Why is struggle so important

Hitler's "Mein Kampf"

The fact that a German state government acts as the relentless guardian of the copyrights of an author who is considered to be one of the greatest criminals in human history is certainly a historically unique fact. But in the case of Adolf Hitler, it seems, everything is different than usual. The Bavarian state government, which holds the rights to Hitler's confessional "Mein Kampf", has so far prevented any attempt to reprint the work in whole or in part and it to make it accessible to the interested public. In general, copyright law serves to protect an author from his intellectual property from being redistributed by unauthorized persons. In this special case, however, copyright was used in the sense of a censorship right: It was not the author that was to be protected, but the public, namely before reading a book that was perceived as unreasonable. But that is now over: the rights to the work will expire at the end of 2015, and then anyone who wants to can potentially publish it - provided the Bavarian state government does not find a legal lever to prevent the worst in their eyes.

But is this book really so bad that citizens have to be kept from reading it? Does a demonic force of seduction lurk in him, to which a democratic consciousness that has matured over many decades could succumb? What is it actually about and how did you react to it? These questions will be investigated in the following, whereby one thing has to be determined in advance: "Mein Kampf" actually takes on a special role, because there is hardly a work in history in which the thoughts and deeds of the author are so inextricably linked have connected. Anyone who thinks of "Mein Kampf" has Auschwitz right in front of their eyes.


Amazingly, although Hitler's deeds are known around the world, they did not necessarily arouse worldwide revulsion. This can be seen from the fact that "Mein Kampf" is booming in some countries around the world and is sometimes read with approval. For example, Hitler's work is very popular in India, Egypt and Turkey, [1] and you can find it translated into the respective national language in many bookshops. In an Arab country one could assume that it is Hitler's radical anti-Semitism that meets with sympathy; Probably for this reason, the original version of "Mein Kampf" is preferably offered on Islamist websites. But in the three countries mentioned, the admiration for the "strong man" is more in the foreground: Hitler is revered as the great leader who unified the nation and raised it from absolute defeat to imperial size (the subsequent downfall is obviously ignored). National unity and glory is a topic that is also of concern for India, Egypt and Turkey, and in this respect one hopes that reading "Mein Kampf" will provide clues as to how one could succeed accordingly.

Hitler wrote the first volume of his book in 1924 in Landsberg's fortress custody; the second volume was written in 1925/26. [2] Both volumes were initially published separately by Eher-Verlag, the first in 1925, the second in 1926. Since the first volume, in which Hitler describes his career, sold significantly better than the second, which primarily traced the development of the NSDAP, the first experienced Volume more editions than the second, until 1930 both volumes were published in one "people's edition". The single and complete editions have now been brought onto the market in parallel; In total, around 240,000 copies of "Mein Kampf" were sold until the so-called seizure of power in 1933. After that, the number of edition variants (leather, thin print, anniversary, wedding and other special editions), each of which reached different print runs, increased. By 1944, when production finally dried up, around 12.5 million copies of "Mein Kampf" had been printed. [3]

How many of these books were read, however, is controversial. In his book on the history of the reception of "Mein Kampf", Othmar Plöckinger argued that, contrary to what is usually assumed, it was a much-read book. [4] However, the external indicators such as the lending rate in libraries do not allow any definitive statements about the actual reading; However, it can definitely be ruled out that everyone who was delighted with an edition of "Mein Kampf" during Hitler's reign, on the occasion of marriage or other important events, would also have dealt with the book afterwards. After all, it was considered illegible even then because of its style, its tirades of hate and its length (almost 800 pages). Just as Hitler was not taken seriously as a person before 1933, the programmatic things he announced in "Mein Kampf" were not taken seriously either.

There were indeed reactions to the publication - on the part of political opponents, on the part of Christian journalism, on the part of other social groups such as the trade unions. [5] But mostly the reception was limited to individual aspects or only to the biographical parts of the book. The book "Hitler's Path" by Reichstag member Theodor Heuss, published in 1932, dealt more intensively - and very critically - with "Mein Kampf", but failed to understand the revolutionary dynamic on which it was based. Like many other commoners, Heuss believed that Hitler would allow himself to be tamed by the parliamentary procedure.

More realistic assessments were found primarily abroad. In 1935 the journalist Tete Harens Tetens published a series of ten articles in the Basler "National-Zeitung" in which he warned that Hitler's policy followed a plan that he had already revealed in "Mein Kampf". [6] The author Irene Harand spoke up from Vienna in 1936 and courageously castigated the abuse of human rights in Germany, which she referred to quotes from "Mein Kampf". [7] And in 1939 the writer Robert Charles Ensor brought out a brochure in Oxford in which he stated that Hitler's radical racism, which he had already revealed in "Mein Kampf" and the importance of which was not recognized, was turning into a policy of expansion lead that could no longer be stopped. [8] Possibly the view from outside, that is from other European countries, allowed a clearer assessment of what "Mein Kampf" was and what significance it had for Hitler's political actions than the German internal perspective. In any case, these warners saw something in Hitler's book that was directly related to Hitler's actions and is therefore of great value as a source for understanding Hitler's policy.

In most cases, this view was not shared by Nazi research after the war. On the one hand, it was considered to be an overestimation of the importance of people in history to put Hitler at the center of events and to hope for a deeper understanding of the "Third Reich" by researching his intentions. On the other hand, "Mein Kampf" was generally found to be so banal and confused that it did not seem worthwhile to study it more intensively. [9] This is still a widespread judgment today, not infrequently represented by those who have not taken the trouble to read it carefully. However, some of the researchers have shown a certain rethinking in recent years; for example, Ian Kershaw's biography of Hitler draws intensively from Hitler's confessional document. [10] The fact that a continuous commentary on "Mein Kampf" was not published until 2000, 55 years after Hitler's death and about 75 years after his book was written, [11] is a peculiarity that once again points to Hitler's special position in history. If the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich is currently preparing an annotated text edition that will be published as soon as the book is in the public domain, this shows that Hitler's work is now at least considered worthy of comment from other quarters.

One of the reasons for the latter edition is certainly the concern that the book could cause great damage if it were to be put on the market without any comments or explanations. However, the question is to what extent it is suitable for anchoring racist or social Darwinist ideas in readers who have not been inclined to do so. Because reading it is indeed arduous, the style is anything but engaging, the topics are wide-ranging and often with historical references that are only accessible to the connoisseur. Even in the right-wing extremist scene - which no longer needs to be convinced of Hitler's thoughts - you shouldn't find too many who have worked their way through the 800 pages. And if, as in the case of the trial of the Holocaust denier Ernst Z√ľndel, a like-minded defense attorney quotes from "Mein Kampf" in his plea, [12] this is not yet proof of the in-depth knowledge of the script in right-wing extremist circles. All too often both supporters and opponents do not know what they are talking about.

That is why we should now talk about what Hitler's book actually contains: it is an autobiography, it is the development of a worldview, it is the proclamation of a political program.