Alex Joffe: Sending "Mein Kampf" Back to School

Roundup: Talking About History

Alex Joffe is an archeologist and an historian.

Important literature can't be kept under wraps forever. A case in point is Mein Kampf.  The German state of Bavaria, which holds the German copyright, has blocked the book's publication within Hitler's homeland; as recently as 2010, the state went to court to prevent an unauthorized academic edition.  But in 2015, 70 years after the author's death, Bavaria's copyright will expire.  So, the state has announced plans to fund two new editions, the first in German since 1945, including critical commentary.  The aim, say Bavarian authorities, is to "demystify" Mein Kampf and make other editions "commercially unattractive."

The recent announcement was welcomed by, among others, representatives of Germany's Jews, who would prefer to see Mein Kampf remain under careful state control.

Like most classics, Mein Kampf is often cited but rarely read, especially by those who pass judgment on it; but the book deserves careful study.  It was published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, after Hitler emerged from the Bavarian prison in which he wrote it after his failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.  The work presents his life story, education, philosophy, and plans.  Its structure is immensely clever, beginning with a very modest snapshot of Hitler's family and early life.  Through this device Hitler poses as the German Everyman....

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