Wednesday, 25 February 2015
So, it was finally announced today that a new edition of Adolf Hitler's autobiography/manifesto "Mein Kampf" will be published early in 2016. Cue much gnashing of liberal teeth and wringing of progressive hands.
Though some lunatics and professional fibbers will tell you otherwise, we are now 70 years after the date of Hitler's death - 30 April 1945 - and so the copyright on his most famous book expires at the end of 2015, hence the book can be published (theoretically) by anyone. So, the German Institute fur Zeitgeschichte in Munich is first off the blocks by announcing that it will be offering an annotated edition of the book - taking the original 700 pages up to a whopping 2,000 - thereby making sure that no incautious or inattentive reader can possible take any positive message from Hitler's words.
Aside from the political, it is reassuring to report that Hitler's prose is practically unreadable. So keen was he to impress his followers when he wrote the book in prison in 1924, that he crammed everything he thought he knew into it - never a good idea for a first-time author - and consequently it it one of the most awfully badly written books in history. Even the English translation - despite the best mediating efforts of the translator - is turgid; reading it is like wading through fascist molasses.
That English edition - which I have on my shelf - actually raises an interesting point. Many out there are worried that this republication will be hugely significant, exposing a new, innocent generation to the poisoned words of a racist madman. Well, no. The book's publication has been controlled by the Bavarian State (to whom the rights fell on Hitler's death in 1945) and they have strictly limited publication ever since. But the English edition - through some quirk of the publishing history - is under a different copyright and has been freely available all the way through; you can easily find it on the internet, and even get it on your kindle for a bit of light holiday reading.
So, the lapse of the book's copyright and the prospect of its non-English language republication is - I suggest - a bit of a storm in a camomile teacup... I think it says much more about Germany's continued obsession with Hitler, and the curious assumption that his horrid, outdated ideas are still 'infectious', than it does about the book itself.
Let them publish, let Hitler be read (if you can), and let him be damned all over again.
(And - by the way - if you want to read about Hitler's time in prison during which he wrote "Mein Kampf" - here is my new eBook "His Struggle" which will explain everything...)