"What's the worst book you can imagine getting caught with?"
A Harlequin Romance.
Only neo-Nazis and painfully self-conscious pseudo-intellectuals actually want to be caught reading a copy of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic diatribe Mein Kampf - which might explain why the book is riding high on ebook charts. Screen shot of Mein Kampf on Amazon.com's bestseller list In a trend first noticed by Chris Faraone …
"Only neo-Nazis and painfully self-conscious pseudo-intellectuals actually want to be caught reading a copy of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic diatribe Mein Kampf "
Nah - Lots of people intensely dislike Zionists and the terrorist, apartheid state that they prop up in the Middle East. Anything that irritates them has to be fairly high on the Christmas reading list...
I also recommend Jewish author Noam Chomsky for anyone interested in the subject...
There is admittedly plenty to dislike in the current Israeli approach to the Palestinian issue.
I happen to believe that Israel should negotiate in good faith to reach a settlement. Preferably a two state solution based on 1967 borders and the corresponding UN resolution, with land swaps. Even the PLO has more or less accepted Israel's right to existence (probably because they don't have much choice).
Israel should settle while they are in a position of regional military superiority and while the US is still dominant ahead of China. On the PR side of things, Israel has seen a massive slide in global sentiment since the 70s, which is all the more reason to settle now.
Since Israel's coalition democracy makes it so difficult for their government to take hard decisions, I would see no problem whatsoever in forcing their hand externally, be it by sanctions or the withholding of aid. This is in everyone's best interest, Israel's foremost.
But any sympathy whatsoever towards Hitler, the Holocaust and anti-Semitism makes it way easier for Jewish refuseniks to point to past atrocities to justify their current oppression of the Palestinians and fantasies of Biblical Greater Israel. "Never Again" is a powerful statement, both internally and to demand Western support, given the horrible massacres of 1933-1945.
In short, my dear, you are an ass.
I also recommend Jewish author Noam Chomsky for anyone interested in the subject...
It's not hard to determine what side of the political divide I'm on when I say I've very considerable time for Noam Chomsky.
However, owning a number of texts written by him including Manufacturing Consent and Necessary Illusions, I have to say that Chomsky's writing can almost be unfathomable--one needs considerable perseverance and determination to get the most out of them.
Thus, I'd only recommend raw unadulterated Chomsky to diehards such as me.
Mein Kampf is an insight into who the man was, whether he was a devil or an angel is irrelevant, it is, and should remain an important part of history. ( Those who ignore the past are more likely to repeat it)
The question that should arise is "WHY" an increasing amount of people become interested.
Also, I think it would be a worse thing if there was no longer any interest in this kind of literature.
"Mein Kempff is an insight into who the man was, whether he was a devil or an angel is irrelevant, it is, and should remain an important part of history. ( Those who ignore the past are more likely to repeat it). The question that should arise is "WHY" have people become interested."
I think that that's an insightful opinion and I actually share it - though truth to tell I have not read my copy of that, or of Tischgespräche (which is a more problematic book).
However, I find it difficult to think that mot of the people reading Mein Kampf are amateur historians. I would not be surprised if they compose the same market for "Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion" and I wouldn't be surprised if they also studied Henry Ford's "The International Jew". (The Protocols is a big seller in the Arab world, and although the Ford book is also published there, I do not how popular it is in comparison.)
Hitler, AFAIK, laid out his worldview and plans in Mein Kampf.
I'd read MK to see how Hitler managed to finagle the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact given that Slavs were barely above Jews in his esteem. And how he fooled Chamberlain & co as well.
Somebody else mentioned that MK, as a "vanity press" book, was easy to dismiss. That was certainly true before Hitler gained power, but hardly afterwards. Was MK that clear about his intentions?
Hitler absolutely did not expound on his worldview or 'plans' in Mein Kampf. From the time of its publication until the early 1980's the work was regarded academically as the ravings of a loon.
