We've all been influenced by a book at some point in our lives, and sometimes these written words shape how we see ourselves and the lives we lead. These were the books that influenced Hitler
We've all been influenced by a book at some point in our lives, and sometimes these written words shape how we see ourselves and the lives we lead. Notorious dictator Adolf Hitler is no exception.
Although he was better known for burning books rather than reading them, Hitler adored literature and had a vast collection of books. Still, it is difficult to figure out which ones were his favorite, as there are very few references on the matter.
Historian Timothy W. Ryback carried out a painstaking research to find out which books where close companions to the Führer. The result was unexpected. He discovered that, like many people, Hitler loved to indulge in fantasy and occult texts. He was also a big fan of classic literature, but within this rubric there were four main books that supported him during his rise as ruler of Germany, reading them over and over.
While the following books cannot help us decipher the mind behind one of the most infamous men in history, we can certainly catch a glimpse at the literary taste he had.
Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852) by Harriet Beecher Stowe
This revolutionary novel changed the world twice, a feat few novels ever accomplish. The first time was right after it was published in 1852. The book deals with subjects like slavery and the oppression of the African American communities in the United States. A compelling adventure story that has one ultimate argument: the nature of Christianity is incompatible in all ways with slavery.
This epic narrative book by Daniel Defoe was also one Hitler's faves. It focuses on a traveler who spends 20 years stranded on a tropical island, where he must survive the wildest of threats. It is a story about how will and courage can broaden the possibilities of one single man. However, it also holds a darker side, as it perpetuates an Imperialistic mindset. The main character sees himself as superior to the natives that inhabit the island. Sounds familiar?
Gulliver's Travels (1726) by Jonathan Swift
Shipwrecked, Lemuel Gulliver finds himself on the island of Lilliput, which is inhabited by miniature people. His subsequent encounters with other groups give him bitter insight into human behavior.
Don Quixote (1605) by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra
Don Quixote —which is considered to be the first modern novel and the greatest masterpiece of Spanish literature— was another book constantly read by the Holocaust instigator. The novel focuses on the hidalgo (nobleman without a hereditary title) Alonso Quixano, who is so passionate about chivalry books that he can't stop reading them, until his brain dries up and becomes a lunatic. He decides to be a knight himself who will deliver justice upon the world, followed by his faithful companion Sancho Panza.
Books do have the power to influence the life of people and change the way they see and interact with the world. While we do have an idea of which books Hitler read, we cannot say what role these literary masterpieces played on his acts and decisions. It is uncanny that the books the most sanguinary men in history have also been enjoyed by countless generations across many centuries, including yourself.
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Translated by Andrea Valle Gracia