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Hitler and Mein Kampf, 1924-27

In his failed coup attempt, Hitler had learned a lesson that various others were to ignore: that an armed uprising in a democracy was not the way to power. Hitler admitted the coup had been a mistake. He thought now of gaining power through legitimate means – through electioneering. Hitler, Ludendorff and Roehm had been put on trial in Munich in 1924, a trial well reported in newspapers across Germany. Hitler made the most of the trial. Thanks to the conservatives dominating Germany's court system, Hitler was allowed to speak endlessly to the court about his ideas of a better Germany. Hitler became a celebrity. He accepted full responsibility for his coup while modestly putting himself second to the heroic Ludendorff. He described himself as having had a purity of purpose, as the destroyer of Marxism, seeking salvation for the fatherland. The conservative, nationalistic judges were impressed by what Hitler had to say. The court freed Ludendorff and sentenced Hitler to five years in prison, to be eligible for parole in six months. And Hitler was fined a mere 200 marks.

Hitler was sent to Landsberg Prison, where he was treated as an honored guest. There he read Treitschke, the racist writings of Housten Chamberlain, Karl Marx, Otto von Bismarck and the memoirs of generals and statesmen. In prison he wrote his book, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) which he dictated to his visitor and worshipping friend, Rudolf Hess. Hitler was released after eight and a half months. And the German government's plans to deport Hitler after his release from prison came to nothing as Austria refused to take him.

Ludendorff got himself elected to parliament in May 1924. He split with the Nazis, feeling they were insufficiently anti-Catholic, Ludendorff believing that the Catholics were a greater danger than the Jews. And he continued attacking the Jews and the Freemasons. He ran for the presidency in 1925, and he received only slightly more than one percent of the vote.

The National Socialist (Nazi) party had been outlawed in much of Germany, but it continued as before under other names. In 1925, with a rise in economic well-being and a relaxation of tensions, both the National Socialists and the Communist parties were legalized, except in Bavaria. Hitler continued as party Führer, usually more relaxed than he had been earlier in the twenties, becoming tense only occasionally when he detected what he thought was a challenge to his leadership within the National Socialist political party. He received contributions from a minuscule minority among Germany's wealthy, and various motherly women admirers of Hitler the heroic veteran were happy to feed him cakes. One woman feeding him cakes was a widow in her sixties named Carola Hoffman, who lived in a Munich suburb and had been a sort of foster mother since 1920. Another was Viktoria von, the wife of a Berlin piano manufacturer, who supported and mothered him, and Frau Fictoria Kirksen who spent a fortune on his career.

In March 1927, Bavaria lifted its ban against Hitler speaking. And in his first speech in Munich he attacked the compromises made at Locarno, calling the agreements signed there as a "slave treaty." He told his audience that the nation wanted leadership, that it wanted a flag. He spoke of the ineptitude of parliaments. Germany, he said, had neither a flag nor anything that could be called a government. And he displayed an exaggerated sense of persecution, associating the persecutions of the National Socialists to the persecution of the early Christians.

Hitler's book, Mein Kampf, would sell 240,000 copies by January 1933 – less than a great success. In it he wrote of a Social Darwinist world, the world as a struggle for survival, as a clash between peoples and between races. He wrote of the state as being the instrument of preservation for the race and stated that "Germany will either be a world power or not be at all." In Mein Kampf, Hitler rejected the idea of Germany competing for colonies. He described colonies as ill-suited for migrating Europeans on a large scale. He wrote that the only sound territorial policy for Germany was "the acquisition of new soil in Europe proper." He added that any notion that such acquisition could be gained other than by warfare was illusory and a symptom of a loss of the virtues that "form and preserve a state." The League of Nations, he wrote, embodied "fruitless hopes and illusions." Referring to gaining living space (lebensraum) in the form of territory, he wrote that "We take up where we broke off six hundred years ago" and "turn our gaze toward the land in the east."


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