Hitler returns as a best-selling author

Knapps

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09, Jan 2017

An annotated version of Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf has sold about 85,000 German-language copies since the copyright on the book expired on December 31, 2015. The book returns as Germany sees the far-right groups rising in popularity in the backdrop of resentment against immigrants. Mein Kampf was once ridiculed as a madman’s propaganda before the madman became the world’s most powerful leader and brought each point of his propaganda into action.

What has ‘surprised’ and ‘shocked’ many?

*"Perhaps never in history did a ruler write down before he came to power what he was to do afterwards as precisely as Adolf Hitler." ~* Eberhard Jäckel, Historian, 1981

Sales of a new, special edition of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) are skyrocketing since a German publisher brought it to market last year. The new edition is the first reprint since World War II, and includes some 3,500 annotations (critical notes by scholars).

  • After Nazi Germany was defeated in 1945, the Allied forces handed the copyright to the state of Bavaria in Germany.The copyright lapsed on 31 December, 2015 because under German law copyright lasts for 70 years. This made the book available to everyone for publishing. The new edition of the book was published immediately after the copyright expiration, at the beginning of 2016. The new edition's publisher is the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich.
  • “Hitler, Mein Kampf, A Critical Edition,” spent 35 weeks in 2016 on Der Spiegel’s best-seller list, according to the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich.
  • About 85,000 German-language copies of the anti-Semitic Nazi manifesto have been sold. Andreas Wirsching, Director of publisher IfZ, said "the figures overwhelmed us".
  • Because most orders are handled through booksellers, the institute said it had been unable to compile statistics on exactly who had bought the two-volume 2,000-page edition. But based on reporting by German regional and local newspapers, the buyers “do not appear to be far-right extremists or other radicals”, it said. It offered no proof to support this claim.

What’s in a book anyway

Quite a lot, if the author goes by the name of Adolf Hitler.

Why has this revelation triggered debate?

Fear of the ‘Far Right’

The far right or extreme right is a political label used to identify parties and movements based on fascist, racist and/or extremely reactionary ideologies.Officially those on the far right embrace the concept of the "inequality of outcome", meaning that one group is naturally better than another. The beginning of World War II is usually blamed on the rise of far right fascist groups in Germany (under Adolf Hitler) and Italy (under Benito Mussolini).

No one cares anymore about what Mussolini wrote or said, but Hitler cannot be taken lightly, even 71 years after his death.

  • With the rise of far-right movements across Europe, ranging from Greece’s Golden Dawn party to the resurgent popularity of the swastika in Western Ukraine, many believe the republication of Mein Kampf to be a mistake. Even the election of Donald Trump as US President and the British vote to exit (Brexit) the European Union were deemed to be examples of far right sentiments gaining ground in the Western nations.
  • France is the next frontier. Many believe Brexit and Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections could give new impetus to France's National Front. Established in 1972 and now led by Marine Le Pen, the National Front is a nationalist party that uses populist rhetoric to promote its anti-immigration and anti-EU positions.
  • The fear is that the new publication will make Hitler’s propaganda more widely available, and therefore, more widely persuasive than if the book had stayed out of print.
  • The biggest of all fears is the rise of German far right.Alternative for Germany (AfD) began as a euroskeptic party but quickly turned into an anti-establishment and anti-European Union force, claiming up to 25 percent of votes in German state elections in March 2016 and taking second place in Chancellor Angela Merkel's home state.
  • After narrowly missing the 5 percent needed to enter national parliament in the 2013 elections, polls now suggest the AfD will receive 16 percent of the national vote in 2017, making it the third-largest political party in Germany, after Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), part of Merkel’s grand coalition.

The Jews are understandably angry

Due to his own original special nature, the Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form, and hence belief in a hereafter is absolutely foreign to him. And a religion in the Aryan sense cannot be imagined which lacks the conviction of survival after death in some form. Indeed, the Talmud (Jewish holy book) is not a book to prepare a man for the hereafter, but only for a practical and profitable life in this world. ~ Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

The decision to republish the inflammatory book has been criticized by Jewish groups. Mein Kampf sets out racist ideas that the Nazis put into practice later, including the denigration and oppression of Jews, the race Hitler detested and would later want eliminated.

