Mein Kampf (German for "My Struggle") is a book written by 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 ("A reckoning") 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 “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 (simply "My Struggle", or "My Battle").
Hitler dictated the book during his imprisonment in Landsberg to Emil Maurice, 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.
The book outlines major ideas that culminated in the horrors of World War II. 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, he claimed that the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot, and makes arguments towards 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 in which he became increasingly anti-Semitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna. In one early chapter, he wrote about how he noticed Jews in the city streets for the first time and then asked himself 'Was that a German?'
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. He also announced that Germany needed to obtain new territory: Lebensraum. This new soil 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.
Hitler presented himself as the "Übermensch", frequently rendered as the somewhat ambiguous "Superman" (overman, superman or hyperman are equally correct translations, but superman has certain cultural associations in English), that the basically a-political Friedrich Nietzsche had referred to in his writings, especially in his book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It is doubtful that Hitler read any Nietzsche beyond a superficial level, as Nietzsche did not refer to his overman in the way in which Hitler would refer to him. For Nietzsche it was a man who could overcome himself (hence overman and not superman) by controlling his impulses and would be able to channel this energy into something creative. The nationalism and anti-semitism that was indeed growing in Nietzsche's time was something which Nietzsche despised and wrote about continuously: there is probably no other writer from Germany that insulted the Germans more than Nietzsche. Since Hitler blamed the current parliamentary government for much of the ills against which he raged, he announced that he wanted to completely destroy that type of government.
Mein Kampf makes clear Hitler's racist worldview, dividing humans up based on ancestry. Hitler stated that German "Aryans" with blond hair and blue eyes were at the top of the hierarchy (Hitler himself had brown hair and blue eyes), 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 Aryan 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 Jews.
Popularity prior to the Second World War
Before Hitler's election in 1933, the book sold very slowly; but in 1933 alone it sold 1.5m copies. Although the NSDAP (the National Socialist German Workers' Party) claimed that it was already a huge seller, documents revealed following World War II showed this to be false. Some historians have speculated that a wider reading 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 truly reflect the contents of the book. In 1939 he was sued by Hitler 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.
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 and avoid the attentions of the Gestapo. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been distributed in Germany.
Today, the copyright of all editions of Mein Kampf except the English and the Dutch (Dutch government seized that in the same way) 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 generally illegal. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf.
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 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.
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.
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. However, some of those copies are edited in a dubious way, for example to replace the many references to Christianity in the book with neo-Pagan ones.
After the party's poor showing in the 1928 elections, Hitler believed the reason for loss was that the public didn't fully understand his ideas. He retired to Munich to dictate a sequel to Mein Kampf which focused on foreign policy. The book was never published, due either to his first book's poor sales or that it revealed too much of his plans. The book was locked in his publisher's safe and was not discovered until 1958. The first authoritative English edition was not published until 2003 (Hitler's Second Book: The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf, ISBN 1929631162).
Last updated: 09-03-2005 18:37:12