Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Mein Kampf

Seventy years after the dictator's suicide his book, a biography of his younger years and a catechism of his political ideas, is being discussed again. The obvious reason is that copyright expires after seventy years so Mein Kampf may be freely printed from January 1, 2016, on. On the other hand reprinting the book in Germany will be punished under the law as "hate writing" although you may buy and own a second-hand copy of Mein Kampf.

I remember having seen a copy of Mein Kampf as a boy that my parents kept in their bookcase. Knowing their political attitude* I am sure they never read the book that they did not buy. Like all young couples in Nazi-Germany my parents reveived it as a gift when they got married at the registry office in 1934. And this happened not only in Germany as my son told me.
*She, a practicing Catholic, he, a convinced Lutheran, fell in love!

When he, having passed his baccalaureate in Geneva, toured Europe by rail together with his friend Christroph they also visited the latter's relatives in French Lorraine. Christroph's grandma greeted my son in perfect German and later showed him a copy of Mein Kampf she had received when she got married in 1941 under German occupation.

Red Baron never understood the hype about Mein Kampf. With my retirement in Freiburg I decided to find out by reading the book. Looking for a copy on the web I eventually made a find in the States. A right-wing internet site offered a free download of Mein Kampf not only in English but in German too. So I downloaded the book and read it on my hand-held HP Jornada 720 mostly (secretly?) in bed, quickly falling asleep. When I had eventually finished the book I was not impressed. Some readers criticize Hitler's bad style but this is just a side issue. The book clearly shows that in the early 1920s the author was an anti-Semite with plans to gain Lebensraum (living space) for his Volk ohne Raum (people without space) in eastern Europe. He failed miserably and led his people into destruction.

So who wants to read the book today when apparently only few people had read it before Hitler came to power? In the Third Reich the interest in Mein Kampf was small. This is nevertheless strange for a book that had a circulation of nearly 13 million copies by 1944. Did people indeed not read the book because of Hitler's bad style?

Presently the Vergangenheitsbew√§ltigung (process of coming to terms with the past) with the book is taking place on stage. The play Adolf Hitler: Mein Kampf Band 1 & 2 is being staged in Weimar and following its first run will tour all over Germany next year.

Why did they choose Weimar? Is this due to the fact that the Nazis had two ministers in Thuringia's state government as early as 1926 and eventually ruled alone in the state capital Weimar by 1932, i.e., before the Nazis took over in Berlin in 1933? Or is it because Hitler liked Weimar's Elephant Hotel so much?

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