OCTOBER 23 2007 09:28h

Books That Killed Millions


We bring you our selection of books that changed the world and because of which the bloodiest wars were waged.

To the mention of books, the first association for many is fiction, poetry or simply school literature. But books are not just crime novels, confessions of rock starlets and stars, prose in jeans and other literary genres we buy or borrow in libraries.

Between their covers books often carry ideas that are provocative, that topple systems and lead to wars. Today this role has been assumed by the radio, television and the Internet, although they do have their restrictions. The radio can be controlled, television requires technical knowledge to start, the Internet, if you do have a computer, can be controlled via IP addresses.

But a book is relatively easy to make, almost everyone can read nowadays and, if it is small, can be hidden from wondering eyes. Contrary to its technically more advanced relatives, the book is very difficult to eliminate and control.

If we have not managed to convince you by now how much books can be influential, we bring you our selection of books that changed the world and because of which the bloodiest of wars in history were waged.

  1. Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler

The book the future German Fuehrer wrote as he spent time in jail due to an unsuccessful coup in 1923. The first part of the book was published in 1925 and the second a year later. By the end of World War Two the book was sold or handed out in ten million copies. In Mein Kampf Hitler touched on all the issues he is remembered for today, including his hatred towards the Jews, the destruction of communism (justifying the attack on the Bolshevik Russia) and Arian Germans who are superior to other people (and should, therefore, rule the world). The book became the foundation of Nazi politics and had a special issue for soldiers on the front lines so they would know why they were fighting.

Controversial idea: Germans are superior to other peoples and should rule them.

Death toll: It is believed that 70 million people died in World War II caused by Hitler.

  1. Bible 

The book that founded three great world religions and on which, whether they would like to admit so or not, all societies of the West were founded. The book took millenniums to write.  It originates from ancient Jewish texts that, at least as far as Christians are concerned, make up the foundation of the Old Testament. The book speaks of the salvation of the Jewish people and their arrival to the Promised Land, while the New Testament speaks about Jesus and his sacrifice for the sins of the world. Despite its relatively benign content, the text became one of the chief incentives for some of the biggest massacres mankind has seen.

Controversial idea: Jesus is not a common prophet, but the son of God.

Death toll: If we stick only to the Crusades which lasted a good 200 years, the death toll according to some estimates, is a respectable five million.

  1. Communist Manifesto, Carl Marx 

Although he was to write his capital work, The Capital, several decades later, Marx stirred up a storm with this political tractate and his famous slogan “Workers of the world, unite!” Though Engels is often cites as the co-author, he himself admitted that Marx’s ideas carried the entire book. The manifesto was created as an attempt to spread and popularise the stigmatised communist movement. The book speaks about a class society comprised of workers and the ruling bourgeois class. And as Marx writes about the working class that takes over rule of the society, he never shed light onto what happened after the workers’ victory. This small omission gave rise to various interpretations that, in turn, led to various views of communism once it became a reality.

Controversial idea: The workers are the bearers of society and should, therefore, rule it.

Death toll: If we stick only to the Cold War, the death toll amounts to 3,5 million by some estimates. The real number of those killed by the lengthy political crisis is probably even higher.

  1. Malleus Maleficarum, Heinrich Kramer and Jacob Sprenger 

Issued for the first time in Germany in 1487, the book “The Hammer of Witches” soon became one of the most popular handbooks for witch hunts. The purpose of the book was to convince the reader that witches do exist, that they are more often women than men and it offered ways of recognising and judging them. Although the book was soon prohibited by the Pope, it did not stand in its way of serving as one of the chief weapons of true faith. The printing machine was invented only several decades earlier and the book was printed 29 times in the following centuries. The book was used in numerous proceedings against women that were pronounced witches and helped the mass hysteria for which we most remember that period of human history.

Controversial idea: Women are of more feeble mind and therefore more prone to succumb to the devil’s influence.

Death toll: Even though it is unrealistic to blame all the victims of witch hunts on one book, the number of almost nine million people killed, mostly women, is very realistic.

  1. The Art of War, Sun Tzu 

Written in the sixth century B.C., this book is considered the ultimate guide to all conflicts. In his thirteen chapters Tzu enumerates all elements a true strategist should master to secure prevalence on the battle field. The book is today used in finances and some companies list it as compulsive literature for their head staff. Although it never directly caused conflicts, the Art of War helped plan many wars. It is said that Napoleon started losing the war in Russia when he stopped reading the ancient Chinese book.

Controversial idea: War is of crucial importance for the state and should not be taken lightly.

Death toll: The book that was used by some of the greatest military strategists is stained by the blood of an endless number of victims.