Adolf Hitler after his conviction for treason as a result of the Munich Beer Hall putch wrote Mein Kampf while confined in Landsburg Prison. He dictated orally which Rudoolf Hess, his secretary, wrote down. This probably contributed to the rambling text. Mein Kampf is a long and rambling book which as a result, the content aside, makes for difficult reading. Hitler as an avid consumer of crack pot ideas, many of which are exhibited in the book. The essential thesis, however, is very simple. To Hitler the core of the German people is the farmer. The first step in the revival of Germany was the destruction of the Jews who he saw as weakening the Aryan German people. Once the Jews were eliminated, Germany could develop the strength to seize the land needed by the German farmer in the East from the Slavs (Czechs, Poles, and Soviets). The German soldier would then seize the land from the Slavs who would be expelled or enslaved. The land would then be colonized by German farmers. Germany's policies in the Occupied East followed just this perscription. The anti-Semetic aspect of Mein Kampf is often mentioned in connectin with the Holocaust. Less commonly discussed is the Hollocaust for the Slavs which the NAZIs would have persued if they had won the War.
Gustav von Kahr, the Bavarian state leader, called a meeting of local officials (November 8, 1923). While von Kahr was speaking, Hitler with armed stormtroopers burst into the building. Hitler jumped on top of a table and fired a pistol. He told the astonished officials that he had just launched the National Revolution. Hitler ordered Goering and the SA to guard the officials. Among those officials in addition to von Kahr were Otto von Lossow (Army commander in Bavaria), and Hans von Lossow (commandant of the Bavarian State Police). He tried to convince these officials to join him. As the new leader of Germany, he offered them posts in the new German government. All three declined. An enraged Hitler threatened to shoot them and then commit suicide. He reportedly told them, "I have three bullets for you, gentlemen, and one for me!" All three then agreed. Then former Field Marshall Eric Ludendorff arrived. Ludendorff was regarded by many Germans as a great war hero. It was he and Hidenberg that had defeated the Russian Army at Tannenberg early in the War (1914). It was, however, also Ludendorff that had planned the final great offensive that had failed (1918). Unwilling to accept the idea that he had failed, he found Hitler's constant claim that the Army had not failed, but was stabbed in the back by Jews and Socialists appealing. He thus supported the NAZIs. I do not know how deply he was involved in the Putsch, but it is curious that he turned up just at this time. Hitler offered him command of the Army and Ludendorff accepted. While Hitler was seizing the Bavarian government. Roehm, leading another group of armed Stormtroopers took control of the War Ministry. Rudolf Hess with other Stormtroopers was arresting Jews and left-wing politicans. Hitler's plan was to march on Berlin and seize control of the national government. Hitler's planning for the Putsch did not include seizing radio stations and the telegraph offices. As a result, national government officials in Berlin learned about the Putsch and prepared to act against it. The following day, Hitler, Ludendorff, Goering, Hess, and about 3,000 armed Stormtroopers and other supporters marched through Munich in an effort to join Roehm at the War Ministey. When they reached Odensplatz they encountered a detachment of the Munich police who ordered them to stop. When the NAZIs refused, the police fired a warning volley. The Stormtroopers returned fire. In the ensuing fire fight 21 people were killed and about 100 wounded, among them Goering. Hitler dropped to the ground, dislocating his shoulder. He then ran away using a car to make his get away. The NAZIs had a larger force than the police, but after Hitler ran away so did most of the Stormtroopers. Ludendorff and his adjutant, however, walked straight at the police despite the fire. Later Hitler's flight was explained with the feletious explanation that he was rushing a wounded boy to the hospital. Hitler had anticipated that Ludendorff's participation meant that the Reichwehr was with him. This proved not to be the case.
Hess played arole in Hitler's Beer Hall Putsch. His assignment with other Stormtroopers was to arrest Jews and left-wing politicans. After the Putsch failed, Hess managed to escape. He sought refuge in Haushofer's country home--Hartschimmelhof. This was located in the beautiful e Bavarian Alps. From there he escaped to Austria. The German police eventually managed to arrest and he was found guilty and sentenced to 18 months in prison. While in Landsberg Prison with Hitler, he helped write Mein Kampf. Haushofer's theories and even certain phrases are clearly reflected in the end product. [Douglas-Hamilton] This shows Hess' inffluence. Haushofer's theories provided a coherent structure for ideas that had begun crystalize in Hitler's mind.
