Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf has been much talked about lately, in view of the expiry of its copyright. Despite the fact that there has been some discussion, also sparked by the publication of an annotated scholarly edition by Germany’s Institute for Contemporary History (IFZ), there is hardly anything of practical value to debate about.
The State of Bavaria has held the rights to Mein Kampf from the end of World War II. Since that time, it has refused to authorize reprints as the book incites racial hatred. Nevertheless over the past decades a large number of versions of Mein Kampf have been published unhindered in many languages. It is widely read in Arabic countries. Copies have even been found to be available in London in neighborhoods with large Arab populations.
It was also reported that it was a bestseller in the Palestinian Authority areas. This should not come as a surprise.
Hitler’s book is also widely available in India. Curiosity appears to be the main reason, rather than any more sinister motivation, especially as to why the book had such an impact in its time.
By contrast, several years ago, Rifat Bali, an expert on Turkish anti-Semitism wrote that the Turkish translation of Mein Kampf had become a bestseller in the country and could be purchased in some of the largest supermarket chains and bookstores. Here the anti-Semitic motivation seems self-evident.
It was also reported that it was a bestseller in the Palestinian Authority areas. This should not come as a surprise. The main pre-war leader of the Palestinian Arabs was the Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Amin Al-Husseini. He saw major parallels between Islam and Nazism. He mentioned these during the Second World War in a lecture to the members of the SS division of Bosnian Muslims which he had helped establish.
Husseini listed the following points in common:
- monotheism, unity of leadership, and the Führer principle
- notions of obedience and discipline
- fighting for honor and fighting to the death in battle
- attitude toward community: common interest precedes personal interest
- valuing motherhood and the prohibition of abortion
- attitude toward Jews – Islam and National Socialism are close to each other in the battle against Judaism
- glorification of labor and creation –Islam protects and respects labor in every way
Against this background and in view of the widespread anti-Semitism in the hatred-permeated Arab world, Mein Kampf serves as a tool for anti-Semitic incitement in those countries and will continue to do so.
One anti-Semitic website lists where one can download Hitler’s book for free on the internet in various European languages. We should have no illusions regarding Europeans’ rising interest in Mein Kampf. In today’s Europe where anti-Semitism is on the increase, most of those interested in reading Mein Kampf are probably not motivated by curiosity, but rather seeking additional material for fomenting hatred of the Jews and classic anti-Semitism.
The IFZ stated that their objective in publishing the annotated version was “to present Mein Kampf as a salient source document for contemporary history, to describe the context of the genesis of Hitler’s worldview, to reveal his predecessors in thought and mentality as well to contrast his ideas and assertions with the findings of modern research.”
There has been criticism of the annotated version. Yet discussing whether it should or should not have been published is also futile, as the book has already been released. This discussion has also been missing the point thus far. The point is not whether one should or will read the entire 2000 page work together with all 3 500 notes. Rather, the main issue here is that in view of the widespread poor understanding of classic and contemporary anti-Semitism it is extremely important to have a text where one can find a critical analysis of a major anti-Semitic work.
It seems mainly for the record that The Central Council of Jews in Germany stated that it does not object to the publication of the critical, scientifically-annotated version of Mein Kampf. Joseph Schuster, head of the Council, said that knowledge of Hitler’s book was important to explain National Socialism and the Holocaust. He added that “therefore there are no objections to a scientifically annotated edition for research and teaching purposes.”
What is important is that German authorities still plan to prosecute publishers of unedited reprints of the book on charges of “inciting racial hatred.” However, in practice this may only have any effect in Germany itself.
The issue remains as to whether a Hebrew edition should be published. It makes little sense to release a simple translation. Such a publication would perhaps be desirable only if it is heavily annotated and if the book is presented within the context of the bi-millennial development of anti-Semitism.
Such an edition should not only show how Hitler conceived his movement and its persecution of the Jews. It should also illustrate how his ideas were developed based on the infrastructure built and fortified over many centuries by the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations.
Furthermore it should explain which motifs in Mein Kampf later mutated into themes used against Israel, especially in their emergence in the Muslim world, which includes the predominantly Muslim Palestinian Arabs.
 Matthias Küntzel, Djihad und Judenhass, (Freiburg: ça ira-Verlag, 2003), 39. [German]