14th June, 2010
This was supposed to be the title of Mein Kampf, until someone figured a shorter title would be better. This long title fits the first part of the book best, and that is the part I will discuss now. It is an autobiography, yes, but it is Hitler's autobiography, and that means most of it is political. All the events that Hitler relates are put in a political context, from his childhood education to the Great War, in which he fought like a true hero (I know it may not be very hip to say good things about Adolf, but as I warned you before, I will stick to the truth and nothing but the truth) as all historians agree, to the Communist Revolution.
Within the early German Workers' Party, Hitler's job was propaganda. His work was to do what graphic designers and marketing people do nowadays. Again, I stress the fact that "propaganda" does not mean "campaign of lies" in this context. Propaganda had been used before, specifically during the Great War, and Hitler learned from it. Germany's propaganda about the English soldiers pictured them as weaklings, in an effort to give confidence to German soldiers. That was a bad move, because when the German soldiers eventually met actual English soldiers, they realised they were no clowns or weaklings. The result was this: they felt their own country had lied to them, and the surprise of an enemy stronger than they had believed was bad news, a blow to the morale. Hitler thought that the enemy's propaganda about them was much more intelligent; German soldiers were compared to "Huns", to savage beasts and the likes, so that when the French soldier met German soldiers, he did not feel deceived. (Not to say that German soldiers were beasts, but in a war, nobody looks civilised.)
Before moving on to racism and antisemitism, it is required to understand Hitler's world-view. If you don't understand his world-view, you can only motivate Hitler's racism with fear, hate, and the likes, none of which are the real fuel of Hitler's racism and antisemitism. People usually say fear and hate and ignorance are what motivates ideas they don't share, but that rarely is accurate. The atheist sometimes believes fear of death is what motivates the Christian (regardless of the fact that eternity in Hell being tortured sounds more frightening to me than nothingness), the antiracist almost always believes that the racist is simply scared of other races, and the term "homophobe" incarnates that principle too. A "homophobe", etymologically, is someone who fears homosexuality or homosexuals; but the way we use the word is not to mean that, we mean "people who hate homosexuals". You could be scared of homosexuality without hating it, just as you can hate it without fearing it. But I digress. The point being, fear, hate, ignorance, are actually not the sources of Nazism. One influential source of Nazism is actually Charles Darwin.
If you expect to find Hitler dissing every non-Aryan race on the surface of the globe, you will be sorely disappointed. Hitler did not seem to hate other races (apart from Jews) as much as he looked down on them. Hitler believed that the "Aryan" man was the best human on the earth. What is an Aryan? The word is actually a sibling of the word "Iran", and the idea is that the Aryan people is some primeval civilisation, some Indo-European group, who invented everything. The idea, to Hitler, is that only Aryans could create civilisation. He sorts humanity into three groups: those who can create civilisation, those who can maintain it, and those who can neither create nor maintain it. In the first group he places the Aryan, in the second he places the Asian, and in the third pretty much everybody else. I guess Slavic people would be placed in the second group, but I'm not sure; Hitler gives no specific chart of who goes where in his classification.
Whereas there isn't a whole lot about racism, there is a tad more about Jews in the book, but probably not as much as the average person would expect. At first, there is nothing about Jews in Mein Kampf, and the first mention of Jews finds Hitler defending them! Well, not quite. Read this:
Because of Communism's antinational policies (favouring a social class within a nation rather than the whole nation), Nazis thought that Communism was a Jewish trick to weaken nations and bring them all down into a one-government world, a New World Order if you want. Karl Marx was Jewish, which didn't help any. In fact, it is my belief that Hitler hated Communism infinitely more than Jews, but because he thought Communism was Jewish, his hatred of Communism was one with his hatred of the Jews. In other words, if Communism had not been tied to Jews, I am not sure Hitler would have become antisemitic. Keep in mind that the Nazi Party was an answer to the Communist Revolution in Germany, not an answer to Jews. Jews were only perceived as enemies because of Communism and the defeat of 1918, for which they were considered responsible.
