Adolf Hitler

Should Germans Be Allowed to Read Mein Kampf?


Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf

A few decades ago, back in high school I was particularly struck by an incident in which a German exchange student with whom I was friendly expressed considerable surprise that Adolf Hitler's screed Mein Kampf was setting openly on the shelves of our library. I told him that I had actually tried to read it, but found it be an incomprehensible mess. He solemnly told me that the book was illegal in Germany. He picked the volume up and held it as though he thought it might bite him. Having never heard of United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, I was patriotically proud of the fact that we had no such censorship in my country.

According to an op-ed by journalist Peter Ross Range, "Should Germans Read 'Mein Kampf'?, in today's New York Times, the book is, strictly speaking, not illegal in Germany. However, the copyright holder, the state of Bavaria, has refused to allow its republication. The copyright is about to expire, so anyone would have the right to publish it soon. In fact, a team of scholars is working on an annotated version. This has provoked concern in some quarters that making it available to Germans might summon forth the old Nazi demons. As the op-ed reports:

Unsurprisingly, the "Mein Kampf" project has stirred uproar in some Jewish circles. Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Israelite Cultural Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, said "there is still a danger" of catalyzing far-right sentiments. Uri Chanoch, an 86-year-old Israeli Holocaust survivor, added that Germans "somewhere in their hearts still have a hatred for us" and has campaigned aggressively against the book's republication, calling for international pressure on Bavaria to block it.

It is only natural for people who survived the savagery of Hitlerism to express such sentiments, but cooler heads have prevailed and work on the annotated edition is proceeding:

Racing to be first to publish the book is the Institute for Contemporary History, a noted center in Munich for the study of Nazism, which has a five-scholar team at work on an annotated "critical edition" of Hitler's 700-page ramble.

The institute's version will double the size of the book and create an academic baseline for all future study of the ur-text of Hitlerism, said the team's leader, Christian Hartmann. The book's extensive notations, he added, will "encircle" Hitler's story line with a "collage" of commentary to demystify and decode it, an alternative subtext and historical context that will strip it of its allegedly hypnotizing power.

Range is clearly right when he concludes: 

Sixty-nine years after World War II, it no longer makes sense for Germans not to have unfettered access to the same book that can be easily bought in other countries….

In 1959, West Germany's first postwar president, Theodor Heuss, recommended republishing "Mein Kampf" as a cautionary document for the German people. Not yet ready for such a confrontation, the political establishment ignored him. Today, 55 years and 10 presidents later, Heuss's good idea is finally coming to fruition.

Limiting speech will not deter tyranny, but free speech can.

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  1. Now that the copyright is running out, look for Mein Kampf: The Musical to hit Broadway.

    1. PL: Essentially already done back in 1968.

        1. Yes, of course, but I meant for real. Though maybe with a nod to The Producers by licensing “Springtime for Hitler?” The song, I mean.

          1. For an undergrad assignment at Indiana U. ca. 1962, David Lindelof wrote Adolf, a musical play. The music was not original, but selections from some widely distributed record of songs of the 3rd Reach. The play was reasonably funny.

            1. I think that by then Mel Brooks had already floated the idea of Springtime for Hitler in his comedy act.

    2. I thought “The Producers” was hilarious. Then again, Mel Brooks never gave a shit about being politically correct.

      1. Roger Ebert told a story of how he once rode in an elevator with Mel, his wife Anne Bancroft and another woman who told Brooks that she thought ‘The Producers’ was vulgar.

        Mel Brooks said with perfect sincerity, “Lady, it rose below vulgarity.”

        1. I’m thinking about having a movie night in the common room here, and inviting all my proggie apartment mates. The movie? Blazing Saddles. Ohhhh boy.

          1. Weird how ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘All in the Family’ are a movie and TV show that could never be made today without provoking major outrage.

          2. Probably the funniest movie ever made. My kids will quote it from time to time. if we have to pay to park, or go through a toll, we hear, “Has anybody got a dime? Somebody’s gotta go back and get a shitload of dimes.”

            When I’m full, I still occasionally say “Fifteen’s my limit on snitzengrubers(sp)”

            1. “Baby, I am not from Havana!”

              My all time favorite movie.

            2. One of my all time favorite movie scenes, ever.

            3. It was based on fact, according to John Chodes. There really were scams like that in the theater industry. He says that’s why laws were enacted that now make it very hard to get startup funding for prod’ns.

