Zweites Buch is ostensibly an occasional piece, triggered by the ongoing German-Italian crisis over the South Tyrol. This region, transferred from Austria-Hungary to Italy post-Great War, contains 200,000 Germans, whom the Italian government has been trying – so claim some German nationals – to deracinate. Some German politicians are demanding vengeance against Mussolini’s Italy. Hitler opposes this. Already an admirer of Mussolini’s, Hitler wants a pro-Italy German foreign policy; Zweites Buch builds up to an argument for this alliance. The South Tyrol question has furnished Hitler the occasion to develop and articulate a cogent foreign policy, identifying Germany’s natural enemies & allies, and outlining a territorial expansion programme. Never published during his lifetime, carefully locked away – generally rendered Secret Book rather than Second Book – Zweites Buch testifies to Hitler’s political genius, his irrational hatreds, and his uncanny conviction that someday he would come to power. If Mein Kampf testified to Hitler’s insanity, Zweites Buch testifies to his genius.
This ‘review’ is primarily a summary of Zweites Buch’s main ideas, with some commentary and historical context. I’ve reorganised the material a fair bit – Hitler himself having clearly again eschewed an editor, or even a reread – though, in justice, the contents of his second book, unlike of his first, actually hew to the chapter headings. My aim here is to explore the rationale for, and roots of, the policies that the Third Reich would soon enact.
War and Peace
Whether on stage or on the page, the man knew how to make an opening: “Politics is history in the making. History itself is the presentation of the course of a Folk’s struggle for existence… This daily struggle for bread, equally in peace and war, is an eternal battle.” Poetic words, but old ideas. Life is struggle; the fittest survive. “Politics, then, is the execution of a nation’s struggle for existence.” The task of politics is to preserve a Folk; “politics is always the leader of a Folk’s struggle for existence.” This is a compelling statement of the problematic stance that a nation’s survival depends on war: a stance, however, for which all human history – of portions of which Hitler was an expert – furnish ample grounds.
If the goal of politics is survival, then war is a means to this end, to be deployed in moderation. War is crucial because the alternative is worse: “Nations have not become extinct on battlefields; rather, lost battles have deprived them of” livelihoods. Chronic war, however, preferentially destroys the best members of a race: “The hero dies, the criminal is preserved.” A wise leader wages war only for commensurate ends. “Political leaders… should not shrink from daring to shed blood to the utmost, but they must always bear in mind that peace must one day again replace this blood.” These views on war were to be reflected in Hitler’s final days, when he sentenced his beloved Germany to death both because in losing the war Germany had failed him personally, and because the war had cost Germany its best people, the only survivors being what he considered the dregs: deserters and pacifists.
If Hitler argues against eternal war, he is more critical still of a politics aimed at eternal peace. Not only does eternal peace foster weakness, but a Folk unwilling to fight for its existence is forced to limit its scope of action via birth control and emigration, against both of which Hitler fulminated in Mein Kampf. Birth control, he reiterates here, limits the quality of a Folk – given that most human achievements are not from firstborns; birth control further attracts Hitler’s ire because it interferes with natural selection. (Implicitly, his dictum is: Let many be born; let few survive.) In Mein Kampf he adequately expressed his distaste for the unenlightened French, who artificially limit their population and coddle defective individuals. Here he expresses those feelings briefly.
While birth order continues to be a hot topic in pop psychology, research on the relationship between birth order and creative or mainstream achievement is mixed at best. Naturally Hitler, not a firstborn, believes that laterborns have an advantage. Hitler expresses admiration for the Spartan policy of exposing weak infants (a practice that was far from unique to Sparta) as both more rational and more humane – his implicit claim being that some lives are both costly for the nation (reflected in Third Reich posters), and conveniently also not worth living.
These views were much more elaborately expressed in Mein Kampf; nobody could claim to have been surprised by T4 or the persecution of minorities. But, then, Mein Kampf was a book often gifted, seldom read, given its haphazard structure, prolixity, and tedious tirades. One wonders whether Zweites Buch would’ve been more popular, had Hitler released it – and thus proved more of a warning, especially respecting his foreign policy aims.
