Martin McCauley writes from Munich: Ever heard of Mein Kampf (My Struggle)? Probably not unless you are German. It’s written in turgid, dense German and could have been just as well penned by Anders Breivik.
Yes, it’s that type of book. Can you guess the author of this anti-Semitic rant? It also excoriates communists because they take their thinking from Karl Marx whose grandfather was a Rabbi. It maintains that the Aryan race is supreme in the world. Germany’s future lies in conquering territories in the east (known as Lebensraum). The author? I’m sure you have guessed by now. Yes, Adolf Hitler.
So why am I writing about someone who penned his manifesto in 1923-24 while in prison? Well, the thing is that the Bavarian government has decided to spend half a million euros of taxpayers’ money to bring out a new edition. The original version is written in Gothic script which the younger generation of Germans find very difficult to read. It was compulsory reading during the national socialist era from 1933 to 1945. Every freshly married couple was given a copy and told to cherish it as if it were their first born. Every home had a copy. One family I know who regarded it as evil drivel would produce it when a Nazi arrived to discuss everyday affairs. ‘What are you doing for the Fűhrer today?’, was the question. Quick as a flash came the answer: ‘Reading Mein Kampf for inspiration and to drink in the eternal verities of our beloved Fűhrer. The world has never seen such a genius’. The Nazi left and wrote a positive report.
It is fair to say that only academics and psychiatrists ever read the book to the end. So why did it acquire such iconic status? The answer is in the previous paragraph. Say it was the ravings of a madman and you ended up in Dachau or Flossenbűrg.
So the Bavarian government has decided to resurrect this tome. Why? Publishing the book has been a criminal offence since 1945. However, the copyright runs out soon so the decision was taken to flood the market with cheap copies so that no publisher will find it profitable ever again to publish it. The new two volume version is much longer than the original. This is because it will contain a lot of annotations and analyses of Hitler’s ideas. There will also be a children’s edition. No it is not entitled Opa Adolf and the Future of Germany! One shudders to think what an eight year old will make of it all.
Has the Bavarian government gone bonkers, you may ask. Well, it argues that the more publicity there is the easier it will be to discredit Adolf’s musings. This is precisely the logic behind the week long trial in Oslo of Anders Breivik. Get him to explain his thoughts and his ludicrous mutterings will eventually hang him. Will this be the case? There are lots of people out there who bear a grudge against society. They would like to find an ideology which explains their frustration and how to resolve it.
So flooding Germany with copies of Mein Kampf may not be such a good idea after all, to put it mildly. Recently an east German Nazi cell was discovered which was responsible for the murder of Turks. There is a village which is populated by Nazis. They have forced all those who do not share their views to leave. Publishing the new edition of Mein Kampf might actually give it a new lease of life. The notes informing the reader that Adolf was a nutter will be passed over and people might get ideas. People like Breivik.
The German state would be basically spreading Hitler’s view of the world. It should think again. Better simply to prosecute any publisher who brings out a new edition.