‘Playing With Fire…?’

The copyright on “Mein Kampf” has expired and we already have this:SayNO, 'Playing With Fire...' 800x800“An Italian newspaper has published Hitler’s political manifesto, “Mein Kampf”…

“The…Milan daily ‘Il Giornale’ gave the book free to whoever purchased the newspaper and first installment of William Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich”.

“The daily is publishing volumes exploring ‘Third Reich’ history, and defended its decision in its Saturday edition by arguing that reading “Mein Kampf” is the

“true antidote to the toxins of national socialism.”

“Editor Alessandro Sallusti stressed the version included critical commentary by an Italian professor of contemporary history. Sallusti also said he wanted to make readers understand “where and why absolute evil was born,” but acknowledged that protests over the publication were “legitimate” and even “understandable”.

“The rambling tome lays out Hitler’s ultranationalist, anti-Semitic, anti-communist ideology, which culminated in the Holocaust and a war of conquest in Europe.

“Premier Matteo Renzi says it’s “squalid’ that an Italian paper published it.

“An Italian Jewish community leader, Renzo Gattegna, said it was “indecent” of ‘Il Giornale’ to publish Hitler’s work.”

–‘Italian newspaper publishes Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ and hands out free copies to readers’,
The Associated Press, June 11, 2016


Getty Images
Getty Images

“Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli office of the ‘Simon Wiesenthal Center’, told ‘Corriere della Sera’ it was unprecedented for a newspaper to use “Mein Kampf” to boost sales. Israeli embassy sources quoted by the ‘Ansa’ news agency also expressed surprise.

“But ‘Il Giornale’, a ‘centre-right’ daily owned by the family of Berlusconi, claimed the decision to distribute this edition of the text, which includes critical notes by an Italian historian, aimed

“to study what is evil to avoid its return”.

“Editor-in-chief Alessandro Sallusti said no one could interpret the move to be an apology for Nazism and the global Jewish conspiracy posited in the book written between 1924 and 1926.

“The concerns of our friends of the Italian Jewish community, who always have and always will see us by their side … deserve all our respect,”

he wrote in an editorial.

“A 70-year copyright on Hitler’s book held by the state of Bavaria expired at the end of last year, prompting Munich’s ‘Institute for Contemporary History’ to reissue it as an annotated version earlier this year {See below} in an effort

“to thoroughly deconstruct Hitler’s propaganda”.

–‘Italian newspaper under fire for giving away copies of Mein Kampf’,
Reuters, June 11, 2016


Photo -- Arash Sadeghian - Getty Images
Photo — Arash Sadeghian – Getty Images

“Mein Kampf”: Eine Kritische Edition’ review – taking the sting out of Hitler’s hateful book’

“How do you solve a problem like “Mein Kampf”? Since 1945, the solution in Germany has been to prevent the printing of it. The presence of millions of legacy copies, combined with the liberty of the internet, meant that this unofficial ban was always imperfect. The symbolic nature of the book, however, meant that it was both understandable and, for a long time, entirely appropriate.

“Yet, the banning of the book also served to foster a myth – the myth that “Mein Kampf” carried a uniquely-toxic message, conveyed in uniquely-toxic language that could be quarantined off after 1945 and rendered harmless.

“Now, 70 years after Hitler’s death, the copyright that prevented its publication has expired and Germans have had to think hard about how to handle the prospect of its renewed availability.

“But 70 years of careful scholarship on ‘Nazi’ Germany have also destroyed the myth that “Mein Kampf” can be isolated in this way. Rather, it has to be read as having been firmly anchored in the political, cultural and intellectual currents of its day. Neither Hitler nor his ugly ideas came from outside history – to the contrary, they were a product of it. Hitler can only be understood, it follows, if he is read as an author like any other.

“It is therefore not only a pragmatic necessity but also an entirely suitable decision to republish “Mein Kampf” in the form of a new, scholarly but accessible, critical edition. For some years, a distinguished team from the ‘Institute of Contemporary History’ in Munich has been labouring to do just that. The result is an exhaustively-annotated 2,000-page book – currently only available in German – that seeks to contextualise, correct and contest the fruits, one might say, of the team’s own long struggle against the lies, stupidity and cowardice of the original.

