January 12, 2016
Mein Kampf, published in Germany for the first time since 1945, sells out instantly
by Ena Brdjanovic
We’ve previously written about the plans of the Institute of Contemporary History (ICHB) in Munich to publish a 2,000 page, two-volume academic edition of Adolph Hitler‘s Mein Kampf. In anticipation of the expiration of a copyright that prevented publication of the racist tract in German, the ICHB has—amidst protest—been planning a critical edition of the Nazi manifesto since 2012.
Some context: the Allies banned publication of Mein Kampf after World War II, and since then, Bavaria has declined to license reprints of the work in German, though the 5.2 million copies sold at its original publication in 1925 and throughout Hitler’s reign have remained in limited circulation.
Christian Hartmann, who led the team of historians in annotating and editing the newly published edition, told The New York Times: “I think that German society is really ready for such a critical examination of the work.”
It would appear Hartmann was correct. The ICHB’s critical edition of Mein Kampf, published Friday, January 8th for the first time in nearly 70 years, has instantly sold out.
Melissa Eddy at The New York Times reports that, “Despite the edition’s heft—the two volumes together weigh more than 10 pounds—and an announced price of 59 euros, or about $64…the book sold out within hours on Amazon’s German site, where it was listed as ‘not available, due to limited publication.'” The Telegraph’s Melanie Hall notes that demand for Hitler’s tome hugely exceeded supply, with 15,000 advance orders for an initial print run of just 4,000 copies.
The edition published last week is revised and contains some 3,500 academic annotations, with more analysis than original writing—Hitler’s text is surrounded by lengthy commentary compiled and edited by the ICHB’s team of historians, commentary which seeks to undermine the rambling racist tract. In publishing the new edition, the ICHB seeks to provide the German public with a critical and historical lens through which to refute the text.
Citing this reasoning, the German Association of Teachers has indicated a move towards including the new academic edition as part of the German high school curriculum. Eddy reports:
Last month, the president of the German Association of Teachers, Josef Kraus, argued for integrating the new edition into high school classrooms, as part of efforts to educate young Germans about the dangers of extremist thinking and the atrocities carried out by previous generations.
“Schools cannot ignore ‘Mein Kampf,’ ” Mr. Kraus said, noting that forbidding the work would only drive up interest in the original volume, easily available online. “It is far better they be introduced to ‘Mein Kampf’ by trained, experienced history and political teachers.”
Ena Brdjanovic was formerly Director of Digital Media at Melville House.