Similar to 'predictions' by Nostradamus, Mein Kampf collides with and ricochets around so many different things that you can shoehorn in any of the events related to Hitler and they seem to fit. It's rather telling that the further away from WWII you get, the more the image of Hitler changes. The people who actually fought against Hitlers empire regarded him as a massive cock with few, if any, ethics and an anger management problem. Later analysis sees Hitler regarded more and more as a real world supervillain.
People tend to ignore the shift in how Hitler is portrayed mostly because making any statement that seems to defend Hitler because people flip put if you do that. Were the subject not Hitler you'd have academics all over the world making a fuss because facts are being fit into places where they don't belong.
You can't apply knowledge we have today retroactively to, well, anything really. It's one of those things, like averaging averages, that seems like a good idea, but the answers are always fucked up.
Hitler has a nephew who could, really, clear his throat and say "I want my money". The state of Bavaria would have to hand over all past, present and future royalties to him. But I don't think he's all too bothered about receiving the money from his "famous" uncle.
I bought the paperback a few years ago, having only heard about the book during GCSE History lessons (we never read it for some reason - something which I think would have made the learning of Hitler more sensicle). It's on the book shelf as I haven't got round to reading it. But for the bit I have read, it consists of the English translation of his book along with historian notes as to either what he's going on about or why he's saying that.
I've read the BBC article and it's consistent with the copyright 70 year rule, that being for the State of Bavaria to hold the copyright on the German version until April 2015 but this does not apply the English versions (and presumably other translations).
The US government took over the copyright in 1941 and thus the copyright would be subject to US law since then (how copyright currently manifests as a consequence of the government's 1979 sale of rights to Houghton Mifflin I'm not sure).
The New York (English) edition of 1939 published by Reynal & Hitchcock is supposedly now out of copyright (or it's being treated as such by publishers).
[One issue that's often overlooked with respect to translations is that the copyright of the translation is held by the translator and thus even if the original text is out of copyright, the translation will not be. It's this sort of problem and the added 'notes/commentary' nonsense that allows publishers such as Oxford to get away with copyrighting the King James Bible of 1611. 401 years old--not counting the original Greek, Aramaic, Arabic sources of over a millennium of so earlier--and the Bible is still in copyright. That's pretty damn rich, methinks.]
Kindles and other ebook readers are becoming more common, to the point that they're not really noticed on public transport as something unusual anymore. Coupled with a slow realisation of the anonymous nature of ebooks which would take the general public a bit longer to catch on to and I don't think it's surprising that books people could find "objectionable" would start to become more popular. What I'm curious about is what the next one will be, and also how the popularity breaks down by region. Could be quite interesting
In English, Mein Kampf is a boring book. Actually, it's a typical example of a kind of German literature, and demonstrates why we read very little German literature: in translation it is very boring.
Just as the Russian Greats are recognisably Russian, even in translation, German literature is recognisably German in translation, even bad German literature. It's booooooring. boring. Booooring.
"It's booooooring. boring. Booooring."
Assuming that is meant to apply to German literature as a whole, please consider the alternative possibility that you may be narrow-minded and provincial.
As for "Mein Kampf" itself, anyone with a trace of historical education will understand that it must be read in the context of its time and culture; and also against the background of a nation laid waste and set at odds by a frightful war which ended with mass starvation of civilians. Perhaps the closest equivalents from English literature would be polemical tracts written during the English Civil War - which I think you would find every bit as booooooring. (The Puritans used to consider a six-hour church service the high point of their week).
"Mein Kampf" is, and of course was right from the moment of its publication, an amazingly revealing insight into its author's confused state of mind and the popular ideas he had absorbed and come to cling to. I shall never understand why the leaders of France, Britain, the USA, the USSR - and, come to that, Germany - didn't pay more heed to the detailed blueprints Hitler gave them for his future plans and actions.
However, if you can manage to read it through - which is not an easy task, although it's not all that long - you will come across some kernels of common sense. Take this, for example:
"Why does one elect five hundred if only a few of them have sufficient wisdom to define their attitudes towards the most important matters? <snip>
"It is not the object of our present-day democratic parliamentarianism to form an assembly of wise men, but rather to gather a crowd of mentally dependent ciphers which may be more easily led in certain directions, the more limited the intelligence of the individual. Only thus can parties make politics in the worse sense of the word today. Only thus is it also possible that the actual wirepuller is able to remain cautiously in the background without ever being personally called to account. Because no decision, no matter how detrimental it is to the nation, can now be charged to the account of a rascal who is in the public eye, but it is dumped on the shoulders of an entire faction".
