Book Review: Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler

Mein Kampf

– Adolf Hitler

Mein Kampf - Adofl Hitler - book cover

About the book:

I finally completed reading Mein Kampf, the memoir with his political worldview, written by Adolf Hitler. The book has two volumes. He finished writing the first volume when he was serving a prison sentence for his failed coup attempt in 1923. He wrote the 2nd volume after he was released from prison. The book was first published in 1925.

Why I wanted to read this book?

I decided to read the book because I was very interested in understanding the personality and the human being inside Adolf Hitler despite him being one of the most inhumane humans in the history of human civilization. I wanted to learn what impact reading this book might have had on ordinary German people in Germany, Austria & living elsewhere in Europe back then. in the late 1920’s and 1930’s.

Other than that I also wanted to find out when & why he became an anti-semite; what his ideal world view was; and how he played a crucial role in the rise of the Third Reich. The main intention of me reading this book was to study & understand why Hitler became the person he became and who & what shaped his life’s path as it turned out to be.

I read the English translation of the book by James Murphy as translated in 1939. Reading the book was a bit challenging & time consuming and at times very boring. Challenging & time consuming because Hitler goes back into history of Germany & Europe mostly from time before the Franco-Prussian war to the rise of the second reich & thereafter. So, I had to constantly google up the historical events he was talking about or referencing to understand the context of what he was saying; and it was boring because I didn’t find the quality of writing or the storytelling good enough to make it interesting. If one knows how he was as a speaker & an orator they can easily say the book is written in the same way.

As written in the book, Hitler never thought that being able to write in an interesting and articulate way is worth it to be a great leader. So, when reading the book one can easily understand why the writing is not up to a standard one might expect. The writing standard of the book makes a reader feel that reading it might just be a waste of time. One can feel this in many sections of the book especially where Hitler goes on rant with his monologues. So, by now you must have got the idea why finishing reading this book took me so long.

Regarding this blog, well I’ve already written a few paragraphs above, about my reading of the book, so, to cover everything that I think are important things to remember from the book and to write about my understanding of Adolf Hitler as a human being along with his socio-political worldview will not be possible in this single blog. So, I’ll discuss mostly the contents of the first volume of the book in this blog and I’ll probably write another blog discussing the second volume. And I plan to write a third blog about Adolf Hitler and how I understand him as a human being and other aspects those I learnt from the book.

What I intend to write here?

The book with its two volumes covers such a diverse range of topics that it will be very difficult to discuss everything here in this one article. The book is basically a combination of Hitler’s memoir, his political manifesto as well as his view of preserving and continuing the highest class of human race, the Aryan race through selective breeding. The things I describe here are my own interpretation to the best of my understanding after reading the book and cross-referring many other sources for the things I didn’t know, didn’t understand straight-away or couldn’t understand clearly or at all.

I will break down the contents into different sections based on the timeline in Adolf Hitler’s life where possible so that it would be easy for you to understand the events chronologically.

1. Hitler’s Childhood (1889 – 1907):

Hitler begins the book talking about his birth in the Austrian town of Braunau-on-the-Inn near the then German border and how fortunate it has turned out to be, to him, in retrospect as he envisioned combining the Austrian empire into the Great German empire. He talks about his parents. His father was an Austrian civil servant and his mother looked after his household. His childhood and his teen years were spent in his birth town and then moving across the border to Germany and then moving back to Austria once again, all the time with his parents. Hitler describes that he began to form ideals of life when his father retired and moved to a small Austrian town Lambach.

Hitler mentions that after seeing his father’s career as a civil servant he never had any desire to do such types of jobs in his life. Hitler himself thought that he was not an easy child to grow for his mother as he used to mix up with some of the roughest boys (probably from the school and his neighborhood). He also feels that his inborn talent as a speaker started to take shape during this time as he regularly got into arguments with his comrades (they must be his not so friendly friends from his neighborhood or school). He also talks about getting into small disputes with his father.

Hitler first began to get interested in military subjects when he found his father’s collection of publications & books that dealt with military subjects, primarily the Franco-German war of 1870-71. He states that these publications became his favorite readings. He also mentions that this great war slowly started to take first place in his mind. He slowly starts questioning why some Germans decided to fight in the war for their country while others (including his own father) didn’t? He also asks his then benign mind why Austria didn’t take part supporting Germany? At that age he thought that not all Germans were lucky enough to be part of Otto von Bismark’s German Empire.

