YOU CAN THANK ME, I suppose. I once read Mein Kampf, plowing through all 687 pages, and took notes. In light of recent events in Charlottesville, however, it seems we might need to reexamine exactly what it was Hitler had to say. If you have the stomach you can get by with just these notes.
Certainly, the toxic nature of Nazi ideology has always been clear. Hitler’s poisonous ideas are on display on every page. Hatred, particularly, but not exclusively, directed at Jews, is the foundation of his thought.
|I was surprised one year when I discovered many of my seventh grade students |
didn't recognize this face.
For teachers today it can be chilling to realize that as a boy Adolf Hitler was influenced by Dr. Leopold Pötsch. This educator alternately moved Hitler and his classmates to tears and inflamed them with enthusiasm for nationalistic causes.
What made our good fortune all the greater was that this teacher knew how to illuminate the past by examples from the present, and how from the past to draw inferences for the present. As a result he had more understanding than anyone else for the daily problems which then held us breathless. He used our budding nationalistic fanaticism as a means of educating us, frequently appealing to our sense of national honor…
This teacher made history my favorite subject.
And indeed, though he had no such intention, it was then that I became a little revolutionary. (15)
Even growing up in Austria, young Adolf said he could see racial danger at every hand: “In the north and south the poison of foreign nations gnawed at the body of our nationality, and even Vienna was visibly becoming more and more of an un-German city.” Soon “the granite foundation” of a future ideology was set. Threats to racial purity were as life-threatening as “incurable tumors.” (15; 22; 29)
Reading Mein Kampf has always been a sickening slog, tedious page after page, punctuated by venomous illogic. Even Hitler’s opinion of the intellectual capacity of his followers drips with cynicism. Political ideas, he says, must be “engraved in the memory and feeling of the people by eternal repetition.” “The psyche of the great masses is not receptive to anything that is half-hearted and weak.” (31; 42)
LIKE ALL WHO HATE, he first dehumanizes enemies. He paints them as a racial and religious “threat.” Then he uses the frightening picture of them he creates to justify violence to advance the Nazi cause. When workers with different political views tried to drive him from a job site when he was a young man, threatening to toss him off a scaffold, Hitler said he had to decide. If ordinary Aryan workers were blind, was he wrong to believe in the greatness of the Aryan race?
I wrestled with my innermost soul: are these people [the workers] human, worthy to belong to a great nation?
A painful question; for if it is answered in the affirmative, the struggle for my nationality really ceases to be worth the hardships and sacrifices which the best of us have to make for the sake of such scum; and it is answered in the negative, our nation is pitifully poor in human beings.
It would be years before he answered that question to his satisfaction. Meanwhile, he watched in dismay as Social Democrats, Communists and other political parties spread their competing ideologies. Newspaper stories in support of other parties infuriated him. He railed against “the brutal daily press, shunning no villainy, employing every means of slander, lying with such a virtuosity that would bend iron beams, all in the gospel of a new humanity.”
Eventually, it dawned on him that his beloved Aryan people had been terrorized. They were victims. Their enemies—those in politics and the press—were seducers. Hitler promised he would break the grip of opposing political groups, including Communists, whose philosophy he compared to a form of “terror.” He would do so by opposing them with “equal terror.” (41-42; 44)
Hitler writes that he was fooled, growing up in Austria. The Jews he saw had “become Europeanized and had taken on a human look.” Only gradually did he grasp the truth. “Wherever I went, I began to see Jews, and the more I saw, the more sharply they became distinguished in my eyes from the rest of humanity.” “By their very exterior you could tell that these were no lovers of water, and, to your distress, you often knew it with your eyes closed. Later I often grew sick to my stomach from the smell of these caftan-wearers.”
Worse, “you discovered the moral stains on this ‘chosen people:’”
Was there any form of filth or profligacy, particularly in cultural life, without at least one Jew involved in it?