              1. I meant The Producers, not Blazing Saddles.

              2. I bet it still goes on. There’s still such a thing as “Hollywood accounting.”

  2. You. Know. Who. Else?

  3. Let me just say that any Nazi puns that follow on this thread will shatter my concentration with their camp.

    1. They oftentimes leave me feeling gassy.

      1. You need to stop eating beans Anne Frank for lunch.

    2. So you’re saying we need some kind of final solution for this continuing pun question?

      1. They’re heil-larious puns, but the people making them are such deutschbags.

        1. Einz natz gruppen them all together

    3. I came to Reason for the cosmotarianism, but I stay for the top-shelf genocide humor.

      1. Read Shalom Auslander’s hilarious novel Hope: A Tragedy.

        An elderly Anne Frank is discovered in an attic of the protagonist’s New York home. She shits in the heating vents, captures and devours crows and pigeons for sustenance and is overall a foul and rude being (“I hid all these years because who would buy my book if I had survived?”)

        The author took inspiration from his tribe’s obsession with the Shoah and what it means to be Jewish.

      2. I’ve heard these all before, Anne Frankly, they’re awful.

  4. Peter Jackson could turn this into a movie trilogy.

    In a hole in the ground there lived a Hitler. Not a nasty, wet damp place: this was a Hitler hole and that meant CONCRETE UND SHTEEL! JA ! UND MACHINE GUNS! TIGER TANKS!

    1. Just think what Michael Bay could do.
      Blitzkrieg, with lens flares.

      1. You’re thinking of JJ Abrams. Michael Bay is the one who confuses explosions for ideas.

  5. Should Germans Be Allowed to Read Mein Kampf?

    “Whatever you do, don’t mention the war!”

    1. “I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it all right.”

    2. I do Nazi what the problem is, as long as they are not forced to.

      1. Some of the songs in Adolf had puns like that.

  6. Should Germans Be Allowed to Read Mein Kampf?


    1. I dunno, wasn’t Hitler Austrian? What did the Germans have to do with that book, anyway?

      1. Australian. He was Australian.

        A common mistake.

        1. Isn’t that what I said? I saw Young Hitler with Yahoo Serious, after all.

    2. Well sure, what could possibly go wrong? I just don’t like the sound of these ‘ere boncentration bamps.

      1. +1 You have to forgive him, he hasn’t slept since 1945.

        1. “Not much fun in Stalingrad, no.”

  7. Should blindingly obvious positions be phrased as rhetorical questions?

  8. NEIN!!

    1. Sorry, we only have six copies in stock, would you like us to special order some for you?

      1. “Well, how big a fire do you want to have?”

  9. When I was in the National Guard we trained with some visiting German Army Armor NCOs. One night we were drinking beer in the barracks and “Band of Brothers” came on – their eyes were popping out of their heads.

    1. And yet, Hogan’s Heroes was/is a huge hit in Germany.

      1. As it should be everywhere.

      2. That is because Bob Crane is der ?bermensch

        1. He was. He was. And all the lead Germans were Jews, so it’s okay to laugh, right?

        2. Gilllllmooorrreeee!

          /shakes fist

    2. Why? Germans must have war shows.

      1. But probably not about WWII.

        1. Der Untergang was a German theatrical production, and there’s Das Boot, which ran on German TV as a miniseries.

          1. Das Boot I know, it’s a drama set inside of a submarine. I was thinking of a movie more along the lines of the Wehrmacht heroically charging across France and Poland, kind of something similar to a German version of John Wayne war movies.

            1. Well, they were the bad guys. Even our worst wars had the U.S. in a gray area as opposed to TOTAL SUPERVILLAINS. I mean, the Nazis and everything they did reads like a bad and implausible novel.

              1. “Have you noticed that our caps actually have little pictures of skulls on them?”

                1. I know, right? The bad guys in the Star Wars movies were less consciously villains.

          1. A critic in the K?lner Stadt-Anzeiger called the film kitschy, devoid of deeper meaning, and morally worst, full of pathetic self-pity. The film’s message was “We perpetrators (of war crimes) didn’t have an easy time.”

      2. They’re all set in 1870.

  10. The 800-pound gorilla in the room, when talking about Mein Kampf is that it isn’t new thought. Hitler’s intellectual forebearers were all German philosophers and all of them disciples of either Hegel, Nietzsche, or Marx. National Socialism in Germany was the apex of the Romanticism/Anti-Enlightenment in Europe, a revolt against Man as a rational being, against the sovereignty of the individual, and against natural rights.

    It is right and proper to criticize Mein Kampf. The problem is, it did not spring forth from the ether. To indict Hitler requires indicting, or at least, taking a very hard look at, those who came before him and inspired him.

    1. To be sure, Hitler was no intellectual. While he was influenced by some philosophers, his views were quite strange, aside from all of the horrific stuff we’re all aware of.

      I read somewhere that one of his favorite movies was King Kong. Discuss amongst yourselves the implications of that.

