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Notes and Reflections on Books and Media

by Hannah Leitheiser

Poor People

Mein Kampf

Adolph Hitler

1926

Link

2017-03-12

"The country lad who migrates to the big city feels attracted by what has been described as easy work--which it may be in reality--and few working hours. He is especially entranced by the magic glimmer spread over the big cities....In most cases he comes to town with a little money in his pocket and for the first few days he is not discouraged if he should not have the good fortune to find work. But if he finds a job and then loses it in a little while, the case is much worse. To find work anew, especially in winter, is often difficult and indeed sometimes impossible. For the first few weeks life is still bearable He receives his out-of-work money from his trade union and is thus enabled to carry on. But when the last of his own money is gone and his trade union ceases to pay out because of the prolonged unemployment, then comes the real distress. He now loiters about and is hungry. Often he pawns or sells the last of his belongings. His clothes begin to get shabby and with the increasing poverty of his outward appearance he descends to a lower social level and mixes up with a class of human beings through whom his mind is now poisoned, in addition to his physical misery. Then he has nowhere to sleep and if that happens in winter, which is very often the case, he is in dire distress. Finally he gets work. But the old story repeats itself. A second time the same thing happens. Then a third time; and now it is probably much worse. Little by little he becomes indifferent to this everlasting insecurity. Finally he grows used to the repetition. Thus even a man who is normally of industrious habits grows careless in his whole attitude towards life and gradually becomes an instrument in the hands of unscrupulous people who exploit him for the sake of their own ignoble aims. He has been so often thrown out of employment through no fault of his own that he is now more or less indifferent whether the strike in which he takes part be for the purpose of securing his economic rights or be aimed at the destruction of the State, the whole social order and even civilization itself. Though the idea of going on strike may not be to his natural liking, yet he joins in it out of sheer indifference.

I saw this process exemplified before my eyes in thousands of cases. And the longer I observed it the greater became my dislike for that mammoth city which greedily attracts men to its bosom, in order to break them mercilessly in the end. When they came they still felt themselves in communion with their own people at home; if they remained that tie was broken.

I was thrown about so much in the life of the metropolis that I experienced the workings of this fate in my own person and felt the effects of it in my own soul. One thing stood out clearly before my eyes: It was the sudden changes from work to idleness and vice versa; so that the constant fluctuations thus caused by earnings and expenditure finally destroyed the 'sense of thrift for many people and also the habit of regulating expenditure in an intelligent way. The body appeared to grow accustomed to the vicissitudes of food and hunger, eating heartily in good times and going hungry in bad. Indeed hunger shatters all plans for rationing expenditure on a regular scale in better times when employment is again found. The reason for this is that the deprivations which the unemployed worker has to endure must be compensated for psychologically by a persistent mental mirage in which he imagines himself eating heartily once again. And this dream develops into such a longing that it turns into a morbid impulse to cast off all self-restraint when work and wages turn up again. Therefore the moment work is found anew he forgets to regulate the expenditure of his earnings but spends them to the full without thinking of to-morrow. This leads to confusion in the little weekly housekeeping budget, because the expenditure is not rationally planned. When the phenomenon which I have mentioned first happens, the earnings will last perhaps for five days instead of seven; on subsequent occasions they will last only for three days; as the habit recurs, the earnings will last scarcely for a day; and finally they will disappear in one night of feasting.

Often there are wife and children at home. And in many cases it happens that these become infected by such a way of living, especially if the husband is good to them and wants to do the best he can for them and loves them in his own way and according to his own lights. Then the week's earnings are spent in common at home within two or three days. The family eat and drink together as long as the money lasts and at the end of the week they hunger together. Then the wife wanders about furtively in the neighbourhood, borrows a little, and runs up small debts with the shopkeepers in an effort to pull through the lean days towards the end of the week. They sit down together to the midday meal with only meagre fare on the table, and often even nothing to eat. They wait for the coming payday, talking of it and making plans; and while they are thus hungry they dream of the plenty that is to come. And so the little children become acquainted with misery in their early years.

But the evil culminates when the husband goes his own way from the beginning of the week and the wife protests, simply out of love for the children. Then there are quarrels and bad feeling and the husband takes to drink according as he becomes estranged from his wife. He now becomes drunk every Saturday. Fighting for her own existence and that of the children, the wife has to hound him along the road from the factory to the tavern in order to get a few shillings from him on payday. Then when he finally comes home, maybe on the Sunday or the Monday, having parted with his last shillings and pence, pitiable scenes follow, scenes that cry out for God's mercy." - Mein Kampf, Adolph Hitler