Monday, February 24, 2014

Hitler's Struggle (Mein Kampf) is a struggle to read

The former British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill reportedly said after Adolf Hitler came to power that his autobiography Mein Kampf (My Struggle) needs intense scrutiny than any other book. Unfortunately, as William L Shirer also pointed out in his ‘The Rise and the fall of the Third Reich’, it was an unfortunate incident in history that no one gave serious thought for what Hitler had stated in his book. Not many people even bothered to read it, perhaps because it was a struggle to even read it.

The writing style did not allow smooth reading and it was too vitriolic and one sided to many people. Furthermore, until the Great Economic Depression of 1929, the Nazi Party was never strong enough to come to power and therefore almost everyone outside the party dismissed Hitler as just another political upstart. Germany had enough such people, both inside and outside the Nazi Party.
Mein Kampf dust jacket (1926-27)
Hitler started work on the book while in prison. On November 9, 1923, he led the abortive coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch, an attempt to seize power in Bavaria. He was arrested and imprisoned in Landsburg Fort in Bavaria, where he dictated the first volume of the book to Rudolf Hess, who did the job as secretary. The second volume was written after he was released from prison.

In this book, Hitler speaks about the hatred he has for the Jewish Community and his belief that they are responsible to many ills of the society. He attacks Marxism as a challenge to national development and as a creation of the Jewish ‘conspiracy.’ Hitler espouses his ideas on the supremacy of the German race and also the need for living space (Lebensraum). His idea for capturing living space was simple; invade the vast lands to the East, Poland and Russia. Although many are amazed by the sheer brutality unleashed upon the peoples of Europe by Hitler’s Nazi regime, one should not be too surprised. He had more or less indicated many of his intentions in his book.

Although it was meant to be a political manifesto as well as an autobiography, not many people read Mein Kampf before they were forced to do so after the Nazi seizure of power in 1933. After Hitler came to power, he attempted to Nazify everything in German society including literature and religion. In 1933, public book burnings took place in Germany where tens of thousands of books by ‘dissident’ writers were burned in huge bonfires. Any book which was not palpable to the Nazi ideology suffered this fate. They were replaced by the nationalist literature including Mein Kampf. In fact, the Nazi regime wanted to create a “National Reich Church” with the bible replaced by Mein Kampf. However, after the fall of Nazi Germany the book was banned in Germany.

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