“An extensive introduction outlines how the book came to be written and sets out ways in which we might approach it. Rather than read it line-by-line, the editors explore the different genres that the text inhabits – political philosophy, autobiography, history – and outline some key themes. A broad argument coalesces, they suggest, around the topics of race, space, violence and dictatorship. While genocide is hardly pre-announced, it is there as a logical possibility.

“They are particularly keen to bury the theory that “Mein Kampf” was dictated – either to Rudolf Hess or to another of Hitler’s fellow inmates in prison following the Munich putsch – and emphasise instead that various sections first appeared as newspaper articles contributed by Hitler to the fledgling Nazi press. This reminds us that, one way or another, rather more people became familiar with the book’s contents than Germans later liked to admit.

Hitler, Goebbels and other high ranking Nazis at a meeting in 1926
Hitler, Goebbels and other high ranking Nazis at a meeting in 1926

“What, though, did German people make of it? How might they have understood it better, or maybe differently, to people in different countries, and since? The edition is at its most valuable when it focuses on “Mein Kampf” as an intervention in the politics of its own time. Footnotes explain passing references to historical events, to now-obscure contemporaries, or to the daily news agenda of the 1920s – thus, Hitler’s rants against the revolutionaries of 1918-1919, for example, are contextualised with short biographical footnotes on Kurt Eisner, Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht.

“But Hitler’s text is also full of commonplace literary allusions, together with phrases and arguments recycled from a diverse range of familiar 19th- and early-20th century texts. War, we learn, is the pursuit of politics by other means – as the apparatus reminds us, Hitler is plundering the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz. Similarly, the editors explain that Hitler’s language of struggle derives from the social Darwinist thinking of the 19th century. Blink and you miss it, but Shakespeare’s “to be or not to be” is in there, too.

“There is scarcely an original idea in a book that distills, adapts and vulgarises broad strands of the modern German (and European) intellectual tradition.

“Yet, “Mein Kampf” still provokes fear. That fear is shaped by memories that define German political culture, and what it means to move through the world as a German, to this day. Even the manner in which the footnotes surround the text suggests, unmistakably, a desire to contain it on the page.

“The project treats the book not only as an intervention in the politics of its own time, but as a potential intervention in ours. A palpable fear of the contemporary ‘Far Right’ {And ‘Far Left’? This was, after all, the ‘National Socialist’ party, running under a Left-wing platform. Isn’t it time for historians to admit – and correct — THAT?} underpins the obsessive correction of errors, the challenging of antisemitic stereotypes, and the countering of false representations of history.

“So, when Hitler claims that the Jews were war profiteers, for example, the editors politely point out that most Jews were as impoverished as everyone else. The bile is relentless and so, therefore, are the corresponding footnotes.

“Is it possible to argue with Hitler? Correcting his many factual errors is easy enough, as is the refutation of his absurd antisemitic conspiracy theories. But “Mein Kampf” is a far more slippery text than that, and therein lies the challenge.

“A huge variety of languages course through it – it resonates not only with a multitude of vicious antisemitic registers but also with a range of decidedly more mainstream nationalist and conservative polemics that are harder to untangle. Hitler’s accounts of the “encirclement” of Germany before the First World War are a case in point: such arguments echo through some conventional, perfectly legitimate conservative historiography to this day. Where the footnotes contest these, they create an illusion of objective authority, underpinned by the prestige of German mandarin academic culture; whereas in reality, they are taking subjective positions on matters of historical debate, like everyone else.

“What impact will the republication have? There have been no shortage of lazy attempts to juxtapose the republication of “Mein Kampf” with the rising political tensions that have attended the massive influx of refugees into Germany. Such arguments stand within a long, undistinguished tradition of casting every act of everyday racism in Germany as evidence that the country stands permanently on the brink of the ‘Fourth Reich’.

“But if we are looking for the drift towards nationalist authoritarianism, we should be looking at Poland; if we are concerned about populist nationalism, the more obvious danger lies in France…

“The point is not to suggest that Germany is now an oasis of decency in a desert of xenophobia. Rather, it is to underline that manifestations of ‘Far-Right’ politics now draw on quite different sources to those that Hitler once did. “Mein Kampf” can now only really be read as history.

