BERLIN • Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf (My Struggle) has not been officially published in Germany since 1945, when it was banned and the rights awarded to Bavaria, which had refused to release it.
But under German law, its copyright expires on Dec 31, the 70th year after the author's death.
That allows a team of historians from the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, which studies Nazism, to publish its new two-volume, 2,000-page edition, a three-year labour complete with about 3,500 academic annotations.
The intention is to set the work in historical context, to show how the murderous dictator wove truth with half-truths and outright lies, and thus to defang any propagandistic effect while revealing Nazism.
"This is really one of the best relics we have of the Third Reich," said Mr Christian Hartmann, the historian who led the five-person team on the project and unveiled the work to journalists on Tuesday. The new edition of Hitler's two-volume work - a combination of memoir, party programme, anti-Semitic rant and expose on how to gain power - certainly would not be a conventional publishing sensation.
Mr Hartmann and the institute's director Andreas Wirsching said it was unclear if the first run of about 4,000 copies would sell in January.
Mein Kampf, whose volumes appeared first in 1925 and 1927, was started while Hitler was jailed for trying to gain power in a putsch in November 1923. It is a hodgepodge of personal memory and justification of failure, woven into a tract that shows in part how he forged his National Socialist creed and the first popular mass party of 20th-century Germany, the duo said. During Nazi rule, from 1933 to 1945, it was translated into 18 languages and sold more than 12 million copies.
The book has a special layout, with Hitler's original text on the upper right page of a two-page spread, coupled with small notes on grammatical and other variations among editions published during his lifetime and, on the left-hand page, larger comments giving context.
The result is systematic and dense, requiring close attention. "We wanted literally to surround Hitler with our comments," Mr Hartmann said.
The two-volume edition will sell for €59 (S$88), and has more than 200 orders to date, according to Mr Wirsching and Mr Hartmann.
NEW YORK TIMES