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Cover of Mein Kampf
Cover of Mein Kampf

Mein Kampf (English translation: My Struggle or My Fight) is the signature work of Adolf Hitler, combining elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology of Nazism.


The writing of Mein Kampf

The first volume, titled Eine Abrechnung ("An Account") it was published on July 18, 1925; the second volume Die Nationalsozialistische Bewegung ("The National-Socialistic Movement") was published in 1926. The original title Hitler chose was "Viereinhalb Jahre [des Kampfes] gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit" (Four and a Half Years [of Struggle] against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice). His Nazi publisher, Max Amann, decided this title was too complicated and had it shortened to Mein Kampf ("My Struggle").

The connotive and contextual flexibility of the German word 'kampf' brings the possibility of multiple translations to the title. Similarly to the influence of its different connotations in the translation of 'jihad', 'kampf' is frequently translated into its ambiguously denotive meaning of 'struggle'. The contemporary connotations of 'kampf' at the time of the text's writing are equally ambigious. When translated as 'fight', 'combat', or even 'war', as evidenced by examples such as the German names for a number of tanks ("Panzerkampfwagen", "armored war vehicle") and dive bombers ("Sturzkampfflugzeug", "falling war airplane"). "My Fight" might be considered a more accurate translation.

Many still feel "My Struggle" is the truest interpretation however, as throughout the text, Hitler describes the various trials and tribulations he and his movement experienced during their early years. Precedence for this translation can be found in the titles of other contemporary literary works such as Rudolf von Jhering's "Der Kampf ums Recht" (The struggle for justice).

Hitler began dictating the book to Emil Maurice while imprisoned in Landsberg, then after July 1924 to Rudolf Hess, who later, along with several others, edited it. The book has been said to be convoluted, repetitive, and hard to read, and partly as a result it was edited and re-edited over the next twenty years in a range of editions. It has been dedicated to Dietrich Eckart, member of the Thule Society.


The book outlines major ideas that would later culminate in World War II. It is heavily influenced by Gustave Le Bon's 1895 The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, which theorized propaganda as an adequate rational technique to control the seemingly irrational behaviour of crowds. Particularly prominent is the violent anti-Semitism of Hitler and his associates, drawing among other things on the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. For example, Hitler claimed that the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot, and makes arguments toward the old German nationalist idea of Drang nach Osten: the necessity to gain Lebensraum ("living space") eastwards, especially in Russia.

Much of the material was distorted or fabricated by the author. Hitler used the main thesis of "The Jewish peril," which speaks of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership. Overall, however, it does explain many details of Hitler's childhood and the process by which he became increasingly anti-Semitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna, Austria. In one early chapter, he wrote about how for the first time in the city streets he noticed distinctively dressed Jews unlike those he already knew, and then asked himself "Was that a German?" rather than "Was that a Jew?"

There are two particularly uncanny passages in Mein Kampf which mention the use of poison gas:

"If at the beginning of the [First World] War and during the War twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of our very best German workers in the field, the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain."
(Mein Kampf, vol. 2, chap. 15: "The Right of Emergency Defence"; underline added)
"These tactics are based on an accurate estimation of human weakness and must lead to success, with almost mathematical certainty, unless the other side also learns how to fight poison gas with poison gas. The weaker natures must be told that here it is a case of to be or not to be."
(Mein Kampf, vol 1, chap. 2: "Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna"; underline added)

In terms of political theories, Hitler announced his hatred in Mein Kampf toward what he believed to be the twin evils of the world: Communism and Judaism, and he stated that his aim was to eradicate both from the face of the earth. The new territory that Germany needed to obtain would properly nurture the "historic destiny" of the German people; this goal explains why Hitler invaded Europe, both East and West, before he launched his attack against Russia. Since Hitler blamed the parliamentary government then ruling Germany for much of the ills against which he raged, he announced that he wanted to completely destroy that type of government.

In regard to foreign policy, Hitler wished to go through several stages. In the first stage, Germany would, through a massive program of re-armament, overthrow the "shackles" of the Treaty of Versailles and form alliances with the British Empire and Fascist Italy. The second stage would feature wars against France and her allies in Eastern Europe by the combined forces of Germany, Britain and Italy. The third and final stage would be a war to destroy what Hitler saw as the "Judeo-Bolshevik" regime in the Soviet Union that would give Germany the necessary Lebensraum. The German historian Andreas Hillgruber labelled the plans contained in Mein Kampf as Hitler's Stufenplan (Stage-by-stage plan). The term Stufenplan has been widely used by historians, though it must be noted that the term was Hillgruber's, not Hitler's.