“This does not mean that this republication project did not matter, or that it was not important to be painstakingly accurate. The symbolism of the book in Germany is still such that, had the team got it wrong, the potential for scandal was significant. By producing such a solid and sober edition, they have ensured that the ending of copyright has passed off with comparatively little fuss. The project thus hopefully marks another milestone in the slow, inexorable fading of this hateful text into history.”

–‘“Mein Kampf”: Eine Kritische Edition’ review – taking the sting out of Hitler’s hateful book’,
Neil Gregor, The Guardian, 4 February 2016
(Neil Gregor’s “How to Read Hitler” is published by ‘Granta’)

‘Hitler, “Mein Kampf”. A critical edition’

“On 31 December, 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death, the copyright will expire on his book “Mein Kampf”. Immediately after that expiration date, the ‘Institute for Contemporary History’ intends to present to the public an annotated critical edition of this work.

“Central in critical commentary are the deconstruction and contextualisation of Hitler’s book. How did his theses arise? What aims was he pursuing in writing “Mein Kampf”? What social support did Hitler’s assertions have among his contemporaries? What consequences did his claims and asseverations have after 1933? And in particular: given the present state of knowledge, what can we counterpose to Hitler’s innumerable assertions, lies and expressions of intent?

“This is not only a task for historiography. In view of the powerful symbolic value still attached to Hitler’s book, the task of demystifying “Mein Kampf” is also a contribution to historical information and political education.

‘What is “Mein Kampf”?’
“Mein Kampf” is Hitler’s most important programmatic text. He composed it between 1924 and 1926, in two volumes. In a strongly stylized form, ‘Volume 1’ centres on Hitler’s biography and the early history of the Nazi party (NSDAP) and its predecessor organization, the ‘German Workers’ Party’ (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, DAP). ‘Volume 2’ mainly deals with the political programme of the National Socialists.

“Large sections of Volume 1 were written during Hitler’s incarceration in Landsberg am Lech, subsequent to his abortive coup attempt in November 1923. Its failure, his imprisonment and the prohibition of the NSDAP interrupted Hitler’s political career. He utilised this time in order to weld everything that he had previously experienced, read and thought into an ideology in written form, and to develop a new perspective and strategy for his now-outlawed party.

“After his release from prison, Hitler wrote much of the second volume at his mountain retreat in Obersalzberg. Once Hitler was installed as Reich Chancellor in January 1933, sales of the book skyrocketed and it became a bestseller. Down to 1945, it was translated into 18 languages and 12 million copies were sold.

“After Hitler’s suicide and the collapse of the Nazi regime in 1945, the victorious Allied powers transferred the rights to Hitler’s book to the Free State of Bavaria.

“The Bavarian state government then repeatedly employed the copyright in its possession to prevent any new printing of the work. But with the expiration of the copyright 70 years after Hitler’s death, effective 1 January 2016, this legal instrument is no longer available. hitler1
‘Why a critical scholarly edition?’
“Mein Kampf” is one of the central source documents of ‘National Socialism’. Writing in 1981, the historian Eberhard Jäckel stressed its importance and impact:

‘Perhaps never in history did a ruler write down before he came to power what he was to do afterwards as precisely as Adolf Hitler. For that reason alone, the document deserves attention. Otherwise, the early notes and accounts, speeches and books that Hitler wrote would at best be solely of biographical interest. It is only their translation into reality that raises them to the level of a historical source’.

“Hitler’s politics, the war and crimes he initiated, changed the world completely. It was for that reason that all extant texts he authored – his speeches, his early notes and observations, his conversations with diplomats, his ‘monologues’ in the Führer Headquarters, his instructions for the conduct of the war and finally, likewise his last will and testament − were published long ago.

“By contrast, we still have no scholarly, edited, critical version of the most extensive of Hitler’s writings, and also to a certain extent his most personal. Since the war’s end, “Mein Kampf” has only been published in extracts in Germany – a gap that has long been considered a desideratum in research on National Socialism.

