Essays

Which is the Best Translation of Mein Kampf?

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by Martin Kerr

THERE IS an ongoing debate among National Socialists and white nationalists generally over which English language translation of Mein Kampf is the best.

We believe that the Ralph Manheim translation published by Houghton Mifflin, while not perfect, is superior to all others. Despite his undisguised hostility to Adolf Hitler and the NS worldview, Manheim’s translation is the most accurate and best captures the spirit of Hitler’s message.

Translation Not Authorized by Hitler

However, there are some people who prefer the James Murphy translation, first published by the British publishing house of Hurst & Blackett in 1939. Sadly, this preference is not based on the quality of the translation, but rather on the dishonest claim made by the publisher that the Murphy translation is the “official version” and “authorized” by Hitler himself. But that is not true.

Here is a short version of the true story: In 1936, the German government contracted with Murphy to do a translation of Mein Kampf, and Murphy made an initial rough draft. It contains numerous errors, and the prose is stilted and awkward.

However, Murphy was ill and did not have the energy to complete the project. His rough draft was obtained by Hurst & Blackett, which they published, without corrections or modification, in 1939 as the “authorized” English edition. But neither the German government nor Hitler himself ever approved Murphy’s initial draft.

It Gets Worse

But it gets worse: because he was ill, Murphy hired one Greta Lorke as assistant translator to help him out. Unbeknownst to him, Lorke was an operative of the “Red Orchestra” (Rote Kapelle, in German), the notorious Communist espionage and sabotage ring run by the Soviet Union.

Lorke saw working on the Mein Kampf translation as a perfect cover identity that allowed her to participate in Red Orchestra activities without drawing suspicion to herself. Additionally, she saw the assignment as an opportunity to discredit Hitlerism by fiddling with the passages that she translated.

Lorke’s Communist Background Well Documented

An account (sympathetic, of course!) of Lorke’s involvement in the Murphy translation may be found on pages 110-111 of the book Red Orchestra: The Story of the Berlin Underground and the Circle of Friends Who Resisted Hitler by Anne Nelson, Random House, New York, 2009.

A fuller examination into Lorke’s role (including the insertion of deliberately erroneous material) appears in a harder-to-find earlier volume, Hitler’s Mein Kampf in Britain and America by James J. Barnes & Patience P. Barnes, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1980.

Summary

To summarize: (1) the James Murphy translation of Mein Kampf published by Hurst & Blackett was an uncorrected rough draft made by a sick man; (2) it was NOT authorized or approved by either Hitler or the German government; and (3) parts of the translation were done by the Soviet spy and saboteur Greta Lorke, who was pursuing her own anti-NS ideological agenda.

Once again, we NS recommend the Manheim translation — or better yet, the German original

Manheim Edition Not Without Fault

The Manheim translation has its faults, to be sure. Along with some useful technical notes on translation and others on historical context, it also includes a number of gratuitous, negative footnotes, as well as an anti-Hitler introduction.

More troubling are Manheim’s downright errors, however. For example, on page 490, when discussing the SA, Manheim translates Kampfgemeinschaft as “combat group,” whereas the proper translation is “fighting community,” a small but significant difference; Hitler goes out of his way to make the point that the SA should NOT be a military-style “combat group” (pp. 538-543).

On page 623, Manheim inexplicably substitutes “Jewish” for “German” in one phrase, reducing the sentence to nonsense. (Manheim’s version reads “national folkish Jewish intelligensia,” whereas Hitler’s original is “national folkish German intelligensia.”)

It is not surprising that some mistakes should occur here and there in a translation nearly 700 pages long. However, the Manheim version first appeared in 1941, and these errors should have been corrected in the numerous reprints that have been issued since then!

Authorized NS Translation Needed

Yet despite these negative points, the Manheim translation remains the best to date, overall. It is head and shoulders above all the others — especially the Murphy version!

What is needed, of course, is a translation by an expert National Socialist translator. Only a National Socialist will understand Hitler’s text, both subjectively and objectively. No translation, however, will ever beat the original!

