Germany debates Mein Kampf legalisation

By Toby Axelrod, July 3, 2014

Almost everywhere in the world, Hitler's Mein Kampf is a dubious bestseller, even 70 years after the end of the war. But in Germany, it is illegal to publish it. That is, until next year.

At the end of 2015, the copyright - owned by the state of Bavaria - runs out and, strictly speaking, this notoriously antisemitic book is fair game for publishers of all kinds. It is something not all Germans are ready for.

But following last week's conference of Germany's justice ministers on the island of Rügen, the legal future of this extremely boring but chilling work seems set.

The upshot is that the ministers will seek to ban the publication in general but that a new law is not necessary to that end. They also said that a scholarly, annotated edition should come out as planned in 2016.

In fact, the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History, to which Bavaria has given more than £400,000 to produce the volume, is completing the edition now and will publish it in January 2016.

At the end of 2015, Hitler's book will be fair game for all kinds of publishers

Even Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, has agreed that an annotated version is the lesser evil, although he has described it as "awful".

The acerbic Jewish commentator Henryk Broder has joined the fray, telling the Nordwest Zeitung that those who support extending the ban exhibit a "profound lack of trust of their own 'stupid' people".

After the war, the Bavarian Finance Ministry inherited the copyright and, until now, has barred publication in Germany in an effort to limit the spread of Hitler's ideology.

In 2012 the ministry announced it would allow the annotated edition to be published after the copyright expires. But in December 2013, it decided to withdraw from the project, after Munich Jewish leader Charlotte Knobloch, former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, formally opposed publication in the name of concerned Holocaust survivors.

At the time, institute director Andreas Wirsching said work would continue anyway. He called the work a "key source on the history of National Socialism" that should be studied, and said that the perspectives of Holocaust survivors were an important guideline.

He added: "As we see it, a scholarly, annotated edition with critical explanations is urgently needed to counter the uncontrollable dissemination of this text."

Last updated: 5:54pm, July 3 2014