In Germany, my struggle to find ‘Mein Kampf’
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In Germany, my struggle to find ‘Mein Kampf’

The new annotated edition of Hitler’s anti-Semitic screed is the country’s second-best selling nonfiction book — with demand so outstripping supply that it’s nowhere to be seen in bookstores

Raphael Ahren is the diplomatic correspondent at The Times of Israel.

A copy of 'Hitler, Mein Kampf -- A critical edition' stands on a display table in a bookstore in Munich, Germany, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. This annotated edition is the first version of Adolf Hitler's notorious manifesto to be published in Germany since the end of World War II. (AP/Matthias Schrader)
A copy of 'Hitler, Mein Kampf -- A critical edition' stands on a display table in a bookstore in Munich, Germany, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016. This annotated edition is the first version of Adolf Hitler's notorious manifesto to be published in Germany since the end of World War II. (AP/Matthias Schrader)

BERLIN — “Mein Kampf” is a bestseller again in Germany, with demand so outstripping supply that it is virtually impossible to get one’s hands on a copy.

Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic screed, which was republished in Germany earlier this year in a scientifically annotated edition, is currently the country’s second-best selling nonfiction book, according to one bestseller list, surpassed in sales only by a book about “The secret lives of Trees.” But this reporter was unable to purchase a copy, learning from salespeople in about a dozen bookstores in three cities that “Mein Kampf” can only be pre-ordered, is unavailable for immediate purchase and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

“You can order it, but I don’t know when it’ll arrive,” a shop assistant in a bookstore at Berlin’s famous KaDeWe department store told The Times of Israel during a recent visit.

By January 8 — when the new edition of “Mein Kampf” hit German bookshelves — the Institute for Contemporary History, which published the book, had received some 15,000 preorders, which were immediately sold out. “We will therefore now increase the circulation bit by bit. The book will thus remain available at all times,” Simone Paulmichl, the head of the institute’s public relations department, promised The Times of Israel at the time.

That projection turned out to be incorrect. Looking up “Mein Kampf” in the computer, a saleswoman on the third floor of Cologne’s centrally located Mayersche Buchhandlung found that the book was currently sold out, and had sold out immediately on the six or seven times the store had received deliveries. “It’s been reprinted six or seven times, and we always ran out of stock,” she said. “I can’t even order it. I can make a note that you’re looking for it, but it could take four to six months, or even longer.”

The book sold out in her store, she noted, even though it was never placed on the shelves. “It’s a decision made by the higher-ups,” the saleswoman explained. “We don’t want this book here. It was never on our shelves; you always had to ask for it.”

The Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History is re-publishing 'Mein Kampf' on January 8, 2015 in a heavily annotated two-volume edition. (courtesy)
The Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History re-published ‘Mein Kampf’ on January 8, 2015 in a heavily annotated two-volume edition. (courtesy)

At the large Hugendubel chain of bookstores, every branch can decide for itself how to showcase “Mein Kampf,” said a salesman in a central Berlin branch. But for now — of course — that question was moot, since there too the book is currently unavailable.

According to Paulmichl, from the Institute for Contemporary History, a new batch of books should hit the shelves by the end of February or early March. “It’s not as dramatic as you’ve been told,” she said on Tuesday.

Some 14,000 copies of “Mein Kampf” have been sold since January 8 and another 10,000 have been printed already and are set to be shipped to bookstores, she said. “Since we published this book ourselves, and not through a large commercial publishing house, things take a bit longer. It’s also a complex book to produce, technically speaking. It can’t simply be printed from one day to the next.”

Yet another round of printing is already being planned, Paulmichl said, without elaborating.

Books about Hitler and Nazism are prominently displayed a Berlin bookstore (Raphael Ahren/TOI)
Books about Hitler and Nazism are prominently displayed a Berlin bookstore (Raphael Ahren/TOI)

If some German bookstores are apparently still somewhat uncomfortable displaying “Mein Kampf” — which was banned for 70 years — even in its new, scholarly edition, that does not mean that they shy away from books about Hitler, National Socialism or other topics relating to the country’s dark past. Numerous titles on the Fuehrer, the Nazi era, his book and the German people’s fascination with the whole subject are prominently displayed in all major bookstores.

The local Jewish community originally opposed the new publication of Hitler’s screed, but now says it does not mind the great interest in the annotated version of “Mein Kampf.”

“It was obvious that the publication of this book would come with great interest. But the annotated edition will not bring neo-Nazis much joy,” Josef Schuster, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a recent interview. “I can’t imagine anyone reading the book with its many annotations from page 1 until page 2,000.”

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