Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf: a book of the past in the present OTHMAR PLÖCKINGER
To discuss the importance of Hitler’s book Mein Kampf for right-wing extremist circles today means to discuss not just a text, but a powerful symbola symbol of the Nazi ideology, the Nazi regime, Nazi crimes and the long shadow National Socialism continues to cast on European history to the present day. First drafted over 85 years ago by a little-known radical Bavarian agitator who had just failed to overthrow the German government in Berlin, the book’s pathetic style and its right-wing, nationalist, anti-democratic, antiBolshevist, and anti-Semitic ramblings mirror the attitudes found in many publications of the 1920s. While most publications were forgotten only a few years after their release, Mein Kampf is still known today not thanks to its originality-a great deal of its content was neither new nor special-but because it was written by Adolf Hitler. The author’s subsequent rise to power and the Nazis’ atrocities lend the text an aura of power that cannot be explained by its content alone. It is that aura with which historians are confronted when undertaking a critical edition of the text. The publication of such an edition requires careful consideration of its historical, political, and ethical context. In German libraries, Mein Kampf continues to be available only to histor-
ians with special permission to access the restricted sections dubbed “poison closet” (Giftschrank). By focusing on the book’s ideological and historical context, a team of scholars at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte (Institute of Contemporary History) in Munich aims to debunk the myths surrounding Mein Kampf in a ﬁrst critical edition.