certainly doesn't appear to be brilliant ..... his arguments are like swiss cheese logic-wise, but he was fanatical and the people seemed to need a fanatic at that time. There are some points in history where everything comes together and form an explosion ----- these are things that normally would not fly, but for some reason do at a particular time. This, for me, was one of those times.

My edition was fascinating because it was published in 1939, so you have viewpoints very close to the time of the biography and they are sandwiched between WWI & WWII. The notes were almost as long as the biography itself. Because this biography was written in 1925, perhaps many of his ideas morphed and changed over WWII, but this was certainly an interesting look into those times.

As for being interesting for those studying religion ..... I don't know ...... Unless you have a good grasp of Christianity (ie. a religious background, or numerous courses behind you to understand the religion), it's rather useless to try to compare Mein Kampf to something that isn't fully understood. Hitler took so many things and twisted them to suit his means .... not just religion.

I think Mein Kampf is a necessary read. Hitler described so many situations that I think are mirrored in the world today. It actually bothered me because I started to think that we will simply repeat the same mistakes over and over again. That's a sad thought indeed.

o said...

Perhaps "understand" was the wrong word! :) I suppose I mean it's good to be familiar with the ideas, as far as possible.

As for religion - yes, it's definitely warped, but even so there are religious elements in it - but a new, unfamiliar, and yes warped, version. The vision itself that Hitler had did border on religious... It's way too long since I studied this - I wish I could be clearer!

As for making same mistakes - yes, I agree. I don't know if you know, but there's a newspaper in the UK called the Daily Mail and it's online version has a comment section which is fairly notorious for being pretty depressing. Someone did an experiment and took Hitler quotes, changed the word "Jew" or "Jewish" and replaced it with "refugee", It's astonishing how many people reading them "upvoted" them.

I'll see if I can find the article I'm thinking of....

o said...

The articles were easily found :)

One from i100 - What happens when you comment on Daily Mail articles with actual Nazi propaganda

And from the Huffington Post - Someone Replaced The Word 'Jew' With The Word 'Migrant' In Hitler Quotes And Put Them On Daily Mail Articles

Ruth said...

Ha, ha!!!! I read the Daily Mail everyday. (Sometimes I wish I didn't.)

Ruth said...

Jean, if you can read the Communist Manifesto, you can definitely read Mein Kampf. No problem.

Ruth said...


I think I know what happened to Hitler. He said he did not know anything about the Jews growing up, or he knew very little.

Later in life he was influenced by the writings of someone (whose name escapes me); whomever he was, he wrote essays or speeches against the Jews.

Meanwhile, Hitler saw how the Jews controlled the media and the arts, and he thought they were corrupting the culture with their immorality and liberal views, and lies against German culture. He developed the opinion that the Jews wanted to eliminate German culture and its history and the region all together.

By the end of WWI, he was confident that the Jews were against the German military, which he took very personally. All of this bitterness burdened him and was a recipe for his ideology to destroy the Jews in order to raise up a stronger German people. All of his hatred for the Jews fed his zealous ideas about the German people or Aryan race.

His ideas about the superiority of the Aryan race is another story in itself. He was very prideful, to say the least.

All of this was his religion. He absolutely worshipped Germany. I'm ok with feeling patriotic about one's country, but he was dangerously obsessed - which is where he gets the nationalist part. In his book, he makes a distinction between being patriotic and being a nationalist. Being patriotic was not enough for him.

The irony of it all is that the issues he absolutely hated other governments doing to their people, he turned around and did to the German people when he became dictator. But I digress.

Hey, thanks for reading along with me. I can't wait to read your review.

Hai Di Nguyen said...

Hey. I have a question. Is there any mention of Francis Galton or Madison Grant in the book?

Matt Ries said...

I read Mein Kampf for 20th Century European history in college, during the oral portion of my book review in class my professor laughed when I mentioned that "Hitler needed an editor" because of his continual repeating of the same stuff. One of the rare times when I knew I aced the oral portion of the book review (a 3-5 page paper + a 5-minute presentation in class) in one of his classes.

Ruth said...

Those two names do not sound familiar. Definitely not Grant. Honestly, mostly this giant book was about Hitler himself. He does mention a few people who influenced him, including a teacher and a writer or speaker, or men he worked with at the beginning of the formation of his party. But these two men do not sound familiar.

Ruth said...

Exactly. He reiterates and repeats himself a lot!

Hai Di Nguyen said...

I asked about them because Galton's the father of eugenics and Grant wrote a 1916 book called The Passing of the Great Race.

Ruth said...

Do you know if Hitler was influenced by them, or is that what you are trying to find out? I saw that The Passing of a Great Race was sold in Germany, but I haven't found anything in connection w/ Hitler.

Hai Di Nguyen said...

That's what I'm trying to find out.

Brona said...

I read Mein Kampf in a fit of madness when I was 15. We were studying WWII at school - it was my first real foray into what happened during the Holocaust. I was horrified, fascinated, appalled and it began a lifelong search to try and understand 'man's inhumanity to man'.

Twenty years later I'm no closer to understanding how it is possible to treat our fellow travelers on this planet so badly, but I do remember the struggle I had with Mein Kampf. It was pretty heavy going at 15. I remember making the link between ignorance and a poor family environment in creating many of Hitler's beliefs.

I guess it was one of the stepping stones that helped me decide to be an early childhood teacher - to do my bit to alleviate ignorance and to help children from poorer families receive a good education.

Now I can also see the part his narcissistic personality had on his ability to carry out his ideas.

Maybe the benefit of such books is helping us to tease out the causes & effects, the early signs, the symptoms, the reasons why so we can recognise it if it happens again.

A very thought provoking review and book.

Ruth said...

I am impressed that you were even moved to read this at 15. Good for you! And it impacted you to want to change others, which makes it worth it. Shocking as it is, there are Hitlers all over the world, in every age, who thrive on control and power of the masses. And there are masses of people who believe them. I will say, sadly, that I don't know if the world has learned its lesson. In America, we can see similar ideas being repeated by our government, as people are loosing their liberties, and no one can do anything to stop it. It's very scary. It's ironic how those power-hungry individuals are always the ones who get into positions of leadership.

Hai Di Nguyen said...

I've just googled. Hitler wrote to Grant that The Passing of a Great Race was his Bible.

Ruth said...

I am totally not surprised. There's no way that book slipped by Hitler w/o his knowledge.

Sharon Wilfong said...

It's a book I know I should read but don't want to for the reason you stated. Also, I think he is evil and I hate to subject myself to evil thoughts. I do appreciate you making the effort and letting me know what is in the book.

fredamans said...

I tried to suffer through this in high school. I applaud you for doing so and suffering through the blah-blah-blah's. Will I try to read it again? No. I do't beat dead horses, it's cruel.
Great review though. Insightful, to say the least.

fredamans said...

Here is the 'n' I magically left out of the word: don't.

Ruth said...

Well, maybe if you ever get into a deep study of European history in the early to mid 20th century; but otherwise, Mien Kampf is not pleasurable literature to enhance one's life. See, I already told you what is in it, so you don't have to read it.

Ruth said...

Thank you so much! I would never care to read this again either. Life is too short.

Cleo said...

I just finished my review and read over yours once more. I must say, the picture of you in a coma over the book made me laugh once again. I must say that I'm enjoying Gandhi much more!