Scholars attempt to "defuse" Mein Kampf in annotated German version





Adolf Hitler's rambling magnum opus, Mein Kampf ("My Struggle") is considered a blueprint of the radical nationalist, pungently anti-Semitic vision that he would put into practice when the Nazis captured power in Germany, in 1933. It reflects his thinking so accurately that one German historian describes the book as "direct access to Hitler's brain."

In fact, the book's contents were considered potent and infectious enough that the postwar administration in Allied-occupied Germany banned its publication, a prohibition that German authorities maintained, and which is to remain in place until the end of 2015, when the copyright expires. What happens then is the object of intense discussion and soul-searching in Germany, where, 67 years after the war's end, freedom of speech is still curtailed when it promotes Nazi ideology....

Today there are still networks of right-wing extremists in Germany, as there are most everywhere in Europe. And in Germany, the state's rigorous prosecution of Nazi propaganda is accepted by most citizens. Just last year, Germans were shocked at revelations that a terrorist group calling itself the National Socialist Underground had murdered 10 people, nine of them immigrants. Polls attest that anti-Semitism still has currency among about 20 percent of Germans. That figure is not higher than elsewhere in Europe, but Germany is, after all, Germany....

The task of annotating Mein Kampf—including one for high-school students—is in the hands of a small team of historians at the prestigious Institute of Contemporary History, in Munich. The aim of the exercise, which will include critical introductions, is to "demystify" its messages.

"Mein Kampf is like a rusty old grenade. We want to remove its detonator," explains Christian Hartmann, who leads the Munich team. "We intend to defuse the book. This way it will lose its symbolic value and become what it really is: a piece of historical evidence—nothing more."...




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