Mein Kampf is an autobiographical manifesto by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, in which he outlines his political ideology and future plans for Germany. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926. The book was edited by the former Hieronymite friar Bernhard Stempfle, who later died during the Night of the Long Knives.
Hitler began dictating the book to his deputy Rudolf Hess while imprisoned for what he considered to be "political crimes" following his failed Putsch in Munich in November 1923. Although Hitler received many visitors initially, he soon devoted himself entirely to the book. As he continued, Hitler realized that it would have to be a two-volume work, with the first volume scheduled for release in early 1925. The governor of Landsberg noted at the time that "Hitler hopes the book will run into many editions, thus enabling him to fulfill his financial obligations and to defray the expenses incurred at the time of his trial."
Hitler originally wanted to call his forthcoming book Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit, or Four and a Half Years (of Struggle) Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice. Max Amann, head of the Franz Eher Verlag and Hitler's publisher, is said to have suggested the much shorter "Mein Kampf" or "My Struggle".
In Mein Kampf, Hitler used the main thesis of "the Jewish peril", which posits a Jewish conspiracy to gain world leadership. The narrative describes the process by which he became increasingly antisemitic and militaristic, especially during his years in Vienna. Yet, the deeper origins of his anti-semitism remain a mystery. He speaks of not having met a Jew until he arrived in Vienna, and that at first his attitude was liberal and tolerant. When he first encountered the anti-semitic press, he says, he dismissed it as unworthy of serious consideration. Later he accepted the same anti-semitic views, which became crucial in his program of national reconstruction of Germany.
Mein Kampf has also been studied as a work on political theory. For example, Hitler announces his hatred of what he believed to be the world's twin evils: Communism and Judaism. The new territory that Germany needed to obtain would properly nurture the "historic destiny" of the German people; this goal, which Hitler referred to as Lebensraum (living space), explains why Hitler aggressively expanded Germany eastward, specifically the invasions of Czechoslovakia and Poland, before he launched his attack against Russia. In Mein Kampf Hitler openly states that the future of Germany "has to lie in the acquisition of land in the East at the expense of Russia."
During his work, Hitler blamed Germany's chief woes on the parliament of the Weimar Republic, the Jews, and Social Democrats, as well as Marxists. He announced that he wanted to completely destroy the parliamentary system, believing it to be corrupt in principle, as those who reach power are inherent opportunists.
While historians diverge on the exact date Hitler decided to exterminate the Jewish people, few place the decision before the mid 1930s. First published in 1925, Mein Kampf shows the ideas that crafted Hitler's historical grievances and ambitions for creating a New Order.
The racial laws to which Hitler referred resonate directly with his ideas in Mein Kampf. In his first edition of Mein Kampf, Hitler stated that the destruction of the weak and sick is far more humane than their protection. However, apart from his allusion to humane treatment, Hitler saw a purpose in destroying "the weak" in order to provide the proper space and purity for the strong.
Although Hitler originally wrote this book mostly for the followers of National Socialism, it grew in popularity. From the royalties, Hitler was able to afford a Mercedes automobile while still imprisoned. Moreover, he accumulated a tax debt of 405,500 Reichsmark (about US $8 million today, or €6 million) from the sale of about 240,000 copies by the time he became chancellor in 1933 (at which time his debt was waived).
After Hitler rose to power, the book gained enormous popularity. (Two other books written by party members, Gottfried Feder's Breaking The Interest Slavery and Alfred Rosenberg's The Myth of the Twentieth Century, have since lapsed into comparative literary obscurity, and no translation of Feder's book from the original German is known.) The book was in high demand in libraries and often reviewed and quoted in other publications. Hitler had made about 1.2 million Reichsmarks from the income of his book in 1933, when the average annual income of a teacher was about 4,800 Mark. During Hitler's years in power, the book was given free to every newlywed couple and every soldier fighting at the front. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been sold or distributed in Germany.
Mein Kampf, due to its racist content and the historical effect of Nazism upon Europe during World War II and the Holocaust, is considered a highly controversial book. Criticism has not come solely from opponents of Nazism. Italian Fascist dictator and Nazi ally Benito Mussolini was also critical of the book, saying that it was "a boring tome that I have never been able to read" and remarked that Hitler's beliefs, as expressed in the book, were "little more than commonplace clichés."
One direct opponent of National Socialism, Konrad Heiden, observed that the content of Mein Kampf is essentially a political argument with other members of the Nazi Party who had appeared to be Hitler's friends, but whom he was actually denouncing in the book's content — sometimes by not even including references to them.
In The Second World War, Winston Churchill wrote that he felt that after Hitler's ascension to power, no other book deserved more intensive scrutiny.
The American literary theorist and philosopher Kenneth Burke wrote a rhetorical analysis of the work, The Rhetoric of Hitler's "Battle", which revealed its underlying message of aggressive intent.