MUNICH • New copies of Hitler's Mein Kampf hit bookstores in Germany yesterday, for the first time since the end of World War II, unsettling Jewish community leaders as the copyright of the anti-Semitic manifesto expires.
The southern German state of Bavaria was handed the copyright of the book in 1945, when the Allies gave it control of the main Nazi publishing house following Adolf Hitler's defeat. For 70 years, it refused to allow the inflammatory tract to be republished out of respect for victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.
But Mein Kampf - which means My Struggle - fell into the public domain on Jan 1. Copies of an annotated version running to 2,000 pages prepared by German researchers went on sale yesterday, with the authors arguing that their version would serve to demystify the notorious rant, which in any case can be found just a few clicks away on the Internet.
The version by the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IFZ) has been in the works since 2009 and aims to "deconstruct and put into context Hitler's writing".
Retailing at €59 (S$92), the book looks at key historical questions, the IFZ said, including: "How were his theses conceived? What objectives did he have? And most important: which counter-arguments do we have, given our knowledge today of the countless claims, lies and assertions of Hitler?"
Education Minister Johanna Wanka has argued that such a version should be introduced to all German classrooms, saying it would serve to ensure that "Hitler's comments do not remain unchallenged". But the Jewish community questioned whether it was necessary to propagate the incendiary text again.
Partly autobiographical, Mein Kampf outlines Hitler's ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. He wrote it in 1924 while he was imprisoned in Bavaria for treason after his failed Beer Hall Putsch.
The book set out two ideas that he put into practice as Germany's leader going into World War II: annexing neighbouring countries to gain "Lebensraum", or "living space", for Germans; and his hatred of Jews, which led to the Holocaust. Some 12.4 million copies were published in Germany until 1945, some of which can be found in academic libraries.