On this day in 1925, Volume One of Adolf Hitler’s philosophical autobiography, Mein Kampf, is published. It was a blueprint of his agenda for a Third Reich and a clear exposition of the nightmare that will envelope Europe from 1939 to 1945. The book sold a total of 9,473 copies in its first year. Hitler began composing his tome while sitting in Landsberg prison, convicted of treason for his role in the infamous Beer Hall Putsch in which he and his minions attempted to stage a coup and grasp control of the government in Bavaria. It ended in disaster, with some allies deserting and others falling into the hands of the authorities. Hitler was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment (he would serve only nine months). His time in the old fortress at Landsberg was hardly brutal; he was allowed guests and gifts, and was treated as something of a cult hero. He decided to put his leisure time to good use and so began dictating Volume One of his opus magnus to Rudolph Hess, a loyal member of the German National Socialist Party and fellow revolutionary.
The first part of Mein Kampf, subtitled “A Reckoning,” is a 400-plus page diatribe on the problems besetting Germany-the French, who wished to dismember Germany; the lack of lebesraum, “living space,” and the need to expand east into Russia; and the baleful influence of “mongrel” races. For Hitler, the state was not an economic entity, but a racial one. Racial purity was an absolute necessity for a revitalized Germany. “[F]or men do not perish as the result of lost wars, but by the loss…of pure blood.”
As for leadership, Hitler’s Third Reich would mimic the Prussian ideal of absolute authoritarian rule. “There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons…. Surely every man will have advisers…but the decision will be made by one man.” So there it was: War with France, war with Russia, the elimination of “impure” races, and absolute dictatorship. Hitler laid out his political agenda a full 14 years before the outbreak of war. Volume Two of Mein Kampf, focusing on national socialism, was published in 1927. Sales of the complete work remained mediocre throughout the 1920s. It was not until 1933, the first year of Hitler’s tenure as chancellor of Germany, that sales soared to over 1 million. Its popularity reached the point where it became a ritual to give a newly married couple a copy.