Mein Kampf - Part 3 - Literature Essay Example

 

The first volume of Mein Kampf was written while the author was imprisoned in a Bavarian fortress - Mein Kampf introduction. 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 (Lakoff, 1987).

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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 (Berning, 1960-63). 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 (Lakoff & Turner, 1989).

 

The separatist movement in the Rhineland went so far that some leading German politicians came out in favor 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 (Lakoff & Johnson, 1999). 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 one 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.

 

 

 

 

Literary Criticism

 

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 (Volmert, 1989). 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 neighborhood 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 (Spalding, 2000).

 

A meeting had been announced to take place in the Burgerbrau 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 favor 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 (Spalding, 2000).

 

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 a 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, it may be noted 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.

 

Mein Kampf was written in two volumes. The first volume, called Eine Abrechnung (“A Reckoning”), was published in July 1925. The second, Die Nationalsozialistische (“The National Socialist Movement”), was issued in December 1926. After 1930 the two volumes were combined into one. The book focuses on Hitler’s political ideas and plans. He wrote about his foreign policy goals, which highlighted the capture of land in Eastern Europe and Soviet Russia to be used as “living space” for the German people. He also used the book as a forum for espousing his anti-Jewish program. Before he wrote Mein Kampf, Hitler had advocated the removal of Jews from Germany. However, in the book he used veiled terms to call for the actual murder of the Jews.

 

Much of the autobiographical information Hitler provided in Volume I is untrue (Friederich, 1966). He probably changed the data so as to make it look like his political views were based on experiences in his early life. In the second volume, Hitler wrote about the history of the Nazi Party, but obscured the facts with ideological statements. Although not written very well, Mein Kampf was a wild success. By 1939, 5.2 million copies had been sold and it had been translated into 11 languages; by 1945, about 10 million copies were in publication and it had been translated into an additional five languages. Since then even more translations have been done, but it has not been published again in German. Some scholars believe that Mein Kampf is an important work that clearly states Hitler’s goals, which he then actually pursued when he came to power. Others see it simply as propaganda.

 

Hitler conceptualized Germany as a container, filled with desirable and undesirable citizens. In particular he saw Jews as threatening the purity of the contents of the container-State, as pouring into (sich ergießen) its ‘Wirtschaftsbetriebe und Verwaltungsapparate’ (economic concerns and administrative apparatuses) (Mein Kampf: 644). The following quotation clarifies Hitler’s understanding that the vessel of the State must protect its contents or be doomed:

“Wir haben schärfstens zu unterscheiden zwischen dem Staat als einem Gefäß und

der Rasse als dem Inhalt. Dieses Gefäß hat nur dann einen Sinn, wenn es den Inhalt

zu erhalten und zu schützen vermag; im anderen Falle ist es wertlos”. (Mein Kampf: 434) We must distinguish in the sharpest way between the state as a vessel and the race as its content. This vessel has meaning only if it can preserve and protect the content. Otherwise it is useless.

 

Closely related to this container metaphor is “a state is a body”. In political discourse, States are commonly referred to as living organisms, and for Hitler the future German State was to be a folkish organism: ‘der nicht einen volksfremden Mechanismus wirtschaftlicher Belange und Interessen, sondern einen völkischen Organismus darstellt’ (which represents, not an alien mechanism of economic concerns and interests, but a national organism) (Mein Kampf: 362). In Mein Kampf, Hitler represented States as bodies kept alive by a healthy blood circulation (Blutlauf). He saw the “hereditary” territories of the German Reich as its heart, pumping fresh blood into the circulation of political and cultural life, and Vienna as its brain and will (Mein Kampf: 74, 109). This metaphor simultaneously belongs to the conceptual metaphor “having control is being at the center”, as the heart is at the centre of the body and controls the blood circulation without which life is not possible (Musolff, 2004:61-70). States possess nerve centers (Nervenzentren) (Mein Kampf: 654) which are occupied by the ruling political party. Hitler writes of the Nervenzentren and the Nervenzentrale of the German State as vital for its functioning, and as something over which the NS movement should have total control (Mein Kampf: 654,767). Policies can also be portrayed as bodies, kept upright by a strong Rückgrat (‘backbone’). Hitler intended that the National Socialists would break both the backbones and necks of opposing political movements:

‘Man besaß ja nun (…) eine Gebrauchsanweisung, die der bisherigen Gewaltpolitik ein für allemal das Genick brechen sollte’ (we possessed a recipe which was expected to break the neck of the former policy of violence) (Mein Kampf: 157). For Hitler, propaganda, indispensable for the dissemination of ideology, also had to have a ‘firm backbone’ (Mein Kampf: 655).

