Adolf Hitler wrote this book when he was in prison for his political activities. During that time, Germany had been weakened by the Treaty of Versailles, and France had seized several parts of ...(more)
During the boisterous years of my youth nothing used to damp my wild spirits so much as to think that I was born at a time when the world had manifestly decided not to erect any more temples of fame except in honour of business people and State officials. The tempest of historical achievements seemed to have permanently subsided, so much so that the future appeared to be irrevocably delivered over to what was called peaceful competition between the nations. This simply meant a system of mutual exploitation by fraudulent means, the principle of resorting to the use of force in self-defence being formally excluded. Individual countries increasingly assumed the appearance of commercial undertakings, grabbing territory and clients and concessions from each other under any and every kind of pretext. And it was all staged to an accompaniment of loud but innocuous shouting. This trend of affairs seemed destined to develop steadily and permanently. Having the support of public approbation, it seemed bound eventually to transform the world into a mammoth department store. In the vestibule of this emporium there would be rows of monumental busts which would confer immortality on those profiteers who had proved themselves the shrewdest at their trade and those administrative officials who had shown themselves the most innocuous. The salesmen could be represented by the English and the administrative functionaries by the Germans; whereas the Jews would be sacrificed to the unprofitable calling of proprietorship, for they are constantly avowing that they make no profits and are always being called upon to 'pay out'. Moreover they have the advantage of being versed in the foreign languages.
Why could I not have been born a hundred years ago? I used to ask myself.
Somewhere about the time of the Wars of Liberation, when a man was still of some value even though he had no 'business'.
Thus I used to think it an ill-deserved stroke of bad luck that I had arrived too late on this terrestrial globe, and I felt chagrined at the idea that my life would have to run its course along peaceful and orderly lines. As a boy I was anything but a pacifist and all attempts to make me so turned out futile.
Then the Boer War came, like a glow of lightning on the far horizon. Day after day I used to gaze intently at the newspapers and I almost 'devoured' the telegrams and communiques, overjoyed to think that I could witness that heroic struggle, even though from so great a distance.
When the Russo-Japanese War came I was older and better able to judge for myself. For national reasons I then took the side of the Japanese in our discussions. I looked upon the defeat of the Russians as a blow to Austrian Slavism.
Many years had passed between that time and my arrival in Munich. I now realized that what I formerly believed to be a morbid decadence was only the lull before the storm. During my Vienna days the Balkans were already in the grip of that sultry pause which presages the violent storm. Here and there a flash of lightning could be occasionally seen; but it rapidly disappeared in sinister gloom. Then the Balkan War broke out; and therewith the first gusts of the forthcoming tornado swept across a highly-strung Europe. In the supervening calm men felt the atmosphere oppressive and foreboding, so much so that the sense of an impending catastrophe became transformed into a feeling of impatient expectance. They wished that Heaven would give free rein to the fate which could now no longer be curbed. Then the first great bolt of lightning struck the earth. The storm broke and the thunder of the heavens intermingled with the roar of the cannons in the World War.
When the news came to Munich that the Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been murdered, I had been at home all day and did not get the particulars of how it happened. At first I feared that the shots may have been fired by some German-Austrian students who had been aroused to a state of furious indignation by the persistent pro-Slav activities of the Heir to the Habsburg Throne and therefore wished to liberate the German population from this internal enemy. It was quite easy to imagine what the result of such a mistake would have been. It would have brought on a new wave of persecution, the motives of which would have been 'justified' before the whole world. But soon afterwards I heard the names of the presumed assassins and also that they were known to be Serbs. I felt somewhat dumbfounded in face of the inexorable vengeance which Destiny had wrought. The greatest friend of the Slavs had fallen a victim to the bullets of Slav patriots.
It is unjust to the Vienna government of that time to blame it now for the form and tenor of the ultimatum which was then presented. In a similar position and under similar circumstances, no other Power in the world would have acted otherwise. On her southern frontiers Austria had a relentless mortal foe who indulged in acts of provocation against the Dual Monarchy at intervals which were becoming more and more frequent. This persistent line of conduct would not have been relaxed until the arrival of the opportune moment for the destruction of the Empire. In Austria there was good reason to fear that, at the latest, this moment would come with the death of the old Emperor. Once that had taken place, it was quite possible that the Monarchy would not be able to offer any serious resistance. For some years past the State had been so completely identified with the personality of Francis Joseph that, in the eyes of the great mass of the people, the death of this venerable personification of the Empire would be tantamount to the death of the Empire itself. Indeed it was one of the clever artifices of Slav policy to foster the impression that the Austrian State owed its very existence exclusively to the prodigies and rare talents of that monarch. This kind of flattery was particularly welcomed at the Hofburg, all the more because it had no relation whatsoever to the services actually rendered by the Emperor. No effort whatsoever was made to locate the carefully prepared sting which lay hidden in this glorifying praise. One fact which was entirely overlooked, perhaps intentionally, was that the more the Empire remained dependent on the so-called administrative talents of 'the wisest Monarch of all times', the more catastrophic would be the situation when Fate came to knock at the door and demand its tribute.
Was it possible even to imagine the Austrian Empire without its venerable ruler?
Would not the tragedy which befell Maria Theresa be repeated at once?
It is really unjust to the Vienna governmental circles to reproach them with having instigated a war which might have been prevented. The war was bound to come. Perhaps it might have been postponed for a year or two at the most. But it had always been the misfortune of German, as well as Austrian, diplomats that they endeavoured to put off the inevitable day of reckoning, with the result that they were finally compelled to deliver their blow at a most inopportune moment.
No. Those who did not wish this war ought to have had the courage to take the consequences of the refusal upon themselves. Those consequences must necessarily have meant the sacrifice of Austria. And even then war would have come, not as a war in which all the nations would have been banded against us but in the form of a dismemberment of the Habsburg Monarchy. In that case we should have had to decide whether we should come to the assistance of the Habsburg or stand aside as spectators, with our arms folded, and thus allow Fate to run its course.
Just those who are loudest in their imprecations to-day and make a great parade of wisdom in judging the causes of the war are the very same people whose collaboration was the most fatal factor in steering towards the war.
For several decades previously the German Social-Democrats had been agitating in an underhand and knavish way for war against Russia; whereas the German Centre Party, with religious ends in view, had worked to make the Austrian State the chief centre and turning-point of German policy. The consequences of this folly had now to be borne. What came was bound to come and under no circumstances could it have been avoided. The fault of the German Government lay in the fact that, merely for the sake of preserving peace at all costs, it continued to miss the occasions that were favourable for action, got entangled in an alliance for the purpose of preserving the peace of the world, and thus finally became the victim of a world coalition which opposed the German effort for the maintenance of peace and was determined to bring about the world war.
Had the Vienna Government of that time formulated its ultimatum in less drastic terms, that would not have altered the situation at all: but such a course might have aroused public indignation. For, in the eyes of the great masses, the ultimatum was too moderate and certainly not excessive or brutal. Those who would deny this to-day are either simpletons with feeble memories or else deliberate falsehood-mongers.
The War of 1914 was certainly not forced on the masses; it was even desired by the whole people.