I think it was St. Catherine of Siena who, having seen a devil, said she would rather walk on burning coals barefoot than see it again, so hideous was it. One can get a glimmer of her experience by reading "Mein Kampf." It is as if Hitler were already in hell when he wrote it, beckoning others to join him.

The age of mass education is also the age of the pseudo-intellectual, armed with the pseudo-sciences of ideology. Hitler is a good example, He had a nodding acquaintance with ideas, and his prose is sprinkled with echoes of better thinkers and with the terminology of German professors (an sich -- as such -- is a particular favoite of his);

Yet he despises the German "mania for objectivity," one of the few manias he finds uncongenial. On this point he is quite shrewd: propaganda, he contends, must be one-sided to be effective. He thinks Germany lost the First World War largely because of poor morale, and he thinks the German habit of presenting all sides vitiated its will to fight. In a war of words, the honest man is at a disadvantage. If he concedes faults when his enemy doesn't, he seems worse, or at least weak. This was a lesson Hitler never forgot. His successors haven't forgotten it either.

"Mein Kampf" is propaganda masquerading as thought. In a sense, its racism is a veneer for its anti-Semitism. Not that Hitler is subtle about hating Jews: with cumulative obscenity he likens them to every species of vermin. And yet he does so with an undercurrent of defensiveness. He is surer about his hatred than about his reasons: his racism is the attempt to make a predilection look like a science. He insists that his anti-Semitism is not a prejudice but a conclusion, the fruit of experience and study. So he alternates foul invectives about the smell of Jews with grandiose professional talk about race and pure blood.

But if one race were really inferior to another, there would be no reason to hate it. Dogs are inferior to men, but men don't on that account kick puppies. If Jews typically behaved the way Hitler says they do, they would be, on the whole, bad men; but that would be no reason to persecute innocent Jews. If, on the other hand, Jews couldn't help behaving like that, it would be sensible to segregate them but absurd to blame them. One may fear wolves, but not censure them. Racism, clearly, is not a science; it is an excuse.

But even Hitler gives signs of bad conscience. Though he insists the Jews have always brought their troubles on themselves, he refers to medieval persecutions as "excesses" -- this from the man who would dwarf those persecutions! At least he admits that murder is an excess. If he really believed his own doctrines, he would see nothing excessive about killing "vermin." Nor, later, would he have concealed his own killings.

It is instructive that Hitler's neo-Nazi admirers are torn between praising the Holocaust and denying that it occurred. They are rather like those defenders of the Rosenbergs who deny that the Rosenbergs betrayed their country while holding that the country deserved to be betrayed. How awkward to hold an act laudable while claiming innocence of committing it.

An illogic like Hitler's bedevils Marxism. Determinists have no right to be indignant. If man is a mere economic product acting out of economic interests, why blame capitalists for their deeds? And if traditional morality is merely "bourgeois," why defend communism against charges of violating it? Class purges follow logically from Marxism just as genocide follows from Nazism. It makes sense, in a grisly way, to shoot people by the truckload. It makes no sense to deny that it is done.

But "scientific" socialism, like "scientific" racism, is an excuse for hatred. It fanatically imputes all virtue to one side, all vice to the other. Professorial noises that obscure this are mere public-relations work. The Communist press, from Pravda to The Daily World, is tonally akin to "Mein Kampf" -- a summons to hell. We have yet to learn how to answer it.