By Prerna Kundu
Edited by Madhavi Roy, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
At the time of his suicide, Hitler’s official place of residence was in Munich, which led to his entire estate, including all rights to Mein Kampf, changing to the ownership of the state of Bavaria. As per German copyright law, the entire text is scheduled to enter the public domain on 1 January 2016, 70 years after the author’s death. The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the federal government of Germany, refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany.
As we enter 2015, the question that needs to be answered before 1 January 2016 is, Should Germany lift the ban on the printing and copying of Mein Kampf?
Mein Kampf is an autobiographical manifesto written by Adolf Hitler, the leader of the Nazi Party, in which he prersents his political ideology and future aspirations for Germany. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926. The book was edited by Rudolf Hess.
Hitler’s beliefs of racial superiority and his aspirations for the creation of a new world order are resonated in his book which projects scientific rationale behind his ideologies. Hitler garnered support from people and institutions on the basis of these ideologies, which acted as his arms and ammunition as he set about turning an entire nation against the Jews and began the systematic persecution of the Jews. The memories of the Holocaust still haunt the very heart of Germany as a nation, when 6 million Jews were brutally murdered in a nation that had been their home for centuries. Allowing the publication of Mein Kampf would hurt the sentiments and feelings of the Holocaust survivors.
The present German society is very different from the one under Nazi rule when Jews, Gypsies and disabled people were not considered citizens of Germany. As a democracy, the principles of fraternity and harmony thrive in present day Germany which has moved forward, setting aside the horrors of the Nazi rule. However, Mein Kampf, affects people on a deeper ideological and subconscious level. While hard discrimination against any section is illegal in a democracy, Mein Kampf can impact people thereby implanting the ideas of racial superiority in their minds, leading to potential soft discrimination against certain sections of the society.
Another fundamental reason why the ban on the book should not be lifted is the existence of Neo Nazi streams of thought in German discourse. Allowing the printing and copying of Mein Kampf would create a leeway for these Neo Nazi groups to publish their own versions of the book. Neo Nazi groups are a threat to the current state of Germany and allowing them to publish their own editions could create an opportunity for these groups to increase their public support and footing.
It has been nearly 70 years since HItler committed suicide. At the end of the Second World War, Hitler’s actions and Nazi ideology are almost universally regarded as gravely immoral. Hitler’s political programme brought about a world war, leaving behind a devastated and impoverished Eastern and Central Europe. Hitler’s policies inflicted human suffering on an unprecedented scale; according to R.J. Rummel, the Nazi regime was responsible for the democidal killing of an estimated 19.3 million civilians and prisoners of war. Allowing the publication of Hitler’s book, a book that espouses every single ideology that led to the ruin of the world, would indirectly be a glorification of the man.
Lastly, is censorship and banning the book necessarily a legitimate action that the German state can pursue? The primary role of every democratic state is to promote the ideals of democracy. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure social freedom and take stringent action against discriminatory practices. As a book that threatens the core fundamentals of democracy and equality, the State is perfectly legitimate to ban the printing of Mein Kampf.
What happens in 2015 is yet to be seen. But it is evident that the legacy of Hitler will continue to haunt Germany and its people even 70 years after his death.
Prerna Kundu is a first year Economics Honours student at Sri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University. A part of the debating society, she is fascinated by politics and economics. Her love for reading is nurtured by an inquisitive nature and her favourite genres are historical fiction, classical literature and fantasy. She loves to travel and dreams of trekking around the world once in her life.