Mein Kampf, or “My Struggle,” reigns supreme as one of the most infamous memoirs in history, written by one of history’s most despised men. Adolf Hitler began work on volume one of this autobiography when he was imprisoned for political crimes in late winter of 1923. While he hoped that Mein Kampf would disseminate his personal and political philosophies, Hitler had other motives for writing the book; he expected sales of Mein Kampf to offset his financial obligations and impending trial fees.
Mein Kampf details Hitler’s journey into extreme antisemitism, which eventually led him to commit the atrocities against the Jews and other minorities during WWII for which he is so universally despised. Hitler prompted the worst genocide in the history of the world, the Holocaust, which resulted in the brutal extermination of roughly 6 million European Jews: two thirds of all the Jews living in Europe at the time. A broader definition of the Holocaust brings the death toll to 17 million. In Mein Kampf, Hitler’s deep-seated hatred for all non-Aryans, particularly Jews, becomes apparent. The memoir centers around the idea of “the Jewish peril” which warns of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world. It points to Judaism and Communism as the two greatest evils known to man. Not so subtle hints at future intents of mass genocide can also be found throughout the book.
After Mein Kampf’s publication, the book achieved immense popularity. Eight years after its 1925 release, it had sold 5.2 million copies in eleven languages; by the end of WWII, 10 million copies were in circulation in Germany alone. During Hitler’s time in power, a free copy of Mein Kampf was given to newlyweds and to every soldier in the German army. Interestingly enough, Hitler tried to distance himself from the book once he became German Chancellor in 1933. After Hitler’s death in 1945, copyright of Mein Kampf was passed to the government of Bavaria, a federal state of Germany. The government prohibited the publication of the book until 2016, when the copyright expired.
How might history have changed if the German people had read Mein Kampf with a more discerning eye – if they hadn’t blindly accepted a tyrant’s maniacal words as true, and instead thought for themselves? One lesson we can learn from the mass distribution and unquestioning adoption of Mein Kampf as truth is to evaluate all publications through a hyper-critical lense, and to compare what is being said against our own values and morals.
This is a first edition book previously owned by Claus Von Stauffenberg, who is best known for his role in Operation Valkyrie, a planned attempt to assassinate Adolph Hitler and overthrow the Nazi party by von Stauffenberg and other anti-Nazi Germans.
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