The Aim of Politics
Here’s Hitler’s conception of politics as such: “Foreign policy is the art of safeguarding a Folk’s living space. Domestic policy is the art of preserving the [foundations of] force (readiness for war) in the form of” the population’s numbers and “race value.” This statement, taken with the ones above, will motivate the Third Reich’s lebensraum and lebensborn policies, as well as the takeover of all social and cultural organisations by the NSDAP, and their reorientation to cultivating solidarity and physical strength.
Hitler articulates National Socialism’s political goals: “I am a German nationalist. That means… my whole thought and action belong to Germany… I am a socialist. That means I see no class and no social estate, but only that community of the Folk, made up of people who are linked by blood… I love this Folk, and hate only its majority of the moment, which” doesn’t represent its interests. The National Socialist approach to domestic policy is to develop the Folk’s race value, especially via military preparedness; its approach to foreign policy is to safeguard the Folk’s livelihood, and, to this end, to wage war in arenas with favourable cost-benefit ratios.
Race Value and the Worth of Nations
Here’s Hitler attempt at defining ‘race value’ – “This special value of a Folk is in no way merely aesthetic-cultural, but a general life value as such.” Transparently unsatisfactory as are his attempts to explain the concept that will justify radical measures, he takes for granted that, whatever ‘race value’ may mean, Nordic peoples have a lot of it.
In Mein Kampf Hitler attributed to the Aryans every significant achievement in human history, claiming that the Aryans went around seeding civilisations on every continent, and that these civilisations declined only when the Aryans diluted their blood with inferior peoples’. Here he continues that idea into modern times, attributing to the Germany diaspora the rise of nations: “The greatness of [the US and other] nations is, in general, not seldom to be attributed to the high percentage of German contributions and accomplishments.” It is the Nordic element in America that has made America great. Hitler points out that the US’s own immigration quotas reflect that this implicit awareness regarding differences in race value is broadly acknowledged. In fact, it was the US’s programmes for institutionalised racism and eugenics (it was California that pioneered the obsession with the blond blue-eyed Nordic) that would, in part, inspire T4 and the Holocaust and, more broadly, vindicate the Third Reich’s racist policies – just as Americans’ massacres and mass atrocities targeting native Americans would give Hitler confidence that he, too, could get away with genocide.
Partly for racial reasons, Hitler’s attitude to the US is ambivalent. Where convenient, he calls the US a force to be reckoned with, on account of its strong German element. Elsewhere, he dismisses the Americans (and French) as bastardised, racially impure weaklings led by weakwilled pacifists. It is these latter beliefs, not articulated in Zweites Buch, that will prove one of Hitler’s gravest miscalculations – an astonishing one, given his knowledge of history and politics.
For now, correctly recognising the US as an economic threat to Europe, Hitler considers solutions. He opposes the idea of a pan-European unit to oppose and compete with the US. This on the grounds that Europe’s constituent nation-states are too diverse in racial value to coalesce. Similarly, throughout the book, he reviles the League of Nations as serving the interests only of powerful nations. Instead, Folks of high ‘race value’ must seize the reins of their own destiny.
‘Race value,’ though intrinsic, is susceptible to degradation. Internationalism and democracy, he claims, are weakening Germany’s. Germany needs a great personality to awaken its Folk’s energies and its ‘dormant survival drive.’
Social Darwinism is inconsistent and biologically implausible at best. Hitler’s version, claiming that a people can lose their survival drive, is positively ridiculous. It will also contradict Hitler’s own stance during WW2, when he will exhort people to give up their individual lives (their survival drives) to protect the nation.
The Folk and their Leader
Germany, says Hitler, is struggling to survive. Millions of Germans annually are practising birth control, emigrating, or moving from farms to cities; we must acquire enough land to keep our Folk in Germany. A larger population can become the basis of a larger domestic market, which can hold its own against Britain and the US. This economic self-sufficiency will free Germany from the global rat race. “A Folk which no longer needs to shunt its rising rural generations into the big cities as factory workers, but which instead can settle them as free peasants on their own soil, will open up a domestic sales market to German industry which can gradually remove and exempt it from the frenzied struggle and scramble for a socalled place in the sun.”
