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Is It Time To Republish Mein Kampf in Germany?

By Dermot McEvoy -- Publishers Weekly, 8/1/2007 8:14:00 AM




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The copyright to Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (My Struggle, translated) belongs to the German state of Bavaria and expires on December 31, 2015. Bavaria does not allow the book to be reprinted, although possession of Mein Kampf is not illegal in Germany.

Although the expiration of copyright is eight years away, Horst Möller, a German historian and director of the Munich Institute of Contemporary History, has stoked raw emotions by calling for the book to be published in a scholarly edition before the expiration of the copyright, Reuters reported this week. Möller’s thesis is that with the expiration of the copyright and the book reverting to the public domain there will be a feeding frenzy among publishers that may bring undeserved sensationalism to Hitler’s anti-Semitic work. He believes it’s best to publish a carefully annotated edition before 2015 that will expose Hitler’s theories as bogus. "You can be sure it will be sold as a sensation," in 2015, Möller told Reuters. "You could prevent that happening," said Möller, "if an academic edition of the book was already available."

Möller went on to tell Matthias Hannemann, according to Eurotopics.net, that "Such an edition wouldn’t be easy reading. This won’t be something for neo-Nazis, whose reading skills are likely to be limited anyway. We must try to prevent the purely commercial use of this work in the future... As long as a carefully annotated version of Mein Kampf is not available there will be no end to the frequently simple-minded speculation about the contents of the book. A scholarly edition could serve to dispel the strange myths which surround Mein Kampf. It would be an act of political cleansing to prove the poor quality of this nonetheless effective piece of drivel."

Others, however, disagree. Professor Salomon Korn, the vice president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, is against the idea of a preemptive, authoritative publication. "I believe it is the wrong decision to reprint this book," he told Reuters. "The danger I see is that there could be a misunderstanding if this book, which is highly symbolic, comes into publication with German help."

Mein Kampf
is illegal in Austria and the Netherlands. Sales of the book are forbidden in France unless they are a specially annotated historical edition. In 1992 it was republished in Sweden and in a case that went all the way to the Swedish Supreme Court, it was ruled that the copyright could not be owned by the state of Bavaria because the original publishing house was defunct. The Court basically said that the work was already in the public domain.

In the past decade Mein Kampf has been a bestseller not only in the Palestinian Authority, but also in Turkey as well, selling over 100,000-copies in two months in 2005.

Israel translations, except for research or academic purposes, are not allowed. However, there have been no prosecutions for the sale of the book.

Its main publisher in the United States going back to the 1930s has been Houghton Mifflin. They first secured rights in 1933 and published translations in 1939 and again in 1943—Mein Kampf was even a BOMC selection—before the copyright to the book was seized by the United States government during World War II. In conjunction with the U.S. government, Houghton Mifflin continued to publish Mein Kampf in hardcover until 1979 when they bought the royalty rights back for $37,254.

Houghton Mifflin’s publication of Mein Kampf for over 70 years has not been without controversy. In 2000, U.S. News & World Report published an article by David Whitman called "Money from a Madman: Houghton Mifflin’s Mein Kampf Profits." In the article Whitman wrote: "Industry sources say that after subtracting Houghton Mifflin’s costs and bookseller discounts, the publisher probably netted, on average, $1 to $2.50 a book, or $300,000 to $700,000 since 1979."

Since that article was written in 2000 Houghton Mifflin has changed its policy. "Houghton Mifflin donates 100% of the profits generated from Mein Kampf to support non-profit organizations whose educational mission is to promote racial and religious understanding," a Houghton Mifflin spokesperson told PW. "Organizations that have received grants from the Houghton Mifflin Fund for Racial and Religious Understanding include the: Anti-Defamation League, Educators for Social Responsibility, Facing History and Ourselves, National Conference for Community and Justice, and Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance."

Mein Kampf sells about 28,000 copies a year in paperback for Houghton Mifflin. It has sold approximately 560,000 copies since the 1970s.

 



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