      1. Hitler was a gangster who plagiarized crackpots. He was an ape reading philosophy, in other words. But he didn’t understand it.

        1. You mean Hegel and Nietzsche actually have some virtue?

          1. I’d say the latter has some, though he was pretty whacked out. Hegel, well, hard to like him and be a libertarian.

            1. Hegel did write something to effect of the individual has no rights against the State and that individuals have a moral duty to submit to the State. And Hegel’s “dialectic” smacks of equal parts arguing in bad faith and the golden mean fallacy.

          2. “The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”

            ? Friedrich Nietzsche

            1. Nietzsche, for all his megalomaniacal tendencies and syphillitic insanity, has some phenomenal aphorisms.

        2. “Apes don’t read philosophy!”

          1. Yes they do, db, they just don’t understand it

      2. something, something… big dong?

      3. Mein Kampf @Amazon

        Customer Reviews(546)
        3.8 out of 5 stars
        5 star 254
        4 star 106
        3 star 80
        2 star 32
        1 star 74
        See all 546 customer reviews

        – Great read, very informational really liked the way the book was written in an easy to read style.
        Yousif Jacob

        – If you even think you know anything about Hitler until you read this book all you have been told is bias.
        Jack Johnson

        I have read he digital copy, though my physical copy hasn’t came yet… The book is absolutely fantastic.
        Devon Arthurs

        Doing research for a play about the 3rd Reich so this was really great to get and so easy.
        James A. Myl

        This book is NOT what I expected. No wonder he had so many followers. Too bad he went nuts thought he could bite more than he could chew.

        1. – If you even think you know anything about Hitler until you read this book all you have been told is bias.
          Jack Johnson

          Why can’t people seem to grasp the difference between bias (a noun) and biased (an adjective)? This bothers me more than it should.

          Also, I like how Hitler’s personal manifesto is somehow a legitimate objective source. Okay guy.

          1. In that sentence it makes sense as either the n. or the v.

        2. Doing research for a play…

          Yeah, sure… we know you’re secretly planning to rule the Fatherland.

      4. Pro L, he supposedly loved Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and Disney movies in general.

        Explore the implications of that, if you dare.

        1. Oh, that’s easy. Disney was a Nazi.

        2. I’ve also read that Hitler also liked watching Fred Astaire / Ginger Roger movies.

          1. While wearing a dress.

    2. The one thing I remember from my visit to the holocaust museum was that Hitler burned all the communist books.

      1. He didn’t burn a single one by himself, but he did have a lot of willing helpers.

        Pretty sure it was Goebbels’ idea to have the bonfire, actually, via Nazi university student groups.

      2. Lefty infighting – there can be only one homicidal socialist group in Germany, thank you very much.

    3. I doubt if Hegel would have approved of Hitler, and I know Nietzsche would not have. I am wary of the sort of reasoning that blames ancestors for the excesses and crimes of descendants.

      1. Or the inverse, in blaming descendents of generations long since passed from the earth for the ravages of crimes that haven’t existed in centuries.

        1. Your reparations check is in the mail.

  11. They all speak English anyway. They can get it here. The comments are delightful.

    Reviewer: socal sam, May 29, 2013
    Subject: This book used to pay Hitler
    Sadly this drivel was published mostly long term to provide Hitler with a salary.
    Historical but otherwise there are any number of crazy people with manifestos. Most are ignored.
    We learn from this book that sometimes a homeless person with a dirty spiral bound notebook actually gets an entire nation behind them.

    Reviewer: hgoodall, November 27, 2011
    Subject: I ave the little book called My New World Order
    I have the little book that was the first chapters of this book. It is called My New World Order. It is an excellent read and I will upload it later. Remember that the times. Germany was in a Depression and had to pay the Debts to the winners of WW I. He may had been a nut, but he was a intelligent nut. A Mighty Oak is a Nut that stood its ground. My predictions are also coming to pass. So remember Hitler and what once was will be again in another form. Look around you and decide.

    Reviewer: leee1102, June 18, 2011
    Subject: Erase from history
    As someone who had descendants murdered by this evil lunatic, I would vote for erasing every scrap of evidence that he ever existed, with the exception of the fond remembrances of those he killed.

    1. Why can’t people get descendants and ancestors correct?

      Although I guess it’s possible leee1102 is incredibly old and his kids never left Europe.

      1. The Wandering Jew is REAL!

        leee1102 is just looking to doom us to repeating Hitler or something.

