Author: Adolf Hitler
Source: Mein Kampf (Murphy Translation). Chapter "Years Of Study And Suffering In Vienna"
Note: Excerpt from Mein Kampf where Hitler explains how he became an anti-semite after living in Vienna between 1908 and 1913. Adolf Hitler was in his early 20s at the time of this transformation.
To-day it is hard and almost impossible for me to say when the word 'Jew' first began to raise any particular thought in my mind. I do not remember even having heard the word at home during my father's lifetime. If this name were mentioned in a derogatory sense I think the old gentleman would just have considered those who used it in this way as being uneducated reactionaries. In the course of his career he had come to be more or less a cosmopolitan, with strong views on nationalism, which had its effect on me as well. In school, too, I found no reason to alter the picture of things I had formed at home.
At the REALSCHULE I knew one Jewish boy. We were all on our guard in our relations with him, but only because his reticence and certain actions of his warned us to be discreet. Beyond that my companions and myself formed no particular opinions in regard to him.
It was not until I was fourteen or fifteen years old that I frequently ran up against the word 'Jew', partly in connection with political controversies. These references aroused a slight aversion in me, and I could not avoid an uncomfortable feeling which always came over me when I had to listen to religious disputes. But at that time I had no other feelings about the Jewish question.
There were very few Jews in Linz. In the course of centuries the Jews who lived there had become Europeanized in external appearance and were so much like other human beings that I even looked upon them as Germans. The reason why I did not then perceive the absurdity of such an illusion was that the only external mark which I recognized as distinguishing them from us was the practice of their strange religion. As I thought that they were persecuted on account of their Faith my aversion to hearing remarks against them grew almost into a feeling of abhorrence. I did not in the least suspect that there could be such a thing as a systematic anti-Semitism.
Then I came to Vienna.
Confused by the mass of impressions I received from the architectural surroundings and depressed by my own troubles, I did not at first distinguish between the different social strata of which the population of that mammoth city was composed. Although Vienna then had about two hundred thousand Jews among its population of two millions, I did not notice them. During the first weeks of my sojourn my eyes and my mind were unable to cope with the onrush of new ideas and values. Not until I gradually settled down to my surroundings, and the confused picture began to grow clearer, did I acquire a more discriminating view of my new world. And with that I came up against the Jewish problem.
I will not say that the manner in which I first became acquainted with it was particularly unpleasant for me. In the Jew I still saw only a man who was of a different religion, and therefore, on grounds of human tolerance, I was against the idea that he should be attacked because he had a different faith. And so I considered that the tone adopted by the anti-Semitic Press in Vienna was unworthy of the cultural traditions of a great people. The memory of certain events which happened in the middle ages came into my mind, and I felt that I should not like to see them repeated. Generally speaking, these anti-Semitic newspapers did not belong to the first rank--but I did not then understand the reason of this--and so I regarded them more as the products of jealousy and envy rather than the expression of a sincere, though wrong-headed, feeling.
My own opinions were confirmed by what I considered to be the infinitely more dignified manner in which the really great Press replied to those attacks or simply ignored them, which latter seemed to me the most respectable way.
Anyhow, it was as a result of such reading that I came to know the man and the movement which then determined the fate of Vienna. These were Dr. Karl Lueger and the Christian Socialist Movement. At the time I came to Vienna I felt opposed to both. I looked on the man and the movement as 'reactionary'.
But even an elementary sense of justice enforced me to change my opinion when I had the opportunity of knowing the man and his work, and slowly that opinion grew into outspoken admiration when I had better grounds for forming a judgment. To-day, as well as then, I hold Dr. Karl Lueger as the most eminent type of German Burgermeister. How many prejudices were thrown over through such a change in my attitude towards the Christian-Socialist Movement!
My ideas about anti-Semitism changed also in the course of time, but that was the change which I found most difficult. It cost me a greater internal conflict with myself, and it was only after a struggle between reason and sentiment that victory began to be decided in favour of the former. Two years later sentiment rallied to the side of reasons and became a faithful guardian and counsellor.