 

As a living organism, a State can remain healthy or fall ill, live or die (Musolff, 2003:329). Hitler saw the events leading up to the First World War as the symptoms of an illness that had to reach a point of crisis before it could be cured. His melodramatic portrayal of acute disease as preferable to chronic illness reflects his personal dislike of all that is half-hearted or moderate (Halbheit); Rücksichtslosigkeit (‘ruthlessness’), the opposite of Halbheit, was required if a cure were to be effected. Just as mankind had mastered the plague more easily than tuberculosis, the diseased Volkskörper (‘national body’) was cured more rapidly by an acute problem which had to be dealt with immediately (Mein Kampf: 253). The message of Mein Kampf is that before the First World War the Volkskörper was being eaten at by ‘giftige Geschwüre’ (poisonous abscesses), poisoned by an ‘immerwährender Giftstrom bis in die äußersten Blutgefäße dieses einstigen Heldenleibes’ (a continuous stream of poison (…) being driven into the outermost blood-vessels of this once heroic body), and suffering from ‘Lähmungen der gesunden Vernunft, des einfachen Selbsterhaltungstriebes’ (progressively greater paralysis of sound reason and the simple instinct of self-preservation) (Mein Kampf: 169). One of the obvious reasons for Hitler writing Mein Kampf was to expose the causes of Germany’s weakness. These included Jews, Marxists, the press, a lack of Tatentschlossenheit among Germans (Mein Kampf: 169), and cowardice, which are most frequently expressed metaphorically as Pest (‘plague’) and Seuche (‘epidemic, scourge’). In Mein Kampf, Jews are portrayed as the chief agents of destruction of the German nation. Hitler considered Marxists to be under Jewish control and labeled them a Weltpest (‘world plague’) (Mein Kampf: 85). Through Mein Kampf, Hitler tried to convince the German people that the Jews aimed to cause the nation to bleed to death (verbluten) (Mein Kampf: 632). Hitler saw himself as the one man who could recognize and explain the causes of Germany’s sickness, and one may assume that he saw himself as the only man with enough courage to expose and then cure Germany’s ills:

“Wer diese Zeit, die innerlich krank und faul ist, heilen will, muß zunächst den Mut

aufbringen, die Ursache dieses Leides klarzulegen” (Mein Kampf: 485) (Anyone who wants to cure this era, which is inwardly sick and rotten, must first of all summon up all the courage to make clear the causes of this disease.)

 

A small number of vivid images of birth and death also accompany descriptions of the former Reich and present day Germany in Mein Kampf: Hitler likens the foundation of the former to an ‘einzige Geburt und feurige Taufe’ (unique birth and baptism of fire) (Mein Kampf: 246) and the state of the latter to a drowning man catching at straws (‘dem Ertrinkenden, der nach jedem Strohhalm greift’; Mein Kampf: 746). Germany’s allies during the First World War are described as ‘faulige staatliche Leichname’ (putrid state corpses) (Mein Kampf: 756).

 

Within the metaphorical category of “Politics is War”, nations can be seen as composed of armies led by their political “commanders”, the ideas and policies of these nations are their weapons, and their political goal is victory (Kövecses, 2002:62). Discussions of the metaphorization of politics as war commonly refer to Clausewitz’s famous statement, with which Hitler must have been familiar: ‘Der Krieg ist eine bloße Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln’ (war is simply the continuation of politics by other means) (Clausewitz, 1832). When he wrote Mein Kampf, Hitler already saw his own political struggle in terms of a fight (Kampf). Wars between political leaders, between cultures, and between the holders of philosophical, social and religious points of view are rendered in Mein Kampf as Lügenfeldzug, Pressefeldzug (Mein Kampf: 356) and Redeschlacht (Mein Kampf: 245).