A page in "Mein Kampf" where Hitler discusses the Jewish religious community
A page in "Mein Kampf" where Hitler discusses the Jewish religious community

Hitler presented himself as the "Übermensch", frequently rendered as the somewhat ambiguous "Superman" (superhuman would be a more correct translation, but "superman" has certain cultural associations in English), that the basically apolitical Friedrich Nietzsche had referred to, especially in his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Hitler's self-identification as such may have stemmed from his association with Nietzsche's sister, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, who was an early member of the Nazi party, and a committed anti-semite. While she became the owner (and editor) of his works after his mental collapse, Nietzsche had often, during prior years, criticized her for having no understanding of his work and denounced her antisemitism.

Mein Kampf makes clear Hitler's racist worldview, dividing up humans based on ancestry. Hitler stated that German "Aryans" were at the top of the hierarchy, and assigned the bottom of the order to Jews and Gypsies. Hitler went on to say that dominated peoples benefit by learning from the superior Aryans. Hitler further claimed that the Jews were conspiring to keep this "master race" from rightfully ruling the world, by diluting its racial and cultural purity and by convincing the Aryans to believe in equality rather than superiority and inferiority. He described the struggle for world domination as an ongoing racial, cultural, and political battle between Aryans and non-Aryans.

In 1928, Hitler went on to write a second book in which he expanded upon these ideas and suggested that around 1980, a final struggle would take place for world domination between the United States and the combined forces of Greater Germany and the British Empire (read more about this sequel below).

Popularity before World War II

Before Hitler became chancellor of Germany in 1933, Mein Kampf sold very slowly; but in 1933 alone it sold 1.5 million copies. Although the Nazi Party (NSDAP) claimed that it was already a huge seller, documents revealed after the end of World War II showed this to be false.

Opening of a popular 1933 edition of Mein Kampf
Opening of a popular 1933 edition of Mein Kampf

After Hitler's rise to power, the book gained enormous popularity and virtually became the Bible of every Nazi. Every couple intending to get married was required to own a copy. Sales of Mein Kampf earned Hitler millions; however, many of those who purchased it barely read it, and many bought it simply to show their allegiance to Hitler, gain position in the NSDAP, or avoid the attentions of the Gestapo. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been distributed in Germany.

Some historians have speculated that a wider reading prior to Hitler's rise to power (or at least prior to the outbreak of World War II) might have alerted the world to the dangers Hitler would pose to peace in Europe and to the Holocaust that he would pursue. An abridged English translation was produced before World War II. However, the publisher removed some of the more anti-Semitic and militaristic statements. The publication of this version caused Alan Cranston, who was an American reporter for UPI in Germany and later senator from California, to publish his own abridged and annotated translation, which he believed to more accurately reflect the contents of the book. In 1939 Cranston was sued by Hitler's publisher for copyright infringement and a Connecticut judge ruled in Hitler's favor; the publication of Cranston's version had to be stopped after about 500,000 copies had been sold.

Current availability

Today, the copyright of all editions of Mein Kampf except the English and the Dutch (Dutch government seized copyright in the same way as Bavaria) is owned by the state of Bavaria. The copyright will end on December 31, 2015. Historian Werner Maser, in an interview with Bild am Sonntag has stated that Peter Raubal, son of Hitler's nephew Leo Raubal, would have a strong legal case for winning the copyright from Bavaria if he pursued it. Raubal, an Austrian engineer, has stated he wants no part of the rights to the book, which could be worth millions of euros.

The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the federal government of Germany, does not allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany, and opposes it also in other countries but with less success. Owning and buying the book is legal. Trading in old copies is legal as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to promote hatred or war, which is, under anti-revisionist laws, generally illegal. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf.

When Mein Kampf was republished in Sweden in 1992, the government of Bavaria tried to put a ban on the book. The case went all the way to the Swedish Supreme Court. The court ruled in 1998 that, since Bavaria of today technically has nothing to do with the old state of Bavaria (all old states of the Reich were terminated after WWII) but the name, the copyright could not be owned by the modern state of Bavaria. Since the publishing house that published Mein Kampf in the thirties had long gone out of business, Mein Kampf should be considered as being in a state of limbo (or even in the public domain). The case was won by the modern publisher, an outspoken anti-Nazi.

