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Friday, January 16, 2009

Essay: The Literary Value of Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kamph’ as a Persuasive Text.

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Note: I, the author, do not in any way support the human rights abuses that Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party committed. This essay looks at how Adolf Hitler persuaded a country to attempt genocide. This is not an attack on the German people either.

Adolf Hitler is famous for leading the German people to hate previously respected cultures, but how he lead a body of ordinary people to go against the instinct not to kill perfectly healthy people is an extraordinary achievement. Hitler outlines his views and sways his audience in his, at the time highly persuasive piece Mein Kamph’. Aimed at the Germanic peoples who had been downtrodden in war by other races, Hitler timed the release of his text perfectly, reinforcing it with examples of already hated enemies such as America, being a “Latin” culture not Germanic and a danger to German society, which they were in reality. However, Hitler generalised the hate and directed it over a broader spectrum. Hitler’s aim in Mein Kamph was to convince the German people that minority, “bourgeois” peoples who are not Germanic or had joined the already established Germany at a later date and have no structure to their own society are a danger to Germany’s society and culture progression. Through card-stacking these arguments, Hitler tried to achieve hatred toward and removal of these “inferior” minorities.

Adolf Hitler plays with the reader’s sense of guilt and self-worth with emotive appeals that play with his readers’ ideals. In Volume 1, Chapter XI, Hitler says “only pacifistic fools can regard this as a sign of human depravity, failing to realise that this development had to […] Sky pilots could force their drivel on the world”. This contemptuous “Everyone knows that” attitude that resonates throughout the seemingly scientifically backed, and very politically persuasive text forces the reader to treat these distasteful, hateful remarks with respect and, importantly, forces them to believe what Hitler is proposing, otherwise they would be a “pacifistic” person (the fact that this is usually flagged as a good thing shows how effective Hitler’s book was) causing the collapse of their own society by bombarding it with “drivel”.

Hitler uses generalisations, analogies, cause and effect and connotations to transfer hate from one group to another. For example, Hitler states that because the Jewish peoples are often middle-class, they are subservient and hence stupid, expendable and should be shaken off the ‘good part’ of society like chaff. He also states that the “interbreeding” of races will always result in the collapse of the culture. The latter point is an example of a generalisation and misuse of cause-and-effect. He also states that America is the traitor that it is and is in depression because the “Latin” people who settled there mixed with the aborigines of the country. In chapter XI (Volume 1) he says that the man who defies nature will suffer “distress, misfortune and diseases.” Hitler earlier quoted, and violently ‘disapproved’ a Jewish proverb; that of “Man’s role is to overcome nature”. With both the emotive appeal and cause and effect, Hitler was able to convey his opinion of Jewish subservience through making Jewish people sound contemptuous toward nature.

By running a string of related statements, each toying with separate persuasive devices, Adolf Hitler forms large and multi-dimensional arguments. The comment on the Jewish proverb, later echoed in his discussions on how we are ruled by nature, the repetitive use of animals as examples and later using nature as a sign of purity, and his mixing of well known and accepted facts with his supposed facts treated as if they are that of an ancient great thinker, all stack up against any previous acceptance of ‘sub-cultures’ and ‘sub-species’.

Through his continually reemphasised and seemingly overall benevolent (for society), well targeted arguments, Adolf Hitler succeeded in writing a book that could sway the minds of many, and scare those who disagreed into silence. In turning those who read the book and agreed with his cause against those who would not agree, those who read the book and disagreed would be turned upon as subservient, as “chaff” that needs to be shaken off the grain of society, Hitler has achieved his intention.


Written in October/November 2008.

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