Within 2015, Germans will possibly be seeing a new book in the “classics” sections of their local bookstores. After a Bavarian copyright on “Mein Kampf,” Adolf Hitler’s Nazi manifesto, expires in December 2015, the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich will re-publish the book.
After World War II ended, the Allied forces banned publication of the book in the wake of the atrocities of the Holocaust. This version, however, will be close to 2,000 pages (the original was 700) and will be filled with academic footnotes offering critical analysis. The goal of the republishing is to use the book as an academic tool and a historical document to understand Hitler’s mental state.
Hitler first wrote “Mein Kampf,” which translates to “My Struggles,” when he was imprisoned after the failed Nazi takeover in Munich in 1923. Hitler did not physically write the book, however. Instead, he dictated it to his secretary, Rudolf Hess, who was imprisoned with him.
The idea of using “Mein Kampf” as an academic tool, like the Institute of Contemporary History intends for it to be, may seem easy at first, but to the Jews of Germany, the potential for re-publication is horrifying.
Called “the guidebook for the Holocaust” by some and “[a book] outside of human logic” by others, the potential for re-publication causes some Jews to worry that Hitler and his ideas will be celebrated, causing increased levels of Anti-Semitism and neo-Nazism. Frankly, you can’t really blame them. A recent report from the Pew Research Center discovered a rise in anti-Semitism (as well as anti-Islamic sentiments) in European countries. This is especially evident in events such as the Copenhagen synagogue shootings in February. It’s easy to think why most Jews, then, would be reluctant to welcome the re-printing of “Mein Kampf,” even if it is for academic purposes.
However, this rise in anti-Semitism makes me believe that the re-publication of “Mein Kampf” is more important now than ever. I don’t only think this as a student who believes that knowledge and study are some of the most powerful and important influences there are, but I also believe this as a Jewish young person of European descent who had ancestors alive in Europe during the Holocaust. Some of these ancestors were able to escape or leave the country before things got too bad. Others, however, were not so lucky.
I believe that keeping Hitler, Nazism and “Mein Kampf” shrouded in secrecy can only deepen the roots of anti-Semitism in Europe and around the world. Refusing to teach certain ideals parallels the refusal to acknowledge that certain ideals exist. This ignorance is not only frightening, but also terribly dangerous. We need to show future generations how insane Hitler actually was by opening the doors to conversation.
Years ago, when I was still in Hebrew school preparing to become a bat mitzvah, my class got to hear from a survivor of the Holocaust. He told us his story, and the last thing he said was, “Whatever you do, do not forget. It is your job now to tell these stories and make sure something like this never happens again.” Let us use “Mein Kampf” as a way to increase our knowledge and our influence to refute Hitler’s ideals and the perverse ways of Nazism. Let us use it as a tool to keep the legacies of the 11 million Jews, homosexuals, disabled people and Romani people alive forever — and let us use it to never forget.