Germany’s Bavaria state has pledged to maintain an effective post-war ban on Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf”, sparking a dispute over academic freedom.
Since World War II, copyright holder Bavaria has blocked any reprints of the 1924 book in which Hitler railed against the “Jewish peril” and foreshadowed the Holocaust.
Bavaria holds the rights to “Mein Kampf” (My Struggle) because Hitler was officially a resident of Munich when he died, but those rights expire at the end of 2015.
Two years ago Bavaria announced plans to publish in early 2016 an annotated version with historians’ commentary, for academic purposes and to help “demystify” the text.
But this week, reacting to complaints from Holocaust survivors, the government of state premier Horst Seehofer in a surprise move changed course.
It said the “seditious” book must stay off the market and warned that any publishers who print it will face criminal charges — a move that was praised by Jewish groups.
However, the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich said it had no plans to scrap the book project, which had already cost 500,000 euros ($688,000) in state funding.
“We are continuing the project,” an institute spokeswoman told AFP on Wednesday.
“We still think an annotated version makes sense, so that (Hitler’s text) is not thrown onto the market in its raw form, but presented within a framework.”
Several Bavarian legislators also complained that the Seehofer government had decided to torpedo the academic edition, a project the state parliament had supported.
The former head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, told national news agency DPA that she backed efforts to stop any reprints of a book that was “steeped in hatred and contempt for humanity”.
She said the text was “one of the most inflammatory works ever written in this country” and — even though it is available abroad — in Germany it “must never be legally allowed to sneak back into the hands and minds of the people”.
Hitler started writing “Mein Kampf” in prison after his failed putsch of 1923. After his rise to power, millions of copies were published. From 1936, the Nazi state gave a copy to all newlyweds as a wedding gift.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]