BERLIN – The German state of Bavaria said Tuesday that it is preparing for the expiration in 2015 of the copyright on Adolf Hitler's infamous memoir "Mein Kampf" by supporting the preparation of new editions with critical commentary — including one for students.
While "Mein Kampf" isn't actually banned in Germany, Bavaria has over the years used its ownership of the copyright to block publication. But it acknowledges it won't be able to once the copyright expires, 70 years after the author's death.
Bavaria's finance minister, Markus Soeder, said the idea of a version aimed at students — financed by the state government — was a reaction to concerns that the book will then be freely available and could circulate without commentary among young people, German news agency dapd reported.
"The book will contain commentary by experts that are clearly understandable for young people and interpret the dangerous body of thought," Soeder said. He added that the aim is to show "what a worldwide catastrophe" Hitler's thought led to.
Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" — "My Struggle" in English — after he was jailed in Bavaria in the aftermath of the failed Beer Hall Putsch of 1923 — a rambling and anti-Semitic book outlining his ideology. After World War II, the Allies agreed to hand the rights to "Mein Kampf" over to the Bavarian state government.
Bavaria also is supporting preparation of a more comprehensive version with academic commentary by the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich.
The state's minister for science, Wolfgang Heubisch, said that without such editions "there is the danger that charlatans and neo-Nazis could take possession of this infamous work" after the copyright expires.
Soeder said Bavaria would fund the overall project with some €500,000 ($658,000), dapd reported.
The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Dieter Graumann, has noted that the book is already widely available on the Internet and has said he would prefer for German citizens to read annotated excerpts than access it from online sources.
The book is also easy to purchase in other countries, where Bavaria has been unable to hinder its publication due to different copyright legislation.