The new edition of Adolf Hitler’s autobiography Mein Kampf was sold out the very moment it appeared in bookstores.
More than 15,000 advance orders were placed, despite the initial print of 4,000 copies, with one copy even put up for resale on Amazon.de for €9,999.99 (£7,521.43).
Mein Kampf, which means My Struggle, returned into the public domain on January 1.
Ian Kershaw, a Briton who is a leading biographer of Hitler, joined Friday’s book presentation and said it was “high time for a rigorously academic edition of Mein Kampf” to be made available.
“For years, I have considered the lifting of the ban on publication long overdue,” Kershaw said.
“Censorship is almost always pointless in the long term in a free society, and only contributes to creating a negative myth, making a forbidden text more mysterious and awakening an inevitable fascination with the inaccessible.”
Germany’s main Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, said it has no objections to the critical edition but strongly supports ongoing efforts to prevent any new Mein Kampf without annotations. Its president, Josef Schuster, said he hopes the critical edition will “contribute to debunking Hitler’s inhuman ideology and counteracting anti-Semitism.”
Copies of a 2,000-page, two-volume annotated version of Mein Kampf will go on sale on January 9 after three years of labor by scholars at Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History.
The new version, which will cost 59 euros (£43), has some 3,500 annotations.
Authors argue that the critical edition will serve to “deconstruct and put into context Hitler’s writing” with the aim to demystify the 800-page rant.
The annotated version looks at key historical questions, the institute said, including: “How were his theses conceived? What objectives did he have? And most important: which counterarguments 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 classrooms across Germany, saying it would serve to ensure that “Hitler’s comments do not remain unchallenged”.
“Pupils will have questions and it is only right that these can be addressed in classes,” she said.
But the Jewish community in Germany criticized the decision to reprint the anti-Semitic book, questioning whether it was necessary to propagate the inflammatory text again.
Charlotte Knobloch, leader of the Jewish community in Munich, said she could not imagine seeing Mein Kampf in shop windows.
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, told AFP that not only would “Holocaust survivors be offended by the sale of the anti-Semitic work in bookstores again”, but that he also failed to see a need for a critical edition.
“Unlike other works that truly deserve to be republished as annotated editions, Mein Kampf does not,” he said, arguing that academics and historians already have easy access to the text.
“Now, it would be best to leave Mein Kampf where it belongs: the poison cabinet of history.”
Versions of the book will also hit bookstands in France, causing an outcry in the Jewish community there.
Roger Cukierman, the president of the council of Jewish institutions, called the planned French reprints “a disaster”.
“Such horror can already be found on the internet. What would happen if Mein Kampf also becomes bedside reading?” he said.
Mein Kampf, which is partly autobiographical, was written by Hitler in 1924 while he was in jail 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 neighboring 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.
The ban will continue in several European countries that were occupied by Nazi Germany, including Austria and the Netherlands.
In Turkey, India and Brazil, the book is easily found. More than 30,000 copies have been sold since 2004 in Turkey.