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Mein Kampf

DW staff (kjb)
April 25, 2008

The Documentation Center at the former Nazi party grounds in Nuremberg has called for a commentated version of Adolf Hitler's infamous book "Mein Kampf" to be published before the copyright runs out.

Original copy of Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf"
Hitler's book, first published in 1925, lays out his ideologyImage: dpa

Resistance against publishing a critical edition of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") is a "false taboo," said historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, curator of the Documentation Center in Nuremberg, this week in an interview with German radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

It is currently illegal to publish any form of the book in Germany under a law that bans National-Socialist propaganda. Annotated versions of other texts by Hitler and other Nazi leaders are in print, however.

Hitler considered himself a writer and composed all his speeches himself, said Wehler, adding that it can reasonably be presumed that the Nazi leader wrote most of "Mein Kampf" himself as well.

"Since he had a terribly ruinous effect on world history, these parts should be kept in a critical edition," the historian said.

Copyright expires soon

Hitler giving a speech
Hitler wrote his own speechesImage: AP

The copyright for "Mein Kampf" expires 70 years after Hitler's death, in 2015. Some, including the board of trustees at the Nuremberg Documentation Center have said that publishing an annotated copy now could help prevent neo-Nazis from taking advantage of the lifting of the copyright and misusing the text for propaganda purposes.

Wehler, however, said he didn't think right-wing radicals would be very interested in the text. "Every skinhead is one too many, but there's not a very passionate Hitler readership in this country," he said.

The annotated edition would mainly be sold to universities, libraries and academic institutions.

The Documentation Center's board of trustees said it has already taken its request for the publication to Bavaria's Prime Minister Guenter Beckstein, since the state's Finance Ministry was granted possession of the copyright by the Allied forces after World War II.

The Munich Institute of Contemporary History would likely be commissioned to publish the volume, which could take several years to complete.

Jewish leader in favour of publication

A top figure in Germany's Jewish Community said Friday he wants Hitler's book to be republished, but together with an accompanying commentary.

"In principle I am in favor of the book being made public with a commentary," both in normal book form and on the Internet, Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews, told Deutschlandfunk radio.

Kramer said the Central Council of Jews was ready to help write the commentary.