If you cut even cautiously into such an abscess, you found, like a maggot in a rotting body, often dazzled by the sudden light—a kike! (52; 57)
Hitler warned against a diabolical Jewish influence in the press, in literature, in art and theater. “This was pestilence, spiritual pestilence, worse than the Black Death of olden times, and the people were being infected with it.” He began to examine the worldwide press with clear eyes. What he read was “more akin to lies than honest truth; and the writers were—Jews.” (58)
He attacks the Jews constantly on the pages of Mein Kampf. At one point he likens them to a “spider” slowly beginning to “suck the blood out of the people’s pores.”
Race purity must be guarded:
Race purity must be guarded:
What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. (58; 193; 214)
Student’s today—and apparently more adults than we’d care to imagine—may need to be reminded. Hitler’s racism and hatred were multifaceted. In one passage he refers to Negroes as “half-apes.” He describes being “repelled” by a “mixture of Czechs, Poles, Hungarians, Ruthenians, Serbs, and Croats.” Worst of all was “the eternal mushroom of humanity—Jews and more Jews.” (123; 394)
As early as 1913, he says he had already “expressed the conviction that the question of the future of the German nation was the question of destroying Marxism.” In Hitler’s warped worldview, Communists were as bad as Jews and often one and the same. Marxism, he warned, could take form “only in the brain of a monster—not a man.” In another illogical leap, since Communists oppose all forms of religion, he wrote, “If, with the help of his Marxist creed, the Jew is victorious over the other peoples of the world, his crown will be the funeral wreath of humanity and this planet will, as it did thousands of years ago, move through the ether devoid of men.” “By defending myself against the Jew,” he continued, “I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” (63; 65; 155)
Western-style democracy posed another grave danger. As Adolf Hitler sees it, “the parliamentary principle of majority rule sins against the basic aristocratic principle of Nature.” Nature intended superior races and superior individuals to dominate. In a Germanic democracy, and by such a road did he dream of rising to power, “the leader is elected, but then enjoys unconditional authority.” (81; 344)
In other words, his plans for a dictatorship should have been clear to all.
ADOLF HITLER ALSO HAD DEFINITE PLANS for spreading his ideas. “The broad masses have a very limited understanding of politics. By far the greatest share in their ‘political education,’ which in this case is most aptly designated by the word ‘propaganda,’ falls to the account of the press.” Equally important would be “the mass meeting, the only way to exert a truly effective, because personal, influence on large sections of people” and to win their allegiance to the cause.
Particularly the broad masses of people can be moved only by the power of speech. And all great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes. (85; 106; 107)
Hitler believed only key elements of a human population were valuable. So any decision by members of the valuable elements to limit the number of children to whom they gave birth meant “robbing” the nation of its future. The German people must multiply and spread east across Europe.
[It] can certainly not be the intention of Heaven to give one people fifty times as much land and soil in this world as another. In this case we must not let political boundaries obscure for us the boundaries of eternal justice. If this earth really has room for all to live in, let us be given the soil we need for our livelihood.
True, they [neighbor nations] will not be willing to do this. But then the law of self-preservation goes into effect; and what is refused to amicable methods, it is up to the fist to take.
Poles and Russians and other Slavic peoples barred the path. Someday It would be necessary “to obtain by the German sword sod for the German plow and daily bread for the nation.” (138-139; 140)
When World War I erupted in 1914, Hitler says he had been thrilled. “I fell down on my knees and thanked Heaven from an overflowing heart for granting me the good fortune of being permitted to live at this time…A fight for freedom had begun, mightier than the earth had ever seen.”
True. Long years of combat took a toll. Hitler came to accept the “horror” of a war he had anxiously anticipated.
The enthusiasm gradually cooled and the exuberant joy was stifled by mortal fear. The time came when every man had to struggle between the instinct of self-preservation and the admonitions of duty…often it was only the last remnant of conscience which decided the issue. (161; 165)
Hitler would steel himself and do his duty, and do it well. Here, we might note he won an Iron Cross for bravery, the highest medal the German army bestows.
The war dragged on for four bloody years. Communist elements inside Germany continued to spread their ideas, what Hitler referred to as “Marxism…this pestilence,” a “venomous plague,” helped by “Jewified universities.” It should have been the duty of any government to destroy this threat, he argued, “to exterminate mercilessly the agitators who were misleading the nation. “If the best men were dying at the front,” he added, “the least we could do was to wipe out the vermin.” (167-169)
That last statement is typical of almost all his thinking. In his mind his enemies were always subhuman—vermin—scum—parasites—incurable tumors—always a threat to the best racial elements.