"With this, however, all responsibility is practically removed, because it can only be the duty of an individual and never that of a parliamentary assembly of babblers".
A pretty astute critique of our own Parliament today, I would say. And bear in mind that Hitler openly confesses that he started out with a hearty admiration for the British Parliament and the British tradition of democracy. That admiration was gradually eroded after he began watching the Austrian parliament in action, day after day, and noticed how singularly ineffectual it was. And it probably didn't help much when he was gassed by the British and nearly died.
Nobody paid any attention to the details in Mein Kampf because, 99.99999% of the time, Vanity Manifestos are not only completely devoid of anything resembling sanity, their authors are at the limits of their capabilities just stringing together enough sentences to fill up a book.
Obviously, Hitler was 'that guy' who completely skewed the statistics, but that only creates more questions. Mein Kampf contains no more sanity or truly coherent logic than the ravings of any other loon, so how was it that he was able to pull a message and plan out of all that?
As a rule, people who write Vanity Manifestos can't actually can't actually identify what they're angry about, just that they are angry. Hitler was no different. At the time he wrote the book, he wasn't capable of identifying who, or what, he was angry at. He certainly wasn't capable of doing anything about it. If you actually chart the issues he addresses in the book, none of them really go anywhere and some fold back on themselves and turn completely around.
All in all, I don't think we can blame anyone for not seeing Hitler coming. Even today, a book like Mein Kampf would be relegated to the same forgotten corner of bookstores where 'Mantraps 1 & 2: Home Defense'. Nobody would take it seriously, and it would be insanely unlikely that dismissing it would lead to any harm.
Hitler, and everything about him, was an anomaly. So many things had to come together 'perfectly' for him to happen. Any one of billions of things could have happened to him that wouldn't have set the wheels of insane hatred to turning. Overall, Hitler is an interesting study, if only for his oddity, but he just happened to be the one who filled a void at the time. The circumstances that would allow for a Hitler are, I think, far more interesting than a little angry man.
question that should arise is "WHY" an increasing amount of people become interested.
On my NAS disk I have ebook versions of Mein Kampf including the 1939 translation by James Murphy published by Hurst and Blackett and the 1941 New York edition published by Reynal & Hitchcock [both commonly available on the Web] along with hundreds of other diverse political and philosophical texts including that well known work of the opposite persuasion Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Ökonomie.
Well, why would I bother reading Mein Kampf. It's pretty simple really: one has to if one is to make any serious attempt to understand one of the most cataclysmic and tragic events in human history—the Second World War and the death of over 60 million people!
Tragically, Adolph Hitler has turned out one of the most influential people in history; like it or not, along with Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Stalin, Mohammed, Jesus Christ and Buddha, his name won't be erased from history anytime soon, if ever. Nor will his influence disappear for the foreseeable future either; for better or worse, he has changed the whole political reality of the world today. Let's look at some of these influences:
I'll start with Hitler's influence on my own generation, the baby boomers. The horrible and unpalatable fact is that if it were not for Hitler/WWII that many of us boomers wouldn't have been born at all. Alternatively, as in my case, if it had not been for WWII then I'd perhaps be 4-5 years older (as my parents were married in the early 1940s and deliberately did not have kids until well after the War when my father was demobbed and the world had supposedly settled back to normality).
Hitler probably caused more mass migration than anyone else in history. The world has hugely changed because of mass migration and the movement of refugees across the planet which in a sense were 'legitimised' on a grand scale in the wake of WWII.
Hitler was essentially responsible for the formation United Nations. Roosevelt et al (26 countries) coined the term in 1942 when pledging to fight the Axis Powers (ringleader of which was Hitler).
