Outlines Nazi Thought

Adolf Hitler, the future Nazi dictator of Germany, published a heavily edited and ponderous political statement that was slow to sell until Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, when sales figures jumped significantly. The racist and militaristic nature of the work provided a chilling window into Nazi thought.

Summary of Event

In the so-called Beer Hall Putsch Beer Hall Putsch (1923) of November, 1923, Adolf Hitler and his Nazi followers attempted to seize power in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. After the movement’s failure, Hitler was tried and found guilty of high treason, and he spent a year in Landsberg Prison. While there, he began writing the first volume of his political manifesto, Mein Kampf (1925-1926; English translation, 1939). Hitler used the book, the title of which means “my struggle,” to set down his life story and political views. [kw]Mein Kampf Outlines Nazi Thought (July 18, 1925-Dec. 11, 1926)
[kw]Nazi Thought, Mein Kampf Outlines (July 18, 1925-Dec. 11, 1926)
Mein Kampf (Hitler)
[g]Germany;July 18, 1925-Dec. 11, 1926: Mein Kampf Outlines Nazi Thought[06480]
[c]Government and politics;July 18, 1925-Dec. 11, 1926: Mein Kampf Outlines Nazi Thought[06480]
[c]Publishing and journalism;July 18, 1925-Dec. 11, 1926: Mein Kampf Outlines Nazi Thought[06480]
Hitler, Adolf
[p]Hitler, Adolf;Mein Kampf
Hess, Rudolf
Amman, Max

Dust jacket that appeared on Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

(Library of Congress)

During his year of enforced idleness, Hitler dictated a mass of thoughts and reminiscences, much of which was taken down by his close companion Rudolf Hess. After his release from prison, Hitler turned the manuscript over to Max Amman, the Nazi Party’s publisher, who found it in need of major editing. With the help of Hess and a few others, Amman put the work into publishable form. Hitler had wanted to title it Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice, but Amman gave it the shorter title of Mein Kampf. From 1924 to 1927, the German government banned Hitler from speaking, and so after the publication of the first volume on July 18, 1925, Hitler quickly set to work on a second volume, which was published on December 11, 1926. Although Hitler believed that world events occur not by writing but by speaking, he seemed to have had little trouble becoming a writer.

Mein Kampf is a mixture of autobiography and political ideology that both reveals and hides a great deal about Hitler. The author described himself as a seeker of truth who spent a pleasant childhood in his native Austria despite his father’s harsh discipline. His mother’s death in 1907 came as a crushing blow, and Hitler moved to Vienna, where he had his first real exposure to Jews and to anti-Semitic doctrine. Anti-Semitism[Antisemitism];Adolf Hitler[Hitler] Life in Vienna intensified his dislike for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Hitler came to believe that Germany was the only true home of German culture. In 1912, Hitler moved to Munich, a city he found truly German, and in 1914 the coming of World War I allowed him to experience the life of a soldier. For Hitler, military service was a crowning educational achievement and the inspiration for his career as a speaker. Recalling the heroic deeds of the German army, Hitler blamed the Jews and Marxists for the country’s collapse at war’s end, the establishment of a weak democratic government, and the punitive treatment of Germany by its enemies. He promised readers that Germany would rearm and assume its rightful role as a world power.

Race dominates the ideology on display in Mein Kampf. Hitler was convinced that every race should preserve its purity or face decline, and he was especially distraught that the Aryan race (whose nature he never precisely defined), especially German Aryans, seemed to have failed in this effort. He believed that if the German race could be kept pure—that is, if its most Aryan elements could be increased through careful breeding—Germany could achieve world domination. The greatest threat to Germany in Hitler’s eyes were the Jews, whom he compared to parasites, and he promised that the score against the Jews would soon be settled. To Hitler, the state was the means to a more important end: racial self-preservation. He saw Germany’s mission as one that would secure the land required by future Aryan populations, which Hitler believed would number 250 million in a hundred years. The only alternative plan, as Hitler saw it, was to secure “living space” (Lebensraum) for Germans in Russia.