At the time of this bitter struggle, between calm reason and the sentiments in which I had been brought up, the lessons that I learned on the streets of Vienna rendered me invaluable assistance. A time came when I no longer passed blindly along the street of the mighty city, as I had done in the early days, but now with my eyes open not only to study the buildings but also the human beings.
Once, when passing through the inner City, I suddenly encountered a phenomenon in a long caftan and wearing black side-locks. My first thought was: Is this a Jew? They certainly did not have this appearance in Linz. I watched the man stealthily and cautiously; but the longer I gazed at the strange countenance and examined it feature by feature, the more the question shaped itself in my brain: Is this a German?
As was always my habit with such experiences, I turned to books for help in removing my doubts. For the first time in my life I bought myself some anti-Semitic pamphlets for a few pence. But unfortunately they all began with the assumption that in principle the reader had at least a certain degree of information on the Jewish question or was even familiar with it. Moreover, the tone of most of these pamphlets was such that I became doubtful again, because the statements made were partly superficial and the proofs extraordinarily unscientific. For weeks, and indeed for months, I returned to my old way of thinking. The subject appeared so enormous and the accusations were so far-reaching that I was afraid of dealing with it unjustly and so I became again anxious and uncertain.
Naturally I could no longer doubt that here there was not a question of Germans who happened to be of a different religion but rather that there was question of an entirely different people. For as soon as I began to investigate the matter and observe the Jews, then Vienna appeared to me in a different light. Wherever I now went I saw Jews, and the more I saw of them the more strikingly and clearly they stood out as a different people from the other citizens. Especially the Inner City and the district northwards from the Danube Canal swarmed with a people who, even in outer appearance, bore no similarity to the Germans.
But any indecision which I may still have felt about that point was finally removed by the activities of a certain section of the Jews themselves. A great movement, called Zionism, arose among them. Its aim was to assert the national character of Judaism, and the movement was strongly represented in Vienna.
To outward appearances it seemed as if only one group of Jews championed this movement, while the great majority disapproved of it, or even repudiated it. But an investigation of the situation showed that those outward appearances were purposely misleading. These outward appearances emerged from a mist of theories which had been produced for reasons of expediency, if not for purposes of downright deception. For that part of Jewry which was styled Liberal did not disown the Zionists as if they were not members of their race but rather as brother Jews who publicly professed their faith in an unpractical way, so as to create a danger for Jewry itself.
Thus there was no real rift in their internal solidarity.
This fictitious conflict between the Zionists and the Liberal Jews soon disgusted me; for it was false through and through and in direct contradiction to the moral dignity and immaculate character on which that race had always prided itself.
Cleanliness, whether moral or of another kind, had its own peculiar meaning for these people. That they were water-shy was obvious on looking at them and, unfortunately, very often also when not looking at them at all. The odour of those people in caftans often used to make me feel ill. Beyond that there were the unkempt clothes and the ignoble exterior.
All these details were certainly not attractive; but the revolting feature was that beneath their unclean exterior one suddenly perceived the moral mildew of the chosen race.
What soon gave me cause for very serious consideration were the activities of the Jews in certain branches of life, into the mystery of which I penetrated little by little. Was there any shady undertaking, any form of foulness, especially in cultural life, in which at least one Jew did not participate? On putting the probing knife carefully to that kind of abscess one immediately discovered, like a maggot in a putrescent body, a little Jew who was often blinded by the sudden light.
In my eyes the charge against Judaism became a grave one the moment I discovered the Jewish activities in the Press, in art, in literature and the theatre. All unctuous protests were now more or less futile. One needed only to look at the posters announcing the hideous productions of the cinema and theatre, and study the names of the authors who were highly lauded there in order to become permanently adamant on Jewish questions. Here was a pestilence, a moral pestilence, with which the public was being infected. It was worse than the Black Plague of long ago. And in what mighty doses this poison was manufactured and distributed. Naturally, the lower the moral and intellectual level of such an author of artistic products the more inexhaustible his fecundity. Sometimes it went so far that one of these fellows, acting like a sewage pump, would shoot his filth directly in the face of other members of the human race. In this connection we must remember there is no limit to the number of such people. One ought to realize that for one, Goethe, Nature may bring into existence ten thousand such despoilers who act as the worst kind of germ-carriers in poisoning human souls. It was a terrible thought, and yet it could not be avoided, that the greater number of the Jews seemed specially destined by Nature to play this shameful part.