But the Folk have fallen asleep – a great man must reawaken them. Here as in Mein Kampf, Hitler espouses the great man view of history. “Majorities have never wrought creative achievements… or given discoveries to mankind;” that is the prerogative of the gifted individual. Great personalities however are always thwarted by the majority; in a democracy this persecution is more intense. Democracies erect “a wall of stupidity” against great minds. Hitler’s other objections to democracy – diffusion and disappearance of accountability, and a lack of boldness and initiative – he has already expressed in Mein Kampf, and merely summarises here. Hitler’s hatred of democracy, then, is not merely a political but a personal one, all but explicitly articulated: he is the great man who will save Germany, but Germany’s democratic government is holding him back from his god-given mission.
This contempt for democracy Hitler shares with many thinkers, from Socrates to Heidegger (who had a brief flirtation with Nazism) and Oswald Spengler (who spoke of the end-times, but disliked the Nazis’ solution). The idea that the individual is the locus of all creativity is also popular. Steinbeck, for instance, sings a paean to the unfettered individual in East of Eden (1952). It’s ironic that the future dictator – the man who already demanded absolute personal allegiance as NSDAP leader – criticised democracy because it impeded individual creativity.
Hitler’s Economic Views
Hitler spends considerable time rationalising his vision for Germany as a self-sufficient nation. “A healthy Folk will always seek to satisfy its needs from its own soil.” Germany cannot depend for its income on world trade – that is unreliable. “At all times the surest foundation for the existence of a Folk has been its own soil.” A healthy Folk multiplies without end; the whole life struggle of a Folk is to safeguard the territory it needs to survive. “The bread of freedom grows from the hardships of war. The sword was the pathbreaker for the plough.” Elsewhere in Zweites Buch Hitler makes Malthusian comments regarding Europeans’ increasing material needs. He observes that a nation aspires to its neighbours’ higher standards of living; and now all of Europe, land-poor, is chasing the high standards of living set by the United States. It’s impossible for Germany to meet its growing population’s multiplying needs from its overpopulated, underfertile soil. Reliance on the current export economy Hitler considers increasingly unviable.
Hitler observes that the world market for Germany’s exports is both limited and increasingly competitive, especially with the entry of Japan and the US. He astutely realises that the US’s sheer size, and wealth of natural resources, allow it to develop mass production technology cheaply and effectively, with its vast domestic market serving as a proving-ground for mass exports. Germany’s domestic market and resources are too small to compete with the American system. This astute, if interested, analysis of scale economics allows Hitler to rule out world trade as an option for Germany’s survival.
Here we find the basis for Chancellor Hitler’s insistence on preparing for wartime blockades and sanctions with autarky – a scheme for internal production of goods, with an appalling input-output ratio, which, along with rearmament, multiplied the Third Reich’s deficit even before World War Two. (Autarky was meant to be only preparatory to territorial expansion, the long-term solution.) With Hitler’s anachronistic economic views, acquiring land was the only way to guarantee Germany’s future. In fact, Germany’s dependence on exports in a stagnant world economy was to be, post the Wall Street crash, one factor in its economic devastation.
Having ruled out participation in the world economy as an option for Germany’s livelihood, it’s a natural step for Hitler – long before 1928 the self-avowed agent of fate – to assume the burden of providing for Germany via conquest. Germany must grow or die.
If war is inevitable, then we might as well seize the initiative. It’s always better to be aggressor rather than defender, including in third-party conflicts. In his view it was the US’s intervention in the Great War that made it a world power. (Again, Hitler underestimates the role of economics in world power – it was the US’s economic gains from supplying the western Allies that bolstered its status.) Being goalless in foreign policy is the worst option, for then one gets entangled in the goals of wiser nations: “Whoever will not be a hammer in history, will be an anvil.” In a worldview where survival depends on conflict, neutrality spells death. “The best parry is a thrust.”
Foreign Policy: Aggressive Expansion – But Where?
Where can Germany expand? Hitler examines the options. Germany’s pursuit of overseas colonies prewar was a dead end: that brought Germans no livable territory (the climate being unsuitable), only raw materials. “Our prewar colonial policy supported not national, but only limited business, interests.” Besides, Germany’s trade-based, overseas expansion policy put it in competition with Britain: and Germany could never compete with Britain at sea. Britain envied Germany’s growing international economic competitiveness; this, in Hitler’s analysis, is what brought Britain into the Great War. For Germany to resume “peaceful world domination through trade” would only again irritate Britain. And Germany must not fight Britain. Britain is to Hitler the sleeping giant. (In contrast, he would consistently underestimate both Russia and the US, even into WW2).
