WWII Was a Bad Fantasy Novel (book report)
Adolf Hitler's manifesto is incredibly revealing into who the man was and how he thought. I present my thoughts here without any character limits. (Goodreads, I still love you but why hasn't Amazon improved anything since buying you???)
It should go without saying that I don't share these views. This is a book report, and it will address topics of antisemitism and racism, among others. The intent is to understand who he was and what motivated him, which my public education never taught me. I believe everyone should understand this.
Mein Kampf, by Adolf Hitler
I will not presume to be able to say anything historians and scholars have not already said. This is solely my opinion from my reading. For as much as we talk about WWII, how well do we understand it? After all the documentaries and specials and talking about Hitler, how many people can tell you what he actually believed? What his views were? Why he rose to power, and what WW2 was about? I wanted to find out. Mein Kampf is enormously insightful into who the man was. How he thought. Where he came from and what he believed, and also why a century after his death certain people won’t stop talking about and defending him.
(Edition read is copyright 1941 Reynal & Hitchcock, New York. Downloaded from a web archive. This book was published as a reaction to the Pearl Harbor attack, and America's entry into WWII. Arguably this edition is American propaganda against the Nazis, which I think is an ok perspective to work with. There is no way to be objective about Adolf Hitler.)
Who was Adolf Hitler? He was a boy who grew up hearing about the glorious past of his German ancestors, only to be met with a very different reality when he joined the world as a young man. The reality he entered was pre-WWI Europe, in which borders were changing constantly, and different empires were vying for control of various colonies and territories. England had a nation that unified its people. Italy had one. France had one. Russia had one. But German-speaking peoples were divided among several empires. Surely a people as great as the Germans deserved their own nation, their own colonies, and their own place on the world stage.
A lot of ideas were going around at the time Hitler grew up: Darwinism as applied to human beings along racial lines, racial theory as applied to why white people seemed to be above everyone else, ignoring the whole imperialism thing, surely there must be a reason whites are above all others; and young Adolf absorbed and believed ALL OF THEM.
First and foremost, Hitler had convictions. Emotional preconceptions, and the reality he saw in Vienna in the early 1900s convinced him that the college-educated intellectuals read so many books and took in so many ideas they couldn’t make heads or tails of the things they read, so they became wishy-washy professors and politicians and such who had no idealism or conviction about anything. Hitler outright states that the purpose of reading must be to reinforce one’s preconceived notions. Taking in new information will only confuse a person. That alone shows what kind of man he was.
Hitler was convinced of a prevailing belief of the time: nothing is learned or earned, everything a person is and will become is inborn. German people were obviously great, as evidenced by the history Hitler had been taught, so they should have their own nation, but something was holding them back. Something was preventing them from uniting as a people.
According to Darwin (as perceived in the decades after the publication of Origin of Species), only the strongest survive, and thus only the most extraordinary circumstances bring out the best and most capable people in a society. War is the only true test of a person’s, and by extension, a nation’s true character. War brings out the true innovators of the human race. War excites the instinct to survive, therefore the people who call for peace and moderation and compromise are holding back the development not only of the nation but of the human species itself.
The German powers lost The Great War. Hitler noticed all the newspapers calling for peace and concluded they had demoralized the fighting spirit of the German peoples to fight for their own nation and enjoy the same self-identity other European peoples had. Hitler then believed the other prevailing belief going around at the time: the Jews were everywhere, influencing everything.
Oh yeah, you don’t have to read very far before Hitler makes the Jewish connection. The Jews were conspiring to hold the people back. They were behind the newspapers that preached peace and such, thus influencing the German people and killing their fighting spirit, ensuring Germany lost the Great War they so obviously deserved to win.
Over and over Hitler calls out Marxism as the root of all of society’s problems, a Jewish conspiracy keeping the German people from uniting as a race against the forces of the world that were conspiring to keep the German-speaking people from acquiring their own nation. Marxism, from Hitler’s point of view, preached collectivism and class warfare, which prevented the German people from becoming conscious of just how great a people they were, keeping them busy fighting one another.
I have read Marx. I know Hitler is full of shit on this point, but Hitler already established he couldn’t be bothered to read such things himself, for he had convictions and preconceptions, and he states reading and education should serve to reinforce such convictions, and that a leader is never allowed to change his mind about anything lest he appear weak to his followers. Hitler had so much zeal for the German territories to have their own unified nation, and he had convinced himself he was just the person to raise others up to his level of enthusiasm.
He also believed another idea going around at the time: that the masses produced mostly mechanical beings incapable of thought or reason, and out of that emerged a handful of thinkers and leaders who were obligated and ordained to rule over the masses. To teach them. To guide them. To tell them what they should believe, what they should be proud of, what they should fight for.