2. Becoming an adult and rise of his anti-semitic views (Vienna 1907 – 1913):

Hitler puts his worldview of creating a Great German Reich and turning Germany into the supreme power in Europe straight from the start of the book. He wanted to create a great common nation for all German people spread across central Europe. He wanted Germany to only pursue its imperial ambition overseas after establishing a great home nation for the German people ensuring enough resources for them.

Hitler lost both his parents (father in 1903) by 1907 when he was in his late teens. He left Lintz for Vienna that same year to pursue further study in fine arts. He tried getting admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts twice and failed both times. In Vienna he had to do many different jobs to support himself financially, from working as a draughtsman, to selling his paintings in which he had decent skills and understanding. He had a keen sense of skill for drawing architectural buildings & landscapes and made additional money drawing & selling these paintings. He describes this stage of his life in Vienna being the most difficult one for him, having to do multiple jobs just to get by.

Regarding his anti-semitic views, Hitler doesn’t provide any specific time frame when anti-semitism started to take a strong hold in his brain. But reading the book I think it started to take deeper roots in his brain after his move to Vienna as he was exposed to the already prevalent antisemitism in the city.

Hitler says that he was an avid reader and when he was not doing work or paying occasional visits to opera, he would be reading. He had keen interest in reading history, philosophy & military publications. He refers to authors such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain as thinkers. Chamberlain was a philosopher who promoted antisemitic views in his writings & publications. This also shows that antisemitism grew stronger in his beliefs as he continued reading such books and publications during his time in Vienna.

While in Vienna his distaste for the Habsburg monarchy started to take shape and only grew stronger. He blamed the House of Habsburg for allowing multi-ethnic society to be developed in the Austro-Hungarian empire which led to the weakening of the Germanic-Austrian identity in the empire.

3. Move to Munich & World War I (1914 – 1918):

Hitler moved to Munich, Germany in 1914 and was living there when the first World War (WWI) began. When the war started he enlisted in the Bavarian Army voluntarily and was sent to the Western Front around Belgium. He was wounded in the Battle of Somme (today lies in north-western France) on Oct 7, 1916 from where he was sent to hospital in Germany by ambulance train.

Hitler begins to understand the role & importance of propaganda while actively being involved in the war observing it from inside the battleground and outside it. He notices how powerful a properly run propaganda system can be to slowly turn the war into one’s favor.

He calls out the political leaders of Germany for failing to provide the German Army at the frontlines with needed moral support and munitions at the crucial time in the war. It was when protests were organized at munition factories in Germany that battlefield efforts in the frontlines were hampered. Hitler says the losing allied forces utilized these events to successfully run propaganda campaigns motivating their forces in the frontlines while the German nation was pushed into internal chaos demoralizing her army in the frontlines. He blames the German loss in the war on multiple internal factors rather than the strength of external forces.

4. Fall of the Second Reich (1918-19):

Adolf Hitler doesn’t put the blame of Germany losing in the Great War to its military. He says there were many different factors internally & externally leading to the loss of Germany in the war and the collapse of the Reich thereafter. He says the poor education system in Germany only produced manpower with knowledge but no practical & physical ability resulting in weak, inefficient & unskilled manpower. Hitler states that the economy of the nation was being controlled by money-grabbing capitalists via the stock market from outside Germany assisted by the Marxist movement. He blames the Judaizing of German society & spiritual life with Jews controlling or affecting major businesses, politicians and the press for weak German society. He also points out the weakening of the German monarchy with its members not being able to adapt to the changing political circumstances and thinking of their personal benefits before the monarchy & the empire as another cause for the fall of the German empire.

In the German government before the war and during the war, Hitler says, the leaders failed to take the responsibility of making crucial decisions at critical times which led to half-hearted measures being taken by the government. He also blames structuring and working of German government & society for failing to protect its citizens from virulent diseases like Syphilis & Tuberculosis which led to sickness & death of many young men & women. Another important reason Hitler points out is the declining feeling of strong nationalism in Germany i.e people failing to recognise their history & appreciate their art & culture and allowing Bolshevization of German arts. This, he believed, led to people not having a strong sense of national unity to provide much needed moral support for the soldiers on the frontlines when it mattered the most.

Hitler also puts a massive blame on the parliamentary system of Governance for the loss in the war. He says, this system allowed political leaders to bear no personal responsibility for anything they did or didn’t do and the system always made it easy for such leaders to shift blame to others.

