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“That’s our Hitler!”: Mein Kampf to be republished after understandable absence from German shelves

After all the huffing and puffing earlier in the week from parents concerned that their children were about to start talking like old-timey hobos who’ve just downed a couple of jugs of Old Maw Pepper’s moonshine, The Guardian has word of an overturning of censorship that will certainly test the mettle of free speech defenders: the imminent republication of Mein Kampf, the sole literary endeavour of a frustrated visual artist who just happened to go on to wider infamy with his state-sponsored murdering of millions (shall we get the Producers quotes out of the way early? Let’s: ‘Hitler… there was a painter! He could paint an entire apartment in one afternoon! Two coats!’)

For reasons that should be largely self-evident, the book has been absent from German shelves since 1945, with publication, prominent display for sale and ‘flaunting in public’ all forbidden by law. Weird as it is to think of Hitler as a copyright holder, upon his death at the end of the Second World War (say, you don’t think the two might be connected, do you?) all rights to the title passed to the Bavarian state finance ministry, and the book was given the standard 70 year window on copyright expiration after the author’s death.

Unless you have a particularly poor grasp of rudimentary arithmetic, then, it shouldn’t come as too much of a shock to realise that we are fast approaching this 70 year cut-off, which will arrive in 2015, and at which time the text will enter into the public domain. Obviously even the staunchest defenders of free speech would acknowledge the potential dangers inherent in releasing such a deliberately inflammatory text in a form devoid of context or refutation (or even, should it find its way into the hands of neo-Nazi movements, given endorsement).

In a bid to control the damage that could be wrought by unscrupulous types looking to capitalise on the text’s infamy, German authorities are compiling an annotated version featuring academic commentary that thoroughly debunks Hitler’s rabid bile. Their aim is to ‘demystify’ the book, and discussions are also taking place with bookshops and publishers asking that they voluntarily refuse to carry any unannotated editions. Expected: the Bavarian edition will be translated into English and published internationally, and an e-book edition will also be made available. Slightly less expected: so will an audiobook (imagine being the actor who gets that call). Prediction: it won’t sell quite as many copies as it did in, oh, let’s say Germany in, oh, let’s say the 30s.

Chris Ward

Chris Ward

Chris Ward writes and says things about books and music and films and what have you, even when no one is reading or listening.
He was chief hack and music editor of webzine Brazen from 2006 to 2010, and hosted Left of the Dial on Subcity Radio from 2008 to 2011.
He can be heard semi-regularly on the podcast of Scottish cultural blog Scots Whay Hae ('20th best website in Scotland!' - The List), and in 2011 founded Seen Your Video, a film and music podcast and blog based in Glasgow. He has a Masters degree in Scottish Literature from the University of Glasgow that will never have any practical application. You are on a hiding to nothing if you follow him on Twitter expecting any kind of hot publishing scoop.


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