Clearly the German people needed to be taught how to be proud of their heritage, and needed to have their fighting spirit invigorated. Hitler gave that to them. His message was unpopular among the majority of the people, but that didn’t matter because Hitler imagined the purpose of government was to mold society and teach the people to be proud of their race and nationality so they could be used for the ruling class’s greater purpose. Since people were generally stupid, it made sense that elites would rise up to dominate the masses, and they deserved to be, having struggled to get out of the drudgery and prove themselves intellectually and culturally superior.
Hitler grew up in the Austria-Hungarian empire, and he witnessed all these different factions arguing in parliament. Most important, he witnessed Slavic groups gaining favor in the government that was supposed to represent German-speaking people’s interests. Hitler saw his own people underrepresented in Democracy, and it seemed other racial groups were always favored while his own was left behind. If only the German-speaking peoples could unite under one nation, one government. Hitler came to see democracy as weak and ineffective and romanticized the kings and emperors of the past as decisive and strong.
If human civilization follows Darwinian principles, then democracy will lead to the downfall of a nation/race because democracy requires compromise, and compromise always results in a dilution of ideals. And peoples. Only the strongest should survive. Only those who cling to their beliefs in an absolute way and are willing to fight for those beliefs and destroy the opposition deserve to survive and rise to the top to dominate society.
Race and nation should be the same thing, according to Adolf Hitler. Different races of people deserve their own nation. Different races of humans existed according to Darwin’s theory of natural selection: only the strongest and most determined people survive. War is the only way to bring out that kind of innovation and survival spirit—the real human beings—but the Jew has a different agenda. Hitler subscribed to a belief that had been around for centuries: that the Jew was a race of people which had a survival mechanism unlike any other. Normal races of people aspired to acquire their own land and their own culture, but the Jew existed around the world, in all nations as a parasite of men, contributing nothing but influencing other cultures in order to survive. In short, Hitler saw the Jew as the flea of mankind. If there is a flea, then there must be a dog, and Hitler believed that dog was the German people being held back by this parasite through its pacifistic press and Marxist dogma that kept the people distracted from its own racial identity and suppressing its fighting spirit and thus preventing the German people from acquiring their own nation.
(It’s all about acquiring a united nation for German-speaking peoples. Got it?)
Mein Kampf reveals a chain of logic floating on an ocean of various superstitious and scientific ideas, but it’s important to realize none of these were Hitler’s own. This was just all the stuff going around at the time, making Adolf Hitler the melting pot of all sorts of concepts that had been part of the popular consciousness for decades. Volume one is Hitler stating what he believes and how he thinks the government should go about representing the people.
In short: Hitler believed the purpose of the government was not to create some stable economy in which the people could be free to pursue their own interests and live their own lives, rather the government exists to educate the people of their own racial/national identity and safeguard the culture of this race/nationality. Its job is to create an environment of hardship that will allow the survival instinct to reveal itself among the masses and thus produce the smartest and most innovative citizens. The government should elevate those people into the elite class which will then make decisions on behalf of the mechanical and mindless masses, ensuring the race will continue on, stronger and stronger in every generation.
Hitler was very conscious of the race in a sense of national identity. The German race must gain strength among the Darwinian struggle against other races, and this meant the State should decide who can reproduce and who cannot. The blood must remain pure, which is a concept that predates Hitler by more than a century. (White Trash. by Nancy Isenberg)
The prevailing belief was that nothing is learned. All talent and intelligence is inborn. (Jack London subverted this common wisdom in books like White Fang. It was a radical idea at the time to portray the wolf not as an inherently evil monster but a creature adapting to its environment.) Hitler states that the purpose of the government is to create a crucible of hardship from which the fittest and most innovative emerge. The State must have a method to recognize such individuals and pluck them out of the masses so their ingenuity can be utilized for the benefit of the race as a whole, and THIS is the definition of Hitler’s brand of “socialism” and why he chose to call his party the National Socialist Worker’s Party. The government should be focused on the public good as related to the preservation of the race and the culture. The State must educate the people to this end, but Hitler outright states facts don’t matter, only convictions and the end goal.
Adolf Hitler believed his race must have been at the top at some point in the past, but something had brought it down. Hitler struggled hard to justify why the German peoples didn’t have their own unified nation prior to WW1 and why they failed to unite in order to get it. In his mind, the best and most capable human beings had a single origin in the “Aryan race.” These were the smartest and best people evolution produced, who at some point in the distant past came to rule over other races and utilize them for physical labor thus freeing the Aryans for more cerebral tasks, but then they succumbed to temptation to intermarry with their slaves and thus diluted all their superior traits. The result was all these other nations of inferior peoples, with the Jew as the lowest parasite of all, feeding off other cultures while contributing nothing. This was also not Hitler’s idea; it had been going around for years as a Eurocentric way to explain why White people seemed to be at the top, as tied to “scientific” racial studies. There was no evidence to back up this theory, but it was nonetheless popular among certain groups.
