Printed for the invasion of Britain

Posted on 7th August 2013 by simonbeattie

In the summer of 1940, plans were afoot to invade Britain.  As part of those preparations, the central Nazi publishing house in Munich was printing an English-language edition of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, the only official unabridged English version.  The invasion never took place and this edition is now extremely rare: only 5 copies are recorded in libraries worldwide.

This edition was unknown to James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes when they wrote Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Britain and America: a Publishing History 1930–39 (Cambridge UP, 1980).  Then, in 1986, a copy was discovered at the Library of Congress, and the Barneses wrote about it specifically: ‘Since the publication of Mein Kampf in Britain and America we have become aware of an edition of Mein Kampf in English bearing the imprint of the Eher Verlag, the official press of the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei.  Many different translations of this notorious work appeared subsequent to his initial publication in two volumes in 1925–1926, and during the late 1930s it became the subject of a fierce publishing battle concerning who would be given the right to producing and unexpurgated and unabridged version …

‘The initial supposition was that the Germans must have reprinted one of the English-language versions which appeared in early 1939: either the Stackpole or the Reynal & Hitchcock edition produced in United States, or the Hurst & Blackett one in England.  However, superficially none of the known English editions bore any resemblance the one printed by the Zentralverlag.

‘A closer analysis, based on a larger sample of text, revealed the translation to be that of James Murphy for Hurst & Blackett.  At times it proved to be identical, raising the further question as to why the apparent plagiarists made any changes at all, since it would have been simpler to reprint Murphy’s text verbatim.  More understandable, perhaps, was the use of a different table of contents and index and the omission of Murphy’s introduction …

‘Perusal of the text revealed that ninety percent of it was identical to the Hurst & Blackett version, but some parts had significant variations …  The solution to this mystery becomes relatively apparent when one becomes aware that in 1936, when Murphy was working in Berlin for the Nazi Propaganda Ministry, Goebbels commissioned him to produce an English-language translation of the full text of Mein Kampf, a task he completed before leaving Germany in 1938.  Once Murphy returned to England and Hurst & Blackett learned of his translation they expressed an interest in it, but Murphy had not even kept a copy of this text.  It had been left in a locked file at the Ministry in Berlin, and since he was by then persona non grata with the Nazis, Murphy was denied access to it.  At great risk, his wife returned alone to Berlin to try to persuade party officials to release it, but she failed.  Nevertheless, she persisted and eventually was able to locate his former typist who relinquished to her the handwritten draft.  During the next three months Murphy revised his original version and the resulting text was printed by Hurst & Blackett in March 1939 …

‘Why the Nazis decided to reprint Murphy’s draft version is far from clear.  They could not hope to distribute it in the major English-language markets, since British and American publishers claimed the right to do so under contract with the Zentralverlag …  The early course of the Second World War provides a probable clue.  One possibility suggests that its availability coincided with the Nazis’ wish to have an English edition ready for distribution in the Channel Islands following an anticipated invasion of them …  The title page of the Zentralverlag edition is consistent with that employed in Germany between 1939 and 1941; therefore the Nazis may have printed an edition of Mein Kampf for distribution in Britain following an expected invasion the autumn of 1940.  If this were the case, it would have made sense for them to eliminate the preliminary matter in the Hurst & Blackett edition and to substitute a different table of contents and index.  Moreover, Murphy’s last-minute revisions had resulted in different pagination from his original draft …  Since it was unclear until July 1940 whether Hitler would authorize such an invasion of Great Britain, and since the invasion was called off by September, it is likely this edition was prepared during the summer of 1940’ (James J. Barnes, Patience P. Barnes, and Arthur E. Carey, ‘An English translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf printed in Germany, ca. 1940’, PBSA 80:3 (1986), 374–377).

Posted in

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *