Germany to Publish Mein Kampf for First Time Since World War II

Hitler’s anti-Semitic work will be re-released in several forms, including with commentary for schoolchildren, in English translation, and in electronic and audio versions - in order to combat underground circulation by neo-Nazi groups.

For the first time since the end of World War II, Germany will officially publish Adolf Hitler’s book, “Mein Kampf.” The state of Bavaria, which owns the copyrights to the anti-Semitic work, reached the decision to publish the work.

The publication of an annotated edition of the work, complete with an explanation to readers of the dangers of Hitler’s racist doctrine, is meant to counter underground circulation of uncertified editions among neo-Nazi groups.

A Hitler bust and other items confiscated in a crackdown on a neo-Nazi group in Western Germany, March 2012.

The state of Bavaria, in southern Germany, refused to allow any new printings of the work, and invoked its right as owner of the work to keep it from being distributed. However, the rights to the book are set to expire in 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death. At that time, according to worldwide practice, any entity can legally print and distribute the work.

According to German law, ownership or purchase of Hitler’s work is legal, unless it is used to spread hate, in which case it is forbidden.

Over the last few years, fear has spread, that in 2015, neo-Nazi groups will begin publishing and distributing the work in an unsupervised manner, using it to advance anti-Semitic agendas.

The Bavarian Finance Minister, Markus Soeder, expressed concern that the expiry of the copyright on the work could lead to an increase in its readership, and that the “mystic aspect” of the work could attract young readers.

For this reason, the German government is planning to release a special version for schools, with commentary appropriate for children, which will emphasize the “worldwide catastrophe brought about by this way of thinking,” according to Soeder. The work will be translated into English, and both electronic and audio versions will be released as well.

Karl Freller, director of the Bavarian foundation that runs the Dachau memorial site, commented on the publication to the German weekly “Der Spiegel.” Freller said that the state will request that publishers and bookstores not print or sell other copies of the work, and offer only the new annotated version.

Hitler wrote the first part of the book “Mein Kampf,” (My Struggle, in English) in 1923, while serving a prison sentence for an attempt at political revolution known as the “Beer Hall Putsch.” The work was published in 1925.

The second part was written a year after Hitler’s release, one year later. The book contains 720 pages, in which Hitler expounds on his racist political and social doctrines. Much of the work deals with the “struggle between races,” “the principle of living,” and “the Jewish problem,” in Germany and the rest of the world. The book, overflowing with hatred, anti-Semitism, and racism, is also largely considered to be annoying and boring.

By the end of World War II, the publication of roughly ten million copies of the book in Germany was a significant source of income for Hitler. After the allied victory in 1945, the rights to the work wound up in the hands of the Bavarian state government, which nationalized the Nazi publication house, as part of the “Denazification plan.” Shortly after, the state prohibited further publication of the book, a prohibition that remains in effect to this day.

In reality, however, the move to prohibit publication was symbolic, at best. The whole of the work can be read on several websites. Annotated editions of the book are available in every major German library. Also, over the years the work has been translated into many languages worldwide. A partial annotated version is available in Israel, (“Chapters from Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler”, published by “Academon”). Bavarian government efforts to prevent the printing of the book abroad failed, and in some Arab countries it even became a best-seller during the days of the Second Intifada.

The State of Bavaria will not be the only entity to release a new annotated version of the book. Two years ago, historians from the “Institute of Contemporary History” in Munich reported that they were working on a new annotated version.