“Mein Kampf,” Adolf Hitler’s cringe-inducing, partly autobiographical justification of his genocidal ideology, will hit German bookstores Friday, even as questions over the need to propagate the incendiary text persist. The publication of the book comes just days after it entered the public domain in the European country, when the copyright held by the German state of Bavaria expired.
“To find 'Mein Kampf' in the windows of bookstores would be ... I just can't imagine it. I hope this will be prevented for going against sedition laws,” Charlotte Knobloch, a prominent German Jewish leader, told Voice of America, echoing concerns among the Jewish community that the book might serve as a reminder of the evil it inspired.
"Mein Kampf," or My Struggle, was written by the German despot in the 1920s, mostly while languishing in prison. Academics argue that reading the tome is essential to understanding the Holocaust and demystifying Hitler’s brutal rule. Even prior to the republication of a heavily annotated version of the book, second-hand hard copies of the text from the pre-1945 Nazi era have been available in bookshops in Germany and online.
The version of the book that hits bookstores Friday was annotated by researchers at the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich, and aims to “deconstruct and put into context Hitler’s writing.”
The book looks at key historical questions, such as, “how were his theses conceived? What objectives did he have? And most important: which counterarguments do we have, given our knowledge today of the countless claims, lies and assertions of Hitler?” the institute reportedly said.
Those who argue in favor of republication of the book — which is banned in several countries, including Austria and the Netherlands, but has long been freely available in many others, such as the U.S. and India — say that a properly annotated edition could curb any future rise in neo-Nazi and far-right propaganda, especially in the current context where a growing influx of refugees in the country has fueled fierce debate.
“'Mein Kampf' can't be read like a bible. It has to be put into context, with sociologists and historians,” Timo Schnirlein, a German engineer, told Voice of America. “If we do it like that, it will no longer have a negative influence on the public, compared to what we see today with [the anti-immigrant group] Pegida for instance, who quote 'Mein Kampf' without thinking.”