Without question, one of the most powerful books I've ever read is Mein Kampf. Not because I was moved or had my point of view altered by this work, but because it gave me some insights into the inner machinations of the mind of a madman named Adolf Hitler.
The very name of Hitler causes even the most unconcerned in today's society to shiver. As it does with me. I grew up hearing about this maniac and being taught that everything he stood for was rooted in hatred and sheer evil. I have to say that my personal view of this man isn't very far off from what I was taught.
In reading Mein Kampf I was often sidetracked by jaunts into learning about Hitler's youth and how he was brought up. His father was a hopeless alcoholic who abused his family without remorse. Hitler's mother was a self sacrificing woman who put the needs and the safety of her children above her own. Alois Hitler died after a night of drunken debauchery and Hitler's mother died a few years later. His view of life was undoubtedly shaped from an early age by the manner in which he was raised.
Gertrude Stein considered Hitler to be a genius. This shocked many of her contemporaries because as a Jew herself she should have had a distinct recoiling from the man. While personally she probably did so, she could not overlook the ease in which he cajoled and fooled an entire nation into following his lead as he plunged the globe into what became World War 2. This one man used his charisma and his natural leadership to provoke his country toward following him into what became one of the worst chapters in human history.
Hitler's desire to rule the world knew no boundaries. Even after all the research I've done into him and what made him become the most infamous criminal of the 20th Century, I remain unconvinced about his motives for hating the Jewish community so much that he wanted them wiped off the face of the planet. He indeed saw the German populace as the superior among human beings on earth, but his ideas about what the Germans could be ran amok. He saw a super race in which the German Aryans could be above and beyond all other people in the world. His single minded determination to exterminate the Jewish people somehow coincided with his ambition to develop a new race of people who would be the upper most in human history. Without a conscience, his ideology had a great start.
It took an alliance between the super powers of the world to stop Hitler. Once the Allies had invaded France and began driving the Nazis back into Germany, Hitler must have known that his days were numbered. He had the Americans and British pushing him out on one side while the Russians were doing the same from the eastern front. He was effectively being boxed into the country which he thought would lead the planet into an age crafted by him and him alone. Yes, Hitler must have known that he was defeated after D-Day. Yet he kept fighting even in the face of what can only be described as his imminent failure.
When the war was over and the truth about Hitler's concentration camps came to the knowledge of the rest of the world, people were galvanized by the utter brutality that was used in killing millions of European Jewish. People were - and remain - horrified by the atrocities that were committed against mankind during this blackest of periods in the past century. I have always been completely devastated by what happened and what Hitler caused to come about during his short tenure as the head of the German state. Perhaps this is why I have felt a morbid curiousity to discover what drove him to do the things he did. And also to understand how he led a nation of generally nice people to follow him into his madness.
I have few answers. Even after all these years of studying the man and the Nazi movement, I can honestly say that Hitler's motivations remain unclear. He saw minorities as sub human, that is generally well known, but why he chose this view isn't terribly clear. In hindsight, one can see that Hitler was doomed to failure from the start. The rest of the world wasn't about to sit still for his tyranny and his brand of dictatorship. I am amazed that Hitler himself didn't see that the end he met was a given. Maybe he did. Or maybe he was so insane that he thought he'd pull it off. Yet I hesitate to call him insane. No one with an insane mind could reach the extremes that Hitler reached with the Third Reich.
It is probably only academic in this day and age to mull over the reasons that Hitler did the things he did. I can only say that he caused some of the worst human atrocities in recorded history and he then escaped facing up to his crimes in the most cowardly way. If we are to learn anything from this darkest of human chapters, it is the lesson that never again should we let any one man have enough power to cause such a holocaust as what Hitler brought about. The consequences can just be too far reaching. Adolf Hitler is dead proof of this.
For anyone interested in reading Mein Kampf, I wish you well. And be sure to read both volumes. You'll get a bird's eye view into the mind of one of history's most reviled figures, but perhaps more importantly you'll be left to ponder how this one man could achieve the ends that Hitler reached.