Look Who’s Back: Hitler’s Mein Kampf to Return to the Bookstores in France

French publisher will release new edition of Nazi manifesto after copyright period ends. Publisher: ‘A scientific and critical edition’

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Mein Kampf.Credit: Dreamstime
Shlomo Papirblat
News Agencies

Adolf Hitler’s book Mein Kampf, his autobiographical political manifesto of Nazism and anti-Semitism, will be published in a new edition by the respected French publisher Fayard next year.

The new edition of the book, originally published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, will be released in early January after the copyright, currently held by the Bavarian state, expires on December 31, 2015 – 70 years after the death of its infamous author.

The book, whose title means “my struggle” in German, was banned in Germany after Hitler and the Nazis were defeated in World War II. A new German-language reprint to be released in January is being handled by the government-funded Institute of Contemporary History in Munich. This edition will emphasize the book’s historical importance, says the publisher. It too, will have annotations, scholarly commentary and corrections to the text. Fayard did not give a date for the book’s release.

The publisher confirmed last week that it would be publishing the new annotated edition – the first reprint in French since 1934 – after pondering the question for the past four years. The new edition will be a “scientific and critical edition” and a group of historians and other experts are working on it, whose names will be released in the next few weeks, Fayard told AFP. The work will be based on a new translation from the German now being completed.

“The publication of this book central to the history of the 20th century will be accompanied by a critical analysis established by a scientific committee of French and foreign historians,” Fayard said in a statement quoted by AFP and issued at the Frankfurt Book Fair. According to the report, it did not say when the new translation will ne released.

The legal status of Mein Kampf varies from country to country. In Germany the government has in practice not allowed it to be published by enforcing its copyright. In the Netherlands, sales of the book, including old copies, are banned. Various unauthorized versions translated into English have been made over the years and are widely available online through retailers such as Amazon. In Turkey and Lebanon the book has been a best-seller for years and has been reprinted in recent years.

Hitler dictated the lengthy tome while in prison following a failed putsch he staged to try to grab power in Munich in 1923 while leader of the Nazi party. Sales and royalties from it generated a small fortune for him, and its popularity enhanced his profile and helped him rise to become chancellor of Germany in 1933.

The original, unauthorized French edition of Mein Kampf from 1934 was published by Fernand Solot’s Nouvelles ditions Latines without Hitler’s permission, and with the secret support of anti-German groups and the International League against Racism and Anti-Semitism, with the intention of informing French readers of what Hitler was really planning. Hitler sued the publisher in a French court – and won. Later Hitler initiated a new redacted French edition, with the anti-French sections removed. This edition was published in 1938 by Fayard.

The newspaper Le Figaro reported that the heads of the publishing house have been discussing dedicating the revenues from the book to a fund for commemorating the victims of the Holocaust in France, or to the Yad Vasehm Holocaust memorial center in Jerusalem. But Fayard said in response that the details about who is participating in the project and which institutions will receive a share of the revenues will be provided only at the beginning of next year.

The plan to publish Mein Kampf in France again has caused something of an uproar. Philosopher Alain Finkielkraut told television station LCI that he was not worried that many French people would keep the book by their bedsides, but it did bother him that it could be turned into a tool by people such as comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala.

The head of the Crif, the central organization of Jewish institutions in France, called the publication a “catastrophe,” and said that while it was possible to find such things on the Internet, now it would be in a book too.

The book set out two ideas that Hitler put into practice as Germany’s leader going into World War II: annexing neighboring countries in the name of “lebensraum,” or creating “living space” for Germans; and his hatred of the Jews, which he turned into the Holocaust.

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