Two Numbers: Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' Sells Out First German Print Run Since World War II

Edel Rodriguez

For the first time since World War II, a new edition of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has been published in Germany, and it's proving even more popular than when it first came out.

The new two-volume book, in which Hitler says Jews are "the personification of the devil," comes in at 2,000 pages, including 3,700 annotations. The Germany-based Institute for Contemporary History, which has been researching the Nazi regime since 1949, self-published the book. Magnus Brechtken, deputy director of the institute, says it had 15,000 orders by January 8, when it went on sale with an initial print run of 4,000. Days later, the book was on its third print run, and the number of orders continues to climb.

Hitler wrote much of the first volume of Mein KampfMy Struggle—while in prison for treason, and it sold just 9,473 copies in 1925, the first year it was available. By war's end, 12 million copies had been sold in Germany.

Mein Kampf has not been widely available in Germany since then, because the Bavarian state government obtained the copyright and refused to allow anyone to print it. The copyright expired at the end of December, 70 years after Hitler's death. Now anyone can publish it, as long as the edition includes criticism, so that it does not violate volksverhetzung, German laws against incitement to hatred. (The original text is widely available in other countries.)

Some organizations worry that robust sales are linked to renewed anti-Semitism in Europe and xenophobia in Germany, where more than 1 million people registered for asylum in 2015. Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, an international organization that represents Jewish communities, says it's "absurd" to re-release Mein Kampf now as "scholarship." "It's a hateful, racist, anti-Semitic book, and why they would allow it to be republished is beyond me," he says. With a spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe, Lauder adds, republishing the manifesto is "like taking a fire and throwing oil on it."

Brechtken says the institute consulted with victims' groups and Jewish scholars. "We understand their feelings," he says. "We have the same aim as those who are representing victim groups of the Third Reich—mainly to inform the public about the racism that is in Mein Kampf and in other texts of this kind, and to help society at the present to prevent anything like that from happening again. We cannot ignore this text."