SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
"Mein Kampf" has been published in Germany for the first time in 70 years. What does a limited new publication of a repugnant old book say about modern Germany? "Mein Kampf" - "My Struggle" - sold at least 10 million copies from the first time it appeared in 1925 to the time the Nazis were defeated in 1945. The book sold as many copies as "The Joy Of Sex" or "The Gospel According To Peanuts," not because it's inspiring, bawdy, witty or moving. It's turgid, incoherent and hateful. "Mein Kampf" became a bestseller because Adolf Hitler bullied his way to power, which made the book become a compulsory possession in German households. The Reich gave it as a wedding gift to couples, instead of a spice rack, I suppose, and the sales made Adolf Hitler a wealthy man.
The Bavarian state government has held the copyright to "Mein Kampf" and never reissued the book. The symbols of Nazism, including swastikas, are still prohibited in Germany, except for scholarly and artistic purposes. Yet, when the musical "The Producers" opened in Berlin, they turned the swastikas into pretzels. But it may be impossible these days to prohibit any words or symbols when they are so freely available on the World Wide Web. And modern Germany has a free press and diversity of people and opinions.
This new "Mein Kampf" is a door stopper, nearly 2,000 pages long with 3,700 critical annotations by scholars from Munich's Institute of Contemporary History. We are like a bomb disposal unit, rendering relics from the Nazi era useless, Christian Hartman, one of the historians, told Germany's ZDF. Ron Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, is among those opposed to "Mein Kampf" being republished. Not because he believes a bloated book of rants punctuated with modern scholarly retorts will lead to a neo-Nazi revival, but because "Mein Kampf" is just a really rotten book. Unlike other works that truly deserve to be republished as annotated editions, "Mein Kampf" does not, he told a French news agency.
Germany took in about one million refugees from around the world in 2015. A number of Germans protested, and over New Year's, there was a particularly ugly episode at the Cologne train station in which women accused crowds of migrants of sexual assault. But modern Germany has faced up to its history and become a free and merciful country that fleeing refugees want to reach. I wonder how many Germans might hear there's a new publication of "Mein Kampf" and just think, oh, yeah, I saw the movie.
(SOUNDBITE OF BROADWAY MUSICAL, "THE PRODUCERS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, singing) And now it's springtime for Hitler and Germany. Deutschland is happy...
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