Sunday, 12 June 2016

Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' seeing surge of popularity in Europe

Rick Noak, 'Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' seeing surge of popularity in Europe', The Washington Post June 12, 2016
Few would have imagined that Adolf Hitler’s autobiography “Mein Kampf” would again become a bestseller in the 21st century. But that’s exactly what happened earlier this year with the expiration of a German state copyright that had been used to prohibit reprinting of the book. [...] “Mein Kampf” has been available in German bookstores since January – but only in an annotated version that is supposed to point out inconsistencies and lies in Hitler’s arguments. There are more than 3,000 additional comments in that version. According to German law, publishing the book without annotations would be considered seditious. But that is what right-wing publishing company Schelm is now planning to do. Prosecutors are investigating the plans and could file charges even before the book gets published. [...] If published, the unannotated book would primarily have to be sold online, as most German bookstore chains would likely refuse to put it on their shelves. The majority of German bookstores had ordered only a handful of copies of the annotated version in January, despite massive interest among readers, which later made it a bestseller within weeks.
Here's an article (in Polish) about the January edition . There has recently been criticism of an Italian newspaper which has distributed copies of the book
The Italian newspaper Il Giornale distributed copies of the book to readers of its Saturday edition – a decision that drew heavy criticism from Jewish groups in the country.[...] But the center-right daily, which is owned by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, says its version of the text was annotated by an Italian historian and was distributed with the goal of preventing the mistakes of the past from being repeated. [...] Alessandro Sallusti, the paper’s director, in an editorial said [...] “Because with certain winds that blow here and there in Europe and in the Middle East it is necessary to understand what shapes the evil can take – in order not to repeat a fatal mistake,” Sallusti wrote, referring to Hitler’s rise to power.
I wonder how many of the critics have actually read the book. Actually going through it with a commentary would indeed reveal the true nature and worth of the "ideas" it represents. More of a mystery is why contemporary readers did not see through it straight away. On the one hand, I think the book needs to be read, people need to think about it, giving it the status of forbidden literature simply increases the power it may exercise over feeble minds. On the other hand, there is the issue that not everybody who gets a copy would read it with the same critical eye. These people for example:

One wonders how literate and critically-thinking any of them actually are. But then is that sufficient reason to postulate a paternalistic state which would keep the book from the public domain? In fact, you can download copies as an ebook from the Internet, get secondhand copies of bootleg editions in markets.

There was no Polish edition of the book before 1939. Similarly there were no publications during the period of the People's Republic and the book was forbidden and withdrawn from libraries. After 1989 there were in fact just four editions in Polish. The total number of copies of the Polish versions is not known, but probably is less than ten thousand for all of the editions together:
  • SCRIPTA MANENT publisher, Krosno 1992, ISBN 83-900029-0-6 – translated from the german.
  • Werset publisher, Kraków 1992, ISBN 83-900029-0-6 – translation from the English translation (!) with stylistic corrections, for example unnecessary repetition is cut.
    XXL 2005
  • XXL Publisher – "Wydawnictwo Książki Niezwykłej”, 2005, ISBN 83-921822-0-0.
  • A fourth publisher UZVARA in Daugavapils (Latvia) published a translation in Polish. This appeared in at least two different formats (covers and endpages) looking very much like they were intended to mimic the original 1940s edition.
In 2005 the publisher XXL was taken to court by Bavaria for the breach of their copyright over the text of Mein Kampf. They demanded the book be withdrawn from sale. The case dragged on for a few years, and in 2009 the publisher received a three months suspended sentence and a fine of 10000 zloties and the whole remaining stock of the edition was destroyed.

There is not currently an edition of the Polish translation of this book in print.

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