Sunday, May 12, 2013

Reader's Diary #1001- Adolf Hitler, translated by James Murphy: Mein Kampf

Paranoid, hypocritical, egomaniac. (I'll return to these in just a bit...)

"Marriage is not an end in itself but must serve the greater end, which is that of increasing and maintaining the human species and the race. This is its only meaning and purpose."- Adolf Hitler

It would be an easy insult then to say that those who, for similar reasons, are against gay marriages are "like Hitler." However, Mein Kampf is a long, long book and with lots and lots of opinions. Anyone who takes the time to actually read the thing will be horrified to find that for the dozens of opinions that they don't agree with (like his views on marriage above), there's probably at least point they do agree with. I usually try my best to avoid my political (and religious) leanings here at the Book Mine Set, but it's hard to discuss a political book without some personal revelations. In case I've been too subtle: I lean to the left. So, in the early pages of Mein Kampf when Hitler showed sympathy towards manual labourers in Vienna, I was stuck agreeing with Hitler that it sucks when workers are exploited by the upper classes, the governments and factory owners. If I was to speak out against workers being mistreated, it's not a far stretch to believe that someone from the right would accuse me of being anti-captitalist (I am), socialist, Marxist, and then... "like Hitler." Except if the right had taken the time to read the book, they'd see, among other contradictions, that Hitler was vehemently anti-Marxist. And if both right and left sides took the time to read the book, they'd see how careless it is to sling that comparison around. You can take isolated points from Hitler and pin them to others, but really, the fact that we're all so quick to throw "Hitler" out as the ultimate insult, proves that we can all agree on one thing: Hitler was a deplorable, evil man. Minor points aside, the major points are what we should focus on.

And what are the major points? As I said in the opening, Adolf Hitler was a paranoid, hypocritical, egomaniac. In the first 100 or so pages, he presents himself as someone who is simply proud of Germany, who wants Germany restored to a former glory, to have workers treated fairly. When he first mentions "the Jew," it's like a record scratching. Of course, I knew it was coming but when it did, it seemed to mark a long descent into hell. At first Hitler tries to justify his racist beliefs. He perceives that he's been slighted or held back by a couple of Jewish people and uses this to generalize all Jewish people as manipulative parasites. The fact that he's so threatened by Jewish people, yet claims to be be superior, results in some pretty fancy (and stupid) mental gymnastics as Hitler tries to convince readers why they should fear Jewish people despite his earlier suggestion that they are so inferior. Later he drops any pretense of "proof" for his condemnations of Jews, no longer even bothering to offer personal anecdotes to back up his claims. He states some wild anthropological theories as fact and becomes more and more obsessed and convinced that he is right and that he will save the human race (by exterminating a large percentage of it).

From a historical point of view Mein Kampf is quite interesting, especially if you're like me and not well-versed in WWII history or its precedents. I didn't know that Hitler was interested, for example, in a possible alliance with England. I'd also been under the impression that the decision to invade Russia was rash. However, reading Mein Kampf which was published in 1925 (Volume 1) and 1926 (Volume 2), it is clear that it had been his plan all along, long before the invasion actually happened. Likewise the alliance with Italy was well in the works long before it happened.

Still, even with the historical significance, Mein Kampf is a long and difficult book. If it is was anybody else who wrote it, it would be easy to just throw it down in disgust as the rantings of an intellectually-sounding lunatic. He reminded me at times of Hannibal Lecter. But it's made all the more difficult since it's impossible to write him off as a nut or a fictional character. The atrocities committed by this monster were only too real.

Anyone who throws the Hitler-insult around lightly should read this book. Only one man should ever be stuck with that.

1 comment:

Perogyo said...

I read this forever ago and was really struck by how meandering it was. It wasn't about summing up his ideas for followers to change their thinking like with the Wealth of Nations or the Communist Manifesto, but despite that he did gain hundreds of thousands of followers. I guess hate is easier to understand and relate with...maybe?