Mein Kampf is Adolf Hitler's infamous autobiography combined with an exposition of his political ideology. Originally entitled Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit, or Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice, the book was written during Hitler's imprisonment after the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, and published with the more concise name Mein Kampf (My Struggle) in two volumes, the first being published in 1925 and the other in 1926, prior to his rise to power in 1933.
In the first volume, Hitler wrote of his early years and his family life, his life in Vienna and his involvement in The Great War, his political activity following the war, and the initial formation of the ideas that would ten years later become the core of the National Socialist movement in Germany, interspersed with his rambling about his hatred for the Jewish people and his blame of them for the state that Germany was in after the war, drawing primary inspiration from the infamous antisemitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
The second volume details the Nazi movement itself at some length, going over everything from philosophy, ideology, organization and other topics, including trade unions, the Russians, the Stormtroopers, the use of propaganda and other factors which would come to be implemented during Hitler's rise to power.
In the wake of World War II, Mein Kampf has become one of the best selling and most banned books in the modern era.
The book is not recommended for reading unless you are a history major — Hitler was a terrible writer. If you speak sufficient German, Serdar Somuncu has done a Dramatic Reading of the book as a comedy act, which works amazingly well and makes the dreck Hitler wrote entertaining and scary.
- All There in the Manual: Close examination of events as they actually played out reveals this as a Zig Zagged Trope. Hitler was very reluctant to annex his neighbours (initially, and only because he feared losing) and was annoyed that his followers kept pestering him to actually live up to his promises, commenting that when he wrote it he never expected to actually end up as dictator of Germany and he wouldn't have written the book if he had; he seemed to regard it as a "get-rich-quick" scheme to cash-in on his post-trial popularity and hoped to use the royalties to pay off his legal debts, and to inspire German far-rightists. When it came down to it, the invasions of both Austria and the Sudetenland were spearheaded by Göring, in large part because Germany's economic policies (ie. rapid re-militarization) meant they were spending far more than they had, and conquering her neighbours was the only way to balance her budget via rampant looting and theft (including from Jews), and seizing control of their industries. It was only after the world let Germany get away with this (and around the time he got hooked on amphetamines, which boosted his adrenaline and made him more reckless) that Hitler started getting more ambitious and taking his imperialist "promises" seriously, and masterminded the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland (both over the protest of Goring and others, though the likes of Ribbentrop and Himmler egged him on), and later the Soviet Union (again, over the protest of saner- if not exactly kinder minds).
- Author Filibuster: Not a particularly well written or inspiring work of literature.
- Author Tract: Let's get a brief list going:
- Believing Their Own Lies: Hitler almost certainly believed at least some of the lies he perpetrated here were true. Especially the ones about his war record and past experiences.
- Bowdlerise: The first English translation removed some of the more anti-Semitic and militaristic statements. A more faithful one was released later, but it lost a copyright lawsuit. The first French translation censored the hateful passages of the text towards France.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Among Hitler's sources of inspiration was the infamous The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a crowning work of conspiracy theory and anti-Semitism that has been widely proven a fraud.
- Hijacked by Ganon: Everything was or will be a Jewish conspiracy. Losing World War I? Jewish conspiracy. Bolshevik Revolution? Jewish conspiracy. Esperanto, the Universal Language? Jewish Conspiracy. Specifically, the idea was that Jews had been too weak to keep their own land and after scattering throughout the world, became bitterly jealous of those other ethnic groups/races that that had managed to keep theirs, and that had "superior" cultures. Said cultures thrived because they held war, conquest, glory, elitism, purity and other such things as ideals, so the Jews spread the "lies" of pacifism, humility, democracy, egalitarianism etc., first through Christianity (which was sometimes held to be a Jewish corruption of what Jesus actually taught—but since this was the only source of his teachings, they could re-imagine him to be whatever they wanted, like a great Aryan warrior, which they believed because of dubious pseudo-science at the time), then through liberalism, socialism and communism. Believing in pacifism et al. made nations weak and corrupt and caused national disunity, which led to all of the above as the "pawns" of the Jews (socialists, pacifists, liberals etc.) turning against their leaders and their countries, with the end result being universalism where like the Jews, nobody would have any land to call their own. And of course, the Jews loathed Germany especially because Germany had the greatest race and culture of them all.
- Nazi Protagonist: The original one, in fact.
- Purple Prose: Indeed, many history majors specializing in that area of history cite it as the most boring book they have to read. There's one exception: the chapter on propaganda is a clear and well-written, though astonishingly cynical, essay on mass psychology. Don't think, however, that this proves Hitler could actually write well when he wanted to: the entire chapter was copied from an official German army manual that Hitler had been given some years previously.
- Some historians such as Ian Kershaw also suspect that Hitler's fellow prisoner Rudolf Hess probably ghostwrote several chapters of the book (having actually graduated college, Hess knew how to write a little better at least). The propaganda chapter was probably, if not dictated by Hitler and cleaned up by Hess, then totally written by Hess himself.
- Self-Serving Memory: Among other glaring omissions, the "tortured idealist" image that Hitler used to market this doorstopper tended to conveniently leave out that he was in a minimum-security rehabilitation institute.
- Un-person: Hitler pulled this on his own family, as he makes himself out to be an only child when in fact he had a half-brother, a half-sister, and a full sister, as well as a couple of other siblings who died young. The most they get is a brief allusion when he talks about "our" father rather than "my" father. His full sister in particular said that she would never forgive him for this.
- Unreliable Narrator: Hitler often embellishes his recollections to make himself look better. At least one translation uses footnotes to indicate when he is exaggerating or flat-out lying.
- Untranslated Title: It's called Mein Kampf in several of the languages it was translated into.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Turns out that some digging into the archives proves Hitler... creatively remembered a number of events to make himself look better. For instance, he spent much of the war as a regimental runner, carrying messages between regimental HQ and near the front lines and back (he is sometimes said to be a Battalion runner, taking messages from one part of the front line to the other; these were prime targets of snipers and the job was extremely dangerous; Hitler's job was not exactly safe, but it was far less dangerous than that). He often gives the impression that he spent most of that time fighting on the front lines, but in fact he usually spent days or even weeks sitting fairly comfortably in regimental command awaiting orders, passing the time by reading or painting. Regimental runners were generally in much less danger than Hitler made himself out to be in, and lot of his fellow soldiers and even fellow runners sent him letters or wrote to newspapers saying as much (the Nazi party sued them for slander). He did win awards for bravery (though his closeness to regimental command almost certainly helped him there) and do some fighting, but not to the extent he made out.
- Hitler was hated by his fellow Soldiers, who called him "the pig from the back of the lines" and joked that he would probably starve to death in a tin factory since he didn't know how to properly use a can opener.
- One of the more accurate (whilst still being readable) and few unabridged translations handily employs footnotes to not only explain hard-to-translate words or explain references that the reader might not get, but also to point out when Hitler is not exactly being entirely truthful and what ACTUALLY happened, which occurs amusingly frequently.
- Worthy Opponent: Hitler viewed Britain as this, calling them the only natural ally of a future Germany.