  • “This volume of scorning propaganda must remain prohibited”, Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, had protested (when the ban was lifted), specifying that “law enforcement authorities should rigorously prosecute the distribution and sale of the book.”
  • Hitler went, in this book, to the extent of calling the Jews as incarnation of devil:“...the personification of the devil as the symbol of all evil assumes the living shape of the Jew”.
  • He believed he had a divine mandate to ‘fight’ the Jews: “…by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

When was the book written?

Mein Kampf was written in two volumes between 1924 and 1926. Volume 1 was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926. The book was edited by Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess. After hearing Hitler speak for the first time in 1920 at a Munich rally, Hess had become completely devoted to him. They held a shared belief in the stab-in-the-back myth, the notion that Germany's loss in World War I was caused by a conspiracy of Jews and Communists rather than a military defeat. It is important to note that though Germany lost comprehensively in the Great War (World War I), since it was not invaded, most people, including ordinary soldiers - one of whom was Hitler - believed it were the leaders who let the nation down by negotiating a peace deal.

The first volume was written while Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, was imprisoned in a Bavarian fortress after the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch in November 1923.

  • The Beer Hall Putsch was a failed coup attempt by Adolf Hitler — along with Nazi sympathizers — to seize power in Munich, Bavaria. About 2000 men marched to the centre of Munich, where they confronted the police, which resulted in the death of 16 Nazis and four policemen. Hitler himself was wounded during the clash. After two days, Hitler was arrested and charged with treason.
  • For some time Hitler thought his dream of leading Germany to resurgence was over. Then he regained his spirit and brilliantly used the train and the prison time to further his political agenda.
  • The putsch brought Hitler to the attention of the German nation (here was a man - an ex-soldier ready to die for the honour of his nation) and even made him an international celerity for a few days.Hitler turned the 24-day trial into an opportunity to publicize his nationalist sentiment to the nation. Hitler had understood the importance of media and would forever use it for his political objectives.
  • Hitler was found guilty of treason and sentenced, quite leniently, to five years in Landsberg Prison.He would be released in just 9 months - for good behaviour and because no one in power considered him a threat.
  • Hitler also changed his strategy. In spite of his hatred for democracy, he decided that the immediate path to power was through legitimate means rather than revolution or force.“If I can’t outshoot them, I will outvote them first.” He would win over the people in the coming years.
  • He had used his time in prison to produce Mein Kampf, which he dictated to Rudolf Hess, his fellow prisoner. Those were a productive set of 9 months because they decided the course of what not just Germany, but the entire world would do for the next two decades.

It may be important to note here that Hitler believed more in the power of ‘the spoken word’ than in the appeal of ‘the written word’. In fact, he wrote in ‘Author’s Introduction’ (the first section of Mein Kampf), “I know that fewer people are won over by the written word than by the spoken word and that every great movement on this earth owes its growth to great speakers and not to great writers”.

  • Not even his worst critics would doubt that Hitler was one of the greatest orators of all time. His speeches were hair-raising spectacles in oratory excellence. He could move masses merely with his powerful words. In fact, he once said that those who cannot move masses should not call themselves leaders.
  • But he did more than his best in explaining his beliefs to his growing rank of followers through the 2000 written words in his book.

He dedicated the book to the 16 men who died along his side during the failed coup. In fact, he named each of them, offering them a ‘common burial’ in the book.

“So-called national officials refused to allow the dead heroes a common burial. So I dedicate the first volume of this work to them as a common memorial, that the memory of those martyrs may be a permanent source of light for the followers of our Movement”.

Where did Hitler drop hints about how he would seize power?

Hitler did not just drop hints - very transparently and boldly (though not practically) he actually laid down his future methods and goals. One knapp is not enough to capture all of that (yes we have read the book and we are not starting World War III); so we focus on what would become his weapon of first order in the coming years.

On propaganda

What elevated Hitler from being an ordinary out-of-work ex-soldier to the position from where he could decide the destiny of Germany If you have to answer this in just one word, that word has to be Propaganda.

