Twice a wedding gift, Mein Kampf makes it to Alton bookstore



I love books but harbor keen animosity for a particular book that recently made its way to my Second Reading Book Shop. It’s a German-language copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” (“My Struggle”) that was published in Nazi Germany.

Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” while serving time in Landsberg Prison for his role in the failed 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch,” when the Nazis attempted to seize power in Munich. The book was originally published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926. Hitler gave the book the working title of “Four and a Half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice,” but was persuaded to change it to the much easier-to-remember “My Struggle.” Sales were slow until Hitler seized power in Germany in 1933. “Mein Kampf” then became the Bible of that nation.

The copy I acquired bears a 1941 printing date, which means it was published during World War II. It bears three inscriptions: one printed and the other two handwritten. The printed inscription, which is in German, translates as: “To the newlywed couple with best wishes for a happy and blessed marriage, presented by the city administration of Düren.” In other words, this copy of Hitler’s hate-filled screed was given by the government of the German city of Düren to a local couple as a wedding gift. This inscription includes a handwritten date – July 31, 1942 – and the signature of Düren’s Bürgermeister. The newlywed couple’s names are not recorded anywhere in the book.

This gift was no fluke. According to Heather Whipps’ “How ‘Mein Kampf’ Changed the World,” every couple that married in Nazi Germany received a copy of Hitler’s book.


The handwritten inscriptions in this copy, however, provide a refreshing counterbalance to the realization that this disgusting book was a wedding present. Both inscriptions are in English and presumably written by members of the Allied forces.

The first inscription reads: “Germany February ‘45. To: John H. Carter ‘Sonny.’ ” The insciption is unsigned. Keep in mind that, while Nazi Germany was in its death throes on that date, the war was still in progress.

The second inscription is signed by this “Sonny” himself, joyfully dated: “7 May ‘45” and followed by these words: “Complete Surrender of Germany.” What little remained of Nazi Germany indeed surrendered on that day. Gen. Alfred Jodl, who served as Chief-of-Staff of Germany’s High Command, signed a document at Reims, France, that unconditionally surrendered all German forces to the Allies. Tried and convicted of war crimes at Nuremberg, Jodl was executed just a year later.

Sonny’s note reads: “With sincere regards to your many wonderful letters, and respect to you and family, you have really been wonderful to me. I only hope and pray that my future casts no ill reflections upon your person and character as I have tried not in the past. Accept me as I am, what I have tried to be or pray to be in the future. Sincerely I say ‘I love you and all,’ with like respect as my own family, and always will regardless. Sincerely Always, ‘Sonny’ “

“Sonny” probably mailed off this book while he was still in Europe. We can only hope that he experienced a joyful reunion with this unnamed person at some point in the future.

It’s interesting to speculate about the fate of the couple who received this book as a wedding present. The groom probably served in Germany’s armed forces. On Nov. 16, 1944 – two years and four months after this couple’s wedding – Düren was completely destroyed by Allied bombing. Of its 22,000 residents, 3,000 were killed.

Somehow, this copy of “Mein Kampf” survived the war. We have no way of knowing whether that long-ago newlywed couple survived as well.

John J. Dunphy is an author, the Godfrey 15th Precinct Democratic Committeeperson and recording secretary for the Godfrey Democrats.

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