  12. Speaking of Nazi domination of inferior races, *who’s amped up for Germany v Brazil*?!?!

      1. Good point.

    1. I thought all the Germans had moved to Brazil.

  13. I think a critical edition would be a very good idea. Although I would hope German education is a bit better than U.S. education, there may still be readers (especially those educated in Commie schools) who lack the historical background to get Hitler’s references and to see where he’s, shall we say, exaggerating.

    1. Yes, I like the critical edition aspect. Let’s also do that for Marx, Lenin, Obama, Hillary Clinton….

  14. Here’s a line from p. 831, worth quoting at the “states rights = racism” crowd: “One can, therefore, not speak of State sovereignty in the case of the States of the American Union, but only of their constitutionally established and guaranteed rights, which, perhaps, would be better called privileges.”

    Put that on a placard in a protest against the federal government and see the reaction.

  15. Don’t buy the pop-up book version of Mein Kampf. It has jackboots that bloodily kick you to the curb.

    1. Green Eggs and Lebensraum.

      1. Vere is Valdo? Ve shall torture his friends and find out!

        1. Oops, I mean *und* find out.

        2. If ve do not get Valdo before ze end of this day, ve vill kill six random characters from that page. And six ze next.

  16. Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Israelite Cultural Community of Munich and Upper Bavaria, said “there is still a danger” of catalyzing far-right sentiments.

    To make sure that I understand the unspoken meaning of the contemporary left-right political continuum, communist-socialists are far left, while fascist-socialists are far right, yes? Does that imply that non-socialists and non-collectivists are dead center?

    Or are we not worthy of being included in the great Left-Right Continuum of Collectivism?

    1. International socialists (communist-socialists) are far left.

      National socialists (fascist-socialists) are to the right of them.

      Therefore they are ‘far right’.

      Everything right of International socialism is ‘far right’.

      This allows nazis to be lumped in with those dangerous folks who believe in free speech.

      1. International socialists are far right. They’re the political descendants of the “clericists” who were to the right of the monarchists.

        When the socialists painted themselves as “left wing” and got that to stick, it was one of the greatest political swindles of all time.

    2. It’s socialists all the way down.

  17. You trying to tell me that not one of the eleventy billion copies sold in Germany before and during the War survived? Please.

    Hey, german kids, go ask your grandparents to fetch their old copy out of the attic–they surely received one as a wedding gift. It’s cheaper than buying your own new copy, for sure.

  18. The fact that Germany has upheld such a long period of censorship implies one of two things:

    1. There is still some kind of large scale sympathy for Hitler and Nazism, which doesn’t seem to be the case currently.
    2. The German government considers its population either too stupid or unhappy to not take the ravings of charismatic madman seriously and begin immediately Putsching through Munich.

    I think both answers are rather insulting to Germans.

    And the fact that I worked at a German owned APC factory during university has absolutely nothing to do with this, I swear. *shifty eyes*

    1. Papers, please.

      We will determine the effect of your employment history!

      1. You mean, “Vee vill determine zee effect of your employment hiss-tory!” no doubt.

  19. What this story is really about is ridiculous copyright laws. Like a state should be allowed to hold copyright in anything??!

    1. It’s artificial constructs all the way down.

  20. The most interesting Hitler theory I’ve ever read. More.

    The short version: Hitler was temporarily blinded by gas during the war, and when Germany surrendered he went blind again. A psychologist decided it was hysterical blindness, and cured him with hypnosis, telling him he was a special person and that Germany needed him.

    One bit of indirect evidence for this is an interview done with Hitler’s commanding officer, after Hitler became prominent but before he was in power. Asked how it was that Hitler served the entire war with distinction but never rose higher than corporal, the officer stated it was because he showed no leadership ability whatsoever(!). Clearly something changed.

  21. Should Germans Be Allowed To Read Mein Kampf?

    Given that it’s available as a PDF all over the net it’s prolly a moot point. Presumably everyone who’s in the least bit interested has already read it.

  22. The annotated edition sounds like a wonderful idea, and one I wish had been available long ago. I hope they take pains to debunk, not only all the excuses and half-truths that make up the Holocaust denial movement, but also all of the mythical history the Nazis made up while they were running for election (such as the Dolchsto?).

  23. In high school I checked out both Mein Kampf and Earth in the Balance (Al Gore’s book from 1992) at the same time. Both were unreadable but at least Gore included a few dramatic pictures.

  24. Reading Mein Kampf would, if anything, DECREASE the chance of a new tyrant like Hitler arising. In order to recognize the warning signs of said tyrant ahead of time, we need to understand what they are. Germany failed to do so. We must learn from their mistakes, and a key part of that is studying how Hitler came to power. Reading Mein Kampf would be a major educational tool in helping us see what the Germans failed to see. That way, when the next Hitler tries to come to power, we know what’s going on and put an end to his tyranny before it begins.

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