As a result of the failure of his Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in November 1923, Adolf Hitler (1889–1945) was sent to a minimum security prison at Landsberg. However, he was paroled, four years before the completion of his sentence, in December 1924. Having met with the respect of his judges during his trial in February 1924 and with the approval of the Bavarian Supreme Court, although against the advice of state prosecutors, he had his sentence—after his conviction for a treasonable attempt to take over the state—commuted. Nevertheless, there were some restrictions, both in Bavaria and elsewhere in Germany, on Hitler’s speaking and freedom of movement. In spite of these restrictions, he emerged from prison with the manuscript of a new political statement of his life and philosophy, a document he entitled Mein Kampf (“My struggle”). As recently discovered documents reveal, Hitler hoped to use the proceeds from the sale of this book for a new car as well as to fund his political movement. The party growing out of this movement would be labeled the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, and he would be installed as its unquestioned Führer (leader) by 1925. The following excerpt from Mein Kampf reveals what he had learned about rhetoric and political action in his nascent career.
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, trans. Ralph Mannheim (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998), 469–471.
Josef V. Stalin
As leader of the Soviet Union for over two decades, Josef Vissarionovich Stalin (1879–1953) was one of the most important figures of the twentieth century. A professional revolutionary from 1900 on, Stalin joined V. I. Lenin (1870–1924) and the Bolshevik (Communist) Party and became one of Lenin’s closest collaborators, especially during the desperate and bloody days of the Civil War (1918–1920). Having cautiously consolidated his political position by 1929, Stalin oversaw a series of radical economic, social, and political initiatives that laid the industrial foundation of the USSR, broke the political resistance of the peasantry, and created a terror apparatus that made Stalin the uncontested dictator of the country. In August 1939, Stalin entered into a nonaggression pact with Hitler that kept the USSR out of World War II until the German invasion of Russia in June 1941. Ultimately, at the cost of 25 million deaths and untold destruction, the Soviets drove the Nazi forces out of their country, contributing the lion’s share to the Allied victory over Hitler. The experiences of World War II did nothing to soften Stalin’s ways, and he was a tough negotiator during the wartime conferences. After the war, Stalin established a zone of Soviet occupation and domination in Eastern Europe that lasted until 1989.
In 1931, Stalin gave a speech titled “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy” to a nationwide workers’ conference in the Soviet Union. In this speech, Stalin explained and justified the quick pace of Russian industrialization and the extraordinary demands that it imposed on the Russian people. The address is noteworthy, for it provides a concise yet compelling view into Stalin’s political philosophy, particularly regarding Russia’s relations with its neighbors.
Josef V. Stalin, “On the Tasks of Workers in the Economy,” in Works, Vol. XIII (Moscow: Foreign Language Publishing House, 1955), 40–41.