How was Mein Kampf received at the time?

…and who bought it?

According to wiki, Hitler was able to afford a Merc off the back of it whilst still in prison. When it was published in 1925/26, what was the contemporary view of ‘My Struggle’? Were only NSDAP members interested or did it have a wider popularity in Germany/Austria?

Also - did anyone in Britain, France, America, Russia etc. take any notice or was it just seen as the obscure scribblings of a failure?

From Wikipedia:

Here is what the German Spiegel magazine has to say. This has been translated to English.

Oh, a Mercedes. I wondered how Hitler would have gotten his hands on a Mercury.

One Russian critic was Никита Хрущёв (that would be Nikita Khrushchev). Writing years after the fact in Khrushchev Remembers (1970), he says he tried to read it but couldn’t get beyond the first chapter or two, it was so awful.

ETA: I think what Khrushchev found so awful about was that it was so radically different from anything a Communist could agree with. I don’t know if he was really expressing any opinion about the writing style, the megalomania, or whatever else was unlikeable about the book.

Amusingly from the wiki even Hitler’s fellow Fascist Mussolini found it hard going - it’s somewhat disconcerting that I having read it I the same opinions as the Duce and Khruschev, that it’s drier than the Sahara and can be summed up in one sentence; “Germany good, Jews bad.”

In the United States, journalist Alan Cranston (who later became a U.S. Senator from California 1969-1993) was upset with a sanitized version that omitted some anti-semitism and militancy. He published a more accurate version, got sued for copyright infringement and lost, stopping Cranston from publishing. Cranston admitted he was knowingly breaking copyright laws to let Americans know what Hitler was saying. John Toland’s biography of Hitler says it sold 500,000 in ten days (priced at 10 cents) with the cover proclaiming Hitler got nothing in royalties.

Apparently Cranston version came out in 1939

In “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”, Shirer recounts how with Hitler’s growing dictatorial power “Mein Kampf” became basically the book that one was obligated to own, whether one read it or not, and had a Bible-like symbolic place in many institutions. So eventually royalties from the book constituted a significant source of income, although by that point income was no longer a consideration for him. But it’s not as if it was actually widely read, much less admired. It was – and remains – a window into the man’s demented mind.

Wasn’t Hitler also compensated for having his likeness used on postage stamps?

You would think he could have afforded a good barber.

As Mahaloth quoted from Wiki: …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)…

It’s good to be the king, er, Fuhrer.

I couldn’t get past the first chapter or two because it was so boring. Though maybe it shines in its original German. In English translation, it is remarkable how dull and turgid it is - I kept thinking ‘how on earth did this sad tome inspire a whole nation to mass murder and invasion?’ :confused:

$8MM taxes on sales of 240,000 books? That’s $33.33 in taxes per book. Can that be true?


No, it’s even worse.

It’s like his speeches - incredibly overlong, and with the feeling throughout that he is shouting at you. With the added unpleasantness of the knowledge that he means every word of it.


Alot of his ideas were actually mainstream in western nations. He was considered THE European stateman along with Mussolini before the whole situation escalated with arms races.

Oswald Spengler released a book after WW1 called “the decline of the occident” which discusses in heavy detail the decline of the White man. His books were best sellers across all European countries and I believe the USA, although the man was a German.

These themes were popular in Europe and the USA as there was a very nihilistic attitude among the masses of decline, you have to remember people read Nietzsche and such themes.

So Mein Kampf was just another European books down the list of the recurring theme of “What to do with Western civilization now”?

You have to remember…Even if its controversial…That none of what is considered controversial today was controversial then: Antisemitism, nationalism, theories of Nordic superiority, decline of white race due to lack of demographics, rejection of mass industrialism and modernism, spiritual volkish concepts, etc…

As to the exact number of sales I am sure this was not so massive. After all Hitler was not Nietszche or Spengler. He was a politician not a writer. Surely after Nazi takeover, the book sales increases as the book was like “a bible next to every family’s bed” at that point and it was seen as proper to have a copy just to decorate.

But in terms of writing and just general quality, it was probably not considered very highly by Germans. But it was bought nonetheless as it reflected the themes of the time.

The decline of the West, not the decline of “the white man.”

Spengler wasn’t big on racial terms.

It’s not that the debt was waived, it’s that Hitler declared himself exempt from taxation altogether. Later on, the Reichstag rubber-stamped declarations that effectively made him exempt from pretty much all laws, which was unprecedented in any modern industrialized nation.

I remember how startled I was to find three copies of Mein Kampf in the university library at Waterloo. I glanced at the author’s preface, with his signature, but didn’t go any further.

Around that time, we had a course called “Iconography”, which to me at the time seemed to combine all the worst features of religion and comparative philosophy. During the course, we saw Leni Riefenstal’s Triumph of the Will. I still say that’s the scariest movie I’ve ever seen… because i started to believe it. It must have gone through the German population like fire.

I started to read it once but didn’t get past the introduction that was written years later. It explained that it was not only terrible evil bullshit, but it was just a poorly written slog to get through too and that the overwhelming opinion upon it’s release was that it was an embarrassment. It was interested to learn more about Hitler and his insane thoughts, but not interested enough to read a shitty book.

The Mercedes is misleading. It doesn’t take a record breaking bestseller to pay for a car, and there was probably a loan involved. The book sold a lot when he came to power, but everything I’ve read has said sales were mediocre until then. No one thought it was a good book. This page says it only sold 10,000 copies in the first year, mostly to Nazi party members and disappointed people who were expecting a juicy autobiography.

I never read it, but my younger sister–not an intellectual by any means–did. She was a sophomore in high school at the time (This would be about 1967). After she read it she admitted that he sounded, to use my words, like any other literary person, as though he knew (so he believed) what he was talking about. She knew, of couse, what Hitler had done and nothing in the book excused him as far as she was concerned.

In the old Dragnet series–in the 50s–was an episode I remember little about; some high-school student had become a neo-Nazi, burning books like Tom Sawyer and keeping Mein Kampf only; I don’t remember how it came out, but if I know Joe Friday…

This ‘sad tome’ as you call had little to do with inspiring a nation to mass murder and world war and invasion and all the rest of it.

It was the combination of a truly brilliant propagandist in Goebbels, very good speechwriters for Hitler, Hitler learning and training to become a masterful public speaker, rather a particular kind of public speaker, one who was able to slowly raise an audiences emotional level higher and higher and higher until they were on the brink of frenzy and then hold them there as long as he wished and then bring them back down and yet manage to send them off with his prime message “JEWS ARE EVIL SUBHUMAN VERMIN!!!” clanging around in their heads. And then that same message was repeated and stroked into their ears and minds and heads again and again and again and again and again and again and again day after day after day after day after week after week after week after month after month and was helped along by the likes of Julius Streicher and Der Sturmer.

Mein Kampf was merely a stone in the foundation, granted a fairly large one.