And is it for this reason that they can be called the chosen people?
I began then to investigate carefully the names of all the fabricators of these unclean products in public cultural life. The result of that inquiry was still more disfavourable to the attitude which I had hitherto held in regard to the Jews. Though my feelings might rebel a thousand time, reason now had to draw its own conclusions.
The fact that nine-tenths of all the smutty literature, artistic tripe and theatrical banalities, had to be charged to the account of people who formed scarcely one per cent of the nation--that fact could not be gainsaid. It was there, and had to be admitted. Then I began to examine my favourite 'World Press', with that fact before my mind.
The deeper my soundings went the lesser grew my respect for that Press which I formerly admired. Its style became still more repellent and I was forced to reject its ideas as entirely shallow and superficial. To claim that in the presentation of facts and views its attitude was impartial seemed to me to contain more falsehood than truth. The writers were--Jews.
Thousands of details that I had scarcely noticed before seemed to me now to deserve attention. I began to grasp and understand things which I had formerly looked at in a different light.
I saw the Liberal policy of that Press in another light. Its dignified tone in replying to the attacks of its adversaries and its dead silence in other cases now became clear to me as part of a cunning and despicable way of deceiving the readers. Its brilliant theatrical criticisms always praised the Jewish authors and its adverse, criticism was reserved exclusively for the Germans.
The light pin-pricks against William II showed the persistency of its policy, just as did its systematic commendation of French culture and civilization. The subject matter of the feuilletons was trivial and often pornographic. The language of this Press as a whole had the accent of a foreign people. The general tone was openly derogatory to the Germans and this must have been definitely intentional.
What were the interests that urged the Vienna Press to adopt such a policy? Or did they do so merely by chance? In attempting to find an answer to those questions I gradually became more and more dubious.
Then something happened which helped me to come to an early decision. I began to see through the meaning of a whole series of events that were taking place in other branches of Viennese life. All these were inspired by a general concept of manners and morals which was openly put into practice by a large section of the Jews and could be established as attributable to them. Here, again, the life which I observed on the streets taught me what evil really is.
The part which the Jews played in the social phenomenon of prostitution, and more especially in the white slave traffic, could be studied here better than in any other West-European city, with the possible exception of certain ports in Southern France. Walking by night along the streets of the Leopoldstadt, almost at every turn whether one wished it or not, one witnessed certain happenings of whose existence the Germans knew nothing until the War made it possible and indeed inevitable for the soldiers to see such things on the Eastern front.
A cold shiver ran down my spine when I first ascertained that it was the same kind of cold-blooded, thick-skinned and shameless Jew who showed his consummate skill in conducting that revolting exploitation of the dregs of the big city. Then I became fired with wrath.
I had now no more hesitation about bringing the Jewish problem to light in all its details. No. Henceforth I was determined to do so. But as I learned to track down the Jew in all the different spheres of cultural and artistic life, and in the various manifestations of this life everywhere, I suddenly came upon him in a position where I had least expected to find him. I now realized that the Jews were the leaders of Social Democracy. In face of that revelation the scales fell from my eyes. My long inner struggle was at an end.
In my relations with my fellow workmen I was often astonished to find how easily and often they changed their opinions on the same questions, sometimes within a few days and sometimes even within the course of a few hours. I found it difficult to understand how men who always had reasonable ideas when they spoke as individuals with one another suddenly lost this reasonableness the moment they acted in the mass. That phenomenon often tempted one almost to despair. I used to dispute with them for hours and when I succeeded in bringing them to what I considered a reasonable way of thinking I rejoiced at my success. But next day I would find that it had been all in vain. It was saddening to think I had to begin it all over again. Like a pendulum in its eternal sway, they would fall back into their absurd opinions.
