IN placing before the reader this unabridged translation of Adolf Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, I feel it my duty to call attention to certain historical facts which must be borne in mind if the reader would form a fair judgment of what is written in this extraordinary work.
The first volume of Mein Kampf was written while the author was imprisoned in a Bavarian fortress. How did he get there and why? The answer to that question is important, because the book deals with the events which brought the author into this plight and because he wrote under the emotional stress caused by the historical happenings of the time. It was the hour of Germany's deepest humiliation, somewhat parallel to that of a little over a century before, when Napoleon had dismembered the old German Empire and French soldiers occupied almost the whole of Germany.
In the beginning of 1923 the French invaded Germany, occupied the Ruhr district and seized several German towns in the Rhineland. This was a flagrant breach of international law and was protested against by every section of British political opinion at that time. The Germans could not effectively defend themselves, as they had been already disarmed under the provisions of the Versailles Treaty. To make the situation more fraught with disaster for Germany, and therefore more appalling in its prospect, the French carried on an intensive propaganda for the separation of the Rhineland from the German Republic and the establishment of an independent Rhenania. Money was poured out lavishly to bribe agitators to carry on this work, and some of the most insidious elements of the German population became active in the pay of the invader. At the same time a vigorous movement was being carried on in Bavaria for the secession of that country and the establishment of an independent Catholic monarchy there, under vassalage to France, as Napoleon had done when he made Maximilian the first King of Bavaria in 1805.
The separatist movement in the Rhineland went so far that some leading German politicians came out in favour of it, suggesting that if the Rhineland were thus ceded it might be possible for the German Republic to strike a bargain with the French in regard to Reparations. But in Bavaria the movement went even farther. And it was more far-reaching in its implications; for, if an independent Catholic monarchy could be set up in Bavaria, the next move would have been a union with Catholic German-Austria, possibly under a Habsburg King. Thus a Catholic bloc would have been created which would extend from the Rhineland through Bavaria and Austria into the Danube Valley and would have been at least under the moral and military, if not the full political, hegemony of France. The dream seems fantastic now, but it was considered quite a practical thing in those fantastic times. The effect of putting such a plan into action would have meant the complete dismemberment of Germany; and that is what French diplomacy aimed at. Of course such an aim no longer exists. And I should not recall what must now seem "old, unhappy, far-off things" to the modern generation, were it not that they were very near and actual at the time Mein Kampf was written and were more unhappy then than we can even imagine now.
By the autumn of 1923 the separatist movement in Bavaria was on the point of becoming an accomplished fact. General von Lossow, the Bavarian chief of the Reichswehr no longer took orders from Berlin. The flag of the German Republic was rarely to be seen. Finally, the Bavarian Prime Minister decided to proclaim an independent Bavaria and its secession from the German Republic. This was to have taken place on the eve of the Fifth Anniversary of the establishment of the German Republic (November 9th, 1918.)
Hitler staged a counter-stroke. For several days he had been mobilizing his storm battalions in the neighbourhood of Munich, intending to make a national demonstration and hoping that the Reichswehr would stand by him to prevent secession. Ludendorff was with him. And he thought that the prestige of the great German Commander in the World War would be sufficient to win the allegiance of the professional army.
A meeting had been announced to take place in the Bürgerbräu Keller on the night of November 8th. The Bavarian patriotic societies were gathered there, and the Prime Minister, Dr. von Kahr, started to read his official pronunciamento, which practically amounted to a proclamation of Bavarian independence and secession from the Republic. While von Kahr was speaking Hitler entered the hall, followed by Ludendorff. And the meeting was broken up.
Next day the Nazi battalions took the street for the purpose of making a mass demonstration in favour of national union. They marched in massed formation, led by Hitler and Ludendorff. As they reached one of the central squares of the city the army opened fire on them. Sixteen of the marchers were instantly killed, and two died of their wounds in the local barracks of the Reichswehr. Several others were wounded also. Hitler fell on the pavement and broke a collar-bone. Ludendorff marched straight up to the soldiers who were firing from the barricade, but not a man dared draw a trigger on his old Commander.
Hitler was arrested with several of his comrades and imprisoned in the fortress of Landsberg on the River Lech. On February 26th, 1924, he was brought to trial before the Volksgericht, or People's Court in Munich. He was sentenced to detention in a fortress for five years. With several companions, who had been also sentenced to various periods of imprisonment, he returned to Landsberg am Lech and remained there until the 20th of the following December, when he was released. In all he spent about thirteen months in prison. It was during this period that he wrote the first volume of Mein Kampf.
If we bear all this in mind we can account for the emotional stress under which Mein Kampf was written. Hitler was naturally incensed against the Bavarian government authorities, against the footling patriotic societies who were pawns in the French game, though often unconsciously so, and of course against the French. That he should write harshly of the French was only natural in the circumstances. At that time there was no exaggeration whatsoever in calling France the implacable and mortal enemy of Germany. Such language was being used by even the pacifists themselves, not only in Germany but abroad. And even though the second volume of Mein Kampf was written after Hitler's release from prison and was published after the French had left the Ruhr, the tramp of the invading armies still echoed in German ears, and the terrible ravages that had been wrought in the industrial and financial life of Germany, as a consequence of the French invasion, had plunged the country into a state of social and economic chaos. In France itself the franc fell to fifty per cent of its previous value. Indeed, the whole of Europe had been brought to the brink of ruin, following the French invasion of the Ruhr and Rhineland.