Hitler as a result of the Beer Hall Putsch was found guilty of treason, but was only sentenced to 5-years in prison. The light sentence probably reflects the fact that it was a right-wing conspiracy and that national heros like World war I General Luderndorff was involved. Hitler served his prison term at Landsberg Castle in Munich. The terms of confinment were not severe. He was allowed to walk in the pleasant castle gropunds. He wore his own clothes rather than a prison unuform. Living conditions were reasonably comfortable. Friends and visitors were allowed to visit and bring food. There were susposed to be limitations on visitors, but an exception was made for Hitler. There was a constant flow of friends, political associates, party members and journalists visited, often for extended times. He was in group quarters. He apparantly bored the other inmates with his political harangs. Hitler spent a great deal of time at Landsberg reading. Much of what he read was was works on German history and what might be called political philosophy. Subsequently he reffered to his time at Landsberg as a "free education at the state's expense." He had stroing opinions before, but he was still forming his thinking. One author who seems go have influenced him was Henry Ford, the American car-manufacturer. Hitler read Ford's autobiography, My Life and Work as well as The International Jew. Ford insisted that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Hitler also approved of Ford's hostile views towards communism and trade unions. Of course these wre ideas Hitler already had. One personal friend claims that Hitler's views hardened while at Landsberg. "He seemed to come out of Landsberg with all of his worst prejudices reinforced. I am sure that this is the point at which bhis latentradical tendencies started to crustallize, although there were stilln yearsto go before he became the unteachable, unreasonable, and unapproachable fanatic whom thec world knows from his days of power. The year he spent in Landsberg, instead of giving him time to sit back and take a broader vuiew of political problems, had only given those imprisoned with him an opportunity to narrow his mind with fury about the French use of Senegalese troops in the Ruhr during the occupation, and I am not at all sure that this was not the starting-point of the racial purity laws, which the Nazis fully evolved." [Hanfstaengl]
One of Hitler's visitors at Landsberg was Hitler's business manager, Max Amnan. He suggested that Hitler should should use hus time in prison to write his autobiography. Hitler initially dismissed the idea. He was not fond of writing, presumably because of the effort involved. In particular he did not like to type. He finally agreed after it was suggested that he could dictate his thoughts. The prison authorities even coopetrated by allowing Hitler's chauffeur, Emile Maurice, to move into Landsberg so that he would be available to take dictation. Hitler took the new undertaking seriously. Soon a torrent of words flowed out of his mouth. Maurice was not much of a writer. He could copy down what Hityler said. He could not, however, turm Hitler's rambling thoughts into anything like readavble prose. He had been chosen because he was an accomplishefd street fighter, more of a body guard than a chauffeur. He proved to have such limited writing skills that a replacement had to be found. Rudolf Hess who had studied at Munich University took over the undertaking. The book is not verbatim distation. Hess did what he could to turmn Hitler's flow of ideas into coherent text. He did what he could, but the rambling text is testimomy to what Hess had to work with. The resulting work is extrodinarily repetitive and very confusding. The word 'turgid' is most commonly used to describe Hitler's writing style. The syntax is convoluted and his thoughts are repetitive and rambling. All but the most dedicated NAZI found it difficult to read. The text of the book of course was not accompanied by Hitler's expressive voice and dramatic gestures which he used so effectively when speaking to a receptive audience. The book is perhaps the most poorly written political treatise of a major political figure in modern times.
The book, no matter how poorly written is important because Hitler was amazingly frank about just what he planned to do. At least his goals. He escoriated the Jews, but was not specific anout how they were to be eliminated. And while he descrined the need for Lebensraum and to seize the East, he did not mention what woukld be necessary to achieve this, namely launching another world war. It was obvious to any one with any basic sence, but Hitler never took the rhetorical leap. And this was important, because World War I had convinced most Europeans that there must never be another War--including large numbers of Germans.
Hitler named his book, 'Four Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice'. His publisher, however, convinced him to change the title to Mein Kampf (My Struggle). It was his political manifesto.
Mein Kampf is a long and rambling book which as a result, the content aside, mskes for difficult reading. Hitler as an avid consumer of crack pot ideas, many of which are exhibited in the book. The essential thesis, however, is very simple. To Hitler the core of the German people is the farmer. The first step in the revival of Germany was the destruction of the Jews who he saw as weakening the Aryan German people. Once the Jews were eliminated, Germany could develop the strength to seize the land needed by the German farmer in the East from the Slavs (Czechs, Poles, and Soviets). The German soldier would then seize the land from the Slavs who would be expelled or enslaved. The land would then be colonized by German farmers. Germany's policies in the Occupied East followed just this perscription. The anti-Semetic aspect of Mein Kampf is often mentioned in connectin with the Holocaust. Less commonly discussed is the Hollocaust for the Slavs which the NAZIs would have persued if they had won the War.