In the Netherlands, selling the book, even in the case of an old copy, is illegal as promoting hatred, but possession and lending is not. In 1997 the government explained to the parliament that selling a scientifically annotated version might escape prosecution.

In France, selling of the book is forbidden, unless it is a historical version including commentaries from specialists and states the law allowing its special historical edition. Yahoo! was thus condemned to pay Euros 100 000 per day that Mein Kampf, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion and other revisionist items were available to French customers <ref> Legalis.net on a 2000 French juridical decision about Mein Kampf and other Nazi and revisionist items sold by Yahoo! </ref>.

In 1999, the Simon Wiesenthal Center documented that major Internet booksellers like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com sell Mein Kampf to Germany. After a public outcry, both companies agreed to stop those sales. The book is currently available through both companies.

An Arabic edition of Mein Kampf has been published by Bisan publishers in Lebanon.

A new Turkish edition was reported to be a bestseller in Turkey in 2005. <ref>Mein Kampf sales soar in Turkey The Guardian, March 29, 2005 </ref> <ref>Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' sells 50,000 copies in Turkey in three months, The Daily Star, March 18, 2005</ref> Public-domain copies of Mein Kampf are available at various Internet sites with links to banned books; also, several Web sites provide copies of the book.

In Finland, Spain, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia the book is freely available.

The Sequel

After the party's poor showing in the 1928 elections, Hitler believed the reason for loss was that the public did not fully understand his ideas. He retired to Munich to dictate a sequel to Mein Kampf which focused on foreign policy, expanding on the ideas of Mein Kampf and suggested that around 1980, a final struggle would take place for world domination between the United States and the combined forces of Greater Germany and the British Empire.

Only two copies of the 200 page manuscript were originally made, and only one of these has ever been made public. Kept strictly secret under Hitler's orders, the document was placed in a safe in an air raid shelter in 1935 where it remained until its discovery by an American officer in 1945. The authenticity of the book has been verified by Josef Berg (former employee of the Nazi publishing house Eher Verlag), and Telford Taylor (former Brigadier General U.S.A.R., and Chief Counsel at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials). The book was never edited nor published during the Nazi Germany era, and remains known as "Zweites Buch" (Second Book). The "Zweites Buch" was first discovered in the Nazi archives being held in the United States by the German-born American historian Gerhard Weinberg in 1958. Unable to find an American publisher, Weinberg turned to his mentor Hans Rothfels and his associate Martin Broszat at the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, who published "Zweites Buch" in 1961. A pirated edition was published in English in New York, 1962. The first authoritative English edition was not published until 2003 (Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, ISBN 1929631162).

Historical Debates

There are a number of historical debates concerning the material in Mein Kampf.

Globalists vs Continentists

One of the more important debates concerns the battle between the Continentists such as Hugh Trevor-Roper and Eberhard Jäckel who argue Hitler wished only to conquer Europe and the Globalists such as Gerhard Weinberg, Milan Hauner, Gunter Moltmann, Meier Michaelis, and Andreas Hillgruber who argue Hitler wanted to conquer the entire world. The chief source of contention between the Continentists and Globalists is the "Zweites Buch".

The Globalists argue that because Hitler states that after Germany defeated the United States, then Germany would rule the entire world, that clearly proves his intentions were global in reach. The Continentists argue that because Hitler predicts the war between the United States and Germany as beginning sometime ca. 1980 and that because Hitler was born in 1889, that the task of winning this war in 1980s would presumably fall to one of Hitler's successors. The Continentists believe that Hitler for his own life-time would be content with merely ruling Europe.

Intentionalists vs Functionalists

Mein Kampf has assumed a key place in the Functionalism versus intentionalism debate. Intentionalists insist that the passage stating that if only 10,000–15,000 Jews were gassed, then Germany would have won World War One, proves quite clearly that Hitler had a master plan for the genocide of the Jewish people going . Functionalists deny this assertion, noting that the passage does not call for the destruction of the entire Jewish people, and note that although Mein Kampf is suffused with an extreme anti-Semitism, it is the only time in the entire book that Hitler ever explicitly refers to the murder of Jews. Given that Mein Kampf is 694 pages long, Functionalist historians have accused the Intentionalists of making too much out of one sentence.

