German States Vow Prosecution for Any Publication of Mein Kampf

Interior ministers of the 16 states claim issuing the plain text of 'inhumane' book would constitute the crime of sedition.

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Mein Kampf.Credit: Dreamstime

DPA - German interior ministers vowed Thursday to prosecute anyone who tries to reprint and sell Mein Kampf, Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler's manifesto, after the text enters the public domain in 2016.

The state of Bavaria has controlled the copyright since 1945 as a result of impounding Hitler's entire legal estate. But that control expires at the end of 2015, 70 years after the dictator's suicide.

Interior ministers of the 16 states meeting at Binz on Germany's Baltic Sea coast left open whether they would tolerate reprints where each of Mein Kampf's falsehoods was annotated and explained by scholars.

But they said issuing the plain text of the "inhuman" book would constitute the crime of sedition.

Germany has struggled for seven decades to eradicate every trace of Nazism, and keeps tabs on 9,600 people described as active neo-Nazis. Owning and treasuring Mein Kampf was a mark of fanatical devotion to the Nazi cause during World War II.

Officials concede that Mein Kampf in German is easy to find on the internet, housed on servers abroad, and survives in many German attics, but say its republication on German soil would send the wrong message to victims of the Nazis including Jews.

"The entire democratic world is watching Germany on this one. We've got to especially respect the feelings of survivors of the Holocaust," said Winfried Bausback, interior minister of Bavaria.

Ministers recommended government prosecutors check that sedition law offers a watertight way to keep the book from sale in Germany.

Hitler wrote the two-volume book in 1924 in Landsberg Prison, setting out his hatred of Jews and his theory of the Aryan master race.

Bavaria's later ownership of the book was convenient as it allowed authorities to use simple provisions of copyright law to block reprinting.

Bavaria earlier cancelled state funding for an annotated post-2015 reprint, but says it may tolerate private publication of one.

Bausback said it would have outraged Holocaust survivors if the German state had supplied any funding for such a project.

There was controversy before the meeting, with some officials proposing Germany pass a one-off law to ban the book in perpetuity.

Antje Niewisch-Lennartz, the interior minister of Lower Saxony state, told dpa there ought to be a reprint annotated by respected scholars. She said Mein Kampf with footnotes would not lead readers towards Nazi beliefs, but instead make Hitler's ideas seem more repellent.

Hermann Glaser, a German author who has written a book about Mein Kampf, disagreed, saying he feared it might influence young German Muslims.

"They come from nations that, because of the conflict with Israel, have a positive leaning towards anyone who is anti-Jewish," he told dpa.

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