German historians push for revision of 'Mein Kampf'

Say a thorough, academic presentation that places Hitler's work in historical context would be the best defense against radical right-wing groups and neo-Nazis.

hitler 88 (photo credit: )
hitler 88
(photo credit: )
German historians want Adolf Hitler's manifesto, Mein Kampf, to be republished in the country before the copyright lapses in 2015. Though widely available in the English-speaking world, the book's publication has been banned in Germany since World War II and its resale is tightly regulated. But German copyright law dictates that an author's work enter the public domain 70 years after his or her death, and that deadline is fast approaching. Hitler killed himself in his Berlin bunker on April 30, 1945. Before that anniversary, historians want Bavaria - which controls the copyright because Hitler's last official address was in Munich - to authorize an annotated version of Mein Kampf. They say a thorough, academic presentation that places Hitler's work in historical context would be the best defense against radical right-wing groups and neo-Nazis who might want to use the book to advance racist agendas. "The legends and myths connected with this book should be destroyed once and for all," said Hans-Christian Taeubrich, director of the Documentation Center at the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg, the Bavarian city where the Nazis staged some of their most monstrous gatherings. Taeubrich envisions a joint project between his center, prominent historians and the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. The institute's director, Horst Moeller, has also called for Mein Kampf to be annotated and republished. The work should begin soon, says Taeubrich, because it might take up to three years to illuminate all the sources Hitler used in his rambling and highly subjective tome. "This work has not been done before," said Taeubrich. "Everyone knows this book and what it symbolizes, but no one has recorded where his inspiration came from." Bavarian lawmakers have routinely turned down calls to reprint the book for fear that it might be misused by right-wing extremists and out of respect for the victims of the Holocaust. A representative of Bavaria's finance ministry, which manages the copyright, told a German radio station last week that the decision not to publish the book was "commonly accepted and highly valued, especially by the Jewish community, domestically and abroad." The ministry did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on Tuesday. The general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Stephan Kramer, told The Associated Press he did not object to work on a new academic edition. "In principle, I'd rather see the book with commentary than printed in a normal version, or made available on the Internet," Kramer said. Hitler wrote the 700-page book - its English translation is "My Struggle" - after he was jailed in the aftermath of the failed Beer Hall Putsch in 1923. After the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s, the book became a best-seller that made Hitler rich. Copies of it were given free to every German soldier and newlywed couple, bolstering circulation that reached around 10 million copies. Mein Kampf was banned from publication after World War II. Possession and resale of old copies in Germany is legal, but highly regulated. And while the book is widely available in translations, including Arabic, Russian and Japanese, Bavaria has sought to block it from publication and sale in some countries. Last year the state filed suit against the owner of a Polish bookstore who was selling German-language copies of the book on-line without permission. The book has sold well in translation in the Arab world and in Turkey, where it became a surprise best-seller in 2005.