Mein Kampf Makes an Insidious Return to Germany’s Best Sellers List

Could the new annotated edition prove to have historical value in our troubled times?

Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the powerful proverb: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” That’s the optimistic way to look at the successful run of “Hitler, Mein Kampf, A Critical Edition,” spending 35 weeks on German publisher, Der Spiegel’s, best-seller list in 2016. According to the New York Times, the publication of the annotated text follows a 70-year ban in Germany. Its release has been met with plenty of controversy. Andreas Wirsching, the Director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, believes that the project’s historical value has proved worthwhile. He argues that “the discussions about Hitler’s worldview and dealing with his propaganda [has] presented an opportunity — at a time when authoritarian political beliefs and far-right slogans are again gaining in popularity — to re-examine the ominous roots and results of such totalitarian ideologies.”

Since the sales are processed by the booksellers, the Institute is able to keep tabs on who exactly is buying the book and they claim “by and large it appears to be customers who are generally interested in politics and history, as well as people who are active in political education, such as teachers.” Apparently, the fear that the primary readers of the 2,000 page text would be alt-right, xenophobic bigots has yet to come to fruition.

Nevertheless, there’s something profoundly sad about having Hitler’s abhorrent worldview proliferated once again through his dangerous manifesto. One can only hope that his hateful words serve as a lesson of what can happen when we allow demagogues into power and ignore how words are often the precursor to catastrophic action.

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