Sentenced to five years incarceration in Landsberg Castle for the part he played in the Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler used the time there to author a political tract of great magnitude.
While at Landsberg, Hitler was treated well and was allowed to walk in the castle grounds, wear his own clothes and receive gifts. Officially there were restrictions on visitors but this did not apply to Hitler, and a steady flow of friends, party members and journalists spent long spells with him.
While in Landsberg, Hitler read a lot of books. Most of these dealt with German history and political philosophy. Later he was to describe his spell in prison as a “free education at the state’s expense.” One writer who influenced Hitler while in prison was Henry Ford, the American car-manufacturer. Hitler read Ford’s autobiography, My Life and Work, and a book of his called The International Jew. In the latter Ford claimed that there was a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. Hitler also approved of Ford’s hostile views towards communism and trade unions.
Max Amnan, his business manager, proposed that Hitler should spend his time in prison writing his autobiography. Hitler, who had never fully mastered writing, was at first not keen on the idea. However, he agreed when it was suggested that he should dictate his thoughts to a ghostwriter. The prison authorities surprisingly agreed that Hitler’s chauffeur, Emile Maurice, could live in the prison to carry out this task.
Maurice, whose main talent was as a street fighter, was a poor writer and the job was eventually taken over by Rudolph Hess, a student at Munich University.
The book is a mixture of autobiography, political ideas and an explanation of the techniques of propaganda.
In Mein Kampf Hitler outlined his political philosophy. He argued that the German/Aryan race was superior to all others and destined to rule the world. “Every manifestation of human culture, every product of art, science and technical skill, which we see before our eyes today, is almost exclusively the product of Aryan creative power.”
Adolf Hitler warned that the Aryan’s superiority was being threatened by intermarriage. If this happened world civilization would decline: “On this planet of ours human culture and civilization are indissolubly bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he should be exterminated or subjugated, then the dark shroud of a new barbarian era would enfold the earth.”
Although other races would resist this process, the Aryan race had a duty to control the world. This would be difficult and force would have to be used, but it could be done. To support this view he gave the example of how the British Empire had controlled a quarter of the world by being well-organized and having well-trained soldiers and sailors.
In Mein Kampf, Hitler uses the main thesis of “the Jewish peril,” which speaks of an alleged Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership. The narrative describes the process by which he became increasingly anti-Semitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna. Yet, the deeper origins of his anti-Semitism remain a mystery. He speaks of not having met a Jew until he arrived in Vienna, and that at first his attitude was liberal and tolerant. When he first encountered the anti-semitic press, he says, he dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration. A little later and quite suddenly, it seems, he accepted the same anti-semitic views whole-heartedly, which became crucial in his program of national reconstruction. Becoming acquainted with Zionism, which he calls a “great movement,” is what Hitler claims coalesced his view that one cannot be both a German and a Jew.
Hitler believed that Aryan superiority was being threatened by the Jewish race who, he argued, were lazy and had contributed little to world civilization. He claimed that the “Jewish youth lies in wait for hours on end satanically glaring at and spying on the unconscious girl whom he plans to seduce, adulterating her blood with the ultimate idea of bastardizing the white race which they hate and thus lowering its cultural and political level so that the Jew might dominate.”
According to Hitler, Jews were responsible for losing the First World War, the rise of Communism, and the evils of Weimar Germany. Hitler also claimed that Jews, who were only about 1% of the population, were slowly taking over the country. They were doing this by controlling the largest political party in Germany, the German Social Democrat Party, many of the leading companies and several of the country’s newspapers. The fact that Jews had achieved prominent positions in a democratic society was, according to Hitler, an argument against democracy: “a hundred blockheads do not equal one man in wisdom.”
Hitler believed that the Jews were involved with Communists in a joint conspiracy to take over the world. Like Henry Ford, Hitler claimed that 75% of all Communists were Jews. Hitler argued that the combination of Jews and Marxists had already been successful in Russia and now threatened the rest of Europe.
In Mein Kampf Hitler declared that: “The external security of a people in largely determined by the size of its territory.” If he won power, Hitler promised to occupy Russian land that would provide protection and Lebensraum for the German people. This action would help to destroy the Jewish/Marxist attempt to control the world: “The Russian Empire in the East is ripe for collapse; and the end of the Jewish domination of Russia will also be the end of Russia as a state.”
Mein Kampf has been studied as a work on political theory. For example, Hitler announces his hatred of what he believed to be the world’s twin evils: Communism and Judaism. The new territory that Germany needed to obtain would properly nurture the “historic destiny” of the German people; this goal explains why Hitler invaded Europe, both East and West, before he launched his attack against Russia. Blaming Germany’s chief woes on the parliament of the Weimar Republic, he announced that he wanted to completely destroy the parliamentary system.