With the high seas off the table, Germany must expand eastwards. This he takes for granted from Mein Kampf. But Germany cannot invade without due preparation. Hitler reminds us that Bismarck himself recognised that Germany’s borders, even pre-Great war, were indefensible. This is truer now than ever. Germany is ringed by enemies – united by Versailles – whose warplanes can reach its heartland within hours from any frontier. Its navy, too, is poor: in wartime, Germany will be immediately blockaded. (Strange, then, that elsewhere in Zweites Buch he insists that Germany’s navy cannot contribute substantively to its military, and might even be altogether redundant.)
Foreign Policy: Overview
Hitler makes an astute analysis of the weaknesses of the Second Reich. The German Empire, he complains, left out too many Germans – and was thus from his perspective an incomplete Germany. Further, it had no natural borders. Most fatally, it foolishly allied with the dying Dual Monarchy. Next Hitler excoriates contemporary “bourgeois” politicians who justify their spinelessness with a misinterpretation of Bismarck’s quote “Politics is the art of the possible.”
Here Hitler makes one of Zweites Buch’s central claims: contemporary German politicians lack vision; that’s what keeps Germany from becoming great. Whereas Bismarck, one of Hitler’s heroes, had well-defined broad aims, and referred every decision to these aims – today’s politicians stumble from day to day with no political aims or ideas, no long-term perspective, no initiative. Politics has thus become dominated by special interests, and by leaders scrambling in reaction to other agents’ initiatives. Those in power misquote Bismarck to miscall their spinelessness ‘wariness.’ And Germany suffers. Whereas Hitler insists that, in politics, just because an outcome is uncertain, we cannot to dismiss it as risky.
Here again we see the appeal that would prove so effective in his demagoguery: Germany must risk everything in order to gain everything.
Here’s Hitler’s appraisal of contemporary Germany foreign policy, put into the mouths of his mainstream rivals: “‘Indeed, we [politicians] too naturally don’t know what should be done, but we do something precisely because something must be done.’” In contrast, an effective foreign policy would show “patience in particulars, and willingness to renounce them if necessary, in order to be able to achieve the vitally necessary aim on a large scale.” Like France, Britain, and Russia, Germany must develop a coherent foreign policy. Otherwise, as in its alliance with Austria-Hungary, there’s the risk that not reason, but emotion, will steer the ship. For “we are the kind of Folk which lets its political actions be determined too little according to the grounds of a really reasonable, rational insight…”
Foreign Policy: Austria-Hungary and Austria
Germany’s prewar alliance with Austria-Hungary Hitler holds up as an example of the evils consequences of a state acting minus a unified foreign policy. This alliance, he says, served only Austria-Hungary; to Germany it brought only new enemies, the Slavic nations ringing Austria-Hungary intent on freeing their subject compatriots. Wily Austrian politicians coerced simple-minded Germans into providing life support for the decaying empire – at grave cost and no benefit to Germany.
According to Mein Kampf and some other sources, Hitler’s hatred for the government of his native Austria long predates the Great War, and was a corollary of his German nationalism. Briefly, he hated Vienna as a deracinated multicultural metropolis, and the dual monarchy as a realm where German Austrians had themselves been sidelined. He also blames postwar Austria for the current ill-feeling between Germany and what he considers its likeliest ally, Italy. Italy, he says, had good reason to hate Austria, which had obstructed Italian reunification. Germans, then, are misguided to loathe Italy for having deserted the Triple Alliance during the Great War. Given how the war was going, it was Italy who took the sensible course, whereas Germany’s loyalty led to shipwreck.
As Austria did prewar, and as Britain and France are doing still, Germany must now first set larger political goals, then create foreign policy goals to match. One major task is to find good allies.
“Freedom is preserved neither by begging nor by cheating. Also not by working and industry, but exclusively by struggle… If Germany wants to end its enslavement by all, it must under all circumstances actively try to enter a combination of powers in order to participate in the future shaping of European life in terms of power politics.” And against whom will this combination of powers be directed? France, of course.
