Should Germans Read ‘Mein Kampf’?

tags: Mein Kampf



Peter Ross Range is a journalist who writes frequently on Germany.

 Germany is once again passing through the wringer of its past. At issue this time are not the deeds but the words of Adolf Hitler and the planned republication of his infamous manifesto-as-autobiography, “Mein Kampf,” a book that has been officially suppressed in the country since the end of World War II.

But while the prospect of the Führer’s words circulating freely on the German market may shock some, it shouldn’t. The inoculation of a younger generation against the Nazi bacillus is better served by open confrontation with Hitler’s words than by keeping his reviled tract in the shadows of illegality.

Hitler wrote the first draft of his deeply anti-Semitic, race-based ideological screed in 1924, while in prison for leading a failed coup; by the time of his death 21 years later, it had sold 10 million copies.

Since then, although “Mein Kampf” has maintained a shadow presence — on the back shelves of used bookstores and libraries and, more recently, online — its copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, has refused to allow its republication, creating an aura of taboo around the book.

All that is about to change. Bavaria’s copyright expires at the end of 2015; after that, anyone can publish the book: a quality publisher, a mass-market pulp house, even a neo-Nazi group.

The release of “Mein Kampf” into Germany’s cultural bloodstream is sure to be a sensational moment. In a nation that still avidly buys books — and loves to argue in public — the book will again ignite painful intergenerational debates on talk shows and in opinion pages about how parents and grandparents let themselves be so blindly misled...



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