HITLER RETURNS OFTEN TO THE IMPORTANCE of propaganda. “[Its] effect for the most part,” he explains, “must be aimed at the emotions and only to a very limited degree at the so-called intellect.”
The receptivity of the great masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.
Propaganda was a blunt tool to wield ruthlessly in service to the cause. “It must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over. Here, as so often in this world, persistence is the first and most important requirement for success.” The masses are slow to make up their minds “and only after the simplest ideas are repeated thousands of times will the masses finally remember them.” (180-185)
Again he makes clear he has no respect for the intellect of the masses, since “in view of the primitive simplicity of their minds, they more easily fall a victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in little things, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big.” (231)
In years to come, Hitler, backed by a massive Nazi propaganda machine, would become adept at pedaling the Big Lie.
In years to come, Hitler, backed by a massive Nazi propaganda machine, would become adept at pedaling the Big Lie.
Even a limited democracy, he complained, left the ballot in the hands of “the mob of the simple or credulous.” A future Nazi government would have to guide the thinking of the simple people. That meant control of all sources of news, as well as control of curriculum in the nation’s schools:
The state, therefore, has the duty of watching over their education and preventing any mischief. It must particularly exercise strict control over the press; for its influence on these people is by far the strongest and most penetrating, since it is applied, not once in a while, but over and over again.
…the state must not forget that all means must serve an end; it must not let itself be confused by the drivel about so-called ‘freedom of the press’ and let itself be talked into neglecting its duty and denying the nation the food which it needs and which is good for it: with ruthless determination it must make sure of this instrument of popular education, and place it in the service of the state and nation. (242)
What exactly was at stake? All the great advances in history, Hitler insisted, “everything we admire on this earth today—science and art, technology and inventions—is only the creative product of a few peoples and originally perhaps of one race.” The key was to protect that one race. “All great cultures of the past perished,” he warned, “only because the originally creative race died out from blood poisoning.”
All the culture, all the results of art, science, and technology that we see before us today, are almost exclusively the creative product of the Aryan. This very fact admits of the not unfounded inference that he alone was the founder of all higher humanity, therefore representing the prototype of all that we understand by the word ‘man.’ (288-290)
SCANNING A MAP OF EUROPE, Hitler saw a future filled with a “multitude of lower-type beings standing at their [the Aryans’] disposal as helpers.” Once in power, the Nazis would employ these lesser humans as “suitable beasts.”
Hitler pounds away at the racial theme:
Blood mixture and the resultant drop in the racial level is the sole cause of the dying out of old cultures; for men do not perish as a result of lost wars, but by the loss of that force of resistance which is contained only in pure blood.
All who are not of good race in the world are chaff. (291; 294; 296)
By comparison, the Jews banded together out of a “primitive herd instinct.” Left alone in this world, they “would stifle in filth and offal…”
He is and remains the typical parasite, a sponger who like a noxious bacillus keeps spreading as soon as a favorable medium invites him. And the effect of his existence is also like that of spongers: wherever he appears, the host people dies out after a shorter or longer period. (301-302; 305)
The Jew “poisons the blood of others, but preserves his own. The Jew almost never marries a Christian woman; it is the Christian who marries a Jewess. The bastards, however, take after the Jewish side.” “With satanic joy in his face, the black-haired Jewish youth lurks in wait for the unsuspecting girl whom he defiles with his blood, thus stealing her from her people.” To cover the damage, and his own tracks, the Jew, “talks more and more of the equality of all men without regard to race and color. The fools begin to believe him.” (316; 325)
The Aryan race, cutting across national boundaries, bonded by blood, a folk group, must be preserved, protected and strengthened:
…the folkish philosophy…by no means believes in an equality of races, but along with their difference it recognizes their higher or lesser value and feels itself obligated, through this knowledge, to promote the victory of the better and stronger, and demand the subordination of the inferior and weaker in accordance with the eternal will that dominates this universe…It sees not only the different value of the races, but also the different value of individuals…in a bastardized and niggerized world all the concepts of the humanly beautiful and sublime, as well as all ideas of an idealized future of our humanity, would be lost forever. (383)
Aryans must remain apart:
Thus, the highest purpose of a folkish state is concern for the preservation of those original racial elements which bestow culture and create the beauty and dignity of a higher mankind. We, as Aryans, can conceive of the state only as the living organism of a nationality, which not only assures the preservation of this nationality, but by the development of its spiritual and ideal abilities leads it to the highest freedom. (394)
IN THE QUEST FOR RACIAL PURITY, the full apparatus of the state would serve as “a mighty weapon” to which “everyone must submit.” Individual rights would not matter.
