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Angst as 'Mein Kampf' hits German bookstores

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A copy of "Mein Kampf" at the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich. Photo: DPA.
09:21 CET+01:00
New copies of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" will hit bookstores in Germany on Friday for the first time since the Second World War, unsettling Jewish community leaders as the copyright of the anti-Semitic manifesto expires.

The southern state of Bavaria was handed the copyright of the book in 1945, when the Allies gave it control of the main Nazi publishing house following Hitler's defeat.

For 70 years, it refused to allow the inflammatory tract to be republished out of respect for victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.

But "Mein Kampf" - which means "My Struggle" - fell into the public domain on January 1st.

Copies of an annotated version running to 2,000 pages prepared by German researchers were to go on sale on Friday, with the authors arguing that their version would serve to demystify the notorious rant, which in any case can be found just a few clicks away on the Internet.

The version by the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IFZ) has been in the works since 2009 and aims to "deconstruct and put into context Hitler's writing".

Retailing at €59 ($65), the book looks at key historical questions, the institute said, including: "How were his theses conceived? What objectives did he have? And most important: which counterarguments do we have, given our knowledge today of the countless claims, lies and assertions of Hitler?"

Education Minister Johanna Wanka has argued that such a version should be introduced to all classrooms across Germany, saying it would serve to ensure that "Hitler's comments do not remain unchallenged".

"Pupils will have questions and it is only right that these can be addressed in classes," she said.

But the Jewish community questioned whether it was necessary to propagate the incendiary text again.

'Poison cabinet of history'

Partly autobiographical, "Mein Kampf" outlines Adolf Hitler's ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. He wrote it in 1924 while he was imprisoned in Bavaria for treason after his failed Beer Hall Putsch.

The book set out two ideas that he put into practice as Germany's leader going into the Second World War: annexing neighbouring countries to gain "Lebensraum", or "living space", for Germans; and his hatred of Jews, which led to the Holocaust.

Some 12.4 million copies were published in Germany until 1945, some of which can be found in academic libraries.

Charlotte Knobloch, leader of the Jewish community in Munich, said she could not imagine seeing "Mein Kampf" in shop windows.

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Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, told AFP that not only would "Holocaust survivors be offended by the sale of the anti-Semitic work in bookstores again", but that he also failed to see a need for a critical edition.

"Unlike other works that truly deserve to be republished as annotated editions, 'Mein Kampf' does not," he said, arguing that academics and historians already have easy access to the text.

And even though it should be studied and German students taught about the devastating impact it had, Lauder said "the idea that to do so requires an annotated edition with thousands of pages of text is nonsense."

"Now, it would be best to leave 'Mein Kampf' where it belongs: the poison cabinet of history."

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