George Orwell’s Review of Mein Kampf in 1940


Brad DeLong has posted George Orwell’s 1940 review of a new edition of Mein Kampf.

I noted particularly Orwell’s prescience about Hitler’s intent to attack the Soviets despite the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, and his allusion to what you call mankind’s chimp nature.



Super piece of writing.

Thirteen years later Eric Hoffer published True Believer. I’m re-reading it now. With benefit of hindsight he says essentially the same things as Orwell, though nowhere near as vividly and compactly. And Hoffer says a lot more, for instance the uncanny ability of Hitler, and other demagogic leaders of violent mass movements, to command the fanatic loyalty of a group of very smart and capable lieutenants.



I guess that the occasion for Prof. DeLong posting this review is that Mein Kampf has been published in Germany for the first time since WW II. Of course, the book was widely available elsewhere. Mein Kampf means My Struggle, and I note that many Muslims tell us that jihad also means struggle, in the sense of an internal individual struggle.

Here’s one part of the review that I thought was remarkable.

Consider these events:

Mein Kampf Vol. 1 and 2, published in 1925 and 1926

Hitler became the German chancellor in 1933.

Germany sent troops into its Rhineland province, demilitarized by treaty after WW I, in 1936.

Germany incorporated Austrian, the Anschluss, in 1938.

Germany invades and incorporates the German-speaking part of Czechoslovakia, in March 1939, after the Munich agreement of September 1938.

Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed in August 1939. Orwell calls this the “Russo-German Pact.” This was a non-aggression pact signed by the Germans and the Soviets.

Germany invaded Poland in September 1939. The Soviet Union (and a small contingent from Slovakia) invaded Poland too.

France and Britain declared war with Germany, as they had promised the Poles they would do, but they were unable to provide military help. This was the period of the so-called Phoney War. They established a naval blockade, however, and the Germans began U-boat attacks against British ships.

==> Orwell’s review published in March 1940.

Germany invaded Denmark and Norway in April 1940.

Germany invaded France in May 1940, and Churchill replaced Chamberlain as British Prime Minister. (The Germans also invaded Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg.) France fell and the British army was driven from mainland Europe in June 1940.

Skipping over some other important events, such as the German invasion of Yugoslavia and of Greece.

Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1940.

Thus, Orwell correctly proposed that Hitler would deal with Western Europe, especially France and Britain, first, and then invade the Soviet Union.

After the fall of France, Germany prepared to invade Britain, and launched the Battle of Britain, designed to cow the British into submission and to eliminate the RAF. This latter action was necessary to allow the Luftwaffe to protect the German invasion of Britain from both the RAF and the Royal Navy. Yet, by December 1940 with the Battle of Britain ending in failure for the Luftwaffe, Hitler signed the orders for the invasion of the Soviet Union, scheduled for May 1940. At that time, it appeared that the RAF had won the Battle of Britain, so the Germans could not invade it, but neither could the British significantly threaten the Germans.

During the 1930s the Soviet Union had provided Germany with significant supplies of food, fuel, and raw materials, and the non-aggression pact cemented this relationship. Thus, the German takeover of Western Europe was partly made possible by supplies from the Soviet Union. Indeed, the invasion of the Soviet Union, the German’s Operation Barbarossa, was partly made possible by supplies from the Soviet Union.

You have to wonder that Stalin, somehow, did not believe that Hitler meant to carry out what he had written. Indeed, Stalin had so much confidence in his non-aggression treaty with Hitler that he ignored warnings from the British government and others that the Germans would invade in the summer of 1940. He ordered little or no mobilization or any significant preparation for defense and countermanded efforts by Red Army generals at the front lines.

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