Commentary Magazine


Hitler's Secret Book, with Introduction by Telford Taylor

The Master idea of Hitler

Hitler’s Secret Book.
by Salvator Atlanasio.
Introduction by Telford Taylor. Grove Press. 216 pp. $5.00.

That Hitler had written an unpublished sequel to Mein Kampf, concerned mainly with foreign policy, was known from two sources before the discovery of the typescript now published. In a valuable but little-known work published in 1949 one of his secretaries described it, remarking that Hitler scarcely ever mentioned it “and then only in moments of acute anxiety”; and one of these rare occasions is actually recorded in Hitler’s table-talk. It was on February 17, 1942, when Hitler was talking to his usual private circle, with the addition of Himmler. Both Hitler, on that occasion, and his secretary, in recalling Hitler’s words, dated the book 1925. It has now been discovered, and with the help of evidence supplied by a former employee of the Nazi publishing house in which it was kept, the story of its composition has been reconstructed. Internal evidence shows that Hitler misremembered the date of composition. It was written in the summer of 1928.

The occasion which called it forth was the question of the South Tyrol which, at that time, was particularly controversial and was causing great inconvenience to the Nazi party. The South Tyrol, the mainly German-speaking area of the Alto Adige and the Italian-speaking Trentino, had been detached from the Austro-Hungarian Empire by the victors of the First World War and awarded to Italy. At first the Italian government had been liberal enough, but with the advent of Fascism this changed, and German nationalism was inflamed by Mussolini’s enforced Italianization of the South Tyrol. This was particularly embarrassing to Hitler who presented himself emphatically as a German nationalist but who, in Mein Kampf, had praised Mussolini and advocated an Italian alliance. In 1928 Nazism was anyway in decline; the South Tyrol question threatened to split its dwindling forces and gave its enemies a useful stick with which to beat it. It was in these circumstances that Hitler decided to add an epilogue to Mein Kampf showing that, in spite of his attitude to the South Tyrol, he was still the best German nationalist, and a far profounder political thinker than his adversaries who were so easily roused on that question, or at least used it to discredit him.

For what, asked Hitler, must the ultimate aims of any nationalist be? They must be to extend the area inhabited by German people to such frontiers as would guarantee its security, affluence, and power against disasters such as had overwhelmed it in the past. And what were those frontiers? a rectification on the Rhine? a few industries in Belgium? a couple of rural provinces beyond the Alps? Such ideas he rejected with scorn. They were the ideas of the Wilhelmine era, of the men who had betrayed Bismarck’s heritage. A true foreign policy, Hitler insisted, must be the expression of the essential character and need of a people. It is therefore easily deducible, once one has analyzed that character and that need, and quite consistent: it becomes “traditional,” like the policy of France and England. But the successors of Bismarck had never made the mental effort to discover Germany’s essential character and need. For the sake of petty politics or mere prestige they had clung to the liability of the Triple Alliance—that dynastic alliance with Austria which preserved the status quo in Eastern Europe and ensured the unreliability of Italy, its third partner. For the sake of colonial ambitions they had alienated England which could anyway mop up the German colonies at will. And now the “bourgeois nationalist” parties of defeated Germany, in order to keep within the structure of the League of Nations, which was simply the guarantee of the Versailles settlement, were confining their ambitions to the South Tyrol or regretting the “senseless and catastrophic” German frontiers of 1914. Such aims, said Hitler, were contemptible in themselves. Moreover, they did not correspond with any basic German need.

For basically Germany needed far greater conquests than this. The Bismarckian frontiers were not final: they were only provisional. In the 20th century Germany must control a continental hinterland comparable with the vast spaces of America. There must be no scruples; all history is struggle; might is right, and modern pacifists can only enjoy the luxury of their idealism thanks to past injustice. Moreover, this new empire can only be obtained in one direction: “the question of space for our people cannot be solved either in the west or in the south of Europe.” It must be sought “solely and exclusively” in “territory in the East.”

Once that basic need is clear, the true foreign policy for Germany is deducible. The idea of alliance with Russia is of course “fantastic.” Russia is to be the victim. Equally, the enmity of France must always be presumed, for it is France, in 1928 as in 1925, which animates the machinery enclosing Germany within its present frontiers, to the East as well as to the West. On the other hand neither England nor Italy has any basic need to oppose German expansion in East Europe, and Italy has a positive interest in opposing French policy in Europe as in the Mediterranean. Therefore “since the year 1920 I have tried with all means and most persistently to accustom the National Socialist movement to the idea of an alliance between Germany, Italy and England.” Compared with the vast empire to which that policy could lead, what is the South Tyrol over whose fate the “bourgeois nationalists” now shed their “crocodile tears”?

Such were the views which Hitler wrote down in 1928. In substance they add nothing to those already expressed in Mein Kampf. The importance of this book is not in its novelty, but in its sameness. In season and out of season, Hitler never lost sight of his ultimate aim. So far from being, as he has recently been described, an adventurer who merely responded to opportunities, he was one of the most consistent of statesmen. In fact, in 1928, the views which he prepared to publish were unseasonable. The South Tyrol crisis soon passed; with the coming of the depression the “bourgeois nationalists” began to turn toward Hitler; and it would have been inopportune to alienate them by republishing, in a more tactless form, a manifesto whose substance was already in print (and not selling too well either) in Mein Kampf. But for all that, Hitler never forgot about this unpublished book. He pursued his pro-Italian policy to the end—indeed, at the very end, he considered that he had sacrificed too much to it. And no doubt he would have pursued his pro-English policy to the end too, had he been able. In 1939, we are told, when the British government declared war, he broke out into a violent tirade, exclaiming to Hess, “Now my whole work is in ruins. My book is written in vain.”

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