The Kampf for 'Mein Kampf': Annotated Version of Hitler Polemic in the Works

The copyright on Adolf Hitler's book "Mein Kampf" won't expire until 2015, but historians in Munich have already starting working on an annotated edition. They're hoping that the copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, will allow the new edition to go into print before it expires.

Hitler's polemic "Mein Kampf" cannot be published in Germany until the copyright runs out in 2015. Zoom
AFP

Hitler's polemic "Mein Kampf" cannot be published in Germany until the copyright runs out in 2015.

There have long been periodic calls from historians for "Mein Kampf," Adolf Hitler's seminal work of hate and prejudice, to be republished in German. If an annotated, academic version of the polemic comes out, so goes the argument, it could take the wind out of neo-Nazi sails once the book is no longer protected by copyright.

Now, a new version is in the works. According to a Wednesday report on German radio, the Munich Institute of Contemporary History is working on an annotated edition complete with notes on where the ideas Hitler expounds on in his book originated.

But the state of Bavaria, which holds the "Mein Kampf" ("My Struggle") copyright, says that it doesn't plan on allowing the new version to hit the shelves before the book enters the public domain.

"The state government is not planning on changing course," the Bavarian government said in a statement to the Bayerischer Rundfunk public radio station. "No permission has been granted to the Institute of Contemporary History."

70 Years after Hitler's Death

Nevertheless, institute head Horst Möller says that work on the new edition, undertaken by historians Edith Raim and Othmar Plöckinger, will go ahead. "If we complete the text prior to the end of the copyright, we can approach the authorities once again," he told Bayerischer Rundfunk.

The "Mein Kampf" copyright expires in 2015, 70 years after the death of the author Adolf Hitler, as mandated by law. The copyright fell into the hands of the Bavarian state in 1945, when Bavaria took over the rights of the main Nazi party publishing house Eher-Verlag as part of the Allies' de-Nazification program. Out of fears that the book could promote neo-Nazis, Bavaria has not allowed "Mein Kampf" to be published in Germany since then.

Several foreign language editions have appeared in the meantime. Indeed, Bavaria has even initiated legal proceedings against some of those editions in the past. The book is not banned in Germany, but can only be sold for "research purposes."

'Off the Rails'

Möller is concerned that, once the copyright expires in 2015, neo-Nazis will immediately begin disseminating the work. He says that an academic edition could help counter the sensationalism that he fears will accompany the book's republishing.

Other academics aren't so sure. "I think the idea is absurd," Wolfgang Benz, head of the Center for Anti-Semitism Research (ZfA) in Berlin, told SPIEGEL ONLINE in 2007. "How can you annotate an 800-page monologue exposing Hitler's insane worldview? After every single line you would have to write, 'Hitler is wrong here,' and then 'Hitler is completely off the rails here,' and so on."

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