Germany's Dilemma: How to Prevent Flood of 'Mein Kampf' Reprints

Copyright on Hitler's ideological tract running out next year, which will remove country's control over book's production and dissemination - which is waning anyway.

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Copies of "Mein Kampf" displayed at Documentation Center in Congress Hall, Nuremberg-Numberg, Germany, August 9, 2012.
Copies of "Mein Kampf" displayed at Documentation Center in Congress Hall, Nuremberg-Numberg, Germany, August 9, 2012. Credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D.

With the 70-year copyright on "Mein Kampf" running out at the end of next year, Germany, which bars the reprint or sale of Hitler's ideological tome, is trying to figure out how best to maintain some limits on its dissemination.

Since the fall of Nazism in 1945, the copyright to the book has been held by the German state of Bavaria. The fear is that when this expires, a flood of newly-printed copies of "Mein Kampf" will be released.

The German newspaper The Local reports that German national and regional justice ministers met Wednesday to discuss whether enacting a new law against the book's reprint or sale was the most effective tactic.

The problem with such a law, said Lower Saxony's Justice Minister Antje Niewisch-Lennartz, was that the book is available "on practically every corner" abroad and online.

She suggested that Germany instead allow the work to be published with an academic commentary, so the anti-Semitic text could have a preventive effect against fascism.

Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, tended to agree. "I would prefer this book to be forbidden forever. Regrettably and obviously we cannot prevent a new publication, since the copyright is about to expire by the end of the year 2015," he told The Local. So if a publication cannot be avoided, it should be at least guaranteed that there is a scholarly edition which provides a scientific and critical analysis in order to demystify this horrible text.

Some 10 million copies of "Mein Kampf" were believed to be in German homes in 1943. Newlyweds were given it as a gift from the Nazi state beginning in 1936.

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