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MCEVERS: For the first time since World War II, you can walk into a bookstore in Germany and buy a copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiography, "Mein Kampf," or, my struggle. The new annotated edition points out historical inaccuracies. It includes critical commentary on the original version's role in Nazi atrocities. But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Berlin, many Germans don't want the manifesto reprinted at all.
NELSON: It's hard to imagine "Mein Kampf," becoming a German best-seller, at least not here in the German capital.
At Berlin's largest bookstore, called Dussmann, there is only one copy of the annotated reprint on the shelf. That shelf, which is for books dealing with Nazism, is located on a back wall of the top floor. Even so, the fact any version of "Mein Kampf," is for sale irritates many Dussmann customers, including Ulrich Ripke.
RIPKE: (Speaking German).
NELSON: He calls it rubbish and says reprints should be limited to books that are worth reading, which Hitler's book isn't. Customer Karl-Sigurd Hesse says he won't buy a copy either. But the Madison, Wis., native says it's OK for the Nazi-era best-seller to be sold in bookstores now that a Bavarian ban on reprinting "Mein Kampf," that had been in effect since 1945 has expired.
HESSE: This is a really bad analogy, but book burning is book burning whether you do it through a law or whether you do it personally.
NELSON: His German wife, Sieglind, shoots him a worried glance.
SIEGLIND: (Speaking German).
HESSE: (Speaking German).
NELSON: She asks him, "we don't plan to read it, right?" Hesse assures her they won't. Historian Magnus Brechtken says there's no reason to be concerned about the annotated version being published by his Institute for Contemporary History in Munich. He points out that Hitler's autobiography long been available online, at many antique bookshops and even in some libraries.
BRECHTKEN: It was never a forbidden book. It was only forbidden to reprint it in German. So what we are doing is just giving anyone who is interested in "Mein Kampf," the necessary information to counter, so to speak, the misinformation which is deriving from having only the copy itself.
NELSON: For example, Hitler claimed in the book that he became an anti-Semite while he lived in Vienna. Brechtken the Fuehrer's hatred of Jews didn't develop until later in post-World War I Munich. Brechtken says another inaccuracy is Hitler's claim that the Weimar Republic government mistreated crippled World War I veterans. The historian says it was the Nazis who actually killed thousands of those veterans years later. Brechtken says "Mein Kampf," is the only book from the Nazi era for which there has been no annotated version.
BRECHTKEN: And we are just filling this gap, so to speak, so that there is full overview on this historical text.
NELSON: Josef Schuster, who heads the Jewish Central Council in Germany, says he plans to read the annotated reprint.
SCHUSTER: (Speaking German).
NELSON: The German Jewish leader says he doesn't think the reprint is going to find a big following, but he says far right factions that embrace anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner views could try and use it to promote their agenda. He says while "Mein Kampf," may have been available before, reprinting it will make it more accessible. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.
Gale Document Number: GALE|A440876187