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Historians push for new German edition of 'Mein Kampf'

Naomi Kresge · 28 Apr 2008, 14:32

Published: 28 Apr 2008 14:32 GMT+02:00

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The documentation centre at the former Nazi parade grounds in Nuremberg threw its weight behind a new academic edition this month, centre Director Hans-Christian Täubrich told The Local on Monday.

The move gave new momentum to a standing request by the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich to reissue the book, a best-seller in Nazi Germany, with commentary.

Historians at both institutions say it is important a new academic edition be issued before the copyright on the book, held by the German state of Bavaria, expires in 2015, 70 years after Hitler's death. Once the book moves into the public domain, some historians fear German neo-Nazis could issue their own editions without repercussions.

"The most important thing is that this book be demystified," Täubrich said. "An edition with commentary would show how what he wrote was complete and utter nonsense."

The book is a key to understanding the way the Nazis used propaganda, Täubrich said, and an edition with commentary could show the historical roots of Hitler's anti-Semitism.

Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") in 1924, in part from a Bavarian jail. The book tells his life story to that point and calls for racial war to win more land for Aryan Germans and to fight against Jews and Communists.

Though excerpts of "Mein Kampf" have been published in Germany - and the entire book is widely available on the internet, in second-hand stores and abroad - Bavaria has rejected requests for a new German-language edition. Publishing Hitler's anti-Semitic polemic would be disrespectful to victims of the Holocaust, the Bavarian government has argued.

A spokeswoman for the Bavarian ministry of finance did not immediately return a call for comment to The Local on Monday.

A leader in the Jewish community in Germany told Deutschlandfunk radio last week he supports an academic edition of Hitler's book being made available both both in print and on the internet.

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"In general, I support making the book with commentary available to the public," said Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the German Jewish Council, adding that his group would like to take part in the publishing project.

Täubrich said an edition with commentary would take about three years of hard work to put together.

Dieter Pohl, a historian with the Institute of Contemporary History, told German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung the new edition would be 'hellishly complex'. Because of Hitler's ranting style and tendency to bend the facts, nearly every line in the book will require commentary, Pohl said.

Naomi Kresge (naomi.kresge@thelocal.de)

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