Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' published in Germany for first time since WWII

Copies of the book 'Hitler, Mein Kampf © Michael Dalder
An annotated edition of Adolf Hitler's “Mein Kampf” has gone on sale in Germany. It is the first version of the notorious manifesto to be published in the country since World War II, and contains academic notes which are critical of Hitler.

Published by the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History, the plain-covered “Hilter, Mein Kampf: A Critical Edition” hit bookshelves on Friday, just days after the copyright of the original book expired at the end of 2015.

Bavaria's state finance ministry owned the copyright on the original version, using it to prevent the publication of new editions. The book was not banned in Germany, however, and could be found online and in secondhand bookshops and libraries.

The new edition contains thousands of academic notes and “exposes the false information spread by Hitler, his downright lies and his many half-truths, which aimed at a pure propaganda effect,” according to Andreas Wirsching, director of the Institute for Contemporary History.

He says the new publication is needed “at a time when the well-known formulae of far-right xenophobia are threatening to become...socially acceptable again in Europe,” AP reported. He noted that it is “necessary to research and critically present the appalling driving forces of National Socialism and its deadly racism.”

German authorities have made clear that any new editions of “Mein Kampf” must include commentary. The government has been widely supportive of the new annotated edition, which is priced at €59 ($64).

"I think one shouldn't pretend the book doesn't exist," Education Minister Johanna Wanka told Germany’s N-TV network. "Such taboos can sometimes be counterproductive. It's important that people who want to debunk this book have the appropriate material."

Wanka had earlier expressed her support for the new version, stating that it should be used in classrooms nationwide. 

However, Jewish opinion on the new release has been divided.

Germany's main Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, says it does not object to the critical edition, but strongly supports efforts to prevent any new “Mein Kampf” without annotations. The group's president, Josef Schuster, said he hopes the critical edition will “contribute to debunking Hitler's inhuman ideology and counteracting anti-Semitism.”

But one of Schuster's predecessors, Charlotte Knobloch, worries the new edition will spark interest in the original text and ideology, rather than the commentary.

Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” – translated at “My Struggle” – after he was jailed following the failed 1923 coup attempt known as the Beer Hall Putsch. Millions of copies were printed after the Nazis took power in 1933, and it was published after the war in several other countries. It contains his thoughts of various topics, including eugenics and race theory.