The mouth-foamings of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” have been translated and edited into the comparatively reasonable autobiography which is being offered to American readers under the title of “My Battle”. The New York Times the other day noted that the American version does not contain the expressions of Francophobia which are one of the main ingredients of the original. From other sources I learn that this book is almost mild and almost rational in contrast to the near-insane verbosity of “Mein Kampf”. I recall George Slocombe’s report of his interview with Hitler in the Munich Brown House, early in 1932, I believe. Slocombe, describing the interview for Vanity Fair, tells how Hitler’s face became so distorted and his voice rose to such a screaming crescendo that the spectacle made him think of a case in the insane asylum.
One million Germans, for whatever reason, have bought copies of “Mein Kampf.” I doubt that so many have read it through. But I doubt with stronger reason whether any fraction of a fraction of American readers will buy, or read, “My Battle.” I myself, with all the good reasons I have for wanting to read it, had the devil of a time in ploughing through the monotonous, inconsequential, repetitious passages of the first chapter. Surprisingly enough, I found it dull and that was the one possible offense in Hitler as an author I had not anticipated. I had thought that the hate he nourishes would make for anything but dullness. His paragraphs do not even awake antagonism. I think perhaps that one of the chief reasons for this is that I come to the book already informed as to the creed which it contains, informed by endless expositions in magazines, newspapers and books. It is the kind of book which competes with the front pageâ€”indeed with the front pages of many monthsâ€”so that it comes to us deprived of its bloom, or its foulness, as the case may be. Any one of the hundreds of expositions which have been published in England and America of Hitler anti-Semitism is an anticipation of this book, which seems to me, frankly, to be less of an exposition of anti-Semitism than has been given by gentlemen of far less prominence than Hitler.
On the jacket of the American edition you will see in fairly large type the word autobiography. “My Battle”, whatever it may be in the original, is not an autobiography. It so far fails to satisfy the normal curiosity about the man that it might better be called an evasion. He likes to refer with grandiloquent meaningfulness to his past, to conceal his humble origins, his non-German antecedents. Like Lohengrin, he asks his Elsa: Ask me not who I am nor whence I came, which situation was cleverly put into line for The Bulletin some weeks ago by Sam Berman, caricaturist.
His book begins with observations on the old Austrian Empire and how its tolerance of the Slav elements in it prepared for its downfall, pointing out that the Archduke fell by the very bullets he helped to mould. His second paragraph in effect decrees that Austria shall return to the German Reich and presents the demand that the confines of the Reich must include every single German. Shaw has said that all autobiographers are liars and I think it is true here inasmuch as Hitler represents himself as having arrived, at an early stage of his career, at the whole body of his ideas. On one of his earliest pages we see expressed his aversion to liberal principles and his belief that a people prefers a harsh ruler who tells them what to do to one who permits much Parliamentary debate. We find expressed his aversion to the whole democratic system and his criticism of the anti-Semitism of his predecessors and the statement, crudely expressed, of what is the “Jewish” nature versus the non-Jewish nature. Way up in front of the book he writes: “If a doctrine, superior in truth, but ruthless in practice, is set up against Social Democracy, that doctrine will win, however severe the struggle.” Has Hitler the gift of prophecy or is this the record after the event or when the event was in full sight?
Toward the close of his chapter entitled “Studies and Struggles in Vienna”, Hitler tells us how he first discovered the Jewish question and became a convinced anti-Semite. It seems to me that a good deal of the Hitlerian anti-Semitism is rooted in life-denying Puritanism, which resents freedom of expression in the arts, per se, whether that freedom is expressed by Jew or Gentile. Hitler discovered an aversion to the artistic, dramatic, literary and journalistic expressions of the Jews of Vienna. But even these activities he might have forgiven. It was not until he realized that the Jews were the leaders of Social Democracy that, as he puts it, the scales fell from his eyes.
He tells us of the beginnings of the party which he led, the party of which he was the seventh member; he elaborates the race theory which is the basis of the Nazi inclusions and exclusions, and distributes the blame for the collapse of the Empire, the defeat and the Revolution.
Persons eager to read this work are requested to bear in mind that royalties from its sale go into the private purse of Adolf Hitler.