What is the Big Lie?

Ed: anti-Semitic following sentences of this excerpt from “Mein Kampf” were removed. They are untrue, and also don’t add anything to the point. Adolf Hitler was a bad person and did horrible things like killing 12 million civilians in camps, (I prefer the higher total) among many other horrid things. Adolf also loved dogs and was a vegetarian. One of my key principles is that someone’s bad behavior does not disqualify everything they say. Thinking otherwise is an attitude for a propagandist and a censor, which in my mind might as well just be Hitler himself. This principle also means that Hitler could, on occasion, say things that are true, like the quote below.

All this was inspired by the principle – which is quite true in itself – that in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying. These people know only too well how to use falsehood for the basest purposes.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)

Historical Notes

Ed: If I write the following paragraphs in a way that repeats the obvious (to you), remember that someone who doesn’t know these facts will someday read this. Be patient.

Mein Kampf (My Struggle in English) was partially written while Hitler was in Landsberg Prison in 1924, and partially after his release in 1925. Hitler had been jailed for a failed coup or putsch in Bavaria in 1923. In this book, Hitler outlined his conception of anti-Semitism and the concept of lebensraum or “living space”, involving invasion and subjugation of peoples in the East, specifically Slavs including Poles and Russians. It is the author’s view that this was a blueprint for Hitler’s behavior once he achieved dictatorial power in Germany in 1933.

Some people credit Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda chief, with this concept of the “Big Lie”, but the Big Lie actually derives from Mein Kampf and was credited in that book with convincing the German people that their soldiers had been defeated at the front during World War I, whereas Hitler asserted that a “stab in the back” was committed by Communists and Jews against the German Army and therefore caused its defeat.

Historically, I believe this untrue – the Germans were well on their way to losing the First World War on the battlefield on Armistice Day in 1918, but Hitler was being politically expedient to argue this point as he did in the 20s and 30s. Creating his own Big Lie. In the process, though, he told us the truth about his thinking – and a truth about human nature – in the paragraph fragment above.

My belief is that we should accept this wisdom as we accept many attributed Stalin quotes that ring true today, e.g. A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic. In Hitler’s case, he wrote a book that we can pin down his quotes from. In retrospect, too bad Stalin didn’t.