Many people fulminate about Nazis these days. I don't simply because I have paid attention to actual Nazis and find that current targets of the fascist label are not much like the real thing.
Hitler's Second Book:
The Unpublished Sequel to Mein Kampf
By Adolf Hitler
Translated by Krista Smith
Edited by Gerhard L. Weinberg
Enigma Books, 2003
203 Pages, US$22.40
Every day, confused people all over the world ask themselves, “What would Hitler do?” This translation of the draft of an unpublished manuscript will be of great assistance to those in the English-speaking world who really want an answer.
Hitler's Second Book (the manuscript was actually untitled) has not just recently come to light. A typescript, confiscated from a German publisher, was found in the 1950s among material held by the US government. A critical German edition has been available since 1961. Pirated and sloppy English versions have been published over the years; this translation is an update of the critical edition. An introduction by the editor discusses the book's authenticity and historical context.
The manuscript is undated, but internal evidence shows that it was composed in late June and early July of 1928. Hitler “wrote” this book in the way he wrote Mein Kampf: he harangued a secretary for days on end, who transcribed what he said and produced a typed version. The rough text of Mein Kampf was edited by Hitler and his publisher before that book appeared in print. The text of this Second Book, however, was never marked up by an editor or revised by the author. It is close to being a transcript, which actually makes it easier to read. Unlike Mein Kampf, it does not read like an attempt at finished prose that failed.
By no means is this Second Book a “secret book.” It elaborates on the foreign-policy themes that appear in Mein Kampf, and it says pretty much what Hitler was saying in the late 1920s. The latter is the chief reason why Hitler never published the book. In 1928, with the political fortunes of the Nazi Party in eclipse, there was not much of a market for another book by him. Later on, much of what Hitler had to say in the Second Book was no longer of current interest. Other points covered by the book continued to be relevant, but would have been deeply embarrassing to the Nazis in power. In the Second Book, Hitler makes clear that preparing for a future struggle with the United States is one of the chief goals of National Socialism. He also states his intention to colonize Russia.
Hitler's ideas about foreign policy were essentially Social Darwinist. Nations were in competition with each other for the necessities of life, in Hitler's view. The odd thing about the Second Book, however, is that it was written in large part to dampen down a dispute between German nationalists and Italy. After the First World War, Austria lost the South Tyrol region to Italy through the Treaty of St. Germain, and Mussolini's government was taking increasingly irksome steps to Italianize the German-speaking minority. Pan-Germanists in Germany and Austria demanded the return of the South Tyrol, or at least that their governments do something to protect the Germans there. Hitler, however, was having none of it. The Second Book explains why the South Tyrol is not worth fighting for. It also explains what Hitler believed would be worth fighting for.
According to Hitler, there is no point in kicking against the territorial settlements of the Versailles Treaty and of the related agreements. They were designed to give as many states as possible an interest in maintaining the system. If Germany or Austria tried to rectify even one border, Hitler warns, the whole enemy coalition would spring back to life. Quite surprisingly, Hitler says that war, like emigration, is dysgenic: it is the best people who die in battle in time of war, or who emigrate in time of peace. A war can be justified only if the gains create the possibility of replenishing the loss of good racial stock. That can be the case only if victory means new Lebensraum, which means “living space” or territory for settlement.
Hitler's Social Darwinism includes quite a bit of Malthusianism. Ideally, every nation state should be able to feed itself, but the population of every nation tends to exceed the density at which this is possible. That leaves three options: population control, which is morbid; emigration, which, as we have seen, loses the best people; or expansion. Hitler votes for expansion. For a country placed where Germany is, that means expansion into lightly populated Russia.
One notes that this concept of national self-preservation diverges from patriotism as it is usually understood. Hitler does not lack historical memory, and no doubt there were places in the German lands that were dear to him. However, under his own theory, the Fatherland becomes simply a food-making machine. He asserts several times that peoples are not tied permanently to specific territories. At least in this book, there is no preference for the Rhine over the Volga as a seat of German civilization.
