Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Sein Kampf

You are reading correctly: His Struggle and not My Struggle. Why this is so will become clear below. Red Baron wrote about Hitler‘s Mein Kampf before. In Germany, it was forbidden to print this infamous book until 2015.

Following my retirement in 2000, I decided to read Hitler’s book because I wanted to understand why my people had been following such a rabble-rouser. What I found was an electronic copy in German on an American website and I read the downloaded text.

I was disgusted but part of Hitler‘s writing remained incomprehensible since I did not understand the historical context. I remember that I had been in the same situation as a student when I was reading an un-commentated copy of Bismarck‘s autobiography Gedanken und Erinnerungen. Even worse was my experience with Goethe‘s Dichtung und Wahrheit. In all these books much of the text remains cryptic without knowledgeable footnotes or comments by competent historians or literary scholars.


This was the reason that in 2010 the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich, financially supported by the Freistaat Bayern, decided to publish a commented and critical edition of Mein Kampf assuming that only libraries and history specialists would acquire this book. The result of the work were two volumes for the price of 135 euros that the institute published on January 8, 2016. Red Baron immediately ordered a copy but had to wait three months before the second edition had been printed. In the meantime, the institute has sold 85.000 copies of the 2000 page volumes. The revenues are for the benefit of victims of National Socialism.

Last Saturday the Badische Zeitung titled Affirmation of Antisemitism related to the contents of a book by Jeremy Adler, scholar and professor emeritus at London’s King’s College, “The Absolute Evil.” The author violently criticizes IfZ’s editing work of Mein Kampf, e.g., for not commenting on negative sentences regarding the Jews.

For me Hitler’s phrases, “Jews are belonging to a race and are not defined by their religion, they pillage their fellow human beings, and are driven by naked egoism”, are clear statements of hate and need not be commented even for today’s readers. They clearly prove Hitler’s brutal antisemitism. That these statements are not negatively commented does not at all compromise the careful work of the IfZ.

Adler continues his struggle (seinen Kampf), “In Mein Kampf Hitler mixes the theory of state with Darwinism, Enlightenment with political Romanticism, and the ideal of education with racism in an unbearable way.” This is exactly what makes Hitler’s book so indigestible and where the IfZ has focused on with its meticulous source study.

Adler culminates in the statement, “Absolute evil cannot be edited.” This remark only shows that Adler has not understood the work of the IfZ. Its task was not to evaluate Mein Kampf that hundreds of historians have done before but to comment the book in such a way that future generations will still find access to its contents.

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