Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' Spurs Legal Fight

Plans by a British publisher to make segments of Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” available in the German language may run into legal trouble.

Publisher Peter McGee said he plans to publish three annotated excerpts of the text, which remains under copyright protection in Germany until 2015, 70 years after Hitler’s death, according to the Associated Press. The Bavarian Finance Ministry, which holds the copyright, told AP on Tuesday that plans to print excerpts in Germany before then may violate the law.

While a U.S.-based Holocaust survivors’ organization opposes McGee’s move, Dieter Graumann, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told Der Spiegel that he would not object to the annotated publication of the text in Germany. Hitler wrote his anti-Semitic diatribe in 1924 while in prison in Landsberg. He later left the printing rights to the state of Bavaria, which has banned publication in Germany and tried to prevent it elsewhere.

In 2010, the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History was granted permission to reprint the work after the copyright lapses. Historians there are working on an annotated edition.

Bavarian authorities have reiterated frequently that they would not lift the ban prematurely in Germany out of concern that right-wingers could legally use it. But Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, told reporters in 2009 that it made sense to publish the book “to prevent neo-Nazis from profiting from it” and to “remove many of its false, persistent myths.”

The book is available to researchers in libraries, but it is currently not legal to publish it in Germany. However, translations of the book are available abroad and sometimes make their way into Germany. In addition, unauthorized versions are available on far-right and Islamic extremist websites based outside of Germany. Germany bans public display of Nazi symbols and hate material, including on the Internet.

In 2007, historian Horst Moller of the Munich-based institute told journalists that a scholarly edition “won’t be something for neo-Nazis, whose reading skills are likely to be limited anyway.”

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