[There] is only one holiest human right, and this right is at the same time the holiest obligation, to wit: to see to it that the blood is preserved pure and, by preserving the best humanity, to create the possibility of a nobler development of these beings.
A folkish state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race, and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape. (399)
The state “must set race in the center of all life. It must take care to keep it pure. It must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. It must see to it that only the healthy beget children.”
And conversely it must be considered reprehensible: to withhold healthy children from the nation…the wishes and the selfishness of the individual must appear as nothing and submit… [The government] must declare unfit for propagation all who are in any way visibly sick or who have inherited a disease and can therefore pass it on, and put this into actual practice. Conversely, it must take care that the fertility of the healthy woman is not limited by the financial irresponsibility of a state regime which turns the blessing of children into a curse for the parents. (402; 403-404)
Once he rose to power, the Nazis would facilitate early marriage among desirable elements, increasing the number of racially valuable children. Marriage, he warned, “cannot be an end in itself, but must serve the one higher goal, the increase and preservation of the species and the race. This alone is its meaning and task.” Even the “right of personal freedom recedes before the duty to preserve the race.”
What about the less desirable elements?
“The demand that defective people be prevented from propagating equally defective offspring is a demand of the clearest reason and if systematically executed represents the most humane act of mankind.” In other words, the policy outlines of Nazism were laid down. In years to come tens of thousands of handicapped German children would die in gas chambers as a result. (252; 255)
ONCE HITLER TOOK POWER, shaping proper racial attitudes would be a job for schools. He explains: “…education in particular must first of all consider and promote physical health; for taken in the mass, a healthy, forceful spirit will be found only in a healthy and forceful body.” Every day, one hour of physical training in the morning and one in the afternoon would be required. If stress were placed on physical beauty, “the seduction of hundreds of thousands of girls by bow-legged, repulsive Jewish bastards would not be possible.” (407; 412)
The schools would be a critical tool in spreading Nazi ideology. Science, world history and cultural history would all be taught in such a way as to foster “national pride,” “so that when the young man leaves his school he is not a half pacifist, democrat, or something else, but a whole German.”
The crown of the folkish state’s entire work of education and training must be to burn the racial sense and racial feeling into the instinct and the intellect, the heart and brain of the youth entrusted to it. No boy and no girl must leave school without having been led to an ultimate realization of the necessity and essence of blood purity. (426; 427)
Nor was there any secret in how Hitler hoped to rise to power. His party would be protected by special guards, organized in military units, and these “monitor troops must be preceded by the reputation of not being a debating club, but a combat group determined to go to any length.” (490) Followers would be stirred with heavy doses of martial music. The movement would be bound by symbols, including the Nazi flag, which Hitler claims he designed in 1920.