5. Race & People:

Hitler dedicates the 11th Chapter titled “Race & People”, of the first volume of his book to discuss his racial view in detail. He says that only the people belonging to the highest class of human race should be allowed to bear children. He believes that the disabled people, people suffering from diseases and physically weak people should not be allowed to procreate for they will transfer their inherent problems to their posterity.

Similarly he says that the Aryan race to which all Germans belong is the highest race of human beings and its purity should be preserved to ensure the growth and evolution of the human race. He maintains that genius is present in a child from the time of his birth and this innate quality can never result from education or training.

Failing to preserve the purity of the race, he says, will lead to the birth of hybrids who may have stronger traits & resistance to disease than the parent who belongs to weaker race but they will surely have weaker traits and have weaker resistance to diseases than the other parent who belongs to the higher class of race. So, Hitler believed, this one day will lead to the decline of the race & ultimately the collapse of human civilization. Thus, he states the state should bear the responsibility of preserving the purity of the blood of its highest class of citizens by preventing people from outside the race to marry and have children with Aryan people.

Adolf Hitler talks about the Jews in extreme derogatory terms. He doesn’t consider them to be humans and talks about them compared with rats who unite only when they sense danger to their existence. And when the threat is apparently averted their natural ego returns and will turn into a swarm fighting each other. He believes since the Jews never had their state they are deliberately trying to intermingle with the German people, bear children with them and one day plan to rule over the German empire and its people.

6. Beginning of the Nazi Party (1919-20):

Hitler covers the founding of the German National Socialist Party & the basis for its manifesto in the last chapter of the first volume of his book. He discusses why & how Germany was forced to sign a treaty bearing heavy loss of the war. He blames the signing of the unjustifiable treaty to the lack of courage on the part of the conservative German leaders then. He also blames the left wing leaders for abandoning the national interest and accepting the disarmament of Germany.

He sees the problem in re-establishing the power of Germany as not being how they can manufacture arms but rather being the will of the people to bear arms again. He feels there is a severe lack of national interest overall among people and feels the need to produce that spirit after which people & the nation will easily find a thousand ways to arm themselves. He sees a severe issue regarding national self-preservation among the German bourgeois people & the proletariat alike.

Again here, Hitler says that the Jews will not be standing by whenever Germany attempts its revival and they will try to sabotage any such political action .

Regarding Germany’s foreign policy after the war, Hitler wanted Great Britain to be an ally of Germany in the long run because he believed they shared the common enemy in Communism represented by the Soviet Union. Also he believed that the British government along with its people had the necessary brutality in their commitments & actions to be a trustable ally of Germany.

Hitler also outlines the importance of propaganda and how meticulously any propaganda campaign should be planned & executed for any political campaign to be a success. He says the message of any propaganda and the way it is expressed should be kept on level with the intelligence of the masses.

He then talks in 14 points about how his political manifesto will be carried out within the party preparing it to take control of Germany. In them he emphasizes that any decision taken by the government should not come from a majority vote which allows leaders to not take the authority and shift the responsibility. He also says that the political movement should not be aiming at any religious reformation and should be strictly politically motivated to reorganize the German people. He also wants the party to be as efficient & ruthless as it can be in the execution of its political actions and doesn’t want many intermediaries between the top leadership position and the individual followers. He wants the political movement to give a strong message to Marxists that they wouldn’t be an alternative political doctrine in Germany and that they would be shattered in the due course.

He also doesn’t want his party aligning with other parties or have other parties align to his. Doing so, he says, poses a great danger to derail the political movement from its core agenda. He also wants his political movement to cultivate respect for individual personality and says:

… all human values are based on personal values, and that every idea and achievement is the fruit of the creative power of one man.

He then once again goes on to highlight that the revival of Germany is not possible until the racial problem has been dealt with.

During the initial days of Hitler’s political career, he says that the German Workers Party, which was also in its early days, had a very humble beginning with very few people coming to party meetings and gatherings. He also talks about being unable to publish pamphlets and leaflets for the political campaigns & propaganda due to the lack of enough funds. Also he talks about outside saboteurs who tried to sabotage the party meetings and how they were dealt forcefully by his comrades.

As the party gradually grew, Hitler took over the role for organizing the propaganda campaign for which he says he didn’t make any compromise in carrying it out.

Please click on the Next Post link below to read my next article on this book.

What’s next from me?

Next, I’ll be writing another article on the second volume of this book.

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