Hitler's Mein Kampf now a bestseller in Germany

By Justin Huggler

Hitler's Mein Kampf - A critical edition in a book store in Munich, Germany. Photo / AP
Hitler's Mein Kampf - A critical edition in a book store in Munich, Germany. Photo / AP

Mein Kampf has become a bestseller in Germany once again, 92 years after it was first published.

A new, heavily annotated academic edition has sold more than 85,000 copies since it was published last year despite weighing in at almost 2000 pages and costing $122.

However, the sales are unlikely to be a sign of a resurgent German far-right or a rehabilitation of the racist text, but more to do with the fact that it is the first time Mein Kampf has been published in German since 1945.

The rambling screed, which contains Adolf Hitler's thoughts on everything from eugenics and race theory to syphilis and the movies, continues to attract a morbid fascination and remains a bestseller in several countries.

But while it sold in translation around the world, publication of the original German text was blocked by German authorities for 70 years.

So dangerous was the book considered to be that copies in the Bavarian state library were kept in a "poison cabinet" and readers had to be vetted before being access. Mein Kampf was never officially banned in Germany but publication was prevented by the Bavarian Government, which had the copyright.

That copyright expired a year ago and the Institute for Contemporary History, an academic publisher, brought out an edition with extensive annotations criticising Hitler's racist ideology. Only 4000 copies were originally printed, but the publisher has now had to order a sixth print run.

While the German authorities agreed to publication for academic purposes, the Bavarian Justice Ministry has said it will prosecute anyone who tries to publish the text without the critical annotations under hate speech laws.

A far-right publisher announced what it called "an unabridged edition without the good guy comments" last year, but prosecutors say the book appears not to have gone on sale.

The republication of Mein Kampf has not been without controversy. Levi Salomon, a spokesman for Germany's Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against anti-Semitism, called it a "book of hatred". Florian Sepp, the Bavarian state librarian, said the book was "too dangerous for the general public".

But the Institute for Contemporary History denied its edition had made Hitler's ideology more socially acceptable.

"On the contrary, discussion about Hitler's world view and how to deal with his propaganda has offered the opportunity to look at its disastrous roots and consequences at a time when authoritarian political ideas and right-wing slogans are once again gaining followers," said Andreas Wirsching, the institute's director.

Sales of the new edition are dwarfed by the book's success in Hitler's lifetime, when it was a standard wedding gift. In 1933, when Hitler became German Chancellor, it sold more than one million copies.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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