In the red we see the social idea of the movement, in white the nationalistic idea, in the swastika the mission of the struggle for victory of the Aryan man, and, by the same token, the victory of the idea of creative work, which as such always has been and always will be anti-Semitic. (497)
Once united under Nazi rule, Germany would not repeat mistakes made during World War I. In those years the best young men, “filled with fervent love of their fatherland, with great personal courage or the highest consciousness of duty” volunteered to fight and even die for their country. When Germany was forced to surrender in November 1918, “it was not the German people as such that committed this act of Cain, but its deserters, pimps, and other rabble that shun the light.” (520-521)
Evil politicians, puppets of Marxists and Jews, had stabbed Germany in the back. Punishment would come once Hitler rose to power. “[A] German national court must judge and execute some ten thousand of the organizing and hence responsible criminals of the November betrayal and everything that goes with it,” he insisted. The future would be filled with gas chambers:
If at the beginning of the War and during the War twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas, as happened to hundreds of thousands of the very best German workers in the field [of battle], the sacrifice of millions at the front would not have been in vain. On the contrary: twelve thousand scoundrels eliminated in time might have saved the lives of a million real Germans, valuable for the future. (679)
CALLING ON READERS TO JOIN HIM in a titanic struggle, he promised he and his Nazi party would elevate the “Jewish question… transforming it into the driving impulse of a great people’s movement.” The Jew, Hitler said, was “the mortal enemy of Aryan humanity and all Christendom.”
This contamination of our blood, blindly ignored by hundreds of thousands of our people, is carried on systematically by the Jew today. Systematically these black parasites of the nation defile our inexperienced young blond girls and thereby destroy something which can no longer be replaced in this world. (545; 561; 562)
The French were also a mortal threat. Of them, Hitler says: “This people, which is basically becoming more and more negrified, constitutes in its tie with the aims of Jewish world domination an enduring danger for the existence of the white race in Europe.” The French were a “mulatto state,” infected by the blood of “lower humanity.” The German people must rise as one, having “recognized racial pollution as the original sin of humanity,” and defeat France once and for all. (624; 644)
Nazi leaders would have to:
…find the courage to gather our people and their strength for an advance along the road that will lead this people from its present restricted living space to new land and soil, and hence also free it from the danger of vanishing from the earth or serving others as a slave nation.
State boundaries are made by man and changed by man. The fact that a nation has succeeded in acquiring an undue amount of soil constitutes no higher obligation that it should be recognized eternally. At most it proves the strength of the conquerors and the weakness of nations. And in this case, right lies in this strength alone. If the German nation today, penned into an impossible area, faces a lamentable future, this is no more a commandment of Fate than revolt against this state of affairs is an affront to Fate. No more than any higher power has promised another nation more territory than the German nation, or is offended by the fact of this unjust distribution of the soil. Just as our ancestors did not receive the soil on which we live today as a gift from Heaven, but had to fight for it at the risk of their lives, in the future no folkish state will win soil for us and hence life for our people, but only the might of a victorious sword.
The Aryan people—the folkish nation—must turn its “gaze toward the land in the east.” The Germans must “shift to the soil policy of the future.” And in that, Hitler’s meaning was again crystal clear. We “can primarily have in mind only Russia and her vassal border states.” (646; 653-654)
If war did come what could justify an attack on Germany’s neighbors, Poland and Russia? Hitler explained: “Never forget that the rulers of present-day Russia are common blood-stained criminals; that they are the scum of humanity…that these rulers belong to a race which combines, in a rare mixture, bestial cruelty and an inconceivable gift for lying.” He claimed “the international Jew…completely dominates Russia.” The Bolsheviks were the “spawn of hell.”
It was imperative that Germany expand:
Never regard the Reich as secure unless for centuries to come it can give every scion of or people his own parcel of soil. Never forget that the most sacred right on this earth is a man’s right to have earth to till with his own hands, and the most sacred sacrifice the blood that a man sheds for this earth.
Today we count eighty million Germans in Europe! This foreign policy will be acknowledged correct only if, after scarcely a hundred years, there are two hundred and fifty million Germans on this continent, and not living penned in as factory coolies for the rest of the world, but: as peasants and workers, who guarantee each other’s livelihoods by their labor. (661-662; 664; 673)
As for the Jew, “No nation,” Hitler wrote, “can remove his hand from its throat except by the sword.” (651)
WRITING IN 1923, Hitler was painting a picture of a grim future ahead. Rising to power a decade later, and with accelerating brutality once World War II had begun, tens of millions would die as a result.
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|There was never any doubt about what Hitler intended to do.|
(All quotes are from a translation by Ralph Mannheim first published by Houghton Mifflin in 1943. Mein Kampf was published twenty years before.)