“The aim of this edition is thus to present “Mein Kampf” as a salient source document for contemporary history, to describe the context of the genesis of Hitler’s worldview, to reveal his predecessors in thought and mentality — as well to contrast his ideas and assertions with the findings of modern research.

“In preparing scholarly editions of National Socialist texts, the Institute for Contemporary History can point to a varied and wide-ranging expertise:
for example, the collection of “Hitler’s Reden, Schriften, Anordnungen 1925-1933” (Hitler’s Speeches, Writings and Directives, 1925-1933), published between 1991 and 1998/2003, encompasses 12 volumes. In 1961, the Institute for Contemporary History also published Hitler’s “Zweites Buch” (Second Book). In the 1990s, the Institute brought out the diaries of Joseph Goebbels and recently published the diaries of the NSDAP ‘chief ideologue’, Alfred Rosenberg.

“For that reason, it is only consistent if now the Institute also takes up this challenge of a critical edition of “Mein Kampf”, dealing with a textual source that certainly does not present itself like other historical documents. Rather, what is necessary, along with sober and precise scholarly expertise, is a critical encounter with Hitler’s text, in sum: an edition with a point of view.

‘A contribution to political education’
“Preparing scientific commentary on “Mein Kampf” is not only a scholarly task. There is hardly any book that is more overladen with such a multitude of myths, that awakens such disgust and anxiety, that ignites curiosity and stirs speculation, while simultaneously exuding an aura of the mysterious and forbidden – a taboo that can prove for some, commercially lucrative.

“Consequently, this critical edition of “Mein Kampf” also views itself as a contribution to historical-political information and education. It seeks to thoroughly deconstruct Hitler’s propaganda in a lasting manner and thus, to undermine the still effective symbolic power of the book. In this way, it also makes it possible to counter an ideological-propagandistic and commercial misuse of “Mein Kampf”.

“After all, despite all the debates about republication, Hitler’s book has long been accessible in a variety of ways: on the shelves of used book shops, in legally-printed English translations, or a mouse click away on the Internet – “Mein Kampf” is out there and every year manages to find new readers, agitators and commercial profiteers.

“For that reason as well, the task of an annotated critical edition is to render the debate objective and to put forward a serious alternative, a counter-text to the uncritical and unfiltered dissemination of Hitler’s propaganda, lies, half-truths and vicious tirades.

“The scholarly edition prepared by the Institute for Contemporary History is oriented to political education and thus, consciously seeks in form and style to reach a broad readership. By means of a kind of ‘framing’ of the original text in the form of an introduction and detailed commentary, a subtext to “Mein Kampf” is constructed.

“Through these annotations, it quickly becomes clear how Hitler’s ideology arose, just how selective and distorted his perception of reality was, and and it becomes possible to show the link between its formulation in “Mein Kampf”, and the political practice and its terrible consequences after 1933.

‘How do the editors work?’
“Two historians, under the direction of Christian Hartmann, are currently at work in the Institute for Contemporary History on the critical edition of “Mein Kampf”. They are structuring the original text by providing explanatory introductions to each individual chapter; through more than 3,500 annotations, they address a broad spectrum of variegated tasks by providing:

–Objective information on persons and events described
–Clarification of central ideological concepts
–Disclosure of the source materials Hitler utilised
–Explanation of the roots of various concepts in the history of ideas
–Contextualisation of aspects contemporaneous to the text
–Correction of errors and one-sided accounts
–Development of a perspective on the consequences of Hitler’s book
–New contributions in relevant fundamental research

“Unusually in the context of an edition of a book, the editorial team is also examining the period after 1933, thus comparing Hitler’s programmatic ideas with his political actions in the time period 1933-1945.

“The core editorial team, which in the peak phase of its work on the edition consisted of five historians, is further supported by experts from a number of other scientific fields in order to better evaluate Hitler’s myriad assertions in the light of the findings of modern research.

“To that end, external interdisciplinary advisors have also been consulted from a range of scholarly disciplines, including German Studies, human genetics, Japanology, Jewish Studies, art history, the educational sciences and economic history.

