“Mein Kampf” will go on sale in Germany next week after its copyright expires on Friday, marking the first time in 70 years the book will be legally reprinted in the country.
The German state of Bavaria has held the copyright for Adolf Hitler’s autobiography since 1945 and has withheld publishing the book, preventing any reprints in Germany. But in 2016, the book becomes available in the public domain, which will make it widely available in Germany for the first time since World War II.
Hitler began writing the first volume of the autobiographical “Mein Kampf” in 1923 while imprisoned in Landsberg prison for an attempted coup to overthrow the government of Bavaria. Published in 1925, the first volume of the book lays out Hitler’s overview of the problems facing German society, his support for dictatorship and the racial hatred underpinning his beliefs.
The book gained popularity in 1933 as Hitler became Reich Chancellor, and by 1945, it was translated into 18 languages and sold 12 million copies.
The Institute of Contemporary History in Munich will release an approximately 2,000-page annotated edition of “Mein Kampf” on Jan. 8, 2016. The version will include critical commentary aimed at deconstructing and contextualizing the work, according to a statement from the Institute. The book will cost 59 euros ($65).
Critics have raised questions about the value of reprinting a book that contributed to inciting racial hatred in the years leading up to the Holocaust, said Steven Luckert, Senior Program Curator at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education.
“It’s generated a lot of fears in Germany and elsewhere that once again, Hitler’s words could resonate with audiences,” he said.
But some scholars have argued that continuing to ban the book does not prevent people from accessing it — “Mein Kampf” is available for download online — and that a reprint with historical analysis could have educational merit.
Josef Kraus, president of the German Teachers Association, has voiced support for using the book in schools, saying it could help students think critically about extremism.
“A professional treatment of excerpts in lessons can help immunize against political extremism,” he told German newspaper Handelsblatt.
A reprint that puts Hitler’s words in context could be helpful for students, Luckert said.
“With critical commentary that contextualizes the book, that explains where these ideas come from — the insidious nature of those — I think that can be very helpful for people to understand something about those words and what they mean,” he said. “In a world in which you have a lot of hate, a lot of anti-Semitism, a lot of racism being propagated through various forms of media, I think it’s important to confront those in meaningful ways.”
“Mein Kampf” was never banned in the U.S. but remains banned in Austria and the Netherlands. In France, publisher Fayard will print a French version of the book.