Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ becomes German Bestseller Year after Reprint

by The Local – DE

It has been one year since Adolf Hitler’s book could once again be printed in Germany after 70 years off the shelves. Now it has swiftly become a bestseller.

For 70 years after the end of the Second World War, the brutal dictator’s manifesto remained unpublished in Germany.

Its copyright was owned by the state of Bavaria, which prevented new editions from being printed in Germany for fear of reinvigorating Nazi sentiments.

But when its copyright expired – 70 years after the death of the author, as is standard – an annotated version was printed for the first time again last year by the Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich. And the publisher quickly began to sell out, rushing to print more copies to meet the high demand.

Over the past year, around 85,000 copies have been sold, much to the surprise of the institute. The IfZ had at first only printed 4,000 copies, and now it’s heading for its sixth print run.

In April, the book become number one on Spiegel’s bestseller list.

“The number of sales has overwhelmed us,” the director of the IfZ, Andreas Wirsching, told DPA on Tuesday. “No one could have really predicted it.”

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.

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

‘Mein Kampf readers are not right-wing radicals’

There was concern leading up to the re-publication that releasing an un-annotated version would allow Hitler’s assertions to go unchallenged. Jewish groups questioned why the anti-Semitic text – already accessible for academics – should again be widely distributed.

“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,” 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 right-wing slogans are gaining ground.”

The IfZ edition is intended to be a critical look at the written work, including analysis and commentary from experts.

“It would have been irresponsible to allow this text to go freely,” said Wirsching.

And by the end of the year, Wirsching noted that those who bought the book turned out to be mainly readers interested in politics and history, including many teachers, not “old reactionaries or right-wing radicals”.

Recently the project even won the “Society needs Science” award with a €50,000 prize for how it “reveals Hitler’s false statements and distortions, corrects factual errors and explains the contemporary context.”

Wirsching said his institute’s edition has over the past year driven academic debate, some positive and some critical of the annotated work. He also said he would consider doing an English translation of their version.

But the IfZ is not the only group working with the text that now lies in the public domain. A right-wing publishing house in Leipzig called Der Schelm released a version without commentary, stating that readers should “have the courage to come to your own understanding”.

The Bavarian state is also working on a guide for history classes on how to use excerpts from the book in education.

“The aim is to handle a very difficult and historically weighty source in a sensitive way,” said a state education spokesman.

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The 1,000s of Germans Massacred after WWII

Germans fleeing from eastern Europe after the Second World War.

by DW

Seventy years ago on Friday, a munitions depot exploded in the Czechoslovakian town of Ústí nad Labem. For the thousands of Sudeten Germans who lived in the town, the event was a death sentence.

The explosion happened in the afternoon of July 31st, 1945. Around 27 people were killed, including seven Czechs.

World War II had ended just weeks before – and Czechoslovakia had begun to forcibly expel over two million Sudeten Germans who lived in the country.

So when the explosion happened, rumours quickly spread that the Germans were responsible.

What followed was a massacre.

All ethnic Germans had been forced to wear white armbands, making them easily recognizable – and on the day of the explosion, German men, women and children were mercilessly beaten and killed.

Some were shot dead. Others were thrown into the River Elbe and then shot at while they tried to swim to safety.

Part of the “fierce expulsion”

Those responsible for the massacre were Revolutionary Guards (a post-war Czech paramilitary group) alongside Soviet and Czech soldiers, as well as around 300 Czech civilians who had just arrived from Prague by train.

Mayor Josef Vondra tried to help the victims, as did many local Czechs. But the death toll continued to rise.

In the aftermath, the event was shrouded in controversy.

With an estimated 75,000 Czech citizens having been killed in forced labour camps under Nazi rule, Czech officials were unwilling to commemorate the Germans who lost their lives.

“This was a time of continental ruin,” explained James Mayfield from the Institute for Research of Expelled Germans, “and [with] no tribunals to prevent war crimes or local violence.

“Over 50 million had died in the war anyway,” Mayfield told The Local, “so the lives of 2,000 to 5,000 Germans at Ústí nad Labem were seen as largely insignificant.”

The massacre was part of something much wider, Mayfield said – and what happened in Ústí was “only one of many violent examples of what historians and German expellees call the wilde Vertreibungen (fierce expulsion) of Germans from countries such as Czechoslovakia.

According to Mayfield, local vigilantes ignored instructions from Allied powers to make the expulsions as “orderly, humane and non-violent as possible.”

Commemorating the victims

Ten years ago, former Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda unveiled a memorial plaque on the Aussiger Bridge over the River Elbe, where part of the massacre occurred.

“In memory of the victims of the violence of 31st July 1945,” it reads in Czech and German.

A decade on, the bridge is the scene of further remembrance.

Organized by the Association of German Citizens in the Czech Republic, a special ceremony took place this Friday to commemorate the victims of the massacre.

As in previous years, Sudeten German Association chairman Bernd Posselt travelled to Ústí for the service.

Yet the ceremony was particularly important this year, Posselt told the Local, as for the first time, Czech politicians would be in attendance.

The service began at 3:30pm and was attended by current Ústí mayor Věra Nechybová, as well as members of German minority groups in the town.

There was also a remembrance service in the street at 1pm, to commemorate those killed in the original explosion.

And at 6pm, a church in the town will hold a special mass for the victims.

Czech-German relations since the massacre

The massacre divided the two countries for decades – with ongoing controversy as to why exactly it occurred.

The Czech government have since claimed that they were unable to stop massacres such as the one in Ústí, Mayfield said.

However, he argued: “all historical evidence suggests that most locals, government officials, and particularly the communist party were widely aware of the massacres.”

“They either supported limited reprisals against the Germans, looked the other way, or even provided intelligence and names of German families.”

Since the German expulsion from Czechoslovakia, the Czech government has refused German calls for compensation for these refugees – several thousand of whom died in the expulsion.

But in 1997, the German-Czech Declaration was founded.

The agreement saw both sides state that they would “not allow past legal and political issues to be a burden” on the relationship between the two countries.

“The 1997 German-Czech Declaration paved the way for Germany and the Czech Republic to become present-day friends and partners, duty-bound to uphold human rights, freedom and democracy,” a spokesperson for the German Foreign Ministry told The Local.

“Ethnic cleansing”

“Despite the many cases of massacres and forced dispossession, it would be inaccurate to describe the expulsion of the German minority of over 3,000,000 from Czechoslovakia as genocide or extermination,” said Mayfield.

“It was, instead, when combined with the expulsion of over 7,000,000 ethnic Germans from the rest of Eastern Europe, the largest and most organized ethnic cleansing in modern history.”

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