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Row Erupts Over Hitler Book in Poland

DW staff (sp)February 25, 2005

The Polish publication of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" has angered Bavaria, which holds the rights. The German state has urged Warsaw to recall it from stores. Now, the Polish foreign minister too, has slammed the edition.

Hitler invaded Poland in 1939Image: AP

Polish Foreign Minister Adam Rotfeld on Thursday criticized the Polish release of Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's controversial book "Mein Kampf," saying the work contains the seeds of Nazi crimes.

"I think it is a scandal. This cannot be tolerated," Rotfeld told reporters. "This is a book which encourages crime. Do you think people should be encouraged to commit crime?"

Rotfeld was reacting to the publication of 3,000 copies of a Polish translation of "Mein Kampf" by a small publisher in the southwestern city of Wroclaw. The book sets out Hitler's anti-Semitic, racist and fascist views and his vision of Germany as a racially superior nation and a conqueror.

"As the Bible said, in the beginning there was the world, and the word became flesh. In the beginning there was Hitler's word 'Mein Kampf,' after which crimes followed. Is it really good to let this start again?" Rotfeld said.

1939 Einmarsch deutscher Truppen in Polen
German soldiers pull down a turnpike on the German-Polish border as they march into Poland on Sept. 1, 1939.Image: dpa

Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, triggering the Second World War. Six million Poles died during the war. Six million Jews who were also killed in ghettos and concentration camps.

Publication incenses Bavaria

The Polish publication of the book has already raised hackles in Germany. Earlier this week, the German state of Bavaria said the German embassy in Warsaw was looking into what legal action could be taken to block the publication.

Bavarian Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser issued a statement saying that the German state, which the victorious World War II allies designated as the guardian of Hitler's estate, holds the rights to the book and will apply "those rights very restrictively to prevent the spread of Nazi ideology."

Polish publisher XXL said it wants to make a historical record available. A first edition was published in Polish in 1992 but was withdrawn after claims that it incited racial hatred. The book is banned from public display or sale in Germany although it is available for historical research in libraries.

Hitler "wasn't German"

Experts, however, say the new Polish edition is unlikely to raise legal problems because its foreword puts it in a historical context. The book includes an introduction by Warsaw professor Bogdan Michalski.

"The whole nature of this publication is to serve as a warning for the Polish people," Michalski told Reuters on Thursday. "We can't close our eyes to certain characteristics of our Western neighbors," Michalski wrote in the introduction.

Deutsche Geschichte Kapitel 21 Hitler

Polish publisher Marek Skierkowski said Thursday he did not know the copyright was held by the Bavarian government. "Why does the Bavarian government hold the rights to the book?" Skierkowski told Reuters. "The author was not German but Austrian."