Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has becoming an exceedingly successful international e-book bestseller – a sign that anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide.
Originally published in 1925, the 387-page anti-Semitic manifesto on the “Jewish peril” and the Nazi ideology has become “a bona fide online sensation,” writes Fox News, topping Amazon’s Propaganda & Political Psychology section as of Thursday for just 99 cents.
Chris Faraone of Vocativ.com wrote Wednesday that for about a year now, Hitler's book has been on the list of best-sellers on iTunes, where and that currently two different digital versions of the book rank 12th and 15th on the Politics & Current Events chart.
On Amazon, reported Faraone, “there are more than 100 versions of Mein Kampf for sale in every conceivable print and audio format, from antique hardbacks to brand-new paperbacks. Of those 100 iterations, just six are e-books—yet all six of them rank among the 10 best-selling versions overall. And those are just the ones people are paying for.”
In January 2013, a 99 cent Kindle version began to do well among World War II books and Historical Biographies & Memoirs. Its publisher, a California company called Elite Minds Inc.,told Vocativ, “Sales are great,” but noted that he faces “a moral dilemma in promotion” in that he fears advocating “something that could be misused.”
Vocativ speculated that Mein Kampf's popularity on the Internet is connected to the anonymous nature of e-purchases, and to curiosity. “I think I waited 45 years to read Hitler’s words,” writes one reviewer. Another sums it up thusly: “Curiosity killed me to get this book.”
Germany inherited the copyright ownership to the book in 1945 and will maintain national exclusivity until 2015. Lawmakers there have pledged to release an annotated version of Mein Kampf to coincide with the expiration of their rights.
Since showing up in Asia 15 years ago, Mein Kampf has sold in excess of 100,000 copies in India. In 2005, the debut of the first-ever Turkish translation sold 100,000 copies in the first two months.
Deutsche Welle spoke to Gerhard Weinberg, 86, a professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina, who published Hitler's second book in 1961. He thinks there is a combination of factors that contribute to the sudden popularity of Hitler's book on the Internet.
"For one it is simply curiosity. For contemporaries, Hitler is a figure from the past about whom they've heard a great deal. And now suddenly on their computers they can either for little money or no money at all read his most important major book," Weinberg told DW in an interview.
"A second factor I would suggest is that some people may think that he was right about many things and this is a way to find out what exactly he thought without making yourself open to perhaps embarrassment by others who don't share your positive view of Hitler," he said.
But Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, thinks online sellers should only sell annotated versions of the book. "We know that the facts of life are that you cannot censor any idea from the Internet, it's simply impossible," Cooper told FoxNews.com. "But an annotated version is important for someone who doesn't know the context of the time and so that they're not reading pure genocidal hate."
"It adds fuel to the fire of hatred. It's shorthand for Jew hatred, and that makes it an automatic seller."
Cooper, along with historical consultant Harold Brackman, said the posthumous e-book's surge is not entirely unexpected.
“It exploits pent-up demand in Germany, where print versions have been verboten, but cyberspace again makes a joke of the Maginot Line of censorship laws,” Cooper and Brackman wrote on JewishJournal.com.
The glorification of Hitler, Cooper claims, is being seen among Muslims and Arabs in the Netherlands, Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, Thailand, Japan, India and South Korea.
In response to the surge in digital downloads of the book, as well as the expiration of its Bavarian copyright next year, the Anti-Defamation League is offering an introduction to the English translation written by Holocaust survivor and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman.
“We believe it is important for Mein Kampf to continue to be published as it does have value to historians and students of World War II and Holocaust history,” Foxman said in a statement. “There is always the concern, however, that some people who are already infected with anti-Semitism will misuse the book in an attempt to glorify Hitler or reinforce their own warped views about Jews. We think the only constructive way for the book to be published is with an introduction that explains the historical context and the impact of the thinking behind Hitler’s words, which led right up to the murderous, racist Nazi regime.”