Foreign Policy: Enemies: France
Whatever other alliance shifts may occur, France, says Hitler, will always be against Germany: for France’s goal is the eventual destruction of Germany. In the 300 years preceding 1870, France attacked Germany 29 times. Here Hitler is espousing the idea of “hereditary enmity” between France and Germany that was prevalent from the 15th century till the end of WW2. He doesn’t consider offering statistics about how many times Germany attacked France in the same period; he also doesn’t find it odd to speak of a unified Germany before the 19th century.
Bismarck, says Hitler, correctly appraised France’s eternal hatred of Germany: “He could perceive this because he, who himself had a policy aim in view, could also have an inner understanding of the policy goals others set themselves” whereas contemporary German politicians are blind to the enemy at their doorstep. It takes a statesman to know a statesman, and Bismarck is Hitler’s model statesman. Backing up his own appraisal elsewhere of the French as Africanised halfbreeds, Hitler quotes Schopenhauer calling the French Europe’s monkeys. (Hitler liked Schopenhauer, toting The World as Will and Representation around through the Great War.)
One thing is clear, then: any German alliance must be an alliance against France.
Foreign Policy: Russia: Ally or Enemy?
What about Russia? The two nations have close historical ties; Hitler acknowledges that some Germans even today want an alliance with Russia. But, “even if considered only from a purely military perspective, such an idea is unviable and catastrophic for Germany.” Not bordering Germany, Russia could not help its militarily: in the event of war, Germany would be overrun before Russia could mobilise. Of course, during WW2, after Germany and Russia split Poland between them, Russia will in fact border Germany, and show great readiness in feeding the German war machine. That won’t stop Hitler from breaching the peace treaty: he’s already decided that Russia is where Germany must expand. (He’s right about one thing: the Russian juggernaut was slow to mobilise in 1941; for Germany to have depended on such an ally would’ve been risky. But, then, Stalin was shocked by his erstwhile partner’s betrayal.)
For Hitler there are far graver reasons than Russia’s military incompetence against a German-Russian alliance. Russia, Hitler has long believed, wants to bolshevise Germany and destroy its national existence. Neither do Bismarck’s pro-Russian attitudes justify a Germany-Russian alliance at present. For the Russia of Bismarck’s day was governed by a Baltic German monarchy; now, a pan-Slavic Jewish Bolshevik movement dominates Russia. Hitler warns that Bolshevism in Russia will continue to wreak havoc both in Russia and elsewhere; thus it becomes Germany’s duty to resist. A convenient thing, given Russia is also where Germany’s natural territorial aims lie.
Earlier in this very chapter, Hitler said: “In politics it’s dangerous when the wish becomes father to the thought.” That’s just what appears to have occurred here: when Hitler, having long since settled on Russia as target, rules its out as ally, thus qualifying it as the enemy. Germany should focus on isolating Russia from other nations, then conquering it. Hitler has already decided on this; now it’s a question of marshalling justifications.
(Incidentally, since in Hitler’s view Bolshevism is Jewish-dominated, Hitler concludes that it must actually be capitalism in disguise. He calls the Russian revolution, the birth of world communism, the “Jewish stock exchange revolution.” Words fail me.)
The first justification for invading Russia is that Russia can be conquered overland. Germany’s strength has always been its land army; Hitler elsewhere criticises the pre-Great War squandering of resources on Germany’s navy, which could never compete with the British or even French navies. (In fact, Germany’s surface navy was to remain ineffective into WW2, though this was partly due to Hitler’s own scepticism and ignorance of naval strategy. This was to cost him dearly: his ambivalence in Egypt, for instance, would cost Germany the chance to secure the Mediterranean against the British.) Without a navy, Russia is the most logical big prize for Germany.
A second justification for attacking Russia: Russia is the hotbed of communist terror, which will destroy Germany and all Europe if we let it.
A third justification: war is desirable, but only if the prize is worth the sacrifice. In the Great War, German losses were enormous, but Germany gained nothing. If Germany is to wage another great war, it must be in pursuit of great ends. The policy of border restoration being called for is insufficient; Germany must set its sights higher. An explicit policy of border restoration will also rouse all Germany’s enemies, whom the Versailles Treaty has united by giving them bits of German territory. The implication – unarticulated even in this secret document, but clear – is that Germany’s overt foreign policy must disavow border restoration; Hitler’s much more ambitious territorial plans must be pursued covertly. This is in fact exactly what Chancellor Hitler did: he deafened the world with his talk of peace while engulfing one country after another.
