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'Mein Kampf' debate in Bavaria

December 11, 2013

An institute has said it plans to proceed with an annotated edition of Adolf Hitler’s "Mein Kampf". Bavaria's government announced Tuesday that it would suppress publication of the book after a 2015 copyright expires.

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Image: picture-alliance/dpa

After Bavaria's government announced Tuesday that it would suppress publication of "Mein Kampf" beyond 2015, Germany's Institut für Zeitgeschichte vowed Wednesday that it was still planning to complete an annotated edition - a project fomerly funded by the state.

In part to beat out any other editions when the book was scheduled to become publishable for all starting in 2016, Bavaria's government last year tasked the institute, which focuses on contemporary history, with bringing out a critical, annotated edition of Hitler's manifesto when the copyright expired. The Bavarian authorities put 500,000 euros ($700,000) in state funding toward the project.

"We will go forward with the project," an institute spokeswoman said on Wednesday in Munich, the capital of Bavaria.

Germany does not ban "Mein Kampf," but Bavaria has used its ownership of the copyright to block domestic publication until now. Late Tuesday, the state premier's chief of staff, Christine Haderthauer, said that Hitler's anti-Semitic memoir amounts to incitement and that the state would file a criminal complaint if anyone tried to publish it in the future. In Germany, copyright expires 70 years after an author's death.

Not government's job

Theoretically, any publisher could bring out an edition of "Mein Kampf" beginning in 2016. However, Bavaria's state government has now said it would seek to punish anyone who publishes the book.

State Premier Horst Seehofer pointed to Bavaria's participation in a drive to have Germany's far-right National Democratic Party banned and said this course of action would not fit with supporting the publication of "Mein Kampf." He also said that spreading Nazi propaganda is not the job of a state government.

Imprisoned for treason following his 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, Hitler began writing "Mein Kampf" in 1924. Published in two parts in 1925 and 1926, the manifesto sold 9.8 million copies in Germany through 1945. Laying bare Hitler's attitudes toward racial, ethnic and genetic superiority - which eventually shaped the laws of the land during the Nazi era - the book was a popular gift at the height of its popularity. After Hitler gained power in 1933, newlywed couples were given a copy at the civil registry office.

"Mein Kampf" has been translated into 16 languages.

mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)