Finished reading Mein Kampf
(an English translation of it to be exact, not the one filled with notes). There's been a lot of debate among historians as to whether Hitler's policies once he became chancellor followed a careful plan or whether those policies (such as the Holocaust) emerged more spontaneously, as a reaction to changing circumstances. Some Nazi sympathizers even claim Hitler had no choice but to do what he did because of the hostility of his foreign adversaries. To me it's quite clear that everything that happened was laid out in detail in this book, written in the mid 1920s, and that no one in Germany or abroad could honestly claim they did now know what Hitler's intentions were.
Reading the book, it's obvious Hitler is bored by economics. He rants a lot about Marxism but very little about its economic implications. He sympathizes with workers and blames the bourgeoisie (and Jews) for the rise of Marxism among the working class. In his views, employers should consider the welfare of the community first and avoid excess discrepancies in wage rates. Hitler's views on capital and stock markets aren't too different from those advocated by the contemporary utopian-fascist Zeitgeist movement. In Hitler's mind, the ills of both Capitalism and Communism are fused together in the "International Jew" who seeks to destroy national economies through the stock market, thus forging some kind of a "Eternal Jewish Empire". To prevent that, national economies such as that of Germany must be liberated from "interest slavery" and the machinations of the stock market. Throughout the book, Marxism is practically considered synonymous with the Jew.
Hitler does not explicitly state any plan to exterminate the Jewish people; but then again he didn't mention anything about that even as the Holocaust was under way. Still, it's quite obvious Hitler harbored such plans early on. He believes Jews would not be content with a state in Palestine because of their supposedly international character; such a state would merely function as a base of operations for the Jews' global quest to destroy all non-Jewish nation states. Regrettably, Hitler doesn't go into detail about the roots of his antisemitism. In his childhood and teens, he was even sympathetic toward the Jewish people for all the persecutions that had taken place in the past. Then, in Vienna, Hitler seems to have been brainwashed by antisemitic literature such as Protocols and Henry Ford's (the American car industrialist) writings. Why he decided to believe such obvious nonsense remains a mystery but then again the vast majority of people on this planet believe in something stupid, be that gods, homeopathy, astrology, UFO landings or 9/11 conspiracies. In the past persecution of Jews has served the self-interests of the persecuting parties (such as the financial and religious interests of spendthrift and zealous monarchs), but if Hitler had merely wanted to use Jews as scapegoats, he probably wouldn't have murdered millions of them in secret. Quite simply, Hitler was both an idiot and a racist.
Hitler is more explicit about exterminating opposing political ideologies and their proponents, expressing regret at the missed opportunity at the end of the World War to exterminate Marxists. Hitler believes that any half-assed attempt to destroy a doctrine is bound to be counter-productive. Therefore, any attempt to destroy a doctrine must be thorough and persistent, but even then such an attempt is almost certain to fail unless combined with a "spiritual revolution" (e.g., National Socialism against Marxism): "Any violence which does not spring from a firm, spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain." He's also explicit about destroying parliamentarianism, even clearly stating the Nazis would participate in parliamentary institutions only to destroy such institutions for good. In this Gospel of Open and Explicit Intolerance, Hitler has, it seems, learned from the best:
"Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Though its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less willing to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas. It has recognized quite correctly that its power of resistance does not lie in its lesser or greater adaptation to the scientific findings of the moment, which in reality are always fluctuating, but rather in rigidly holding to dogmas once established, for it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body the character of a faith."
"The greatness of Christianity did not lie in attempted negotiations for compromise with any similar philosophical opinions in the ancient world, but in its inexorable fanaticism in preaching and fighting for its own doctrine."
"Christianity could not content itself with building up its own altar; it was absolutely forced to undertake the destruction of the heathen altars. Only from this fanatical intolerance could its apodictic faith take form; this intolerance is, in fact, its absolute presupposition."
"The individual may establish with pain today that with the appearance of Christianity the first spiritual terror entered into the far freer ancient world, but he will not be able to contest the fact that since then the world has been afflicted and dominated by this coercion, and that coercion is broken only by coercion."
What is also explicitly stated is the Nazi policy of Lebensraum
, that, in order to survive, the German nation must extend its frontiers at the expense of Russia and other territories inhabited by Slavic peoples. He criticizes the Second Reich for adopting a policy of trade & overseas colonies (thus putting Germany on a collision course with the British Empire) rather than of eastward conquest. This perceived necessity of soil acquisition seems to be another result of Hitler's poor understanding of economics: he believes more in Malthusian alarmism than technological progress and trade. Hitler also mentions the necessity to enslave lower races, comparing that to the exploitation and domestication of animals. What later became known as Generalplan Ost
, a plan to conquer, enslave and exterminate tens of millions of people in Eastern Europe, is the core Nazi foreign policy doctrine through which everything else is viewed. In order to execute the plan, however, Germany's western front, i.e., France, the "mortal enemy" of Germany, must first be secured militarily, preferably with the aid of the British Empire. Hitler doesn't believe Germany's issues with France can be resolved through defensive strategies but instead pushes for a "final active reckoning with France". The resulting "destruction of France" would merely be a means to enable eastward expansion, not an end in itself. (Hitler seems to consider himself a realist as he emphasizes that Germany should never bother with humanitarian affairs but instead pursue the national interest vigorously, but of course his ideas come off as utopian, reckless and idealistic: Bismarck would turn in his grave. Hitler is not completely paranoid about France though; many French politicians and military leaders were calling for Germany's partition.)
Hitler is also, no surprise, extremely socially conservative. He sees women as passive beings whose job is to get married and start having children, he seems obsessed with STDs, prostitution and contraceptives, proposing early marriage as a solution. Also, like many conservative men, he drools over the idea of a teenage boy's well-trained body. Hitler makes numerous references to God, and believes his actions are guided by Fate/Providence, and sees many benefits in religions ("Precisely for the masses, faith is often the sole foundation of a moral attitude.") but doesn't come off as an adherent to any specific religious doctrine. He even employs God to support his racial views: if "defectives" are allowed to propagate, then in a few hundred years' time "you will find but few images of God, unless you want to profane the Almighty"; thus preventing these people from propagating would be "the most humane act of mankind". He also criticizes Jews on religious grounds, claiming theirs is not a religion at all: "The Jew cannot possess a religious institution, if for no other reason because he lacks idealism in any form, and hence belief in a hereafter is absolutely foreign to him (...) The Talmud is not a book to prepare a man for the hereafter, but only for a practical and profitable life in this world." Jesus is applauded for fighting the Jews' exploitation of religion for financial gain when he tosses them out of the Temple.
In addition to Hitler's views on the Jewish people, his views on the First World War illuminate his selective reading of history. Like many in Germany at that time, Hitler believed the war was not lost on the battlefield, conveniently forgetting the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the constant influx of fresh American troops & supplies, and the lack of resources at Germany's disposal. While he viewed the alliance with the Habsburgs with disgust, he perceived the war as inevitable and ultimately fought for German freedom and independence. The lost territories would be regained, along with other German-inhabited regions, in due time and not through peaceful negotiations: "We must clearly recognize the fact that the recovery of the lost territories is not won through solemn appeals to the Lord or through pious hopes in a League of Nations, but only by force of arms." Of course Chamberlain tried to spoil his fun by completely giving in to his outrageous, unreasonable demands. With the gift of hindsight, we know that Hitler would have none of it, for in his mind "Germany will either be a world power or there will be no Germany".
The German people empowered Hitler with absolute authority to do away with democracy, institute racial laws, attack foreign countries and kill millions of people. They shouldn't have been surprised when bombs started falling on their cities.
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