Germans may soon be able to do something that had been prohibited in their country since 1945: buy a copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, one of the most controversial books of the 20th century.
With the copyright set to expire in 2015, German officials hope that publishing an annotated, educational version of Mein Kampf, with notes on the dangerous implications of the racist ideology it outlines, will help to demystify the book and prevent Neo-Nazis or any right-wing extremists from capitalizing on the publication in the future.
Although publication of the text has never been technically outlawed, the southern German state of Bavaria has controlled the copyright since the end of the Second World War and has intentionally prohibited its publication.
After long discussions with both advocates and opponents, Der Spiegel, a well-known German newsmagazine, reported that Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Söder had decided to publish an educational version of the book.
The expiration of the copyright in three years' time could lead to more young people reading 'Mein Kampf', Söder said on Tuesday, announcing the decision to publish a school version. We want to make clear what nonsense is in there, he explained. The Bavarian government wants to show, by adding notes that are easy for all young people to understand, what a worldwide catastrophe this dangerous body of thought led to.
Continue Reading Below
But how are Germans reacting?
Many are shocked by this decision, especially since displaying the swastika and other Nazi symbols remains illegal in Germany and punishable by up to three years behind bars.
Furthermore, not everyone believes that this preemptive move to publish is a good idea, or that any annotation could possibly explain Hitler's extreme and dangerous ideas.
I think the idea is absurd, Wolfgang Benz, head of the Center for Antisemitism Research (ZfA) in Berlin, told Der Spiegel. How can you annotate an 800-page monologue exposing Hitler's insane worldview? After every single line you would have to write, 'Hitler is wrong here,' and then 'Hitler is completely off the rails here,' and so on.
The neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists will publish it anyway once the copyright expires, Benz added.
According to the BBC, Germany does not plan to outlaw the book's publication once the copyright expires unless it is used to incite racial hatred.
Others, however, are not worried about publication. Der Spiegel also sought the opinion of Salomon Korn, the vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, who feels that the book is so poorly written it could hardly have much influence on anyone anyway.
It's so badly written, he said, with such a mishmash of illogical ideas, that any sensible reader would simply throw it aside.