END NOTE: A new translation, which we have not yet reviewed, claims to have overcome the limitations of earlier versions: http://www.hitler-library.org/mein-kampf-ford-translation.htm

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7 Comments

  1. aa
    September 26, 2015 at 4:39 pm — Reply

    It sounds like criminals and scalawags translated Hitler’s book. English is a Germanic dialect. It shouldn’t be difficult for an honest translation from the original. Fairness to the author is the first rule of a quote even if it’s the entire book.

  2. Waldemar
    September 26, 2015 at 5:45 pm — Reply

    I recommend that every intelligent person interested in knowing the true character of Hitler and NS learn german and read the original. The english and german languages are quite different and it’s hard to translate from one to the other. I know both english and german well and when I read english translations of german NS texts I’m always puzzled by the different impression they give; I barely recognize the meaning of the original. Modern english is loaded with cultural baggage that is alien to the german spirit. It would be better to translate into middle english (Shakespeare) or still better, old english (similar to old norse), but if you can handle such language you easily pick up german too. Those who know dutch or scandinavian but not german should read MK in those languages rather than in english.

  3. September 26, 2015 at 9:30 pm — Reply

    I recently had a chance to look through the Ford translation. It is a simplified or dumbed-down version of the German original, presumably for readers who feel that an exact translation is too challenging for them. It is not really wrong or bad, but is lacks the precision of the Ralph Manheim edition. It gives the reader the general drift of Hitler’s thought, but not with Manheim’s detail or accuracy.

    I agree with Waldemar above: ideally, it is best to read MEIN KAMPF in the original German. Use a bilingual dictionary as needed.

  4. C.E. Whiteoak
    September 27, 2015 at 12:03 am — Reply

    I don’t see how any translation can beat the so-called “Stalag Edition.” It was translated into English before the war by an unknown National Socialist. After the war broke out, it was distributed to POW camp libraries for English speaking prisoners, and so became known as the Stalag Edition. The Kindle version of this is the only Mein Kampf I have ever read, and believe me it is excellent. It is available from Amazon in Kindle format for only $3.49.

    For me, a good deal of the enjoyment of reading it was the knowledge that it was a “friendly” translation, and not something that had been annotated or otherwise “adjusted”
    to suit the you-know-whodies.

  5. Heinemann
    September 27, 2015 at 11:03 am — Reply

    The original Mein Kampf has always been unlawful in Bundes Republik. Many German immigrants brought them after the war.

    However printed versions were sold to other lands. Mine is very small print and still 782 acquired many years ago.

    It is inconceivable that an English version with its progressive verbalism could be less than 800 pages.

    Interpretations are an art and can be done but the original German is different even than present German, suffering from the plague of occupational anti culture.

    I am not surprised at the little busy bee espionage agents like Greta Lorke , who were active before , during and after the war. These were the greatest enemy just as they are in America today .

  6. Elsman
    September 28, 2015 at 2:33 am — Reply

    The Ford translation is the best. I have Manheim, Murphy, the NS edition, Stackpole and Ford and have read all of them. The Ford translation is clearly the best translated. I have compared all of them side by side and they all have the same basic information, however Ford’s translation is far easier to read and in comparing them Ford’s version is obviously more well stated. By that I mean that some editions translate German into a jumble of English word because the translator did not understand what was being translated(Very true of Murphy and Manheim) but Ford’s version is very clearly stated. Ford’s version also has lots of inserted notes which explain vague references the other translators either did not understand and left uncommented or did not understand and edited out. Get the free pdf Mein Kampf A Translation Controversy. IT is by the publisher of the Ford translation and shows comparisons of older versions and the Ford translation. It is interesting reading on its own. You can get an idea of what Mein Kampf is about from any translation but I am thoroughly impressed by the Ford translation’s quality and the amount of effort that went into verifying each sentence to make it match the original German and make sense in English and be technically accurate at the same time…..Ford explains it better than I can. It is not a dumbed down version and is quite the opposite, a more intelligent version that is better written than past translations and more researched which can be seen in the Mein Kampf A Translation Controversy book that documents the translation process.

  7. Charles.M.
    March 3, 2017 at 9:09 pm — Reply

    The best english translation of Mein Kampf is the one published by the Germans in 1940 for the planned invasion of England. Here is a link to this book that can be downloaded for free:

    https://archive.org/details/MeinKampf.StalagEditionOfficiallyAuthorizedByTheNSDAPIn1940ForTheInvasionOfBritain

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