There is an interesting controversy brewing between academics and Jewish groups in Germany as the deadline approaches for the end of the copyright over Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”, the book that laid the foundation for the Nazi takeover and ultimately the genocidal crimes of World War II. For seven decades, the copyright has rested with with Bravarian officials who have prevented the publication of the work. Now, academics are arguing that the book should be reprinted due to its obvious historical significance. However, Jewish and other groups are demanding a continuation of the ban on reprints.
The 800-page book, “My Struggle,” will become part the public domain on January 1st.
But as “Mein Kampf” — whose title means “My Struggle” — falls into the public domain on January 1, differences have emerged over how it should be treated in future. The historians at the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IFZ) will produce an annotated version of the two-volume tome that will be offered in January for 59 euros ($65).
The historians view this as a compromise since the work will be heavily annotated. However, Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Jewish community in Munich and Upper Bavaria, objects that even an annotated version “contains the original text” which “should itself not be printed”. She insists that it will be “in the interest of right wing militants and Islamists to spread these ideas.”
I certainly understand the concern but I believe that work should be reprinted with or without annotations. It is a historically important work in understanding the crimes and ideology of the Nazis. Like most free speech advocates, I have always been critical on the effort of Germany to criminalize references or symbols of the Nazi period. These laws have been easily circumvented by developing closely related symbols and salutes for Neo-Nazis. More importantly, it remains a fundamental tenet of free speech that the solution to bad speech is good speech — not censorship. The scourge of white supremacy and Nazi values has continued despite these laws, which allow extremists to assume the claim of victims and accuse the West of hypocrisy (or fear of exposure to these ideas). There remains plenty of sources of this information, particularly given the Internet. Historians however believe that the work should be available in new additions to be studied in history, political science and other departments. Perhaps not too surprising given the free speech and academic interests, I favor reprinting the work and leaving the debate over its content to the market of free ideas and exchange.
What do you think?