 

The “battles” are fought with various types of metaphorical weapon: (geistige) Waffe (Mein Kampf: 115), Schwert (Mein Kampf: 406), Speer (Mein Kampf: 168) and Dolch (Mein Kampf: 225). Propaganda was a major weapon for Hitler, and in Mein Kampf he stressed the importance of formulating a declaration of war against the existing social and political order: ‘die Formulierung einer Kriegserklärung gegen eine bestehende Ordnung’ (Mein Kampf: 508). National Socialism would be the ‘junge sieghafte Idee’ (young victorious idea) (Mein Kampf: 648) which would ensure a happy future for Germany and her people. A gigantic battle, a Riesenkampf (Mein Kampf: 409) would be necessary to give life and strength to the new Weltanschauung of National Socialism, and Hitler’s political warriors would need ‘fanatische(n) Kampfesmut’ (fanatical courage to fight) (Mein Kampf: 414). It should be noted here that in Mein Kampf it is not always clear whether Hitler is anticipating a literal or a metaphorical fight.

In Mein Kampf, Germany is frequently portrayed as a victim (Opfer), with the Jews putting to sleep (einschläfern) (Mein Kampf: 346) or dissolving (auflösen) her people, indeed the Jew is portrayed as the ‘Auflöser der menschlichen Kultur’ (a dissolver of human culture) in a more general sense (Mein Kampf: 498). Hitler also showed Jews and Marxists as the imprisoners and enslavers of Germany and other nations, especially Russia; this is the ‘internationale Völkerversklavung’ (international enslavement of peoples) which he blames chiefly on the Jews (Mein Kampf: 738). In Mein Kampf, Jews are shown as forcing Germany into the ‘Sklavenlos einer dauernden Unterjochung’ (slave’s lot of permanent subjugation) (Mein Kampf: 358); the Weimar Republic is portrayed as a Sklavenkolonie (‘slave colony’) (Mein Kampf: 640) suffering under the terms of ‘Entwaffnungs- und Versklavungsedikte’ (edicts of disarmament (…) edicts of enslavement, i.e. the Treaty of Versailles and the Dawes Plan) (Mein Kampf: 639, 762).

 

Hitler promises, however, that he will fight personally for Germany, a battle which he sees as God’s work: ‘Indem ich mich des Juden erwehre, kämpfe ich für das Werk des Herrn’ (by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord) (Mein Kampf: 70).

 

Akin to war is competition, as are sport and gambling. Raymond Gibbs demonstrates how sporting metaphors may be used to describe politics as a rule-governed contest between two opponents that is within a two-party political system seen as fielding opposing teams (Gibbs, 1994:140). In Mein Kampf, Hitler portrays unpredictable aspects of politics as a game of dice (Würfel), in many ways out of human control (Mein Kampf: 710). Other types of game depend upon human intelligence or strength for a positive outcome. Hitler likens Europe to a chessboard (Mein Kampf: 716) upon which Germany would have to win the right to play. Hitler belittles the efforts of his political opponents and of the bourgeoisie by likening them to players of card-games or members of insignificant clubs such as a ‘literarischer Teeklub’ (literary tea-club) (Mein Kampf: 378), a ‘spießbürgerliche Kegelgesellschaft’ (shopkeepers’ bowling society) (Mein Kampf: 378), a ‘gähnender Kartenspielklub’ (yawning bridge club) (Mein Kampf: 538) or a ‘bürgerlicher Träträklub’ (Mein Kampf: 392). He also uses two bull-fighting metaphors as negative epithets: ‘bürgerliche Verleumdungstoreadore’ (bourgeois meeting-hall toreadors) (Mein Kampf: 548) and ‘die Matadoren der Revolution’ (matadors of the revolution) (Mein Kampf: 584).

