Moving along with Mein Kampf, I find the task of proving Hitler’s advocacy of aggressive war approximately as difficult as the proof that a priest professes to believe in God.
This task, while somewhat pointless, has given me occasion to read Hitler’s work, and, in contrast to the semi-apology of his supporters on the dust jacket :
The prevailing theme of the first half is Hitler’s frustration with the military alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary. He felt that the Germans should all live in one country. Without a basic understanding [of the ‘political structure in place in Austria-Hungary’] it will sound like endless rambling as so many people have mischaracterized Mein Kampf.
I find it a work of cogent and powerful political intelligence. I would compare it to Machiavelli’s The Prince in that way.
I have been clear about how deeply I have been affected by your reply to what I found on the first page. There, right at the beginning, Hitler says that the German Reich must include all Germans, including indeed especially those living in Austria, in order to have the “moral right” to acquire additional land.
The answer you gave, “What about the other book I sent you?” avoids an answer altogether. How can you say you are opposed to U.S. war in Iraq, Afghanistan, in Africa and the Middle East and Latin America if you admire Hitler’s advocacy of aggressive, expansionist war for Germany? Obviously, in terms of basic consistency, you cannot. If then you abandon basic consistency, there’s no further point to our discussion.
For an example, the tobacco corporations kept saying, when confronted with overwhelming evidence of their carcinogenic product, that science had not yet spoken. They did this right up until the U.S. court system found them consciously peddling poison and fined them billions of dollars. Similarly, the deniers of the Holocaust can only request an independent investigation into the reality of the destruction of the Jews as a race if they are honest about the evidence.
With that preface let us proceed, then, with the text of Mein Kampf. On this occasion I will speak some more about the context of the comments.
In Chapter IV, entitled “Munich”, Hitler continues his consideration, as the blurb quoted above says, of the military alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary.
He speaks in general terms, and not at all rambling. In the German original:
Es war dies ein klassischer Fall, an dem sich das Feh len jeder großen und richtigen Line des Denkens aufzeigen ließ.
That is, “This was a classic case of showing a complete absence of any correct, general connected thought.” It is of interest that there is here a typographical error right in the German edition, now reprinted and re-reprinted: “Fehlen” — absence — is written as if it were two words.
Any alliance must be in the German national interest, Hitler begins; and the future interests consist of nothing other than the question of the possibility of the continued existence of the German people.
Diese Zukunft des Reiches aber war doch nichts anderes als die Frage der Erhaltung der Existenzmöglichkeit des deutschen Volkes.
In his very next sentence Hitler makes clear that he is talking about the foreign policy that he would pursue, not in some abstract space of theory, but with respect to the European neighbors of Germany.
Mithin aber konnte die Frage dann nur lauten: Wie muß das Leben der deutschen Nation in einer greifbaren Zukunft sich gestalten, und wie kann man dieser Entwicklung dann die nötigen Grundlagen und die erforderliche Sicherheit gewährleisten im Rahmen der allgemeinen europäischen Machtverhältnisse?
That is, “At this point the question can only be put as follows: How must the life of the German nation develop in addressing the actual future, and how can this development assure the necessary foundations and requisite security within the general framework of the major European powers?”
The question Hitler poses is then to be addressed, he says, by clearly facing the fact of an annual increase in the number of Germans of nine hundred thousand people.
Die Schwierigkeit der Ernährung dieser Armee von neuen Staatsbürgern muß von Jahr zu Jahr größer werden und einmal bei einer Katastrophe enden, falls eben nicht Mittel und Wege gefunden werden, noch rechtzeitig der Gefahr dieser Hungerverelendung vorzubeugen.
“The difficulty of providing adequate nourishment [Ernährung — the same word used on page one] for this army of new citizens must increase year by year and eventually end in a catastrophe, unless ways and means are found in good time to avoid the danger of this starvation.”
Our author does not suppose that the rest of the world is facing quite similar difficulties: he is restricting his vision to the German “Volk” alone, and he proceeds to disregard, explicitly, the requirement of retaining the present borders of the German empire. There are, he says, four possibilities. You can reduce the new births, you can increase the annual food production within Germany, you can expand the land available to Germans, or you can import the food needed by selling manufactured goods. He spends the next eight pages in a pretty detailed discussion, in the end rejecting the first (letting infants starve is better than abortions, he says, but it’s still bad) and second, which he says has been associated within Germany with the breaking up of the large estates.
No further argument is invoked to put the second out of contention: one would have to conclude that Hitler is unwilling to threaten large landholders. That does make sense, since the intensive cultivation and land reform it envisions suggests a Marxist-oriented social policy, and the whole Nazi movement rests on opposition to the Jewish Communist menace.
Somit bleiben nur noch zwei Wege, der steigenden Volkszahl Arbeit und Brot zu sichern.
3. Man konnte entweder neuen Boden erwerben, um die überschlüssigen Millionen jährlich abzuschieben, und so die Nation auch weiter auf der Grundlage einer Selbsternährung erhalten, oder man ging
4. dazu über, durch Industrie und Handel für fremden Bedarf zu schaffen, un vom Erlös das Leben zu bestreiten.
That is, in English, “So there remain only two ways to secure food and employment for the increasing number of the people. 3. One could either get new lands to which the overflow millions could each year be dispatched, and the Nation thereby obtain self-sufficiency, or 4. one could choose to supply by means of industry and trade the needs of foreign countries, and make a living from the proceeds.”
Now this is a fairly crucial passage, and I will reproduce the standard English translation, both to establish that I really am giving you my own direct translation from the German, and to show, interestingly, that there really aren’t any mistranslations, of which you asserted the existence.
Thus there remained [there, that’s an error: the German is in the present, not the past, and the effect of the error is to make the meaning less sensible] but two ways of securing work and bread for the rising population.
3. Either new soil could be acquired and the superfluous million sent off each year, thus keeping the nation on a self-sustaining basis; or we could
4. Produce for foreign needs through industry and commerce, and defray the cost of living from the proceeds.
I think it’s clear mine makes more sense.
Anyway, moving on. The purportedly scatterbrained Hitler then explicitly repeats the choice so that even the reader who is having trouble paying attention can get it:
Also: entweder Boden- oder Kolonial- und Handelspolitik.
“Therefore, either a policy of land or one of colonies and trade.”
That “policy of land” is that of taking land from other countries. If need be, I can produce a raft of citations where Hitler says that taking has to happen by means of force. He continues
Der gesundere Weg von beiden wäre freilich der erstere gewesen.
“The healthier of the two methods would obviously be the first.”
One cannot maintain that Hitler did not advocate aggressive war. Hitler sets up, over ten pages of prose, a future policy choice which requires Germany to take land from other countries. Other countries in Europe. Specifically, as you well know, the countries he has in mind are countries in Eastern Europe. The 1943 translation is awkward in places, but not a distortion. Aggressive war for land in Eastern Europe is exactly what Mein Kampf urges, at great length and in detail.
Quod erat demonstrandum.