Since World War II, copyright holder Bavaria has blocked any reprints of the 1924 book, in which Hitler railed against the “Jewish peril” and set the philosophical framework for the Holocaust. The book is technically not illegal in Germany, but a reprint in German has not been issued in the country since the war to avoid reigniting hatred against Jews and other minority groups.
Bavaria holds the rights to Mein Kampf (lit. My Struggle) because Hitler was officially a resident of Munich when he died, but those rights expire at the end of 2015.
In 2012, Bavaria announced plans to publish an annotated version with historians’ commentary in 2016, citing “academic” purposes and to help “demystify” the text. While Bavaria’s finance minister Markus Soeder made clear at the time that the book is full of “nonsense” that had “catastrophic consequences,” he still advocated that the text be reprinted, as long as it would not be used to “incite hatred.”
However, this week, reacting to complaints from Holocaust survivors, the government of state premier Horst Seehofer redacted the announcement.
Bavaria stated instead that the “seditious” book must stay off the market and warned that any publishers who print it will face criminal charges — a move that was praised by Jewish groups.
Despite this, the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich said it had no plans to scrap the book project, which had already cost 500,000 euros ($688,000) in state funding.
“We are continuing the project,” an institute spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday. “We still think an annotated version makes sense, so that (Hitler’s text) is not thrown onto the market in its raw form, but presented within a framework.”
Several Bavarian legislators also complained that the Seehofer government had decided to torpedo the academic edition, a project the state parliament had originally supported.
The former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, told national news agency DPA that she backed efforts to stop any reprints of a book that was “steeped in hatred and contempt for humanity”.
She said the text was “one of the most inflammatory works ever written in this country” and — even though it is available abroad — in Germany it “must never be legally allowed to sneak back into the hands and minds of the people”.
Hitler started writing “Mein Kampf” in prison after his failed putsch of 1923. After his rise to power, millions of copies were published. From 1936, the Nazi state gave a copy to all newlyweds as a wedding gift.
Today, the book is still known as a symbol of hate and hate literature by dictators and terrorist groups. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un gave out the book to his officials earlier this year, citing the text as a “leadership manual.”