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Re-publication of 'Mein Kampf' raises questions over Nazi past

A signed copy of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf is displayed on June 2, 2005 in London, England.
A signed copy of Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf is displayed on June 2, 2005 in London, England.
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The German state of Bavaria, which owns the copyright to Adolf Hilter's "Mein Kampf," has announced that it will publish Hilter's two-volume book on racial purity for the first time since WWII, because the copyright is set to expire.

The news has ignited debate in Germany about whether the book's controversial content should be made so easily available; the country still grappling with its Nazi past.

The Wall Street Journal reports that under German law, copyright expires 70 years after the death of the author. That means they'll reissue 'Mein Kampf' in 2015.

According to the Berlin-based journalist Michael Sontheimer, it's not the first time that Germany has discussed whether the book should be banned.

"The debate which we have now is mainly if we Germans are democratic and confident about our democracy enough to bear to read Hitler, or if we are still somewhat skeptical about us, maybe some Germans who might read 'Mein Kampf' then might be seduced by Hilter's idea," he said.

He added that the book is culturally taboo, rarely found in the country.

"It's not a criminal offense if you buy a copy of 'Mein Kampf' [secondhand]. But obviously, they are quite rare in Germany. At public libraries, it's not so easy to get access to a copy of 'Mein Kampf.' You have to prove you are studying Nazi Germany, and you have to be an historian, and then you get a copy," Sontheimer said.

The journalist personally believes the book should hit the printing press, as it's too old fashioned to brainwash new readers.

"I am very much in favor of publishing it because it's so badly written," he explained. "It's a lengthy, almost unreadable book, now in very outdated German. So I can't imagine people getting very excited about the book and following Hilter's ideas if they read it."


Michael Sontheimer is based in Berlin and a journalist for Der Spiegel.