It has become trendy to scorn patriotism. Even intelligent people like Bill Hicks or Oliver Stone hate patriotism (well, hated, in the case of Hicks). They, like most antipatriotists, think that patriotism is about believing your country is the best because you were born in it. I hold that belief to be quite ridiculous and far off the mark. To me, patriotism is being supportive of the nation in which you live. It doesn't matter where you live, you should support that system and respect the people who worked, fought, and died so this nation could live. I don't see patriotism as against other nations, I believe in healthy competition, and patriots are usually the ones who respect other countries most because it means something to them to belong to a country, and the notion of nation is not a joke to them. Also, I don't think one can truly help the world if one can't help his country first; skipping the nation rung on the ladder of the universe may not be a clever move. A nation can do more for another nation than the single individual ever could.
Nazis were violently opposed to parliamentarism. Parliamentarism is basically democracy, in which the majority wins. Hitler had more faith in the individual than any given group, "Never forget that a majority cannot replace a man. [...] A hundred cowards do not make a hero any more than a hundred fools make a wise man." (p.101). In his Vienna days, Hitler attended political meetings often, the official government's meetings, and it was there that he realised how foolish parliamentarism seemed to be.
If you had read Mein Kampf in 1925, you could not have foretold of the Shoah. Reading it in 2010, you cannot really make the connection obvious either. That said, I found two passages which could be interpreted as announcers of the Holocaust, but the first would be quite a stretch, and the second is most likely just a confusion of reference.
Hitler had very original views about the body for the time; for instance, he thought physical education was sorely underused in schools and universities. He didn't think anyone should stop practicing sports, and that a sound mind could only live in a sound body. Hitler would have made children spend 50% of their school time doing sports, rather than learn by heart stuff they would forget shortly. Specifically, Hitler favoured boxing and ju-jitsu. I'm not kidding. Boxing was considered by Hitler the best school for character. I don't disagree. I think it would be empowering to everyone to know what sort of person they are in a fight. To experience your own strength is a good thing, and to experience your weakness is good too, you get to know your abilities and limits, and experiencing getting your ass kicked makes you less afraid of getting your ass kicked.
As an artist, Hitler looked down on modern art like Cubism, Dadaism, Futurism, and the likes. These movements were perceived by him to be more destructive than anything, and made a mockery of fine arts. Moreover, all these movements were political. Dadaism was violently opposed to nationalism and other traditional values such as family and religion. Surrealism was Communist (Dalì got banned from the group because he painted Lenin, I think, and André Breton fired him, even though Breton had always said Surrealism was all about being as free as an artist as a dreamer was free to dream, no matter what the dream was about, it wasn't the dreamer's fault, but obviously you weren't allowed to dream of Lenin). But let's see what Hitler had to say about the subject.
Germany did not always have the flag it has today - the black, red, and gold flag, layered horizontally. The German Empire (1871 to 1918) had a different flag. It was black, white, and red, layered horizontally. When Hitler wanted to create a new flag for the movement (and nation), he decided to use the colours of the imperial flag, black, white, and red. Hitler despised the Weimar Republic and its flag (which is the flag Germany uses today, although that flag was already in use before the imperial Germany).
My first conclusion is that this chapter is far too long. I seem to have underestimated what I could say about Mein Kampf. The point is that book is very rich and dense with subjects and things you could discuss forever. I did not even touch upon all I wanted to talk about. My purpose was to produce some sort of an introduction to the book to those who were curious but had no desire to take the time to read it, or hadn't thought of looking it up. Do I recommend it? If you are a history buff, definitely. Even if you are mostly into politics, this is a good book. You may not agree with it, but that's not a bad thing at all: disagreeing will strengthen your own positions, and that's not a bad thing. Hitler embraced opposition by seeing it as a test and a means to become better and more efficient, just like natural selection. In his mind, a political movement deserved to die if it could not win, that is partly why he was never scared of failure. If he failed, he deserved to. He thought the same of Germany in its final Nazi days: if the German nation could not win this war, it deserved to die altogether (polyphony!). If Hitler lived today, he would probably say that Japan should invade everyone else with mechas and become the master race. Maybe you will find this unlikely, but I think if Hitler lived today, he would not be a racist; with what we know, biologically and historically, he could not hold these beliefs anymore, and Hitler was no stupid man. Perhaps I am wrong.