“Mein Kampf”, the forbidden book, is to be read strictly from a scholarly perspective. Well, that goes by saying, but nonetheless, it is best to mention it again. Now, why would someone want to go through such a mad piece of literature? Just question. The answer is simple too. Individuals undertaking research about the holocaust might be interested to know the origin of the absolutely insane ideologies that sparked such a dreadful time in human history. Who else? Well, anyone who is interested to know about people and their antics could delve into this psychoanalytical study of one of the most psychotic people ever. Even though this is an autobiography, it cannot be read as a singular text. You need to be aware of the mass-scale destruction that man had caused and the lingering problems that it has left behind. Here is a brief insight into the book and while it might not be a must-have for your bookshelf, it is not a bad idea to go through its pages once.
If you are thinking that the book might change your perception of the man, you could not be further away from the reality of the book. Nothing, no amount of struggle, would or could change the fact that the Holocaust was utter madness. You cannot just wake up one morning and decide to wax off an entire race from the face of the earth.
Well, it was not a sudden idea that Hitler paced upon one morning. It was an unjust and unfortunate culmination of several of his struggles.
It’s impossible to ignore his resentments. His father was dense, cruel, and unforgiving. Schoolmates and teachers were abrasive. Everyone can see the bitterness and unaddressed frustrations of an unforgiving existence on every page. In the same vein, his scathing narrative of his last rejection at Vienna’s Academy of Fine Arts is a good example of the type.
A book meant to recruit fanatical supporters to a fanatical cause, admittedly, would appear to be more disturbing than enticing because of the pettiness of the hurt and the length and passion with which it’s recounted. Numerous self-pitying paragraphs follow in the same style. During his free time in Vienna, he describes his hunger in precise detail.
A poor gassed soldier, a failing artist, and a ridiculed by everybody, he is at best (and surely) a sufferer. The awfulness extends to his fixation with syphilis and his fetish of muscular bodies, as well as his obsessive dread of impurity. Weirdly (and then again not so surprisingly) the strongest feeling throughout the memoir is pathos.
It is of course apparent to Hitler (as well as to the reader), he is a member of the lower middle class and his perspective of the world is shaped by that knowledge.
People who are familiar with resentment as the main emotion must have felt his persistent resentment. Readers might find the novel creepy, depressed, and uninspired now, but it must have connected with a large segment of the German middle class following World War II and inflation. Even his anti-Semitism shows signs of personal animosity as much as “scientific” racism.
Even Hitler’s anti-Semitism appears to be an extreme kind of petit-bourgeois hysteria. Not the newbie who intrudes, but rather the rival who competes under unjust rules (according to him) is more deserving of immediate action. That his anti-Semitism in Mein Kampf is intertwined with his anti-Frenchness is revealing. The Jews would be the alter ego of the French: they’re the ones who get to go to art school. Anti-Semitism and Francophobia are both manifestations of the same petty-bourgeois suspicion of “they feel they are better than us?!”
Despite the evident mismatch between Hitler’s misery and his drive to power, his nature remains incomprehensible. Consequently, many more personal experiences show that disconsolate people harbor the most desire for power.
It’s not uncommon for someone to act violently out of fear of imminent mockery. He is afraid of being mocked. However, to choose to be so outspoken about his love of violence, and use it as a source of power is what strikes a nauseating chord.
Autobiographies talk about the narrator’s side of the story. As you go through the pages of an autobiography, you are bound to get influenced by the text, inclining even if slightly towards the side of the author. Hitler’s biography, just like himself, stands apart from the crowd, and again like himself, not in a good way.
The fact that he chooses to title his autobiography “My Struggles” (the English translation of “Mein Kampf), uncovers his exploitative and victim mentality. Most of the “struggles” that Hitler writes about are too petty to be considered as ‘struggles’ especially when seen alongside actual struggles that so many individuals face daily.
Not getting admitted into the art school of his choice is not a struggle. It is a setback, something that many of us might have experienced at some point in our lives. But throw in a traumatic and stressed childhood, dominated by a dense and unforgiving parent figure, followed by the post-war traumas, and boom! You have got the distorted mentality that costs the world millions of lives, thousands of love stories, and gazillions of dreams.
Reading the book can surely not be categorized as a “good” experience and neither a “comfortable” one. Even if we were to put aside the menacing perspective of the narrator, the writing style is horrid, and the tale has no space for sympathy.
“Mein Kampf” is one of the most uncomfortable and angering reads of all time. But to think that an individual was capable of bringing doom to the entire world, and stood as a dominant reason (if not the sole) behind setting off a war that spared no nation and no men, is chilling. The book holds much scope for research on the times of the Holocaust, especially when read along with other narratives of the times, Anne Frank’s diary and “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” being a few of the most blazing examples.