Friday, September 26, 2003
The Telegraph had an interesting article on Hitler's Second Book, the one that showed (yet again) he was the nutter on the Clapham Omnibus, taking a detour through Munich.

The shameful treatment of this historical resource in the English speaking world (or Anglosphere, for those who like to feel they're a civilisation) is very surprising. The historian who discivered and edited this text was Gerhard Weinberg, one of the German Jews who managed to leave before the outbreak of war. Our good fortune.

Over the next 40 years, Weinberg made repeated efforts to interest other publishers in a new, scholarly edition. "I'm not Hitler's press agent, obviously, but one of the things that outraged me about this is that we're not talking about somebody of no importance. We're talking about one of the central figures of the 20th century - and the man wrote all of two books. One of these is not available in a reliable English-language edition, which is why I am pleased that, at last, it will be."

Hitler wrote this additional text in 1928 as a systematisation of his foreign policy. It contained the usual leavings of rabid volkisch theory: lebensraum, the enslavement of the Slavs, sucking up to Mussolini and a titanic struggle with mongrel America. You wonder if Hitler had published this, would it have made any difference.

After all, one sees nutters on the bus or the train all the time. But we don't end up voting for them. So how did Germany manage to elect a whole crop of muttering, foul smelling weirdos who picked their noses and either espoused nutball racism or looney communism.

Sometimes, I think it was because they weren't Welsh enough. Both Germany and Wales were countries who tried to define their nations through song. Choirs formed an important component of their nascent nationalism, in organisation and artistic expression. Yet the Welsh ended up with Lloyd George and the Germans ended up with Hitler.

To paraphrase Kershaw, the Second Book offered little insight into Hitler's foreign policy. It was merely an expansion of what had already been stated in Mein Kampf. The work was never published, possibly to avoid offending the NSDAP's right-wing backers or to avoid cannibalising sales of the second edition of Mein Kampf.

There was nothing inevitable about Hitler's rise to power, no Sonderweg whereby the Germans were fated to follow the path to Die Katastrophe. He was an extremist who managed to manoevre his way into power in a defeated and revisionist power during a time of desperate economic need.

The only lesson Hitler (and Stalin as well) teaches us is that the extremes are not unimaginable - that they gain power, with public support, if circumstances are bad enough. Look around at the parallel with the extreme fringes today: deep Greens, Islamists, neo-Nazis and Communists.


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