This book is hard to read but it is insightful into who the man was, and what motivated him. His goal upon reaching power was not to form a stable economy so the people could live their happy lives. Hitler was concerned first and foremost about the preservation of the superior race. The German race. The German nation. Nation and race were one and the same to Hitler, and war was mankind’s natural state because it brought out the true geniuses among the masses, the dormant Aryans. Everyone else would be bombarded by so much education slanted to serve the State’s purpose they would know nothing except obedience to the State’s goal.
Worth noting is how he believed the people must be educated to want to work for the benefit of the State and their own race, for work in industry and farming and so forth meant racial survival in the face of the enemies surrounding the German people who were keeping the Germans down. Hitler decried the evils of Soviet-style communism and collectivism (specifically how it drove the masses to be equal and prevented competition, leaving no opportunities for the Aryan traits to express themselves) while at the same time advocating for collectivization and forcing the people to work not for their own benefit but for the State’s. The irony was lost on him.
What strikes me most of all is how Hitler realized what Capitalism was doing to the German people, how it was building factories and putting independent craftspeople out of work and opening German labor and land up to foreign investors in the form of stock markets who bought and sold the German people without thought to what it was doing to the humans on the ground. The work of the nation no longer benefited the nation, but went into foreign pockets. Hitler blamed the Jews for this, Jews being the masters of the money system and banks. Somehow Hitler believed the Jews were responsible for both Capitalism and Marxism. The first for gaining influence with monarchies and toppling them. The second for dividing the German people in a fight over social class instead of uniting as a race. Having read Marx (Capital, by Karl Marx), I can refute everything Hitler says with authority. Had Hitler bothered to read Marx, perhaps he would have reached a different conclusion regarding the destruction of the society he grew up hearing about. Instead Hitler believed his own personal observations and revelations were absolute truth and new perspectives only served to confuse him, so he reached for Jewish conspiracy theories instead.
Volume 2 is all about what the government should become if it hopes to produce real change. The government must be BIG, and it must be focused on the preservation of the German race above all else. The weakness of previous governments was how they sought to preserve the economy, not the race. Again Hitler saw race and nation as the same thing, and having seen German-speaking peoples denied so much in parliament prior to WW1, it’s no wonder to me he came to see all other nations/races conspiring against the people who spoke his own language. He viewed himself as one of the elite thinkers who was privileged/obligated to tell the masses what was good for them, and to use them for his own end.
That end being the preservation of the German culture. The Aryan race. The dormant traits of the best people humanity produced. The State was obligated to select those traits from the masses with the intent to undo the blood dilution of generations prior, restoring the Aryans to their former glory.
The end also being the destruction or subjugation of all the races who hold down the German people and might tempt them to dilute their blood with inferior races whom the Aryan people are destined to rule over.
It should come as no surprise that Adolf Hitler did ALL of these things once he got power. And he wasn’t elected. He was appointed by committee who thought he would mellow out after he became a statesman and had to work with others. Hitler became the embodiment and most extreme expression of all the ideas going around at the time.
Hitler’s mindset and core beliefs become obvious from a reading of Mein Kampf. I find it astonishing that he laid it all out in the printed word, and yet nobody in my country learns about it. I find it equally astonishing that he laid out his worldview in print and yet nobody thought he’d ever go as far as to carry it out. He made his goals clear, but nobody believed he was a dangerous man.
Adolf Hitler was not some madman hellbent on taking over the world. He had a concrete worldview, and he saw it through once he came into power. The early chapters show a young man trying to understand his place in a changing reality, attempting to reconcile new ideas with old preconceptions. Unwilling to take in real knowledge or anything that might contradict his worldview, he ended up believing every single conspiracy theory out there. Hitler was so convinced of his own inborn superiority and intelligence he did not think he needed to learn anything new, or take in any other perspectives. He simply was the greatest, part of a great people who were being oppressed by the Jew.
This is what Hitler stood for. Lots of people agreed with him then, and they still do now.
Most relevant passage, from v1 ch2. In my opinion, this is the most revealing part of Hitler’s manifesto. It is everything Hitler was, and why he was so dangerous:
I did not place much importance on the fact that in addition I took the greatest interest in everything connected with politics. On the contrary; to me this was the natural duty of every thinking human being anyway. He who had no understanding for this simply had no right to criticize or to complain,
Here, too, I also read and learned a lot.
But by ‘reading’ I may possibly mean something entirely different from the great average of our so-called ‘intelligentsia’
I know people who endlessly 'read' a lot, book after book, letter for letter, yet I would not call them 'well read.' Of course, they possess a wide 'knowledge,' but their intellect does not know how to distribute and register the material gathered. They lack the ability to distinguish in a book that which is of value and that which is of no value to them; to keep the one in mind forever, and to overlook, if possible, the other, instead of carrying it with them as so much unnecessary ballast.
