Mein Kampf: Royalties go to the Red Cross

Somebody I know with a love of old books owns a serialisation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, , .  The photograph shows the cover of one of the 18 instalments.  ‘Mein Kampf’ means ‘My Struggle’, and it is an autobiography of Adolf Hitler, first published in 1925.  In the book, he lays out his ideology and his vision for the future of Germany.

I was intrigued by this caption on the cover: ‘Royalties on all sales will go to the British Red Cross Society’.  I initially wondered why a respectable organisation like the British Red Cross might condone the regime in Germany.

In a contemporary review of the same translation, George Orwell stated that Hitler seemed to be respectable to many before the War:

George Orwell on Mein Kampf:

It is a sign of the speed at which events are moving that Hurst and Blackett’s unexpurgated edition of Mein Kampf, published only a year ago, is edited from a pro-Hitler angle. The obvious intention of the translator’s preface and notes is to tone down the book’s ferocity and present Hitler in as kindly a light as possible. For at that date Hitler was still respectable. He had crushed the German labour movement, and for that the property-owning classes were willing to forgive him almost anything. Both Left and Right concurred in the very shallow notion that National Socialism was merely a version of Conservatism. – George Orwell

Hitler was a popular and energetic leader.  He was building up his country after its defeat in the Great War, against all the odds.  Germany, and the world were in the throes of a great economic crash and people everywhere turned to the fringes of politics in their search for new stability.   What he did seemed to be working, so Orwell is correct about Hitler’s ‘respectability’ at the time.  He is also right about the book: The ferocity of Hitler’s coarse German vernacular is lost – perhaps discarded – in translation.  It must be noted though, that this translation was comissioned by the Nazi regime, redacted, and had to be smuggled back to England.

So, did the British Red Cross sympathise with the Nazi regime before the war?  I don’t think so.  This serialisation came out on the eve of war.  Legally, the royalties should have gone to Adolf Hitler and not the British Red Cross Society.  This serialisation of Mein Kampf was intended to expose Hitler to the British public as a dangerous man, with a violent philosophy.

Expect to hear a lot more debate about this book soon, especially in Germany, when the copyright of the German language edition expires on the 70th anniversary of Hitler’s death, late this year.  After this, it will enter the realm of the public domain and can be produced in Germany for the first time since the war.

 

James Murphy:  Irish Translator of Mein Kampf

James Vincent Murphy: Translator of Mein KampfBoth the Hurst & Blackett, and the serialised version, were expressions of the James Murphy translation of Mein Kampf, which was the first unabridged English translation of that work, and his story is worth mentioning.

James Murphy was an Irishman, journalist, translator and polymath, who had lived and worked in Germany on and off since 1929.  In 1936, he was hired by the Nazi regime to translate the full work into English, but in 1937, the regime had a change of heart and it destroyed all the copies they could find.  Murphy did manage to get his script back to England and it was published from March 1939 until 1942, when the printing press was destroyed by a German bomb.

In a recent article, his grandson, John Murphy, tells the tale of James Murphy, the Nazis, and the translation. This is well worth a read.  What is clear from that account is that Murphy was not a friend of the Nazis.  I think that no outsider could really have felt comfortable with the tide of events there, at that time.  As an intelligent man, he must have been fascinated by the psychology of the German people: he sought to explain the Germans’ attraction to Hitler in Adolf Hitler: the Drama of his Career, (1934).  The story is also told in a BBC Radio 4 programme, Mein Kampf: Publish or Burn?

 

References:

Cite this article as: Kane, David, "Mein Kampf: Royalties go to the Red Cross," in DavidKane.Net, May 22, 2015, http://davidkane.net/mein-kampf-all-proceeds-go-to-the-red-cross/.

 

 

 

 

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