** I feel like I should start this post with warning that some people may find the material in this post offensive, I don’t think it is but I know that some people are very sensitive about this issue. So, you’ve been warned. **
Those Germans’ are at it again, this time it’s a little more controversial than last time (I’m talking about the article I wrote about a few days ago about printing Wikipedia). This time is academics wanting to get their hands on a book that has been banned in the country so that they can publish it with notes. What I’m talking about is Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I came across this article on CNN’s website, here is a link to the full article.
To sum it up, for those of you not keen on clicking on the link to read the whole story, a group of academics in Germany would like to get their hands on a copy of Hitler’s controversial book so they can make notes throughout and print the book German. The reason this is even an issue is because the book is banned in the country and any copy that is in existence in the country is heavily controlled. Apparently a Polish website was selling the book in German and came across some resistance, significant resistance, from the German government. The reason they want to make these notes is to deter the hate groups that are around in Germany from using the book as a justification for their views.
A couple of points came up in this article that I just didn’t know:
- German’s are not allowed to own a copy of the book, they are also not allowed to sell or buy it.
- The ban has been in effect since World War II
- Copyrights for the book laps in 2015, they want to publish this volume before that date.
- The book was given as gifts to newlyweds, and newborn children once Hitler took power.
I didn’t know these things, and was a little surprised to find some of it out, particularly the fact that there is a total ban on the book in German. The article raised some issues while I was reading. That’s the purpose of this post.
The first point I want to make is that I have never read this book but I would like to read it. I’ve seen copies here in Korea so it is accessible, but then again Korea has a chain of bars called “Hitler Bar”…I kid you not! But there are some places that will not even sell the book for example Canada’s largest book chain Indigo Chapters, they will not sell the book in their stores or online. The decision was made because they didn’t want to offend anyone. The book isn’t for everyone but I think the book holds a place in the halls of history. I would think, keep in mind I haven’t read it, that it would be the equivalent, in the world of historians (I also love history), of a minor work of the Bronte sisters or Austin or even Dickens. It’s for this reason that I want to read the book, and I want to read it even though it comes in at 700 pages.
This causes me to question what role does censorship have in something like this? We can ban something like Mein Kampf because of the writer and the content, it can cause friction amongst the general public. I can understand that we would want to curb this, but lets put this into context.
I don’t want to belittle the atrocities that were done by Hitler’s Germany, because it’s horrible and not something we should forget or talk about lightly. There were many people killed in horribly ways, and tortured just because of their race, skin colour, and sexuality. And that is horrible. [Before I make the my next comment I have to make this statement and I want it to be clear…I AM A CHRISTIAN] Take into consideration now the roll the Bible has played in the mass slaughter of non-Christians throughout history. Then think about how people are using the book to justify tormenting people because of some choices they have made. I would guess that if we were add up all those inhumane acts the number would be exponential when compared to the numbers the Nazis genocide. So, if Mein Kampf is being banned for that reason should the Bible not also be banned? I’m not suggesting that we ban the Bible just trying to put everything into context.
Secondly, I’m a little confused as to why this edition needs to be completed before the 2015 date in which the book becomes public domain in Germany. The copyright laws in Germany state, according to the CNN article, that a work becomes public domain 40 years after the death of the author. Are they thinking that the ban that is on the book would be lifted and they wouldn’t be able to have control over the book that they do now on this date? I’m just unsure why the rush to beat this date.
I also wonder why the rest of the world has such easy access to the book when the German people don’t have access to it. I’m not thinking that this is a book that should be in every household but I do think it should be available like any other book to people that want to read it. Notes, comments and the like can be copious in anything but people are still going to interpret it the way they want. I’m just confused by the whole issue I guess.
This probably isn’t very coherent but I thought I really want to put this out there for people to talk about. What do you think about the banning of books, and particular the works of Hitler? And the ever popular question of censorship, what roll should it play in the availability of literature? My thoughts on this would be people like this (see the video below) should be banned from opening their mouths ever because they don’t have anything useful to contribute to the world at large, but I think we can all learn something from Mein Kampf, if it’s just to know more about what the man was thinking and finding a greater reason for why he did the things he did.
What are your thoughts on these things?
I’m thinking of making these types of posts a regular feature here on That’s the Book! But I don’t know what to call it. That’s where you come in. I would like to have a title for these particular features. And I’m not at a stage right now that I can be creative enough to create a title for this. I’m not sure what the prize will be yet but I’ll be giving something away, it will be book related.
I’d also like to know if a feature like this is of interest to you or not. Any information I can get on this topic would be great. If you’re interested or not all interested in my rambles on book related news I’d like to hear it. The posts will be on a news item or perhaps a post that I read on another blog. They will be items that caused to me think and hopefully cause you to think as well and create some great discussion.
Finally, I would really like to make this more of a discussion based feature. So, I would also be interested to know if you would like to rebut what I have to say or post on the same topic on your blog? I would like to have one person each time that would take the time to read what I have or not read what I have written and comment on the same article as me. I would give a link to your site at the top and bottom of my post for readers to go to your site to see what you have to say on the topic. If I don’t get any responses to this I’ll know that this isn’t a great idea. If you would like to email me, instead of posting a comment here you can do so at thatsthebook (at) gmail (dot) com.
I look forward to all your feedback on this. And I’ll be sure to let you know what the winner will receive in the near future. And obviously the will be the one that comes up with a title that I really like.