Functionalist historians have argued that the memorandum written by Heinrich Himmler to Hitler on May 25, 1940, regarding the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”, whose proposals Hitler accepted, proves that there was no master plan for genocide going all the way back in the day of the 1920's. In the memorandum, Himmler rejected genocide under the grounds that one must reject “…the Bolshevik method of physical extermination of a people out of inner conviction as un-German and impossible” and went on to argue that something similar to the "Madagascar Plan" be the preferred “territorial solution” to the “Jewish Question”. In addition, Functionalist historians have noted that in Mein Kampf Hitler states the only anti-Semitic policies he will carry out are the 25 Point Platform of the Nazi Party, adopted in February 1920, which demands that only “Aryan” Germans be allowed to publish newspapers and own department stores, the banning of Jewish immigration, the expulsion of all Ostjuden (Eastern Jews; i.e. Jews from Eastern Europe) who had arrived in Germany since 1914, and stripping all German Jews of their German citizenship. Though these demands do reflect a hateful anti-Semitism, in the view of the Functionalists they do not amount to a program for genocide. Beyond that, some historians have claimed though Hitler was clearly obsessed with anti-Semitism, his degree of anti-Semitic hatred contained in Mein Kampf is no better or worse than that contained in the writings and speeches of earlier volkisch leaders such as Wilhelm Marr, Georg Ritter von Schönerer, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, and Karl Lueger, all of whom routinely called Jews a "disease" and "vermin"; and all of whom Hitler cites as an inspiration in Mein Kampf.

Functionalist historians have pointed out that there is no evidence linking Hitler to the decision to use poison gas to commit mass murder. The use of poison gas for mass murder began in 1939 for the T-4 Euthanasia Program when the program’s directors were looking for a more efficient way of killing large numbers of people rather than merely injecting each victim with a needle. Though documentation proves that Hitler ordered the T-4 Euthanasia Program in January 1939, there is no evidence that Hitler gave any orders for the use of poison gas. The mass murder of Jews began in the summer of 1941 with massacres committed by the Einsatzgruppen in the occupied parts of the Soviet Union. Until December 1941, the Einsatzgruppen always shot their victims. Ultimately, Heinrich Himmler decided in August 1941 that mass shooting was too inefficient, and so imported the experts from the T-4 Euthanasia Program to devise methods of gassing Jews, first with gas trucks, and later with gas chambers. There is no evidence that Hitler gave any orders for the SS to switch from mass shooting to mass gassing. Furthermore, all of the perpetrators who were brought to trial after the war such as Rudolf Hoess and Adolf Eichmann always stated the decision to use poison gas was something that the SS decided upon themselves as they felt it was more efficient than mass shooting. In view of these facts, Functionalist historians argue there is no connection between what Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf and the decision to use poison gas for mass murder starting in December 1941 with the gas trucks at the Chełmno death camp. In regard to the Chełmno death camp, the British historian Sir Ian Kershaw, in his article “`Improvised genocide'?: The emergence of the `Final Solution’ in the Warthegau”, published in the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society in 1992, has noted that the decision to use gas trucks was done in a highly ad hoc and makeshift manner, which does not support the Intentionalist view that the use of the poison gas was a part of a master plan going all the way to 1924.


<references />


  • Hitler, Adolf, Mein Kampf
  • Hitler, Adolf Hitler's Second Book : The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf edited by Gerhard L. Weinberg Enigma Books, 2003 ISBN 1929631162.
  • Hauner, Milan "Did Hitler Want World Domination?" pages 15-32 from Journal of Contemporary History, Volume 13, 1978.
  • Hillgruber, Andreas, Germany And The Two World Wars, translated by William C. Kirby, Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1981 ISBN 0674353218.
  • Jäckel, Eberhard Hitler's Weltanschauung : A Blueprint For Power , translated from the German by Herbert Arnold , Middletown Conn. : Wesleyan University Press, 1972 ISBN 0819540420.
  • Michaelis, Meier "World Power Status or World Dominion" pages 331-360 from Historical Journal, Volume 15, 1972.
  • Moltmann, Gunter "Weltherrschatfsideen Hitlers" pages 197-240 from Europa und Übersee Festschrift Für Egmont Zechlin edited by O. Brunner & D. Gerhard, Hamburg, 1961.
  • Rich, Norman Hitler's War Aims, New York : Norton, 1973 ISBN 0393054543.
  • Trevor-Roper, Hugh "Hitlers Kriegsziele" pages 121-133 from Vierteljahreshefe für Zeitsgeschichte, Volume 8, 1960.

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