Adolf Hitler, the dictator of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945, wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) while imprisoned Bavaria after his failed attempt to seize power in Munich in November, 1923. Published in the summer of 1925, it was followed by the second volume in December, 1926. The book presents Hitler’s Social Darwinist worldview and reveals his hatred of Jews and bolshevists. The German government did not restrict the publication or sale of Mein Kampf, but the book did not become a best-seller until 1930.
In 1933 an abridged English translation was published in Great Britain and the United States. This version retained Hitler’s remarks on his main goals, but it omitted many of his crude comments about Jews and nonwhite peoples and his belligerent references to France. This censorship was the work of Nazi government officers who had to approve the translation before permitting it to be published abroad.
Jewish interests in the United States and Britain attempted unsuccessfully to suppress the book’s publication and distribution. An August, 1933, article entitled “Greed Conquers American Decency” in The Jewish Ledger of New Orleans denounced Mein Kampf’s American publisher, Houghton Mifflin. The publisher of the Chicago Israelite, sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, asking “Is there not some way that publication of this book can be suppressed?”...
In 1924, Adolf Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (“my struggle”) to political associates while he was serving a short prison term for having attempted to overthrow the regional government of Bavaria. The two-volume work constitutes a potpourri of autobiographical anecdotes and reflections about German history and politics. Hitler published the work with the goal of advancing his career and political agenda. Initially, he had planned to utilize the title “Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice,” but his publisher, Max Amann, adopted the simpler title.
The first volume includes a combination of autobiographical anecdotes and reflections about the deplorable conditions in Germany and the establishment of the National Socialist German Workers Party (abbreviated the Nazi Party). Volume 2 goes into more detail about the party’s ideology and domestic agenda. Produced hurriedly in a tone of anger and bitterness, both volumes are frequently repetitive, and almost all scholars agree that they are of limited literary or philosophical quality. Except for the author’s historical significance, they would not be worthy of serious consideration.
Although Mein Kampf is only partly autobiographical, a large portion of the first volume is devoted to selective and impressionistic episodes from Hitler’s life experiences. In summarizing his early years in northern Austria, he praises his father’s character and patriotism, but he expresses strong resentment toward his father’s attempts to convince him to pursue a career in the civil service. He writes that during his youth he became a “fanatical German Nationalist,” enthusiastically singing the anthem, “Deutschland über Alles” (Germany above all) and despising the “conglomeration of races” in the Habsburg Empire. While living in the capital city of Vienna between 1907 and 1912, he spent much time observing the proceedings of the Austrian parliament, which he found appalling because of its chaotic “huckstering and bargaining” and the deputies’ use of Slavic dialects. Having always spoken the German dialect of lower Bavaria, Hitler found it relatively easy before World War I to move to the Bavarian capital of Munich, where he succeeded in earning a modest living as an artist. This prewar period is described as “the happiest and by far the most contented” of his life.
Soon after the outbreak of World War I, Hitler obtained permission to join the Bavarian army. When accepted, he fell to his knees and “thanked heaven” for the opportunity to fight for the fatherland. Like countless other frontline soldiers, Hitler experienced Germany’s surrender in 1918, which he dubbed “the November crime,” as a traumatic shock. Attributing defeat to a “stab in the back,” he believed that the guilty persons were a combination of pacifists, Marxists, Jews, and politicians. He despised this “whole gang of miserable party scoundrels and betrayers of the people,” and observed that all of them were “ripe for hanging.” Like the vast majority of Germans, he bitterly resented the harsh Treaty of Versailles (1919), which he characterized as “an act of highway robbery against our people.”
Mein Kampf places a great deal of emphasis on Hitler’s weltanschauung (worldview), which is defined as his “structure of personal thought or outlook on life.” This worldview is based on militaristic values, focusing on the necessity...
Barnes, James J., and Patience P. Barnes. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Britain and America: A Publishing History, 1930-39. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980. In addition to translations and publishing, the two authors discuss the diverse reactions to Hitler’s ideas in Britain and America.
Burk, Kenneth. “The Rhetoric of Hitler’s Battle.” Philosophy of Literary Form. 3d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. First published in 1941, Burk’s classic article emphasizes rhetorical devices, such as constant repetition of simple concepts, and observes that fear of a “common enemy” often unites people.
Burleigh, Michael. The Third Reich: A New History. New York: Hill & Wang, 2000. Includes a succinct analysis of Mein Kampf within its historical context, emphasizing Hitler’s “new philosophy of life,” including his ideas on race, social Darwinism, eugenics, and the values of warfare.
Carr, Robert. “Mein Kampf: The Text, Its Themes, and Hitler’s Vision.” History Today 57 (March, 2007): 30-35. A dependable summary, especially helpful for readers with limited historical background.
Dawidowicz, Lucy. The War Against the Jews. New York: Bantam Books, 1975. Emphasizes Mein Kampf’s virulent anti-Semitism; argues that the book reveals intentions to wage a war of aggression and eradicate Jews from German territory.
Evans, Richard J. The Coming of the Third Reich. New York: Penguin Press, 2004. Denies that Mein Kampf provided a blueprint for Hitler’s later actions and calls it a “confused mélange of autobiographical reminiscences and garbled political declamations.”
Jäckel, Eberhard. Hitler’s Weltanschauung: A Blueprint for Power. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1972. A succinct work arguing that Mein Kampf expressed a coherent worldview that was consistent with Hitler’s later racist and expansionist policies.
Maser, Werner. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”: An Analysis. Translated by R. H. Barry. London: Faber, 1970. An eminent German historian’s analysis of the book within its historical context.
Rash, Felicity. The Language of Violence: Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” New York: Peter Lang, 2006. A linguistic analysis that emphasizes Hitler’s rhetorical devices, particularly his use of conventional and well-worn metaphors. Provides references to other linguistic and rhetorical studies.