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Literature / Mein Kampf

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"Those who want to live, let them fight, and those who do not want to fight in this world of eternal struggle do not deserve to live."

Mein Kampf is Adolf Hitler's infamous autobiography combined with a manifesto 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 World War I, 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.

A sequel known only as Zweites Buch (Second Book) was dictated and made but never published within his lifetime. It delves more into Hitler's ambitions to Take Over the World, which he believed required an eventual military confrontation with the United States, following the defeat of the Soviet Union, and finally a massive race war in East Asia (indicating that he was fully prepared to betray Nazi Germany's alliance with Imperial Japan eventually).

The book is not recommended for reading unless you are a history major — besides the obvious reasons, 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-Zagging 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, Göring spearheaded the invasions of both Austria and the Sudetenland, largely because Germany's economic policies (i.e., 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 the industries and gold reserves of half of Europe. 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 Göring 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). In general there is a great deal of debate about how much of the 1933–1945 timespan played out all as Hitler had planned it long before or whether he was taking the opportunities offered to him one at a time never planning a great deal ahead. Needless to say, there is evidence for both.
  • Author Filibuster: Not a very well-written or inspiring work of literature.
  • Author Tract: Let's get a brief list going:
    • Democracy Is Bad: Like other fascists, Hitler did not believe in democracy, considering it weak and ineffective.
    • Greedy Jew: Hitler characterized the Jewish people as greedy, among many other vices that he attributed to them.
    • Master Race: Hitler, above everything else, believed in the idea of a "master race" that were "superior" in some vague way he failed to define and who would rule over all others, taking primary inspiration from the then-popular Aryan legend.
    • Patriotic Fervor: Like other fascists, Hitler was very nationalistic, considering Germany to have the greatest race and culture of all people.
    • Red Scare: Hitler hated communists with a passion, believing them to be an extension of the Jews.
    • The Social Darwinist: Hitler held an extremely cynical worldview, a world defined by perpetual struggle and conflict, in which everyone and every race compete against each other for survival and supremacy. The strong becomes the Master Race, while the weak are annihilated or become subversive parasites (which he saw the Jews as). Critics called him a Straw Nihilist for this.
    • ‹bermensch: Hitler was inspired by a misinterpretation of Nietzschean philosophy, particularly things like the overman and the "Will to Power".
  • Black-and-White Morality: Of course, white people were "white" in Hitler's paradigm (and especially "Aryans", then Germans), while Jewish people were "black."
  • Bowdlerise: The first English translation removed some of the more anti-Jewish 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.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Between Mein Kampf and its sequel, Zweites Buch:
    • The first book contained some foreign policy prescriptions, but was very light on the subject. The second one's main focus was on foreign policy;
    • The first book had a three-stage plan for Hitler's foreign policy (1. massive military build-up + terminating the Treaty of Versailles + forming alliances with the Italian and British Empires; 2. blitzkrieg with Italy and Britain against France and her allies in Eastern Europe — for instance, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania and Yugoslavia; 3. war to obliterate the "Judeo-Bolshevik" Soviet Union). In the second book he added a fourth stage, that would happen way in the future (4. alliance between European states with high national value + struggle with the United States for world domination);
    • Related to the latter is Hitler's shifted view towards the United States: in Mein Kampf he mentions the country sparingly and, when so, with contempt, as a "racially degenerate" society that will continue to see its demise; in Zweites Buch he refers to the US as a dynamic and "racially successful" society that has eugenics, racial segregation practices, and an exemplary immigration policy at the expense of "inferior" immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe;
    • Also related to two paragraphs back was his shifted view towards the Soviet Union: in the first book he saw it as Germany's most dangerous opponent; in the second one, he continued to do so, but only on the shorter term — the long-term most dangerous opponent was now the United States.
  • 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 antisemitism that has been widely proved a fraud (indeed, had been proved such by 1921, before he even conceived of writing Mein Kampf).
  • Feeling Oppressed by Their Existence: Hitler finds the mere existence of groups like Jews and Slavs offensive to his very being and to blame for all the ills of the world.
  • Final Solution: In several passages, Hitler explicitly calls for the destruction of Jews.
  • Freudian Excuse: Hitler admitted that he had a violent childhood wherein he always ended up always fighting his (pro-Habsburg) father, who punished him severely. His years in Vienna didn't help, as he was expelled from the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts, putting an end to his dream as an artist, and after his mother died he lived a life of poverty, homelessness, friendlessness and depression.
  • 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. Modern art and getting rejected from art school? 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 had managed to keep theirs, and that had "superior" cultures. Said cultures thrived because (in a bad interpretation of Nietzschean Master–slave morality) they held war, conquest, glory, elitism, purity, and similar 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 reimagine him to be whatever they wanted, like a great Aryan warrior, which they believed because of dubious pseudoscience 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: Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, is the protagonist of his autobiography. While probably not the first appearance of this trope, this is the Trope Maker.
  • The Power of Hate: What kept him going and alive despite being nearly on the brink of Despair Event Horizon while in Vienna. And of course, this hatred, his raison d'être, became focused on the people whom he believed was the source of all of Europe's ills, the defining hatred that made Adolf Hitler Adolf Hitler: Jews.
  • Purple Prose: Almost to Word Salad Philosophy levels. 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. The parts written by Rudolf Hess are also decently written, since he had graduated from university and actually been taught how to write.
  • 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.
  • Space-Filling Empire: Hitler talks about his desire for lands that Germans could colonize to build a great empire.
  • 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. Gregor Strasser, one of his former associates, referred to Hitler as a "congenital liar."
  • Untranslated Title: It's called Mein Kampf in several of the languages it was translated into.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Some digging into the archives has proved that Hitler... creatively remembered several events to make himself look better:
    • He spent much of the war as a regimental runner, carrying messages between regimental headquarters and near the front lines and back (he is sometimes said to be a Battalion runner, taking messages between parts of the front line; 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 many of his fellow soldiers and even fellow runners sent him letters or wrote to newspapers saying as much (the Nazi Party sued them for defamation). He did win awards for bravery (though his closeness to regimental command almost certainly helped him there) and did some fighting, but not to the extent he made out.
    • Hitler was also 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 use a can opener properly.
    • One of the more accurate (whilst still being readable) and few unabridged translations handily employs footnotes not only to 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.
    • Hitler is particularly vague and unreliable when it comes to his family and childhood in Austria. His lawyer Hans Frank, basically already facing the hangman's noose, speculated about Hitler suspecting Jewish ancestry and wishing to keep that hidden.note  The more likely answer is that the shallow gene pool (Hitler's parents were first cousins) and the provincial origins embarrassed him enough, so he wanted to seem vaguely "folksy" without coming across as a yokel. Hitler is also vague about just how much of a "strict disciplinarian" his father was. Attempts at having an alcoholic dad who beat little Adolf be his Freudian Excuse abound in certain types of books about Hitler's childhood.
  • Worthy Opponent: Hitler viewed Britain as this, calling them the only natural ally of a future Germany. Some members of Winston Churchill's cabinet would later point to this as proof that Hitler would probably honor a non-aggression pact if they made one, though Churchill himself refused this idea point-blank.

Alternative Title(s): Zweites Buch