Target = Russia. Allies = ?
Germany cannot attack Russia alone with impunity; it needs allies. Hitler’s consideration of potential allies, and his ruling out of candidates until he hits on Italy, is the book’s climax. He begins Zweites Buch by dismissing the German-Italian conflict over the South Tyrol; he will end it by asserting that Italy is Germany’s best bet for an ally.
Alliances, Hitler says, are never permanent; that should not stop a nation seeking allies for now. Alliances are means to an end; we must recognise that every nation seeks alliances only for its own sake; we would be foolish to blame a nation for deserting an ally – as Italy deserted Germany and Austria-Hungary during the Great War. We must forget past enmities and find our allies where we can, on the basis of common enemies and compatible goals; we must then isolate the target nation from common enemies. Before and during WW2, Hitler would in fact pursue this isolationist policy with Poland unsuccessfully, and with Italy and Russia more successfully: trying to convince all three that France and Britain would leave them in the lurch at the crucial hour (a reasonable supposition, given the leadup to the war).
Foreign Policy: Britain = ?
If France wants to obliterate Germany, England however fears a French hegemony as much as it fears a German. Britain, Hitler claims, doesn’t care about affairs in Europe, as long as nobody interferes with its intercontinental aims: it was when the latter was threatened that most English wars have occurred.
It’s bizarre for Hitler to claim that Britain wouldn’t care about maintaining the “balance of powers” on the Continent, i.e. preventing any European nationfrom rivalling its own might. But this misunderstanding would persist: into the long leadup to WW2, and even into the war, when Hitler kept expecting Britain to make peace. It is his own underestimation of British belligerence, as much as Ribbentrop’s ill-informed counsel, that would spur Hitler into thinking he could invade Poland without British action.
Unlike France, Britain is not Germany’s natural enemy. Hitler goes on to say that Britain’s attitude to Germany exactly tracks Germany’s own naval adventures: as long as Germany keeps clear of the high seas, and foregoes overseas colonies, Britain will let Germany pursue Continental expansionism. Hitler accuses his fellow Germans of unfairly blaming Britain more than France for entering the Great war against Germany. Clearly, in the upcoming conflict, he expects Britain to stay neutral, at worst.
Here we can trace the origin of Hitler’s misassessment of Britain’s readiness to go to war to maintain the continental status quo it had helped create post-Great War. Here also we can see another instance of a wish fathering a thought. The wish in this case is dual: (a) Germany never had a good navy; wouldn’t it be nice if Germany could do without a navy? And (b) Britain would leave us alone, even ally with us, if only we would forego a navy. And the thought that this wish couple fathers is: Forego our navy and pacify Britain – and focus all our energies on a land invasion of Russia. All this, be it noted, is in 1928, thirteen years before Barbarossa, five years before Hitler became Chancellor.
Britain is pragmatic and purposeful, witness its empire – that’s why Hitler admires Britain and seeks to pacify it. Another reason he admires Britain – not articulated here – is because he believes that the British and Germans come from the same superior stock.
Foreign Policy: Allies: Italy
Hitler then describes why Italy and Germany are natural allies. They are united by a hatred of France, whose “expansionist aims” threaten both nations. Further, their own territorial aims don’t overlap: Germany’s eyes are turned east, whereas Mussolini’s must be turned south, aiming to reestablish the ancient Roman Empire. (Hitler’s desperation to find in his role-model Mussolini an ally makes him forget that imperial Rome conquered much of Europe, including Germany.) Now helmed by Mussolini, another leader in true service of his Folk, Italy is Germany’s most suitable ally against the common archenemy, France.
The current enmity between Germany and Italy, claims Hitler, has been falsely created by the November criminals still bent on destroying Germany from within – the Freemasons & Marxists, the “hurrah! patriots” who stage low-cost, low-risk protests to gain traction and divert national attention from important issues. Against his political competitors Hitler continues his line in heavy sarcasm from Mein Kampf: “Yes, indeed, the state has entrusted the representation of its sovereign rights to intellectual characters of a wholly special greatness.” Subtlety is not Hitler’s forte.