But, as those things belong to the limbo of a dead past that nobody wishes to have remembered now, it is often asked: Why doesn't Hitler revise Mein Kampf? The answer, as I think, which would immediately come into the mind of an impartial critic is that Mein Kampf is an historical document which bears the imprint of its own time. To revise it would involve taking it out of its historical context. Moreover Hitler has declared that his acts and public statements constitute a partial revision of his book and are to be taken as such. This refers especially to the statements in Mein Kampf regarding France and those German kinsfolk that have not yet been incorporated in the Reich. On behalf of Germany he has definitely acknowledged the German portion of South Tyrol as permanently belonging to Italy and, in regard to France, he has again and again declared that no grounds now exist for a conflict of political interests between Germany and France and that Germany has no territorial claims against France. Finally, I may note here that Hitler has also declared that, as he was only a political leader and not yet a statesman in a position of official responsibility, when he wrote this book, what he stated in Mein Kampf does not implicate him as Chancellor of the Reich.
I now come to some references in the text which are frequently recurring and which may not always be clear to every reader. For instance, Hitler speaks indiscriminately of the German Reich. Sometimes he means to refer to the first Reich, or Empire, and sometimes to the German Empire as founded under William I in 1871. Incidentally the regime which he inaugurated in 1933 is generally known as the Third Reich, though this expression is not used in Mein Kampf. Hitler also speaks of the Austrian Reichand the East Mark, without always explicitly distinguishing between the Habsburg Empire and Austria proper. If the reader will bear the following historical outline in mind, he will understand the references as they occur.
The word Reich, which is a German form of the Latin word Regnum, does not mean Kingdom or Empire or Republic. It is a sort of basic word that may apply to any form of Constitution. Perhaps our word, Realm, would be the best translation, though the word Empire can be used when the Reichwas actually an Empire. The forerunner of the first German Empire was the Holy Roman Empire which Charlemagne founded in A.D. 800. Charlemagne was King of the Franks, a group of Germanic tribes that subsequently became Romanized. In the tenth century Charlemagne's Empire passed into German hands when Otto I (936-973) became Emperor. As the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, its formal appellation, it continued to exist under German Emperors until Napoleon overran and dismembered Germany during the first decade of the last century. On August 6th, 1806, the last Emperor, Francis II, formally resigned the German crown. In the following October Napoleon entered Berlin in triumph, after the Battle of Jena.
After the fall of Napoleon a movement set in for the reunion of the German states in one Empire. But the first decisive step towards that end was the foundation of the Second German Empire in 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War. This Empire, however, did not include the German lands which remained under the Habsburg Crown. These were known as German Austria. It was Bismarck's dream to unite German Austria with the German Empire; but it remained only a dream until Hitler turned it into a reality in 1938'. It is well to bear that point in mind, because this dream of reuniting all the German states in one Reich has been a dominant feature of German patriotism and statesmanship for over a century and has been one of Hitler's ideals since his childhood.
In Mein Kampf Hitler often speaks of the East Mark. This East Mark--i.e. eastern frontier land--was founded by Charlemagne as the eastern bulwark of the Empire. It was inhabited principally by Germano-Celtic tribes called Bajuvari and stood for centuries as the firm bulwark of Western Christendom against invasion from the East, especially against the Turks. Geographically it was almost identical with German Austria.
There are a few points more that I wish to mention in this introductory note. For instance, I have let the word Weltanschauungstand in its original form very often. We have no one English word to convey the same meaning as the German word, and it would have burdened the text too much if I were to use a circumlocution each time the word occurs. Weltanschauungliterally means "Outlook-on-the World". But as generally used in German this outlook on the world means a whole system of ideas associated together in an organic unity--ideas of human life, human values, cultural and religious ideas, politics, economics, etc., in fact a totalitarian view of human existence. Thus Christianity could be called a Weltanschauung, and Mohammedanism could be called a Weltanschauung, and Socialism could be called a Weltanschauung, especially as preached in Russia. National Socialism claims definitely to be a Weltanschauung.
Another word I have often left standing in the original is völkisch. The basic word here is Volk, which is sometimes translated as People; but the German word, Volk, means the whole body of the People without any distinction of class or caste. It is a primary word also that suggests what might be called the basic national stock. Now, after the defeat in 1918, the downfall of the Monarchy and the destruction of the aristocracy and the upper classes, the concept of Das Volk came into prominence as the unifying co-efficient which would embrace the whole German people. Hence the large number of völkisch societies that arose after the war and hence also the National Socialist concept of unification which is expressed by the word Volksgemeinschaft, or folk community. This is used in contradistinction to the Socialist concept of the nation as being divided into classes. Hitler's ideal is the Volkischer Staat, which I have translated as the People's State.
Finally, I would point out that the term Social Democracy may be misleading in English, as it has not a democratic connotation in our sense. It was the name given to the Socialist Party in Germany. And that Party was purely Marxist; but it adopted the name Social Democrat in order to appeal to the democratic sections of the German people.