Whatever Its Influence on Nazi Doctrine, “Mein Kampf” Gave a Crystal-Clear Picture of Its Author’s Intentions https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/history-ideas/2016/09/whatever-its-influence-on-nazi-doctrine-mein-kampf-gave-a-crystal-clear-picture-of-its-authors-intentions/

September 19, 2016 | Anson Rabinbach
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Reviewing a recently published German-language edition of Adolf Hitler’s 1925 manifesto, together with the first volume of Volker Ullrich’s projected three-volume biography of the dictator, Anson Rabinbach comments on Mein Kampf’s actual influence and what can be learned from it:

Mein Kampf was neither ignored nor was it merely decorative, as the myth of the book would later have it. [True,] it was rarely quoted [during the period of Nazi rule] and apart from minor alterations it remained largely unchanged over the years. Tellingly, there were no authorized abridged versions or compendia of its most quotable passages. . . . As the totemic expression of the identity of thought and person, of Hitler’s singular path to racial and national awakening, its authority was instead ritualistic, immune to any demystifying critique of its content.

In short, it never became the canonical statement of National Socialist doctrine. It was more suitable and more profitable as a present, for example, the “marriage edition” given at civil ceremonies to all newlywed couples at state expense.

Nonetheless, in his new biography, Volker Ullrich rightly observes that “it must be assumed that convinced National Socialists read at least major parts of it,” and the fact that it was borrowed frequently from libraries also speaks to a genuine popular interest. . . .

Whether Hitler actually envisioned a war to revise the hated Versailles [treaty, as he urges in the book], remains, the editors remark, “mostly unclear or undeveloped.” Not so, his ruminations on racial eugenics and, even more so, his anti-Semitism: “The Jewish race is everywhere and at all times the incarnation of evil.” Here the rhetoric of extermination and elimination is abundant. . . .

Ullrich insists that [Hitler] never wavered from the ideological fixations that he had adopted in the early 1920s. First and foremost in this outlook was his fanatical anti-Semitism, which saw the removal of Jews from German society as an absolute necessity. “Indeed, [writes Ullrich,] in Mein Kampf Hitler had spelled out with exemplary clarity everything he intended to do if he was ever given power.”

Read more on Times Literary Supplement: http://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/struggle-with-reality/