Hitler dedicates a separate chapter to why wartime propaganda is important if wars have to be won. He advises to keep the propaganda simple so that ordinary people could understand it. Here are a few excerpts from the idea which he would relentlessly implement to rise to power:

  • The whole art consists in doing this so skillfully that everyone will be convinced that the fact is real, the process necessary, the necessity correct, etc.
  • All propaganda must be popular and its intellectual level must be adjusted to the most limited intelligence among those it is addressed to.
  • The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.
  • The function of propaganda is, for example, not to weigh and ponder the rights of different people, but exclusively to emphasize the one right which it has set out to argue for.
  • When there is a change, it must not alter the content of what the propaganda is driving at, but in the end must always say the same thing.
  • This spiritual weapon [propaganda] can succeed only if it is applied on a tremendous scale, but that success amply covers all costs.

Hitler emphasized that it would be a mistake to attack the enemy through propaganda (because then the enemy would find it easier to fight back in the same measure). Rather, the focus should be on what makes Germany great.

He would keep a simple message as the basis of his propaganda - that the pure Germans were the "master race" and they would rise again out of their own labor.

  • If we were to divide mankind into three groups, the founders of culture, the bearers of culture, the destroyers of culture, only the Aryan could be considered as the representative of the first group.

Who were villainized in Mein Kampf?

It is interesting to note that Hitler hated the Social Democrats and the Marxists as well but even here he believed that the democrats and Marxists were working for the Jews.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler positions the Jews as just the opposite of the Aryan master-race. They, he says, are the destroyers of culture and are forever concerned only in their own preservation. He blames them for Germany’s loss in the Great War.

  • Hitler admits that he did not bother much about the talks about Jewish conspiracy (Jew-hating or anti-semitism was around for a long time) till he came to Vienna. Later he accepted the same anti-semitic views, which became crucial in his program of national reconstruction of Germany.
  • In Hitler’s fatherland Germany, the Jews would find no place. In fact, he wanted all of them sent to the island of Madagascar. And when that was not possible, the Nazis proposed and to some extent implemented ‘the final solution’ (elimination of Jews).
  • Throughout Mein Kampf, Hitler refers to Jews as parasites, liars, dirty, crafty, sly, wily, clever, without any true culture, a sponger, a middleman, a maggot, eternal blood suckers, repulsive, unscrupulous, monsters, foreign, menace, bloodthirsty, avaricious, the destroyer of Aryan humanity, and the mortal enemy of Aryan humanity...

Who would provide the Germans with ‘living space’

Hitler called it Lebensraum.

  • In the chapter "Eastern Orientation or Eastern Policy", Hitler argued that the Germans needed Lebensraum in the East, a "historic destiny" that would properly nurture the German people.
  • Hitler believed that "the organization of a Russian state formation was not the result of the political abilities of the Slavs in Russia, but only a wonderful example of the state-forming efficacity of the German element in an inferior race."

Hitler would remain so committed to fulfilling this vision that he would - in a surprise and erroneous move - attack the Soviet Union (an ally till then) to claim Germany’s living space. This compelled him to fight a two-front war.

How was the response to Mein Kampf?

The original title Hitler chose was "Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice." His Nazi publisher, thankfully for Hitler, shortened it to "Mein Kampf," simply My Struggle.

The first response to the book was the kind of response any book that lengthy usually gets.

  • When Mein Kampf was first released in 1925 it sold poorly. People had been hoping for a spicy autobiography or at least a behind-the-scenes story of the Beer Hall Putsch. What they got were hundreds of pages of long, hard to follow sentences and wandering paragraphs composed by a self-educated man.

Giving up was, unfortunately for the world, not a virtue of Adolf Hitler. If they did not read it voluntarily, he would one day make them all read it compulsorily.

  • After Hitler became Chancellor of Germany, millions of copies were sold. It was considered ‘proper’ to own a copy and to give one to newlyweds, high school graduates, or to celebrate any similar occasion. It was considered highly inappropriate to not have a copy of Mein Kampf in your house. You could be reported by your neighbor for treason.
  • But few Germans ever read it cover to cover. Although it made him rich (through royalties), it is believed that Hitler later expressed regret that he produced Mein Kampf, considering the extent of its revelations. He had opened his heart and with that, all of his strategy.

The book was a best-seller in the Nazi era, selling more than 12 million copies in 18 languages.

Even the influential Jewish press had ignored the book in 1925, dismissing it as a madman’s random ranting. Now that the book, in 2016, has sold 85000 copies, most analysts say it is hardly a number to worry about.

History is funny in that it repeats itself.

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