Bavaria to lift ban on 'Mein Kampf' in 2015

Wed, Apr 25, 2012, 01:00

After seven decades in political quarantine the Nazi leader’s political tract, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) is to be republished in an official, annotated edition in 2015.

When Hitler killed himself in Berlin in 1945, his property was seized by the Allies and later transferred to the Bavarian finance ministry in Munich, where the Nazi leader was registered as residing at the time of his death.

Since then the ministry, as copyright holder to all of Hitler’s written works, has refused all approaches or requests for a new edition of Mein Kampf — until yesterday.

“We want to make clear through publication that this is nonsense, though nonsense with fatal consequences,” said Markus Söder, Bavarian finance minister.

For years German historians have argued that the ministry’s position gave the work a mystical reputation it did not deserve. The finance ministry appears to have been swayed by that argument, as well as fears that neo-Nazis would flood the market with their own public domain edition in 2016.

With that deadline looming, finance ministry officials investigated extending the copyright beyond the standard 70 years after an author’s death. Despite the work’s unique reputation, legal opinion said that such a move would not stand up in court.

Now historians at Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History have already begun work on the new edition, as well as a special digest for schools.

The Bavarian state governments hope this edition, earmarked for publication in 2015, will exhaust any residual curiosity about the work.

Bavaria’s continued blockade was criticised as antiquated. Original copies are also legally available in second-hand bookshops and digital editions are freely available on the internet.

Available in 14 languages, the English-language edition of the book was first published in 1933 and remains widely available outside Germany — both in modern translation and in a facsimile of a 1943 German language edition. An audio book version is also available to download.

Last January a Munich court banned an attempt by a British company to publish extracts of the book as part of its “Zeitungszeugen” (Newspaper witness) series of annotated newspaper reprints.

During Hitler’s lifetime, Mein Kampf was reprinted 10,000 times: a print run of just 22,000 and a final print run of 12.5 million in 1945. An estimated 68 million copies were distributed during the 12 years of the Third Reich, most as free propaganda.

Hitler wrote the book while serving time in a Munich prison in 1924 for his failed putsch. The first volume appeared in 1925, the second a year later. Conscious of its stylistic weaknesses — modern historians view it as nearly unreadable — the dictator worked with many editors to produce revised editions of the work.

Yesterday’s decision could see other Nazi works being republished, including a lesser-known Hitler book from 1928 and the diaries of his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.