I was able to understand their position fully. They were dissatisfied with their lot and cursed the fate which had hit them so hard. They hated their employers, whom they looked upon as the heartless administrators of their cruel destiny. Often they used abusive language against the public officials, whom they accused of having no sympathy with the situation of the working people. They made public protests against the cost of living and paraded through the streets in defence of their claims. At least all this could be explained on reasonable grounds. But what was impossible to understand was the boundless hatred they expressed against their own fellow citizens, how they disparaged their own nation, mocked at its greatness, reviled its history and dragged the names of its most illustrious men in the gutter.
This hostility towards their own kith and kin, their own native land and home was as irrational as it was incomprehensible. It was against Nature.
One could cure that malady temporarily, but only for some days or at least some weeks. But on meeting those whom one believed to have been converted one found that they had become as they were before. That malady against Nature held them once again in its clutches.
I gradually discovered that the Social Democratic Press was predominantly controlled by Jews. But I did not attach special importance to this circumstance, for the same state of affairs existed also in other newspapers. But there was one striking fact in this connection. It was that there was not a single newspaper with which Jews were connected that could be spoken of as National, in the meaning that my education and convictions attached to that word.
Making an effort to overcome my natural reluctance, I tried to read articles of this nature published in the Marxist Press; but in doing so my aversion increased all the more. And then I set about learning something of the people who wrote and published this mischievous stuff. From the publisher downwards, all of them were Jews. I recalled to mind the names of the public leaders of Marxism, and then I realized that most of them belonged to the Chosen Race--the Social Democratic representatives in the Imperial Cabinet as well as the secretaries of the Trades Unions and the street agitators. Everywhere the same sinister picture presented itself. I shall never forget the row of names--Austerlitz, David, Adler, Ellenbogen, and others. One fact became quite evident to me. It was that this alien race held in its hands the leadership of that Social Democratic Party with whose minor representatives I had been disputing for months past. I was happy at last to know for certain that the Jew is not a German.
Thus I finally discovered who were the evil spirits leading our people astray. The sojourn in Vienna for one year had proved long enough to convince me that no worker is so rooted in his preconceived notions that he will not surrender them in face of better and clearer arguments and explanations. Gradually I became an expert in the doctrine of the Marxists and used this knowledge as an instrument to drive home my own firm convictions. I was successful in nearly every case. The great masses can be rescued, but a lot of time and a large share of human patience must be devoted to such work.
But a Jew can never be rescued from his fixed notions.
It was then simple enough to attempt to show them the absurdity of their teaching. Within my small circle I talked to them until my throat ached and my voice grew hoarse. I believed that I could finally convince them of the danger inherent in the Marxist follies. But I only achieved the contrary result. It seemed to me that immediately the disastrous effects of the Marxist Theory and its application in practice became evident, the stronger became their obstinacy.
The more I debated with them the more familiar I became with their argumentative tactics. At the outset they counted upon the stupidity of their opponents, but when they got so entangled that they could not find a way out they played the trick of acting as innocent simpletons. Should they fail, in spite of their tricks of logic, they acted as if they could not understand the counter arguments and bolted away to another field of discussion. They would lay down truisms and platitudes; and, if you accepted these, then they were applied to other problems and matters of an essentially different nature from the original theme. If you faced them with this point they would escape again, and you could not bring them to make any precise statement. Whenever one tried to get a firm grip on any of these apostles one's hand grasped only jelly and slime which slipped through the fingers and combined again into a solid mass a moment afterwards. If your adversary felt forced to give in to your argument, on account of the observers present, and if you then thought that at last you had gained ground, a surprise was in store for you on the following day. The Jew would be utterly oblivious to what had happened the day before, and he would start once again by repeating his former absurdities, as if nothing had happened. Should you become indignant and remind him of yesterday's defeat, he pretended astonishment and could not remember anything, except that on the previous day he had proved that his statements were correct. Sometimes I was dumbfounded. I do not know what amazed me the more--the abundance of their verbiage or the artful way in which they dressed up their falsehoods. I gradually came to hate them.