Mein Kampf has additionally been examined as a book of foreign policy. For example, Hitler sagely predicts the stages of Germany’s political emergence on the world scene: in the first stage, Germany would, through a program of massive re-armament, overthrow the shackles of the Treaty of Versailles. The second stage would feature wars against France and her allies in Eastern Europe. The third and final stage would be a war to destroy what Hitler saw as the “Judeo-Bolshevik” regime in the Soviet Union that would give Germany their necessary Lebensraum. German historian Andreas Hillgruber labeled the plans contained in Mein Kampf as Hitler’s “Stufenplan.”
Mein Kampf was significant in 1925 because it was an open source for the presentation of Hitler’s ideas about the state of the world. Mein Kampf shows the ideas that crafted Hitler’s historical grievances and ambitions for creating a New Order. Taken together with other sources, historians such as Professor Gunnar Heinsohn demonstrate that Hitler’s plan for the Jews and Aryans alike was not confined to a racial conception but rather an ideological one. It was the propagation of “Jewish ideas” that Hitler targeted for extermination with relation to the destruction of their community and nation. Nearing the end of his reign, Hitler made such ideas clear in a correspondence:
“We use the term Jewish race merely for reasons of linguistic convenience, for in the real sense of the word, and from a genetic point of view, there is no Jewish race. […] The Jewish race is above all a community of the spirit. Spiritual race is of a more solid and more durable kind than natural race.”
His hatred for the “community of the spirit” connected with his conceptualization of what the Jewish people really stood for. But even his image of the Aryan race did not involve some kind of immutable purity, arguing that many factors, from wars to international trade, had perverted the purity of races that once existed in the past. Hitler kept such ideas to private conversations and out of his public orations or texts, such as Mein Kampf, because he did not want to lose the support of certain racist groups. To Hitler, the problem in his time period lay in the ideas he attributed to the Jewish community. His correspondence with the future Nazi leader of Danzig, Hermann Rauschning, clearly shows the culpability of Jewish ideas in Hitler’s historical framework.
According to Rauschning’s recollection of the meeting, Hitler referred to the Third Reich as a revolution of moral principles of man rather than “merely a political and social one.” Indeed, the Third Reich fit neatly into Hitler’s concept of history, which he divided into three periods. The first age, the age of antiquity, was a time where infanticide and complete destruction of the enemy were encouraged to keep a race pure and strong. The second, middle age, is the one Hitler wanted to dismantle through the moral revolution he spoke of. The middle age, or the age of intervening, as Hitler called it, was a Jewish invention that created the sanctity of life by way of the Tablets of Mount Sinai. The Ten Commandments, specifically the sixth one, Thou Shalt Not Kill, is the idea Hitler wanted to cleanse from the German consciousness through the coming of the third age or the Third Reich. On a factual level, the meeting between Rauschning and Hitler is controversial. Rauschning’s recollection of Hitler’s beliefs was based on his own interpretation of the meeting and not supported by stenographic notes, casting doubts on his version’s validity. However, research by historians and Hitler’s own words in different periods lend much legitimacy to Rauschning’s claims.
Significantly, Hitler stated that the Third Reich was writing a new kind of history. In labeling the Holocaust as a “uniquely unique” genocide, the historian Gunnar Heinsohn provides evidence of Hitler’s ideas that clearly parallel his ambition to institute a new historical age based on antique values. During the war, Hitler remarked that peace could only be achieved by a return to the natural order where the strong dominate the weak: an order that was corrupted by the Jews. In other instances, Hitler justifies the destruction of entire cities because, in his view, it was necessary to “revert to antique principles.” Hitler also looked to both Genghis Khan and Sparta to support his ideas of natural selection with the necessary historical backing. Thus, at a Nazi party convention in 1929 Hitler argued against the Jewish train of thought:
“The worst danger is that we are interrupting the natural selection process ourselves (by caring for the sick and the weak). The most far-sighted racial state in history, Sparta, systematically implemented these racial laws.”
The racial laws to which Hitler referred resonate directly with his ideas in Mein Kampf. In Mein Kampf, Hitler stated that the destruction of the weak and sick is far more humane than their protection. However, apart from his allusion to humane treatment, Hitler saw a purpose in destroying “the weak” in order to provide the proper space and purity for the strong. In the book he attributed the corruption of such a natural order to the equality of human beings created and spread by “the Jew.” Heinsohn argues that such convictions, espoused in Mein Kampf, primarily attacked ideas rather than race.