For the first time since World War II, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf has been republished in Germany. Banned in the country for 70 years, the book’s new release couldn’t have come at a worse time; race relations across Europe are strained to say the least, as millions of refugees flee Syria and find themselves victims of xenophobic attacks and discrimination elsewhere.
“People are fleeing war and terror,” says Andreas Hollstein, “and our constitution says we have to help them.” Hollstein is a German mayor who has granted asylum to more refugees than he is legally required to. He is also one of eleven authors of Mein Kampf Against Racism, a series of books released at the same time as the new version of Hitler’s manifesto.
Other contributors include former Afghan refugee and MTV host Wana Limar, Cross of Merit recipient Jose Paca, critic Robert Koall, and Irmela Mensah-Schramm, who has removed over 130,000 instances of Nazi graffiti over 30 years, as she wishes “to destroy hate.”
Published by Europa Verlag and made available in every bookshop in Germany, 1€ from every sale goes to Gesicht Zeigen, an organisation which encourages young people to stand up to bigotry in Germany. Furthermore, these books are designed to start a broader conversation around race.
There are some who believe that the republication of Mein Kampf isn’t such a bad thing. The Washington Post’s Peter Ross Range believes that the annotated academic edition, aimed at academics and journalists, could lead to a better understanding of just how the Nazis were able to rise to power.
“The book’s sudden popularity should be seen as a good sign,” he says. “It means that Germans, even three generations after the war, are still seeking an understanding of what went wrong. Today’s young Germans, raised in a model democracy, are as baffled as the rest of the world as to how things could have gone so horribly awry. And while all German schoolchildren are taught Nazi history and taken to historical sites, Mein Kampf has until now been treated as taboo material.”
That’s the danger of making things forbidden. While Mein Kampf has always been available online, banning it from bookstores has helped to mystify it, and by extension its author. The annotated edition of Mein Kampf provides much-needed context, and shines a light on the man and his propaganda, just as Mein Kampf Against Racism provides valuable “counter-poison.”