Italian Newspaper Gives Away Copies Of Mein Kampf : Meets Instant Backlash

An Italian newspaper has drawn the ire of many people for handing out free copies of the annotated version of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf, as a paid supplement to its Saturday edition. For an extra 11.90 euros, that is $13.40, on top of the regular price of 1.50 euro ($1.69), Il Giornale gave its readership an option of buying a package that included Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler and The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by US Journalist William L Shirer.

Il Giornale, owned by the notorious former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, was founded in Milan, Italy in 1974. This Saturday, it published and started selling the first of an eight-volume history of the Third Reich. Readers who bought this first volume were also provided an annotated history of Mein Kampf.

This move has met strong criticism from many prominent members of Italy’s Jewish community. Many politicians have also raised objections, including the current Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi. Renzi took to the social media site, Twitter, to express his disapproval of this move by Il Giornale, calling it “improper.” His tweet, which is shown below, roughly translates to, “I find it sleazy that an Italian newspaper is handing out copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. I have the utmost affection for our Jewish community #neveragain”

Il Giornale
Il Giornale newspaper is seen on sale in a newsstand with Hitler's "Mein Kampf", in Rome Saturday, June 11, 2016. [Photo by Fabio Frustaci/AP Images]

The Italian Jewish community, which happens to be one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe, has some 30,000 members. Renzo Gattegna, the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said the following in a statement.

“Giving out copies of Mein Kampf “is light years away from all logic of studying the Shoah [Holocaust] and the different factors that led the whole of humanity to sink into an abyss of unending hatred, death and violence.”

Many others have also criticized Il Gionrale‘s move. Alan Friedman, the American journalist who authored the biography of Silvio Berlusconi, called the move “Regrettable.”

Alessandro Columbu, a 29-year-old PhD candidate in the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies of the University of Edinburgh had the following to say.

Italian newspaper @ilgiornale offering copies of Hitler’s Mein Kampf – the inexorable decline of a provincial, underdeveloped country #Italy

— Alessandro Columbu (@ale_columbu) June 11, 2016

Known for its right-wing positions, notably over the questions of immigration, this is not the first time Il Giornale has provoked controversy. It has however justified this latest campaign by claiming that the motif behind it is to educate its readers about the evils of Nazism. Editor of the paper, Alessandro Sallusti, declared in the front page editorial that this wasn’t some “sly” move to boost circulation, nor were they presenting themselves as apologists to Nazi sentiments. He clarified that their sole intention was to educate their readers about “what is evil to how to avoid its return.”

“Studying evil to prevent it from happening again, perhaps in new and deceptive guises. That is the real and only purpose of what we have done.”

“Mein Kampf,” which is German for “My Struggle,” was published in two volumes in 1924 and 1925, and outlines Hitler’s ultra-nationalist, anti-Semitic, and anti-communist ideology that formed the base for Nazism. The German State of Bavaria, which owned the copyright for Mein Kampf, had banned the reprinting of the book out of respect for the victims of the Holocaust, and to prevent an incitement of hatred. However, an annotated, critical version of the book, which was allowed to be published after the expiry of the 70-year copyright at the end of last year, became a best seller in Germany.

[Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images]