7.12.2014

The bogeyman

At the end of 2015, Bavarian publisher Eher Verlag's copyright on Mein Kampf will expire. Anyone will be able to publish their own copy. The book has been suppressed (if not outright banned) in Germany ever since the end of World War II. Since then, the book has been the Godwin's Law of every conversation about censorship and book banning. Whenever someone takes a stand against banning anything, another person will always ask, "What about Mein Kampf?"

Just this week, I've seen two articles (linked below) asking whether people in Germany will start to read it. Both of them take a similar tack. They argue 1) that not having the book available to read has given the book a mystique it should never have had and 2) the book is so impossible to read that no one will get very far anyway. Those who argue against letting the book out into the world again worry that it will inspire people to anti-Semitism and fascist thought.

I'm not arguing that we should read Mien Kampf, but I don't think it should be banned. It should be studied, like a fungus. (Personally, I think it was Adolf Hitler more than his book that sparked the Third Reich. According to McGrane's article for The New Yorker, few Germans—even Nazi Party members—actually read it.) I wonder if scholars had had access to Mein Kampf if the book would still have the ability to instill such fear in people even now.

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