Springtime for Hitler?

Published: February 24, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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“Don’t be stupid, be a smartie. Come and join the Nazi Party.”
– Stormtrooper, The Producers

Okay, boys and girls, it’s ethical conundrum time!

The New York Times reported (Feb. 5) that the “…copyright on Mein Kampf [Adolph Hitler’s autobiographical, political rant] in the hands of the Bavarian government since the end of the Nazi regime, has long been used to keep his inflammatory manifesto off the shelves in Germany. But with the expiration date looming in 2015, there is a developing showdown here over the first German publication of the book since the end of World War II.”

Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History wants to “prepare a critical, annotated version of the book for release when the copyright expires,” the Times writes. “‘We hope to prevent neo-Nazi publications by putting out a commented, scholarly edition,’ said Edith Raim, a historian at the Institute. ‘Mein Kampf is one of the central texts if you want to explain National Socialism, and it hasn’t been available in a commented edition at all in Germany.’”

Sounds reasonable.

“But the Bavarian government opposed the idea, citing respect for victims of the Holocaust. In a statement Thursday, the Bavarian Finance Ministry said that permits for reprints would not be issued, at home or abroad. ‘This also applies to a new annotated edition,’ said the statement, adding that the state would use ‘all means at its disposal to proceed against any violations. The dissemination of Nazi ideologies will remain prohibited in Germany and is punishable under the penal code.’”

However, Ms. Raim points out that the diaries of Nazi officials such as Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels are readily available in Germany.

But there’s another voice in the debate.  Stephan Kramer is the secretary general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “I have the highest respect for this opinion, [against publication by the Institute] but on the other hand I’m saying very openly: The copyright is going to be waived anyway. It’s a matter of time before the book is available in shops and libraries,” he said. “Those who are already on the wrong side already have the book and already read it from their own point of view. Let’s get it out there, and let’s get it out there with a commentary.”

So, could there be a springtime for Hitler?

As Producers Franz Liebkind would say, “Don’t forget to buy Mein Kampf in paperback.  Available near you… at Borders Books… or Barnes and Noble… und Amazon.com.”

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