“I understand some immediately feel uncomfortable when a book that played such a dramatic role is made available again to the public,” said Magnus Brechtken, the institute’s deputy director. “On the other hand, I think that this is also a useful way of communicating historical education and enlightenment – a publication with the appropriate comments, exactly to prevent these traumatic events from ever happening again.”
A rambling, repetitive work panned by literary critics for its pedantic style, Mein Kampf was drafted by Hitler in a Bavarian jail after the failed Nazi uprising in Munich of November 1923. It was initially published in two volumes in 1925 and 1926, with later, joint editions forming a kind of Nazi handbook. During the Third Reich, some German cities doled out copies to Aryan newlyweds as wedding gifts.
The book also laid the groundwork for the Holocaust, stating, for instance, that Jews are and “will remain the eternal parasite, a freeloader that, like a malignant bacterium, spreads rapidly whenever a fertile breeding ground is made available to it.”
Contrary to popular belief, Mein Kampf – or “My Struggle” – was never banned in post-war Germany; only its reprinting was. Of the more than 12.4 million copies in existence before 1945, hundreds of thousands are thought to survive. Old copies can still be sold in antiquarian bookstores. But public access is generally confined to a few restricted repositories such as the library in Munich, which only permits viewings based on academic need or historical research. Bavarian authorities also have played cat and mouse with those who have sought to publish Mein Kampf online, acting to block German-language versions posted on the Internet whenever possible.