Hitler saw himself as Germany’s political savior and the Nazi Party as the source of the force necessary to prevail in a racial and political struggle against Jews and Marxists. One man, he insisted, had to step forward to lead, and he clearly saw himself in that role: Mein Kampf referred to the “strong man” who is “mightiest alone” and whose ideas are so revolutionary that they may not be accepted in his lifetime. Hitler was known to be a great admirer of Benito Mussolini, Mussolini, Benito the Fascist dictator who had ruled Italy since 1919, but he mentioned Mussolini by name only once in Mein Kampf, leaving the implication that he wanted to avoid sharing history’s heroic role.

Given that Hitler had served as propaganda chief of the Nazi Party, it is not surprising that Mein Kampf offered a lengthy commentary on propaganda. Propaganda;Mein Kampf (Hitler) In an early chapter on war propaganda, Hitler wrote scornfully of Germany’s weak and ineffective efforts during World War I. In Hitler’s view, war propaganda was a means to German victory, and to accomplish this the government needed to appeal to the psychology of the masses. In Hitler’s view, British and American propaganda succeeded, especially in their portrayals of Germans as barbarians and in their observation of the principle that propaganda must be simple and repetitious.

Hitler also stressed the superiority of oratory to the written word. He took pride in his own prowess as a speaker and asserted that speaking was the most effective way to capitalize on the emotions (rather than the intellect), which would propel audience members to action. In a later chapter, Hitler described the distinct roles played by propaganda and organization, saying that propaganda was best used as a tool to recruit a movement’s core members and that organization was needed to ensure that only the most valuable followers were made members.

The publication of Mein Kampf yielded Hitler a steady income, one that was initially modest but tripled after the Nazis made gains in the 1930 elections. The book’s royalties became truly significant after Hitler became chancellor in 1933, and it also sold well in Italy, where Mussolini took a personal interest in having it published. By 1945, sales had reached ten million in Germany alone, and the book had been translated into sixteen foreign languages. After World War II, its sale was banned in Germany, but it continued to sell in many parts of the world. In the Middle East, a former Nazi functionary translated it into Arabic, and in Latin America an Argentine publisher put out German and Spanish editions. Many of Hitler’s imitators have attributed their conversion to Nazism to reading Mein Kampf, including George Lincoln Rockwell, the founder of the American Nazi Party.


Mein Kampf has little to offer connoisseurs of literature, and as political science it is too full of crackpot ideas to be taken seriously. Still, Nazism without Mein Kampf would be like Marxism without Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848; The Communist Manifesto, 1850). Beyond offering Hitler’s version of the events that preceded his rise to power, the book provided an outline of the Nazi Party’s goals, and it became obligatory reading material for many Germans. It also sounded a warning to the world that went largely unheeded. Historical events such as the German invasion of Russia in 1941 and the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of Germans are clearly predicted in its pages, and even the Nazi slaughter of millions is not surprising given the unbridled hatred that Hitler expressed toward Jews and others whom he considered unworthy. The most lasting legacy of Mein Kampf, however, is that it preserved Hitler’s ideas beyond his own lifetime. Mein Kampf (Hitler)

