To publish or not to publish: an annotated Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in Germany

mein kampf indonesiaIf you google “Mein Kampf Hitler” as I just did, the very first site that comes up is the Hitler Historical Museum‘s full online publication of Hitler’s memoir written in prison in 1924, where he lays out his genocidal plans for the Jewish people. The website makes your stomach churn, with links to Nazi music, artwork, writings and speeches by Hitler, and to “myths and facts” which allegedly prove that the Holocaust could never have happened.

Neo-nazi, extreme right wing and Islamic web sites already publish Hitler’s writings. Furthermore, copies of Mein Kampf are available in book form all over the world. You can buy it on or for your Kindle. Mein Kampf in Arabic is a best seller in the Palestinian territories, in Turkey, and other parts of the Middle East, where its title is sometimes translated into “jihadi” or “my jihad”. The question is – should an annotated copy of the book be available for purchase – legally – in Germany?

Last week, the JTA reports, Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told German television that he would like the Central Council to help publish a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, critically annotated “to prevent neo-Nazis from profiting from it” and to “remove many of its false, persistent myths.”

Kramer is not the first to suggest a critical publication of Hitler’s memoir. In June, according to the JTA, the Bavarian minister of science and research advocated for publishing a “decently prepared and well-grounded critical edition” of Mein Kampf before neo-Nazis could publish the work when Bavaria’s rights expire. German Jewish author Rafael Seligmann expressed similar sentiments in 2004.

The printing rights have been in the hands of the state of Bavaria since Hitler’s death, and Bavaria has banned its publication in Germany and tried to prevent publication of the work elsewhere. However, the copyright expires in 2015 (70 years after Hitler’s death), thus making the work more widely available for publication.

Last week, the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich asked Bavaria for permission to reprint the work. Bavaria rejected the reprinting request.

Maybe the Institute has a point. When the copyright expires in 2015, why not be prepared with an annotated version of Mein Kampf so it can be taught in schools and universities in Germany and elsewhere? The Institute says publication of such an edition will take them several years of research and writing. Why wait until it is too late?

(Photo of Mein Kampf at a bookstore in Indonesia: Wikimedia Commons)