The book that emerged from Hitler's dictation and Hess' editing was far more than an autobiography. It was an amazing hodgepodge of ideas. Mein Kampf was a confusing mixture of autobiography, history, political philosophy, biological eugenics, and race hatred. He also touches on the techniques of propaganda that would be effectively developed by Dr. Josef Goebbels. Hitler in the book declared with considerable candor precisely what he planned to do when he took power. His hatred for the Jews is a constant ferature. He writes at length about Lebensraum and the importance of the East. World War II historians some time discount the importance of the East from the very beginning in Hitler's strategic thinking, but it is clearly stated in Mein Kampf. The East of course was not unoccupied. And What Hitler does not explain is just what he planned to do with the people already living there.
Hitler in Mein Kampf discusses the German need for Lebensraum and that it could be found in the East. He did not take the next step of explaining that he planned to launch amassive invasion and seize it militarily from the Soviet Union. Of course that was the only way to obtain it, but he did specifically say that. Nor did he say what was to be done with the people already living there. Of course this had to be decided after the seizure of Poland and preparations began for Barbarossa, the invasion of the Sioviet Union. Plans were developed to sketch out just what was to be dine in the East--Generalplan Ost. Generalplan Ost (General Plan East) was the detailed NAZI blueprint for the most horendous crime ever envisioned in human history.
Mein Kampf was not Hitler's only book. There was in fact a second book, planned as a sequal to Mein Kampf. It was dictated just before he and the NAZIs seized power. He apparently decided to write it after the disappointing results in the 1928 election. He concluded that his ideas were not being properly presernted to the German public. When the eledctoral results improved sharply after the onset of the Depression, he has second thoughts about publishing it. He was probably right about this. His startling frank language about war would not have helped the NAZI Party at the polls. He devotes a great deal of attention to foreign policy. Here unlike Mein Kampf he speaks openly of war and aggression. His horrifying vision was one of continuous warfare fueled by the resources of the East. He did not think that the invasion of the Soviet Union would be a titanic clash. He though the Bolshevik regime would largely collapse luke a 'house of cards'.
He saw war and violence as a positive force that would help Germany to flourish. Compared to Mein Kampf, there are fewer pages devoted to Jews, but race remains a focus and the Jews are identified as the central enemy.
He also articulated a belief that Britain would accept a German-dominated Europe if Germany allowed the British to keep their Empire.
He explained that Germany's in Europe would eventually lead to inevitable, ultimate clash with the United States. This in Hitler's mind would be the ultimate stuggle. This was a major change in his thinking. In Mein Kampf he had some very positive things to say about the United States. He admired how America had largely seized the continent and the inventiveness of its people. He was in part influenced by Henery Ford whose books he read while at Landsberg.
In this second book he sees America as being ruined and weakened by Jewish immigrants. Like Mein Kampf, the second book has tirades against Jews, but much less space is devoted to them. Because it was not published, the book was unknown during the War and early post-War period. Historian Gerhard L. Weinberg while working on A World at Arms found the manuscript in U,S, archives amonst material taken from the Germans at the end of the War.
The book was finally published in German (1961). It was not published in English until much later.
One industrialist who played a role in Hitler's rise to power estimated that Hitler was the richest man in Europe. He said that Hitler, unlike many other NAZIs like Göring did not enrich himself with public funds. Rather it was the royalties from Mein Kampf. Most of the sales came after he seized power (1933). Fritz Thyssen is reputed to have said, "His whole fortune is due to his pen. Indeed, Hitler is a man of letters. He is, if not the most read, at least the most purchased, of all men of letters in the world. Mein Kampf has reached a sale of seven or eight million copies. By a decision of the Reich ministry of the interior this book is distributed at the cost of the municipalities to all newlywed couples." [Reves] This assessment was probably based on ther situation before Tyssen parted company with the NAZIs after Kristallnacht and tried to escape (1938). Hitler also made a great deal of money from the use of his image on postage stamps beginning in 1937.
Douglas-Hamilton, James. Motive for a Mission.
Hanfstaengl, Ernst. Hitler: The Memoir of the Nazi Insider Who Turned Against the Führer. Hanfstaengl was a Harvard-educated German-American who returned to Germany after World War I and met Hitler at the beginning of his political career. He would after his rise to power make Hanfstaengl his foreign press secretary. He eventually after a falling out with Hitler had to flee the Reich.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf.
Hitler, Adolf. Gerhard L. Weinberg, ed. Krista Smith, trans. Unpublished second book.
Reves, Emery. I Paid Hitler (1941). This was a biography of Fritz Thyssen. Thyssen was arrested by Vichy authorities at the request of German occupation authorioties. The NAZIs held him at a sanatorium near Berlin (1940-43). Sachsenhausen concentration camp (1943-45), and in the final months of the War at Dachau. While encarcerated in Germany, a journalist named Emery Reves published the biography. It was based on memoirs dictated by Thyssen. After the war Thyssen disputed the authenticity of the book.
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