A state government in Germany is looking at legal measures to prevent a British publisher’s plans to reproduce excerpts from Adolf Hitler’s infamous memoir "Mein Kampf" in Germany.
The Finance Ministry of the German state of Bavaria said Tuesday that publisher Peter McGee’s plans to reproduce three 16-page segments of "Mein Kampf" with critical commentary, starting next week, may violate the copyright on the book, which it holds.
The ministry said in a statement that it believes the segments are too long to be considered excerpts not covered by copyright.
McGee told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from London that his attorney has advised him otherwise, and that he plans to go ahead with the publication of the segments as an insert to his weekly "Zeitungszeugen" magazine. The magazine, a play on words mixing the German for "newspaper" and "eyewitness," reproduces historical newspapers from the Nazi era alongside expert commentary.
"We’re not surprised that they’ve taken that reaction from Munich but it’s a little difficult to see how they say that when they haven’t seen the product," said McGee, who is managing director of Albertas Limited publishing house.
"We’re not publishing ‘Mein Kampf,’ we’re publishing … some excerpts of ‘Mein Kampf’ with some critical commentary."
"Mein Kampf" is not banned in Germany as commonly believed, but Bavaria has used its ownership of the copyright to prevent its publication so far.
Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" — "My Struggle" in English — after he was jailed in Bavaria in the aftermath of the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 — a rambling and anti-Semitic book outlining his ideology. After World War II, the Allies agreed to hand the rights to "Mein Kampf" over to the Bavarian state government.
The copyright expires in 2015 — 70 years after Hitler’s death.
In the meantime, however, McGee said it is important that a broad public have an opportunity to see the text in a structured way.
Germany’s Central Council of Jews president, Dieter Graumann, has noted that the book is already widely available on the internet and told the Jerusalem Post in comments published Tuesday that he would rather German citizens read annotated excerpts from the book than access it from online sources.
"I can truly do without the publication of this hate-filled book…," Graumann was quoted as saying. "If one must actually read it, then rather in the framework of a critical commentary."
The book is also easy to purchase in other countries, where the Bavarian government has been unable to hinder its publication due to different copyright legislation. A special case involves the US and Britain, for example, where the copyright had already been sold during Hitler’s lifetime.
But the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants on Tuesday urged Bavaria to continue to try and prevent its publication in Germany, calling the idea "crass commercialism" and "a moral offense to the memory of all Nazi victims."
McGee defended the idea, saying that his is a "sincere attempt to do something important and necessary."
"The problem with this book in Germany is that because it’s unavailable, because it’s been blocked in Germany, it’s been allowed to develop this mystique," he said. "If you shine a very bright light on it so people can see it for themselves with some structure and analysis, I think it will be one small part of demystifying the aura, the taboo that exists around it."
Graumann questioned that, however, telling the Jerusalem Post "that the book is miserably written no longer requires any more proof."