The UN's 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the direct consequence of the Second World War. It was the first time in history that there was a global expression of the inherent rights of all individuals. In the intervening time, the UDHR has had a huge effect on world politics.
Hitler and WWII have hugely altered political reality worldwide. Compared to previous history, globalisation and the concomitant 'erosion of sovereignty' of individual nations have made galloping progress as a direct consequence of WWII. Simply, recent history has seen huge political changes arising from the outcomes of WWII, from commonality of laws across the world, treaties etc., through to equal rights for women and rights for minorities. Even things I find detestable, such as political correctness, postmodernism and political doublespeak are direct overreactions to Nazism, totalitarianism and the horrors of WWII, albeit understandable ones.
With all its horrible connotations and past baggage, I wouldn't want to be seen reading Mein Kampf on public transport—not through embarrassment but rather because I'd not have the opportunity to properly explain why I was so doing. Thus, reading the work in private makes sense, but not reading it through the probability of being 'tainted' or because of political correctness or some sense of collective guilt etc. does not. Moreover, the vast majority of modern-day readers have a much more sophisticated and nuanced worldview than those back in 1924 when Mein Kampf was written not to see through the hatred and what today seems like mad irrational logic.
[IMHO, the paramount concerns for today's curious readers ought to be to ask why Mein Kampf was written at all as well as why both Hitler and his 'cellmate' Stalin—humanity's archenemies of all time—were actually able to come to power at all let alone both around the same time. What seems mad and irrational to us today was considerably less so in 1924 in the aftermath of WWI—the war to end all wars but a war in which nothing was essentially resolved. Thus, with a very bitter hard-done-by Germany and the prevailing zeitgeist (WWI irresolution) it is not surprising that Hitler came to power.
Hitler was directly responsible for triggering WWII and thus attributable for its terrible devastation but the reasons that provoked him into action were monumental: failure of Versailles to resolve anything around WWI except to leave Germany holding the can when in fact it was only partly responsible. Others being the underlying causes of WWI including the bad behaviour of empires: British, Hapsburg, Romanoff and Prussian as well as the irresponsible behaviour of their inbred heads of state, especially Kaiser Wilhelm II (Gavrilo Princip assassinating Austria's Archduke Franz Ferdinand was only a sideshow). Probably the best background primer for readers of Mein Kampf is the British historian A.J.P. Taylor's 1961 controversial and very readable masterpiece, 'The Origins of the Second World War'.]
Mein Kampf is a fascinating look into a fairly modern paranoid mind.
The Torah, the Bible and The Quran are all fascinating looks into ancient minds ... some more paranoid than others.
Me, I'm not paranoid ... I'll read anything, anywhere, if I find it interesting.
Popular modern culture? Not interesting. ::shrugs::
My grandparents received a hardcopy as a wedding gift, as was traditional at the time. Many years ago I started reading it because I was curious what the fuss is about, but didn't get very far. Its writing is just horrible. And any historical anecdotes are incomprehensible today except for historians. This is a book to own as a statement, not one to read and study.
"Your grand-parents received a copy of Mein Kampf as a wedding present, as was traditional? Were they good National Socialists?"
That's a very uniformed insult. It was pretty much required throughout Germany for the whole of Hitler's reign. And he said "they received" and not "the groom bought and gave to the bride" nor "the bride bought and gave to the groom" nor "they first thing that they bought themselves".
"Much like you would expect of any adult reading a book of fairy tales in public?"
Well, yes. How many people do you see reading Harry Potter, for instance? Or Tony Blair's and Gordon Brown's compilations of self-serving excuses?
But actually there is a lot of different stuff in the Bible. You might be reminding yourself of the Ten Commandments (still fairly good moral advice on the whole) or studying the instructions about how to treat your slaves that you will find on the opposite page.
Or you might be reading the Sermon on the Mount (which such an eminent present-day thinker as Leonard Cohen admits to not understanding at all, but which certainly deserves some concentrated thought).
Or you might just be enjoying that remarkably imaginative and entertaining horror fantasy, the Book of Revelation.
Really, the Bible has something for everyone. (And I'm an agnostic with atheist leanings).
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