As a decorated combatant in Imperial Germany’s defeat in World War I, Adolf Hitler’s hatred for his own government grew daily following the war. He blamed inept leadership for his adopted country’s harrowing loss of life, shameful capitulation and immense national debt levied by the occupying Western nations. With the turmoil that followed caused by the constant political infighting during the Weimar Republic, Communists, Social Democrats and other radical groups made Hitler’s list of “enemies of the people”. His dreams of a united German “Aryan Volk”, culled of those he felt inferior, living in a modern agricultural paradise spread out into areas of the Slovak East, caused young Hitler to envision himself in a constant Darwinian struggle for a leadership role. These growing ideals were expressed often in the speeches he gave as leader of the growing “Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei” (National Socialist German Workers’ Party – Nazi Party), until his words and thoughts were formed into the written words of his political manifesto.
On November 8 and 9th, 1923, Hitler and 2,000 Nazi followers took a fatal step towards revolutionary action in Munich by attempting to overthrow the government during what was to be called, the “Beer Hall Putsch”. Hitler was later arrested and tried for treason in 1924. Given a light sentence by sympathetic judges, he was given five years in Landsberg prison, of which he served only eight months before being released.
During his incarceration, Hitler took the time to write a book originally titled the “Viereinhalb Jahre des Kampfes gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit” (Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice). This would later be shortened by his publisher to simply “Mein Kampf“ (My Struggle).
In his writing, Hitler outlined his adversities and growing leadership skills during his childhood, which he felt gave him a strong base for his future political life. He recorded his living in poverty while an artist and vagrant, dangerous war experiences in the trenches of World War I, and his political rise to the head of the Nazi Party. His words hammered the subject of ethnicities featuring “Aryans”, the perfect Germanic race at the top of a racial pyramid, with all other “Untermenschen” (sub-humans) below. He spewed rabid antisemitism, fueled in part by the false narratives contained in “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”, a fictitious Russian account written in 1902 which claimed a conspiracy of Jewish leaders planning the takeover of the global economy.
“Volksgemeinschaft” (the national community) in which the state meant more than the individual, and minorities were not tolerated, became a central theme in Hitler’s plan. His ever-developing hatred for anything not “Germanic” led to his promoting the enslavement of the Eastern Slavic peoples and enacting “Lebensraum”, the expansion of Germanic land holdings across Europe reaching into the Russian steppes, while repopulating the area with Aryans at the expense of the original inhabitants.
Democracy was seen as an ineffectual and weak form of government that stifled Germany’s true destiny. That destiny was one in which the country should be governed by a strong central leader, a “Great Man” who was both a profit and a practitioner. The concept of the “Grosse Luge” (Big Lie) for control of the masses was blamed for causing the defeat of the German people by their leaders in World War I. This idea meant that a lie had to be so bold that no one would believe that it could be false. Ironically, this concept was later used throughout the Third Reich to sway loyal followers into doing and believing whatever the Nazi hierarchy wanted. In his writing, Hitler never quoted anyone, but “cherry picked” ideas from philosophers and historians such as Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Julius Langbehn, Heinrich Von Treitschke, Heinrich Von Treitschke and many others.
Hitler wrote his book on a Remington typewriter provided by Helene Bechstein, member of the famous piano manufacturing company owner’s family, and ardent Nazi supporter. Rudolf Hess, an early follower who would later become the Nazi Deputy Fuhrer, critiqued the writing by reading each chapter aloud. While doing this he built Hitler’s self-esteem, and helped to produce an unwavering guide for the destiny of the Nazi Party.
In September 1924, the original draft was finished, but exhibited a lack of a “human” element in the writing technique. This was added when it was edited by Hess, Ilse Prohl (Hess’ fiancé), Emil Maurice, Josef Stolzing-Czery and Ernest Hanfstaengl, all devout Nazis and Hitler confidants. In the spring of 1925, Hitler secluded himself in a small vacation cabin called the “Kampfhaul” (combat cottage) at the Pension Moritz in Obersalzberg. Here the final book was completed and sent to party official and publisher Max Amman. On July 18, 1925 Amann published 10,000 copies of the first edition, which sold sparsely at its introduction. However, by the fall of 1925, “Mein Kampf”, now seen as the official “bible” of the Nazi party, took off, despite the burdened post war economy making the 12-mark price tag difficult for some party members to buy.
Following its introduction, the book was reviewed by dozens of critics who commented on Hitler’s narratives on race, education, literature, state government and the other topics covered. Many decided that it was either a great work of a true genius, or the trivial ramblings of a mad man. Many found the writing style boring and uninspired despite the differing views on the content. The public by and large liked his war stories that presented the danger and adventures of the trench warfare that the author had lived through. With Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the book became an international best seller with 5.2 million copies sold in 11 different languages. Those buying the book as either true Nazi followers, or just curious about the thoughts behind the man, made Hitler a multi-millionaire.
During his lifetime, the standard books were available in multiple editions. The “Volksausgabe” (People’s Edition) was bound in navy blue with a gold eagle and swastika on the cover. The “Hochzeitsausgabe” (wedding edition) was presented to newly married couples, and included a finely designed slip cover with the issuing province’s name printed in gold. Another edition was given to soldiers’ families by the post office to be sent to their loved ones in the field. This smaller, but complete book was covered in a red binding. For Hitler’s 50th birthday, a special “Jubilaumsausgabe (anniversary issue) was produced in a red and blue cover with a bright gold sword on the front. Both soft and hard cover editions were available, as were two volume sets.
After Hitler and the Nazi party were justly eliminated following the bloodbath of the World War II, the copyrights for “Mein Kampf” passed to the Bavarian government. Due to the ethnic and racial bias contained in Hitler’s work, and fear over glorifying Nazi ideals, all publications of the book in Germany ceased. This stayed in effect until 2016, when a new edition with 3,500 notes of explanation was published. The new edition laid bare the historical inaccuracies of the original volumes, which were written as a blueprint for Hitler’s Utopian nightmare and the ultimate conquest of Europe.