Hitler does not say that the life of nations is simply a war of all against all. Great nations develop characteristic foreign policies to promote their peculiar interests. Hitler says that not just peace, but permanent alliance, should be possible with Italy. Italy's Lebensraum is the lands around the Mediterranean, and so there is no fundamental cause for conflict with Germany. Similarly, Germany can successfully seek alliance with Great Britain, provided that Germany concedes to Britain the control of the seas. The greatest error of the Hohenzollern Reich, in Hitler's estimation, was the attempt to compete in international commerce. That was Britain's vital interest. Germany's growing pre-war navy, made necessary by the expansion of German commerce, made war certain. Germany cannot feed itself through trade without provoking Britain. That is why the drive to the East was the only option for Germany.
Hitler does have some notion of Europe as a whole, but he rejects the option of a “Pan-Europa” policy for Germany. If Europe is ever to be united, it will have to be by war and competition, as Latium was united by Rome, and Germany by Prussia. A united Europe created by peaceful assimilation would simply dilute the best racial elements of the various nations. He contrasts this with the assimilation of European ethnic groups in the United States. These, Hitler believed, were largely derived from the adventurous, Nordic strains of the European nations. Mixing them together reconstituted the best European racial potential.
This assessment of the United States is the highest Hitler was ever to make, at least to my knowledge. He seems to give equal weight to the advent of American armies in Europe with the famous “stab in the back” as a cause of Germany's defeat in the recent world war. For the future, he suggests that the natural competition between America and Great Britain would lead to conflict. For reasons he never quite specifies, he also suggests there is also a basic incompatibility of interests between the United States and Germany, and indeed between the United States and Europe as a whole:
“It is, again, the duty of the National Socialist movement to strengthen and prepare our own fatherland to the greatest degree possible for this task.”
Russia was the flipside of the United States. There, the state-building element had been Nordic in origin, but it had been almost entirely destroyed or driven out by the Bolshevik Revolution. Another alliance with Russia, as in Bismarck's day, was out of the question: there was no one left to ally with. There were, of course, the Jews, whom Hitler saw as guiding spirits of the early Bolshevik regime. Hitler had no interest in dealing with them, however, and he doubted their ability to form an effective ruling class. Russia, in Hitler's estimation, was not a threat, but a tempting desert.
Although only wars against Russia and, later, the United States would really be worthwhile in themselves, Hitler does not counsel pacifism in all other contexts. States that stand aside from the great conflicts of the age never develop the mettle to deal with the victor. He says the United States would not be counted as a power of the first rank if it had remained neutral during World War I. His objection is to petty wars that serve no greater strategy. Pacifism, he suggests, was an understandable reaction to wars fought in the service of frivolous statecraft, like that of the old Dual Monarchy. In the future, when wars are fought for Lebensraum, pacifism can be expected to disappear.
Although there are some tirades in this book against the Jews, they are of surprisingly little importance to Hitler's assessment of the state of the world. It goes without saying (though he says it) that the Jews were trying to subvert the nations of Europe, and Germany in particular. However, this sleepless malice is given no particular shape. There does not seem to be any specific Jewish plot that Hitler is trying to foil. His Social Darwinist model of history does not require any Jews at all. At least in this book, Hitler seems much more concerned with the malefactions of bourgeois nationalists, who were trying to pick a fight with the brilliant Signor Mussolini.
For the most part, readers will be struck by the continuities between the ideas in this book and Hitler's later policies. He eventually made his alliance with Italy, and tried repeatedly to make one with England. He fought preliminary wars for no other purpose than to facilitate the invasion of Russia. Hitler declared war on the United States after Pearl Harbor, though he was not bound by treaty to do so, and historians have been trying to figure out why ever since. Frankly, this book does not do much clarify his motivations, either. However, despite what American neo-isolationists have said in recent years, it seems unlikely that peace was an option.
Copyright © 2004 by John J. Reilly