The PJ Tatler

Look Who's Back

Hitler, in the form of Mein Kampf (My Jihad, er, Struggle), which will once again be legally for sale in Germany:

The book that once served as a kind of Nazi bible, banned from domestic reprints since the end of World War II, will soon be returning to German bookstores from the Alps to the Baltic Sea.

The prohibition on reissue for years was upheld by the state of Bavaria, which owns the German copyright and legally blocked attempts to duplicate it. But those rights expire in December, and the first new print run here since Hitler’s death is due out early next year. The new edition is a heavily annotated volume in its original German that is stirring an impassioned debate over history, anti-Semitism and the latent power of the written word.

Following the war, there has been a complete ban on Nazi regalia, mementos, etc., in Germany (not that there aren’t plenty of secret rooms filled with souvenirs of the Thousand-Year-Reich in private homes). Now the most notorious book of the 20th-century will be back on the shelves:

The book’s reissue, to the chagrin of critics, is effectively being financed by German taxpayers, who fund the historical society that is producing and publishing the new edition. Rather than a how-to guidebook for the aspiring fascist, the new reprint, the group said this month, will instead be a vital academic tool, a 2,000-page volume packed with more criticisms and analysis than the original text.

Still, opponents are aghast, in part because the book is coming out at a time of rising anti-Semitism in Europe and as the English and other foreign-language versions of “Mein Kampf” — unhindered by the German copyrights — are in the midst of a global renaissance.

“I am absolutely against the publication of ‘Mein Kampf,’ even with annotations. Can you annotate the Devil? Can you annotate a person like Hitler?” said Levi Salomon, spokesman for the Berlin-based Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism. “This book is outside of human logic.”

I beg to differ. The real horror of the National Socialist state was that it was entirely all too human and, by its own lights, eminently logical. That it seduced the most civilized nation in Europe is to Germany’s eternal shame. But hiding Hitler’s turgid, soporific prose (especially in German; the English translations are actually marginally better, literarily) does nobody any good: sunlight really is the best disinfectant.