Publishing Mein Kampf is the best way to undermine Hitler’s poison

February 25th, 2015

A manga version of the book was published in Japan

3) Mein Kampf is an important historical document. It is arguably invaluable reading for students who wish to understand the way that a significant minority of Germans thought in the 1920s and 1930s, thus helping contemporary readers to understand the social conditions that made the Third Reich possible.

4) Perversely, making Mein Kampf available in this format could be a useful weapon against the Far Right. The Far Right often try to whitewash the Nazi era by claiming that a) the Holocaust never happened, b) what little persecution of the Jews that did take place did so without Hitler’s direct order and c) the Third Reich was the victim of Western aggression and never wanted a world war. Reading Mein Kampf rubbishes all these claims. Hitler clearly states that Jews are part of a grand conspiracy to destroy Germany through Marxism and racial impurity, and that they have to be purged form society. He uses language that eerily predicts the horrors of Auschwitz when stating that the First World War could have been won: “If at the beginning of the War… twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.” Likewise, he proposes that Germans require lebensraum in Europe – a living space that would become the goal of eastward expansion in 1939. In short, while Hitler was certainly an opportunist and his state surprisingly decentralised in structure, he operated by a clear ideological vision that is laid out in Mein Kampf.

5) Subjected to proper critical analysis, Mein Kampf reads like an absurd, paranoid, semi-illiterate pamphlet – it debunks itself. George Orwell’s scathing review nailed it: “The initial, personal cause of [Hitler’s] grievance against the universe can only be guessed at; but at any rate the grievance is here. He is the martyr, the victim, Prometheus chained to the rock, the self-sacrificing hero who fights single-handed against impossible odds. If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon. One feels, as with Napoleon, that he is fighting against destiny, that he can’t win, and yet that he somehow deserves to.”

The challenge of reading Mein Kampf in hindsight is to try to understand how something so obviously wrong and so clearly the product of a broken, third-rate mind could bring about the Götterdämmerung of Europe.

The answer is partly that it didn’t. The Hitler of Mein Kampf, the Hitler of the 1920s, was quickly discredited and, as Weimar’s economy improved, looked like an irrelevance. Only when the Depression hit, and the German establishment was looking for a weapon to smash the Left with, was Hitler reluctantly invited into power. And what democratic support he enjoyed he enjoyed in part because he pledged peace and played down some of the rhetoric one wades through in Mein Kampf.

If Mein Kampf is presented in proper, scholarly fashion then it can be made clear that it is not a black bible – an unholy writ of immense, dark magical powers – but an important historical artifact that helps us understand what went so terribly wrong in an apparently civilised society. History understood is history conquered.

World War Two

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