MEIN KAMPF is written in the style of a self-educated mod- em South German with a gift for oratory. Of course this picture does not begin to characterize Hitler the man, but it does, I think, account for the elements of his style.
Beginning in his Vienna period, Hitler was a voracious news- paper reader. The style of the Austrian press, as Karl Kraus never wearied of pointing out, was slovenly, illogical, pretentious. Even the grammar, doubtless because of the large number of Czechs, Hungarians, and other foreigners in the trade, was uncommonly bad. Hitler inveighed against the Viennese melting pot, but was unconsciously influenced by its literary style.
He must also have read popular pamphlets on history, psychology, racist biology, and political subjects. He never at- tempted to systematize his knowledge; he retained, for the most part, disjointed facts that met some personal need, and phrases that appealed to his oratorical sense. But the main source of his pet phrases was the theater and the opera. He is full of popular quotations from Goethe and Schiller, and largely unintelligible flights of Wagnerian terminology. There is no indication that he ever read any of the German, let alone foreign classics, from which he might have gathered some feeling for stylistic principles.
Hitler has been called a paranoiac; at all events, his view of the world is highly personal. Even where he is discussing theoretical matters like' the state,' race,' etc., he seldom pursues any logic inherent in the subject matter. He makes the most extraordinary allegations without so much as an attempt to prove them. Often there is no connection between one paragraph and the next. The logic is purely psychological: Hitler is fighting his persecutors, magnifying his person, creating a dream world in which he can be an important figure. In more concrete passages he is combating political adversaries in his own movement, but even here the continuity is mystifying, because he never tells us whom he is arguing against, but sets up every political expedient as a universal principle.
This personalization makes Hitler a poor observer. His style is without color and movement. Images are rare, and when they do appear, they tend to be purely verbal and impossible to visualize, like the' cornerstone for the end of German domination in the monarchy " or forcing' the less strong and less healthy back into the womb of the eternal unknown.' The mixed metaphor is almost a specialty of modern German journalism, but Hitler, with his eyes closed to the visual world, was an expert in his own right. Pohner, for example, was' a thorn in the eyes of venal officials.'
A non-German of Hitler's intellectual level would in some ways write quite differently. Germany was a land of high general culture, with the largest reading public of any country in the world. In the lower middle class, there was a tremendous educational urge. People who in other...