The Problem With Hitler’s Mein Kampf
I recently listened to an audio version of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
There was a lot in the book that I was NOT surprised to see. Hitler really did hate Jewish people and he was quite racist.
“The Jew is the great master of lies.”
“One who understands the Jews has had a veil lifted from his eyes.”
“In standing guard against the Jew, I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.”
This wasn’t surprising to hear this from the leader of the Nazi party, and I expected to see these kinds of phrases in Hitler’s book. But I was surprised to discover that this wasn’t the entire book.
The Problem With Mein Kampf… It’s Not All Bad
Hitler was self-taught and his life resembled 'The American Dream' in more aspects than one. He began his adult life living in near-poverty in Vienna, working at laboring jobs and spending all his free time reading, and his disposable income buying books.
Through studying, he learned a great deal about politics, history, geography, propaganda, and economics. He sat in on parliament meetings, learning how the government in Germany worked. He was very well informed, especially discussing the problems of German government at that time. He seemed to have some genuinely good ideas.
Hitler loved Germany, the culture and the language, and I don’t think he was faking it. Before leading the German army, he fought in the trenches in WWI. Like Winston Churchill in England and Theodore Roosevelt in the USA, he was a role model for strength, courage, and military bravery.
As the 7th member of the German Labor Party, he gave speeches with only 1 or 2 people present. He stood up for his cause long before anyone else believed in it. I couldn’t help but see parallels to many of the inspirational role models society holds up today, and their positive qualities we emphasize.
Many sections of Mein Kampf could just as well have been written by Tony Robbins, the well-known and well-loved motivational speaker.
“Obstacles are placed in our life not to be boggled at, but to be surmounted.”
“To be unwilling to walk the road of hardship means only too often in this world the total renunciation of our aims and purposes, whether that renunciation be consciously willed or not.”
Ayn Rand, the famous author-crusader of capitalism and American ideals, could also have been a co-author.
“If governments use their power to the ruin of the people, it is right and necessary to rebel.”
“This is a period where wisdom counts for nothing and majorities for everything. The majority can never replace the man. 100 blockheads do not equal 1 man of wisdom.”
While Hitler may have lived very differently than he wrote, many of the ideas in this book seemed quite humanitarian.
“When a leader finds that his ideas are erroneous, he must step aside.”
“Human rights are above the rights of the state.” (Whether he listened to his own advice is a different story.)
I was shocked to hear so many statements and ideas that are readily accepted, and even fought for, today. If you have the interest, and about 20 hours, you can listen to the entire book for free on YouTube.
What Did I Learn From Mein Kampf?
Hitler’s story is one of hatred, death, and slaughter.
But from the perspective taken in his book, it was also a story of courage, persistence, love of country, passionate beliefs, and hope for a better future.
The ‘Problem’ with Mein Kampf is that the hatred, courage, slaughter, and love of country are mixed together into one book and one ideology.
The genuinely good ideas and passionate beliefs hold their undiluted power to inspire. The bad ideas hold the potential for evil, also without dilution. They’re like white and black pebbles thrown into a bag, not white cream stirred evenly into black coffee, both of which lose their potency.
A negative idea such as ‘Hating Jews’ sits alongside a very positive idea, ‘Loving Germany’. The bloody conquest of Europe stems from the well-meaning desire to rebuild the pride of a broken nation.
In many ways the cruel dictator is intelligent, courageous, passionate, and an ideal role model.
I was reminded to dig deeper beyond one-word descriptions such as ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Looking at specific events, the world labels Hitler as ‘evil’. By focusing only on his positive qualities and passionate ideals, armies enthusiastically followed him to war. Historical truth is somewhere in the middle.
“The study of history is not to learn the results, but the forces that are the causes of the results we call ‘events’.”
On this point, I agree with Hitler. I read Mein Kampf to discover the forces that lead to Hitler's rise and WWII. I learned that the forces that drive cruel results, cruel events, mindless killing, and even ‘extermination’, are often the genuinely intelligent ideas that accompany them in the same ideology.
Good mixes with bad and unseen forces drive history forward. Our challenge is to piece together all the disparate facts, forces, and events into a mosaic worldview (‘weltanschauung’ in German) that mirrors reality as closely as possible.