German magazine caves in battle to reprint Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'
A German magazine's bid to reprint excerpts of 'Mein Kampf' to promote a discussion of the past was blocked by a long-standing German ban on reprinting or selling the text.
The British publisher of the German magazine Zeitungszeugen, Peter McGee, intended to print excerpts of the book in today's issue of the magazine. âIt is long overdue that the German public is exposed to the original text,â Mr. McGee told Der Spiegel magazine. However, legal proceedingsÂ initiated by the Bavarian state government dissuaded him.
The Bavarian state government was named the copyright holder of âMein Kampfâ by the Allied Forces after World War II and has blocked every other attempt to have the book printed and sold in Germany since 1945. In order not to jeopardize the entire issue of Zeitungszeugen (which translates as ânewspaper witnessesâ), Mr. McGee changed his mind just before his magazine went to print, he said.Â
Germany has strict laws prohibiting the display of Nazi symbols and the distribution of texts inciting anti-Semitism and racial hatred, but "Mein Kampf," originally published in two parts in 1925 and 1926, is not entirely banned. Editions printed before 1945 can be owned and purchased in second-hand bookshops or online and students and scientists can check them out at libraries. However, itÂ cannot be reprinted and sold. After World War II, only a handful of books containing passages from the text â always accompanied by explanatory notes â were published.
âItâs a symbolic measure,â says Edith Raim from the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich. âGermany has a singular responsibility toward the victims of the Nazi regime. It canât be seen making money from the writings of the worst war criminal ever.â
In neo-Nazi circles the book has almost iconic value, says Mrs. Raim. Determined right-wingers will get their hands on the book, whatever the legal situation, she believes, and critical works such as the one she is working on will not appeal to them âÂ if it gets published, that is.Â
âOur book wonât find any buyers in the neo-Nazi scene. Itâs going to be a solid scientific work," she says.
Horst PĂ¶ttker, professor for journalism at Dortmund Technical University, wrote the commentary for the excerpts that were blacked out in Zeitungszeugen. "I want as many people in Germany as possible to read a book that had such a strong impact on German history,â he says.
Zeitungszeugen is a weekly magazine, first published in 2009 with an initial circulation of 300,000, later selling about 50,000 copies a week. Each issue contains reproductions of a selection of German newspapers originally printed between 1933 and 1945 and a sleeve of present-day commentary from a pool of German historians, some of them respected authorities like Wolfgang Benz and Hans Mommsen. The reprintings include Nazi titles like âVĂ¶lkischer Beobachterâ and âDer Angriff,â originally published by Hitlerâs propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
The fact that the reproductions are easily removed from the commentary sleeve led to accusations that British publisher McGee was trying to profit from Nazi propaganda under the pretext of serving historical interest. In 2009 the Bavarian justice ministry had parts of the second issue containing âVĂ¶lkischer Beobachterâ confiscated, but a Munich court ruled that Zeitungszeugen acted as an educational tool and as such did not violate any German laws.
The plans to reprint parts of âMein Kampfâ have revived the debate about McGeeâs motives. Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of the Jewish Council in Germany, says she cannot see any value in the magazine. âMost Germans have a very enlightened approach to their past,â she says. âFor those who do need a history lesson, this pamphlet is unsuited.â
In 2015, Bavaria's copyright for âMein Kampfâ expires. If the Bavarian government gets its way, the ban on reprints will remain. âThe dissemination of national socialist ideas continues to be a criminal offense even after the copyright for âMein Kampfâ ends,â the government said in a statement.