Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' Back in Bookstores For the First Time Since WWII

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A magazine supplement with an image of Adolf Hitler and the title 'The Unreadable Book' is pictured in Berlin January 26, 2012. Thomas Peter/Reuters

A new edition of Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf, in which the Austrian-born dictator set out the anti-Semitic and racist ideology behind the Nazi regime, will be published in Germany for the first time since the end of World War II.

The Institute for Contemporary History (IFZ) in Munich announced on Tuesday that they will publish a two-volume, 2,000-page edition in January. Under German law, the book's copyright expires 70 years after Hitler's death—which is the day the Institute plans to present its new annotated version.

IFZ director Andreas Wirsching told AFP that the Institute is publishing the book as an academic work, completely removed from any of the uncritical versions that people can buy in second-hand bookshops. The six-year project, he said, aims to "shatter the myth" surrounding the book.

The institute plans to print up to 4,000 copies of the new version, complete with more than 3,500 academic notes, and have them on Germany's bookstore shelves by early January.

Written in 1923, before Hitler came to power, Mein Kampf was a bestseller in the Nazi era—with more than 12 million copies in circulation between 1933 and 1945—and was translated into 18 languages.

After the war ended in 1945, the Allies determined that the state of Bavaria should obtain the rights. Since then, authorities in the southern German state have refused to allow anyone to republish the book out of respect for victims of the Nazis and to prevent the incitement of hatred.

Until now there have been no new editions of the text, but existing copies have been sold and resold all over the world. In March, an anonymous buyer bought a two-volume set of Mein Kampf, signed by Hitler himself, for $43,750.

While historians welcome the book's publication, Jewish communities remain divided.

Germany's leading Jewish organization had a mixed reaction to the news. "There is a great danger that Mein Kampf will increasingly be circulated on the market after the expiry of the copyright," Josef Schuster, president of the German Council of Jews, told the Financial Times on Tuesday. "Nevertheless, knowledge of Mein Kampf continues to be important in order to explain National Socialism and the Shoah. Therefore we do not object to a critical edition, contrasting Hitler's racial theories with scientific findings, to be at the disposal of research and teaching."

The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem also welcomed the publication. "What is sorely absent is a scientific, annotated edition of Mein Kampf, which can be used in research, especially for younger Holocaust scholars," Dan Michman, head of the Institute, told the Financial Times. "In this era of rampant Holocaust denial and distortion, it is important for the public at large to possess the knowledge previously only held by researchers and historians."