Adolf Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ Freely Distributed in Italy Amid Nationalistic Wave In Europe

Mein Kampf, the controversial political treatise penned by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, is in the spotlight following its free distribution by Il Giornale, a center-right daily in Italy. Reportedly, the paper’s free distribution of the annotated version of Hitler’s partly autobiographical book with a paid supplement to Saturday’s edition sparked shock and condemnation in Italy.

The annotated copy of Mein Kampf was distributed free to readers who purchased the first volume of the newspaper’s eight-volume history of the Third Reich. Promotion of the controversial book triggered criticism from Jewish groups in Italy, stating that the sudden promotion, is allegedly an attempt to overlook Hitler’s crimes.

Any form of discussion on National Socialism is a sensitive topic in Italy since there was an alliance between the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The incident marks the expiry of a German state copyright that prohibited reprinting of the book. The annotated versions of Mein Kampf are available in German bookstores.

The 70-year copyright on Hitler’s book, owned by the state of Bavaria, expired last year, encouraging Munich’s Institute for Contemporary History to reprint it as an annotated version earlier this year to study Hitler’s anti-Jewish propaganda. The annotations—3,000 additional comments in the version— point out inconsistencies and fabrications in Hitler’s arguments about the global Jewish conspiracy speculated in the book written during 1924 to 1926.

The long-winded Mein Kampf airs Hitler’s anti-Semitic and anti-communist ideology, which concluded in the Holocaust and the Nazi’s catastrophic attempts at conquests in Europe. During the Second World War from 1933 to 1945, Hitler’s propaganda against the Jews caused the deaths of millions, including an estimated six million Jews under Nazi terror.

Mein Kampf Freely Distributed in Italy
Adolf Hitler Addressing the Nuremberg Rally [AP Images]

Germany’s main Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, do not object to the critical, annotated edition, but strongly wish to prevent any new Mein Kampf being released without annotations.

Germany banned publishing of Mein Kampf without annotations under incitement laws, and many Germans, reportedly, are uncomfortable of the idea they might suddenly start seeing the Fuehrer’s face decorating shop windows, notwithstanding the moral issue of creating a profit out of an anti-Semitic text written by Hitler.

German schools are contemplating on the proposal to teach Mein Kampf in high schools to educate youngsters against far-right ideologies. According to BBC, “Hitler wrote it mostly while in prison in the mid-1920s, and academics say it helps explain the Nazis‘ crazed ideology when they came to power less than a decade later.”

The initiative to sell the Nazi manifesto in Italy, however, triggered severe criticism. According to Reuters, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi criticized Il Giornale‘s decision to distribute free copies, considering the action as squalid.

Brother of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, who owns Il Giornale, defended the controversial promotion following uproar on the decision. According to him, the book includes critical notes by an Italian historian and the intent to contemplate the evil and to avoid its return.

The version distributed by Il Giornale is a reissue of the first Italian translation, published in 1938, the year Italy embraced fascism and approved anti-Semitic laws. It includes a critical introduction by an Italian historian, Professor Francesco Perfetti.

Italians and others on Twitter expressed their criticism on social media. Check out some of the criticism.

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The editor-in-chief of Il Giornale, Alessandro Sallusti, responded in an editorial asserting that the move is not an attempt to promote the ideology of Nazism and the global Jewish conspiracy postulated in the book.

Al Jazeera quoted Sallusti, saying, “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.”

According to Al Jazeera, “Il Giornale is known for its right-wing positions, notably over the question of immigration, Il Giornale has a circulation of around 200,000. Neither the paper nor its owners are suspected of harboring anti-Semitic views.”

Critics connect the sudden interest in Mein Kampf to many European voters moving towards the far-right of the political spectrum and the continent churning itself to some form of a nationalistic wave.

[Photo by Fabio Frustaci/AP Images]