Reading, furthermore, is not a purpose in itself, but a means to an end. It should serve, first of all, to fill in the frame which Is formed by the talents and abilities of the individual; thus reading has to furnish the tools and the building material which the individual needs for his profession, no matter whether it serves only the primitive purpose of making a living or whether it presents a higher vocation; secondly, reading has to give a general picture of the world. In both cases it is necessary that the content of what has been read is registered in the mind, not according to the sequence in the book, or according to the sequence in which the books are read, but that, like the small pieces of a mosaic, it is put into the place where it belongs, thus helping to complete the general picture of the world in the mind of the reader. Otherwise, the result will be a terrible muddle of things learned, and this is not only of little value, but it also makes its unfortunate possessor presumptuous and vain. For now he thinks in all sincerity that he is 'educated'; he thinks he knows life and has knowledge; whereas in reality, with each new contribution to this ‘education,’ he is more and more estranged from the world, till frequently he ends in a sanatorium, or as a ‘politician’ in parliament. Such a person will never succeed in finding, in an hour of need, the right thing in the medley of his 'knowledge,' as his mental ballast is not arranged according to the course of life, but in the order in which he has read the books and in which their contents are arranged in his mind. If Fate in his daily demands of life were always to remind him of the right use of that which he has once read, then it would also have to remind him of each book and the page number or else the poor devil in all eternity would never find the right thing. But since it does not do this, these extraordinarily wise men are terribly embarrassed at critical moments and seek frantically for analogies, and then, of course, they are dead certain to chance upon the wrong recipe. If this were not so, we should not be able to understand the political achievements of our learned heroes in the highest government positions, unless we decided that the had pathological inclinations instead of infamous villainy.
When studying a book, a magazine, or a pamphlet, those who master this art of reading will immediately pick out that which in their opinion is suitable for them because it serves their purposes or is generally worth knowing and therefore to be remembered forever. As soon as the knowledge so gained finds its due place in the one or the other existing picture of this or that thing which imagination has created, it will act as a corrective or as a supplement, thus enhancing its truth or its clarity. When life suddenly presents some question to be examined or answered, then this manner of reading will immediately take the already existing picture as a standard, and from it it will take all the single contributions to this question which have been collected during past decades, and submit them to the intellect for examination and reconsideration till the question is clarified or answered. It is only in this fashion that reading is of use and has meaning.
A public speaker, for instance, who does not in this way supply his intelligence with the necessary support will never, in case of contradiction, be able to present his opinion convincingly, no matter whether it may correspond a thousand times to truth or reality. His memory will shamefully desert him in all discussions; he will neither find supporting arguments for his contentions, nor will he find such with which to confound his adversary. This may be all very well if it only concerns a public speaker and only his own personal reputation is involved, but things take a bad turn when Fate appoints such a ‘know-it-all’ who is really a know-nothing, the head of a State. From my early youth I took pains to read in the right manner, and in this I was happily assisted by my memory and intellect. And in this light the time I spent in Vienna was especially fruitful and useful.
As I was thus finally enabled to substantiate theory with reality, to examine theory in its relation to reality. I was spared being suffocated in theories and from becoming shallow through reality.
Why doesn’t school teach this? Why is social studies class so obsessed with the mechanics of this battle and that battle but never dives in to the motivation of war itself?
The motivation for WWII sounds like a bad fantasy novel: Prince Hrothrarq doesn’t like learning things that contradict what he already believes because they only confuse him. The revelations he comes up with on his own make so much more sense, so he considers himself a genius for thinking up such revelations about life and society. He grows up learning about the great achievements of his ancestors and wonders why his race, the uh Fluvians (yeah, good name!), aren’t building monuments anymore and have no slaves. He concludes it was because generations ago Fluvians intermarried with their slaves and diluted their blood with undesirable traits such as laziness and compassion and a willingness to compromise. But Hrothrarq has heard the Fluvian’s superior traits of intelligence and survival are still lying dormant within the masses, so when he gets the throne he decides to throw his nation into total war with his neighbors to try to bring out these superior traits and select those people to marry to restore his people to their rightful place, lording over all the other races in the world, leaving them to do the manual labor under the thumb of constant propaganda that changes their reality so working for the survival and preservation of the Fluvian race is their only desire, while the true Fluvians reserve their strength for tasks befitting their superior intellect.
Maybe that’s why we don’t learn about it in school. When you actually take a look at who Hitler was, WWII is laughable. That a man with a worldview as absurd as this could mobilize an army and topple the empires of the world and murder as many people as he did for the reasons he did is something that shouldn’t be able to happen, and yet it did. What’s even more amazing is this worldview did not die with him. People still blame the Jews for all their problems, same as they did in the Middle Ages. This hints at even bigger problems, and we are doomed to repeat history until we face the root cause of them.