“The team at the Institute for Contemporary History also encompasses special editorial staff for copy-editing and manuscript preparation, indexing and the precise textual comparison of seven select printings of “Mein Kampf”, along with a number of student assistants. Besides, the team is additionally able to benefit significantly from the broad professional infrastructure of the entire Institute for Contemporary History, with its many staff members specialized in research on the period of National Socialism, and its wealth of relevant library and archival resources.

“In order to retain all areas of copyright, and also to counter possible commercial utilisation of this sensitive topic, “Hitler, ‘Mein Kampf’ – eine kritische Edition” is to be self-published directly by the ‘Institute for Contemporary History’. The scheduled date of publication will be immediately after expiration of the original copyright in January 2016.


“Current information on the debate regarding the publication of “Mein Kampf” can be found here:
‘Mein Kampf in public discussion’:

Hitler-Mein-Kampf‘Controversial Reprint of ‘Mein Kampf’ Sells Like Hotcakes in Germany’

“The ‘Institute of Contemporary History Munich-Berlin’, which published the $64 tome, sold all 4,000 copies of its first run over the weekend and has 15,000 more on back order…

“ After Hitler committed suicide in 1945 at the end of World War II, the copyright for “Mein Kampf” was turned over to the German state of Bavaria. With the copyright expiring on Dec. 31, 2015, officials have been divided for the past several years over what to do with the text.

“In 2013, the German government ditched plans to re-release the book to the public after complaints from activists.

“Many conversations with Holocaust victims and their families have shown us that any sort of reprint of the disgraceful writings would cause enormous pain,”

Bavaria’s minister of science, Ludwig Spaenle, said at the time.

“However, according to the website for the ‘Institute of Contemporary History, Munich-Berlin’, the independent organization decided to move forward with its plans for the annotated edition so that the text could be studied historically. The site points out that original versions of ‘Mein Kampf’ have long been available in secondhand bookstores, and the English edition can be purchased online.

“The plan didn’t go over well with some Jewish leaders.

“Can you annotate the devil? Can you annotate a person like Hitler?” Levi Salomon, a spokesperson for the Berlin-based ‘Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism’, said last year. “This book is outside of human logic.”

Members of the Hitler Youth force Jews to clean the streets
Members of the Hitler Youth force Jews to clean the streets

“That sentiment was echoed on Friday by Ronald Lauder, president of the ‘World Jewish Congress’, who warned that

“Holocaust survivors [will] be offended by the sale of the anti-Semitic work in bookstores again,”

reported ‘Agence France-Presse’. Lauder said that the horrific consequences of Nazi ideology should be studied in school but cautioned that

“it would be best to leave Mein Kampf where it belongs: the poison cabinet of history.”

“With nationalism and hate on the upswing globally, supporters of the book’s publication reiterated that it’s a much-needed wake-up call about how easily prejudice can take root.

“In an interview on Friday with ‘Northern German Broadcasting’, Josef Schuster, president of Germany’s ‘Jewish Council’, said this annotated version of ‘Mein Kampf’ will “undo the myth of this book” and reveal how “completely wrong and ridiculous Hitler’s theories…were,” reported ‘The Guardian.’

“An op-ed published on Monday in ‘The Guardian’ by Paul Mason, the economics editor for ‘Channel 4 News’ in the United Kingdom, suggests that the book should be required reading,

“because the more we read ‘Mein Kampf’, the more we can understand how an ordinary racist loudmouth, with a grudge and a fantasy, turned an entire continent toward genocide.”

“Since 1945, every generation in the educated world has been taught ‘the lessons’ of the rise of Nazism,” Mason pointed out.

“But that hasn’t stopped the hate that led to the Syrian refugee crisis, that sparked the growth of the Islamic State, and that catalyzed a new generation of Right-wing nationalists to rise in Germany itself.

“Amid all this, the danger is not just another demagogue toting a modern ‘Mein Kampf’; there are thousands of little ‘Mein Kampf’s being written on social media by people who feel victimized and betrayed and have come to the conclusion that someone else’s death, starvation, expulsion, or torture would solve their problems,” Mason wrote

–‘Controversial Reprint of ‘Mein Kampf’ Sells Like Hotcakes in Germany’,
Liz Dwyer, Take Part, JAN. 11, 2016


Main IMAGE: AP Photo–Fabio Frustaci

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