Another struggle over 'Mein Kampf'

Haaretz, Israel/April 28, 2008

Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," whose publication is prohibited in Germany, could be released again in Germany.

Historians and other academics say it is essential to publish the notorious book with editorial annotations and critique before 2015, when it enters the public domain and may be reprinted freely by neo-Nazis.

Hitler wrote the first part of his book while in prison in 1923 for his part in the attempted coup against the Weimar government, known as the "beer hall putsch." The remainder was written after his release. Ten million copies of the 720-page volume, in which Hitler outlined his racist political and social program, were sold between his ascent to power and the end of World War II. It has been translated into numerous languages.

In 2015, 70 years after the death of its author, the copyright will run out and anyone will be able to print and distribute it.

"We must be prepared that neo-Nazis will print many copies of the book and use it for propaganda," Dr. Oscar Schneider, who runs the Nuremburg Documentation Center, says.

"The legislators should have taken this into consideration," Dr. Norbert Frei of Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany told the popular daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The two called on the Bavarian government, which holds the copyright on the book's distribution, to allow a critical edition to be published before the copyright runs out.

Bavaria has banned the printing and distribution of "Mein Kampf," although it can be obtained almost everywhere in the world and on the Internet.

Munich's Institute of Contemporary History has been trying for years to obtain permission to publish a critical-historical version of the text. "It is unjustified to prevent the printing of a certain document just because of the concern it will have a negative effect," director Professor Horst Moeller said. He noted that scientific editions of other notorious Nazi writings have been published.

"A critical version of the book would provide every person with the arguments needed to win the debate with its supporters," the chairman of the institute, Udo Wengst, said, adding that it would take three years of research to publish a book of this type. Dieter Pohl, a historian at the institute, said that such an annotated, critical edition of "Mein Kampf" is necessary because Hitler was not precise about facts nor was he consistent in his stands, which is reflected in the text and should be explained.

The cost of the book is expected to be very high, and the concern is that most people, including neo-Nazis, would not be able to afford it. It has therefore been proposed that the book's cost be subsidized or that it be distributed free on the Internet.

Four years ago a nephew of Hitler through a half-sister, Leo Raubel, was identified. Raubel died in 1979. His son, Peter, said he did not want royalties from the book.

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