Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' becomes German bestseller

© AFP "Mein Kampf" outlines Adolf Hitler's ideology that formed the basis for Nazism
The first reprint of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in Germany since World War II has proved a surprise bestseller, heading for its sixth print run, its publisher said Tuesday.

The Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IfZ) said around 85,000 copies of the new annotated version of the Nazi leader's anti-Semitic manifesto had flown off the shelves since its release last January.

However, the respected institute said that far from promoting far-right ideology, the publication had enriched a debate on the renewed rise of "authoritarian political views" in contemporary Western society.

It had initially planned to print only 4,000 copies but boosted production immediately based on intense demand. The sixth print run will hit bookstores in late January.

The two-volume work had figured on the non-fiction bestseller list in weekly magazine Der Spiegel over much of the last year, and even topped the list for two weeks in April.

The institute also organised a successful series of presentations and debates around "Mein Kampf" across Germany and in other European cities, which it said allowed it to measure the impact of the new edition.

"It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler's ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded," IfZ director Andreas Wirsching said in a statement.

"To the contrary, the debate about Hitler's worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and rightwing slogans are gaining ground."

- 'Not reactionaries or radicals' -

The institute said the data collected about buyers by regional bookstores showed that they tended to be "customers interested in politics and history as well as educators" and not "reactionaries or rightwing radicals".

Nevertheless, the IfZ said it would maintain a restrictive policy on international rights. For now, only English and French editions are planned despite strong interest from many countries.

The institute released the annotated version of "Mein Kampf" last January, just days after the copyright of the manifesto expired.

Bavaria was handed the rights to the book in 1945 when the Allies gave it control of the main Nazi publishing house following Hitler's defeat.

For 70 years, it refused to allow the inflammatory tract to be republished out of respect for victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.

But "Mein Kampf" -- which means "My Struggle" -- fell into the public domain on January 1 and the institute said it feared a version without critical commentary could hit the market.

Partly autobiographical, "Mein Kampf" outlines Hitler's ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. He wrote it in 1924 while he was imprisoned in Bavaria for treason after his failed Beer Hall Putsch.

The book set out two ideas that he put into practice as Germany's leader going into World War II: annexing neighbouring countries to gain "Lebensraum", or "living space", for Germans, and his hatred of Jews, which led to the Holocaust.

Some 12.4 million copies were published in Germany and from 1936, the Nazi state gave a copy to all newlyweds as a wedding gift.

Germany's surprise bestseller: a critical edition of 'Mein Kampf'

JANUARY 3, 2017 —As a decades-long printing ban drew to a end, Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” returned to shelves in 2016 in an expanded, critical edition, becoming one of Germany’s best-selling non-fiction works of the year.

The decision to revisit the manifesto, in which one of history’s most loathed leaders argues for the establishment of a superior race, was a controversial one. Bavaria gained rights to the work, the title of which translates to “My Struggle,” in 1945, after the Allies took over the main Nazi publishing house following Germany’s defeat in World War II. For 70 years, the state refused to allow further publication of the work, but at the close of 2015, it fell back into the public domain.

While some argued that fully acknowledging and studying the work as a historical piece could educate younger generations about the horrors of Nazi hatred and the roots of the Holocaust, others worried that making the book readily available could bring renewed favor to its author's views, and give Neo-Nazis a piece of literature to rally around.

The newly printed work, which includes annotations from historical scholars, spent 35 weeks last year on Der Spiegel’s best-seller list, selling a total of around 85,000 copies. Now, publishers say the success of the annotated version and its historical merits show that the former hope, rather than the latter fear, has largely come to fruition.

“We are very happy that the ambitious bridge between fundamental academic work and historical-political explanation appears to have succeeded,” Andreas Wirsching, the director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, which published the work, told The New York Times. “The discussions about Hitler’s worldview and dealing with his propaganda presented an opportunity – at a time when authoritarian political beliefs and far-right slogans are again gaining in popularity – to re-examine the ominous roots and results of such totalitarian ideologies.”

Publishers initially only printed 4,000 copies, seriously underestimating public interest in the work, the AFP reported. During the 20 years between the work’s publication and its subsequent ban, some 12.4 million copies were printed in Germany, and the state began gifting copies to married couples in 1936.

By the end of this month, the new edition will enter its sixth printing cycle.

The edition, which contains some 3,500 annotations, has been widely discussed and read at museums, schools, churches, and memorial sites, prompting publishers to believe many who purchased it are seeking to fill historical gaps.

But authorities remain wary of the double-edged sword its rhetoric presents. In Leipzig, state prosecutors have launched investigations into a right-wing publisher who began reprinting the original work, trying to determine whether they can bring propaganda charges against the company, as the Times reported.

For now, publishers plan to publish the work only in German, French, and English, although they’ve been inundated with inquiries to translate the work into other languages.

"It would be irresponsible to just let this text spread arbitrarily," Wirsching told DPA, a German news agency.

Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' is bestseller in Germany

BERLIN — A reprint of Adolf Hitler's book Mein Kampf, the first since the end of World War II, has become a surprise bestseller in Germany, its publisher said Tuesday.

The Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IfZ) said around 85,000 copies of its annotated version of Hitler's manifesto have been sold since its release a year ago, when its copyright expired.

The IfZ initially printed only 4,000 copies. A sixth print run is scheduled for this month. Editions in English and French are planned.

Mein Kampf — the title means "My Struggle" in English — was published in two volumes in 1925-1926. Written while Hitler was in prison, it features autobiographical information about his youth and explains his antisemitic and extremist views.

Andreas Wirsching, the institute's director, said in a statement that concerns that the book's re-publication would promote or serve Hitler's far-right Nazi ideology have proven to be unfounded and that it instead has fostered mature debate about authoritarian ideologies.

The IfZ said its data showed that buyers of the book were "customers interested in politics and history as well as educators" and not "reactionaries or right-wing radicals."

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