Further Reading

  • Bracher, Karl Dietrich. The German Dictatorship: The Origins, Structure, and Effects of National Socialism. New York: Praeger, 1970. Definitive work on Nazi Germany contains chapters concerning the origins of Hitler’s ideology, the writing of and meaning of the ideas expressed in Mein Kampf, and the effects of those ideas in practice. Offers insights into the nature of Nazism and into Hitler’s personality not available in other works. Includes extensive bibliography.
  • Hamann, Brigitte. Hitler’s Vienna: A Dictator’s Apprenticeship. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Focuses on Hitler’s years in Vienna and how his experiences there influenced him. Includes photographs, select bibliography, and index.
  • Hauner, Milan. Hitler: A Chronology of His Life and Time. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1983. Very detailed chronology of the major events in Hitler’s life and the rise and fall of Nazism in Germany. Quotes extensively from Mein Kampf and from Hitler’s speeches to illuminate the ideological underpinnings of many of the otherwise enigmatic policies adopted by Hitler and the Nazis. Includes bibliography (with mostly German-language sources) and index.
  • Hilberg, Raul. The Destruction of the European Jews. 3d ed. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2003. Comprehensive account of the Nazi treatment of the Jews of Germany and Nazi-occupied Europe. Graphically illustrates how the ideas Hitler expressed in Mein Kampf led directly to unspeakable suffering for millions of people. Includes excellent bibliography and index.
  • Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1939. This is the first complete and unabridged English translation. It includes copious annotations.
  • _______. Mein Kampf. Translated by Ralph Manheim. Reprint. New York: Mariner Books, 1998. No commentary can illustrate Hitler’s ideas as well as Mein Kampf itself. Hitler’s clumsy and often pompous prose does not prevent the reader from understanding that his program called for the destruction of many basic human rights, including freedom of the press, freedom of speech, freedom of association, free enterprise, and sexual freedom. Manheim’s translation is among the best available.
  • _______. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939. Edited by Norman H. Baynes. New York: H. Fertig, 1969. Includes translations of all Hitler’s important speeches from 1922 to the outbreak of World War II. The various speeches, many of them very long, elaborate and expand on the topics emphasized in Mein Kampf in language often much more graphic than the turgid prose of the book. Editor’s commentary is perceptive and illuminating.
  • Kershaw, Ian. Hitler, 1889-1936: Hubris. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. A comprehensive and well-documented examination of Hitler’s rise to power.
  • Lee, Martin A. The Beast Reawakens. Boston: Little, Brown, 1997. Reviews Hitler’s legacy after World War II.
  • Lukacs, John. The Hitler of History. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998. Critical survey of the historical and biographical works on Hitler.
  • Maser, Werner. Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”: An Analysis. London: Heinemann, 1974. Shows that many of the autobiographical details in Hitler’s account of his early life are inaccurate and misleading. Tries (often unconvincingly) to explain many of the obscure references in Hitler’s book and to extrapolate the sources of some of the ideas expressed there. Includes bibliography (with mostly German-language sources) and index.
  • Pulzer, Peter G. The Rise of Political Anti-Semitism in Germany and Austria. Rev. ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1988. Examines the origins and evolution of anti-Jewish feeling in Germany immediately before and during Hitler’s formative years. Shows that the ideas concerning Jews in Mein Kampf were by no means unique to Hitler, and in fact were widely shared, and analyzes the reasons judeophobia became so widespread in Germany and Austria. Includes bibliography and index.
  • Shirer, William L. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany. 30th anniversary ed. New York: Ballantine, 1991. Classic work recounts Hitler’s career from the perspective of a journalist who spent years reporting from Germany.
  • Stuadinger, Hans. The Inner Nazi: A Critical Analysis of “Mein Kampf.” Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1981. A study by a scholar who fled Germany in 1933.
  • Toland, John. Adolf Hitler. 1976. Reprint. New York: Anchor Books, 1992. One of the most accurate, most comprehensive, and most objective biographies of Hitler available. Devotes many pages to analyzing the ideas Hitler expressed in Mein Kampf and echoed in his speeches. Includes exhaustive bibliography and excellent index.

Racist Theories Aid Nazi Rise to Political Power

Beer Hall Putsch

Hitler Comes to Power in Germany

Reichstag Fire

Nazi Concentration Camps Begin Operating

Great Blood Purge

German Troops March into the Rhineland

Germany and Japan Sign the Anti-Comintern Pact

The Anschluss


Nazi Extermination of the Jews

Germany Invades Poland