Yet all this had its good side; because the more I came to know the individual leaders, or at least the propagandists, of Social Democracy, my love for my own people increased correspondingly. Considering the Satanic skill which these evil counsellors displayed, how could their unfortunate victims be blamed? Indeed, I found it extremely difficult myself to be a match for the dialectical perfidy of that race. How futile it was to try to win over such people with argument, seeing that their very mouths distorted the truth, disowning the very words they had just used and adopting them again a few moments afterwards to serve their own ends in the argument! No. The more I came to know the Jew, the easier it was to excuse the workers.
In my opinion the most culpable were not to be found among the workers but rather among those who did not think it worth while to take the trouble to sympathize with their own kinsfolk and give to the hard-working son of the national family what was his by the iron logic of justice, while at the same time placing his seducer and corrupter against the wall.
Urged by my own daily experiences, I now began to investigate more thoroughly the sources of the Marxist teaching itself. Its effects were well known to me in detail. As a result of careful observation, its daily progress had become obvious to me. And one needed only a little imagination in order to be able to forecast the consequences which must result from it. The only question now was: Did the founders foresee the effects of their work in the form which those effects have shown themselves to-day, or were the founders themselves the victims of an error? To my mind both alternatives were possible.
If the second question must be answered in the affirmative, then it was the duty of every thinking person to oppose this sinister movement with a view to preventing it from producing its worst results. But if the first question must be answered in the affirmative, then it must be admitted that the original authors of this evil which has infected the nations were devils incarnate. For only in the brain of a monster, and not that of a man, could the plan of this organization take shape whose workings must finally bring about the collapse of human civilization and turn this world into a desert waste.
Such being the case the only alternative left was to fight, and in that fight to employ all the weapons which the human spirit and intellect and will could furnish leaving it to Fate to decide in whose favour the balance should fall.
And so I began to gather information about the authors of this teaching, with a view to studying the principles of the movement. The fact that I attained my object sooner than I could have anticipated was due to the deeper insight into the Jewish question which I then gained, my knowledge of this question being hitherto rather superficial. This newly acquired knowledge alone enabled me to make a practical comparison between the real content and the theoretical pretentiousness of the teaching laid down by the apostolic founders of Social Democracy; because I now understood the language of the Jew. I realized that the Jew uses language for the purpose of dissimulating his thought or at least veiling it, so that his real aim cannot be discovered by what he says but rather by reading between the lines. This knowledge was the occasion of the greatest inner revolution that I had yet experienced. From being a soft-hearted cosmopolitan I became an out-and-out anti-Semite.
Only on one further occasion, and that for the last time, did I give way to oppressing thoughts which caused me some moments of profound anxiety.
As I critically reviewed the activities of the Jewish people throughout long periods of history I became anxious and asked myself whether for some inscrutable reasons beyond the comprehension of poor mortals such as ourselves, Destiny may not have irrevocably decreed that the final victory must go to this small nation? May it not be that this people which has lived only for the earth has been promised the earth as a recompense? Is our right to struggle for our own self-preservation based on reality, or is it a merely subjective thing? Fate answered the question for me inasmuch as it led me to make a detached and exhaustive inquiry into the Marxist teaching and the activities of the Jewish people in connection with it.
The Jewish doctrine of Marxism repudiates the aristocratic principle of Nature and substitutes for it the eternal privilege of force and energy, numerical mass and its dead weight. Thus it denies the individual worth of the human personality, impugns the teaching that nationhood and race have a primary significance, and by doing this it takes away the very foundations of human existence and human civilization. If the Marxist teaching were to be accepted as the foundation of the life of the universe, it would lead to the disappearance of all order that is conceivable to the human mind. And thus the adoption of such a law would provoke chaos in the structure of the greatest organism that we know, with the result that the inhabitants of this earthly planet would finally disappear.
Should the Jew, with the aid of his Marxist creed, triumph over the people of this world, his Crown will be the funeral wreath of mankind, and this planet will once again follow its orbit through ether, without any human life on its surface, as it did millions of years ago.
And so I believe to-day that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator. In standing guard against the Jew I am defending the handiwork of the Lord.
[End of Chapter]