The German-Italian conflict is also instigated by the “Jewish press gang.” Though the Jews lurk in the background in Zweites Buch, Hitler trots them out whenever he’s an explanation short.
Whatever Germany’s foreign policy aim, concludes Hitler, first we must restructure Germany internally, get rid of November criminals. This is in fact exactly what Chancellor Hitler did, of necessity: for the army, even accounting for the Black Reichswehr that flourished through the Weimar Republic, was in 1933 inadequate to any military undertaking, as Zweites Buch itself notes.
Hitler insists that the battle arena must be carefully chosen: he opposes shedding German blood for petty reasons like the South Tyrol conflict. Only traitors, he says, make of that issue a bone of contention between two potential allies. True patriots recognise that other Germans, including here at home, are suffering far worse than those in the South Tyrol. Hitler rants about the sufferings of millions of expat Germans, including those in France and Poland who lost their citizenship postwar. Why, he demands, aren’t our fellow Germans worrying about them, or about National Socialists being unjustly jailed right here at home? He answers his own question: clearly these troublemakers’ only aim is to keep Germany and Italy apart, in order to keep Germany isolated and weak.
In an aside, Hitler expresses admiration for the US Secret Service, especially its wiretapping operations during the Great War. He blames the incompetent German embassy for having failed to keep the US out of war. Both statements are prophetic. Hitler was soon to authorise wiretapping across Germany. And he was to imagine that clever diplomacy and showmanship would keep nations neutral while he did whatever he wanted: note the bizarre scheme to bag Britain using the Duke of Windsor.
Hitler’s longing to arrest the clock – to provide for a modern nation via oldfashioned military conquest – shows his limited understanding of economics. This his ceaseless fulminations in Mein Kampf against “international finance,” he shares Aristotle’s suspiciousness of purely financial activity; but as a 20th-century politician he has far less excuse for these shortsighted reservations. Any financial activity he does not understand, he attributes to the international Jewish capitalist-cum-bolshevist conspiracy, and brands nefarious. The Stock Market Crash, which will soon cripple Germany, will in fact warrant better regulation of trading – but for Hitler it will be proof that any economic activity he does not understand must be altogether suppressed – along with the group of people that he has associated with these activities. History’s costliest false correlation. Hitler’s distrust of the opaque operations of high finance was clear in Mein Kampf, and would have appeared to millions to be justified a year after Zweites Buch was written and not published.
Hitler frequently quotes figures – as when comparing the number of Germans being persecuted in the South Tyrol against those dispossessed in France or Poland – but often leaves blanks for them, probably having intended to look them up later. This contradicts what I’ve read elsewhere regarding accounts of Hitler’s prodigious memory for facts and figures. On the one hand, the blanks suggest commendable fastidiousness; on the other, Hitler has already drawn his conclusions and plotted a course of action, rendering the exact figures irrelevant to his own thinking.
Zweites Buch exemplifies Hitler’s strange combination of logic and stubbornness. He has already decided on broad goals: Italy’s our ally, Russia’s our target, Britain can be kept neutral. All his considerable intelligence he now devotes to rationalising these goals.
Hitler’s style continues to be convoluted, with tortuous sentences (perhaps German’s just more tolerant of such structures), involved diction, and occasional poetic clarity and simplicity.
Where Mein Kampf is a sprawling, ill-organised rant overflowing with hateful conspiracy theories, Zweites Buch is a succinct, mostly cogent, well-reasoned statement of Adolf Hitler’s foreign policy views. The ongoing German-Italian crisis regarding the South Tyrol has motivated Hitler to critique Germany’s current foreign policy, and develop a suitable alternative. This he does in the context of considering abstractly the proper motives and goals of any nation’s foreign policy. Zweites Buch is an aetiology of politics itself. If Mein Kampf was an endless parade of Hitler’s destructive delusions and obsessions, Zweites Buch is a glimpse into the mind of an astute politician, a committed if misguided patriot, and a man both “logical and fanatical,” as one observer put it. Zweites Buch puts antisemitism and antibolshevism mostly on the backshelf, and articulates the broad points of the policies Hitler was soon to enact. This analysis of problems and potential solutions – of economics, international rivalries and inequities, and fierce competition over limited natural resources – is a unique window into an important mind, and remains relevant in global politics today.
Read Zweites Buch for free here. Read in soft copy to save paper.