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Due to constraints of space, this paper has dealt with only a portion of the metaphors used by Hitler in Mein Kampf. It has, however, attempted to include metaphors which most clearly illustrate his political philosophy. Hitler presented images of the Aryan race as higher in the racial hierarchy than other races and made extensive use of the deeply grounded conceptual metaphor of “the great chain of being”. Jews in particular were portrayed as lower-level beings: insects, parasites, vermin and bacteria. The majority of Hitler’s metaphors show little originality and most are immediately understandable: as well as being well-worn in political rhetoric, many are used for everyday purposes by ordinary people. In Mein Kampf, Hitler showed a preference for certain groups of metaphor. His personifications, for example of Nature and Fate, and of human roles, capacities and emotions, are varied and possibly his most unusual and individual metaphorizations. He also favored building metaphors, and while none of these were novel, he ventured into less well-worn territory with some of them. Hitler also often used domestic and wild animals as sources for his similes and metaphors. Most of his animal metaphors were very conventional (Mein Kampf: 41, 46, 261), and some may be classed as dead metaphors (Mein Kampf: 183). Other animal metaphors are more obscure, one of his best-known inventions being his demand that military men should be ‘Flink wie Windhunde, zäh wie Leder und hart wie Kruppstahl’ (swift as greyhounds, tough as leather, and hard as Krupp steel) (Mein Kampf: 392; Domarus I, 1962-63). Sadly, Hitler’s most repulsive metaphors are his most imaginative, and his most imaginative and distinctive images are of Jews (slime, maggots and bacteria). Such metaphors underpin his stylistic strategy, evident in his rhetoric generally and his metaphors in particular, of portraying Aryans and Jews, positive and negative human characteristics, dictatorship and democracy as representing opposite extremes on a scale of good and evil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

Hitler, Adolf (1992): Mein Kampf, translated by Ralph Manheim with an introduction by

D. Cameron Watt, London.

 

Berning, Cornelia (1960-1963): “Die Sprache der Nationalsozialisten”, in: Zeitschrift für

deutsche Wortforschung XVI:71-118, 178-188; XVII:83-121, 171-182; XVIII: 108-118,

160-172; XIX: 92-112.

 

Clausewitz, Claus von (1832): Vom Kriege, http://gutenberg.spiegel.de/clausewz/krieg

/buch01.htm (12.11.2007).

 

Domarus, Max (ed.) (1962-63): Hitler. Reden und Proklamationen 1932-1945, 2 vols,

Neustadt a.d. Aisch.

 

Friederich, Wolf (1966): Moderne deutsche Idiomatik. Systemisches Wörterbuch mit

Definitionen und Beispielen, München.

 

Gibbs, Raymond W. (1994): The Poetics of the Mind: Figurative Thought, Language, and Understanding, Cambridge.

 

Kövecses, Zoltàn (2002): Metaphor. A Practical Introduction, Oxford.

 

Lakoff, George (1987): Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. What Categories Reveal about the Mind, Chicago and London.

 

Lakoff, George and Mark Turner (1989): More then Cool Reason. A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor, Chicago and London.

 

Lakoff, George and Mark Johnson (1999): Philosophy in the Flesh. The Embodied Mind and its Challenge to Western Thought, New York.

 

Lincoln, Bruce (1999): Theorizing the Myth. Narrative, Ideology, and Scholarship, Chicago and London.

 

Musolff, Andreas (2003): “Ideological functions of metaphor: The conceptual metaphors of health and illness in public discourse”, in: Cognitive Models of Language and Thought

(Cognitive Linguistics Research, 24), Berlin and New York, 327-352.

 

Musolff, Andreas (2004): “Metaphor and conceptual evolution”, in: Metaphorik 7, 55-75, http://www.metaphorik.de/07/musolff.pdf (13.11.2007).

 

Spalding, Keith (2000): An Historical Dictionary of German Figurative Usage, Oxford.

 

Volmert, Johannes (1989): “Politische Rhetorik des Nationalsozialismus”, in: Ehlich, Konrad (ed.): Sprache im Faschismus, Frankfurt am Main, 137-161.

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