German historian wants Hitler's book republished
By Adam Williams and Ayhan Uyanik
Fri Jul 27, 2007
A German historian is campaigning to get Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" published in Germany for the first time since World War Two, warning that a delay could turn the controversial book into a sensation.
But his drive has been criticized by Jewish groups, who say publishing the book too early would offend Holocaust survivors and send the wrong signal about Germany.
Hitler dictated the tome while in prison in Bavaria following the failed Munich "Beer Hall" putsch of 1923. It outlines a doctrine of German racial supremacy and ambitions to annex vast areas of the Soviet Union.
First published in 1925, it was a standard text in German schools after Hitler won power in 1933.
Now only purchasers who can prove an academic purpose may secure a copy of "Mein Kampf." Otherwise, it is not available in Germany, as the copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, refuses to authorize the printing of new copies.
Bavaria's copyright, assigned to it by the Allies after World War Two, expires in 2015, after which time anyone will be able to publish the book.
Professor Horst Moeller, director of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History, says waiting until that date is risky.
"You can be sure it will be sold as a sensation," Moeller told Reuters.
He argues that the existing publishing ban gives the book a dangerous mystique and advocates the printing of a new annotated edition as soon as possible which would include critical commentary on the text itself.
This, he says, would prevent the book from creating a sensation when the ban is lifted in 2015.
"You could prevent that happening, if an academic edition of the book was already available," he said.
But professor Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Reuters he was opposed to the historian's plan.
"I believe it is the wrong decision to reprint this book," he said. "The danger I see is that there could be a misunderstanding if this book, which is highly symbolic, comes into publication with German help."
He is also worried that World War Two survivors might be offended by a decision to reprint a book promoting Hitler's hatred of Jews.
"Mein Kampf," which translates as "My Struggle," is available online and published in most countries, including Israel.