Part of the review by J G Ballard Alphabets Of Unreason published in New Worlds, Number 196, December, 1969.
When Hitler died 8 million copies of Mein Kampf (My Struggle) had been sold. The book, bought by the state and given out to newlyweds in the Third Reich, made him personally very rich. 6 million copies had been issued to couples by 1942. It was aboast of Hitler's that Mein Kampf had the largest sales of any book worldwide, apart from the Bible. His royalties were said to exceed US$1 million a year.
Officially, the book cannot be bought in Hungary, Israel, Latvia, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland, but is readily available in Russia, Romania, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In 1933, Eher Verlag bought the world rights for Mein Kampf, and sold it on to other publishers for translation. In Britain, it ended up as part of Hutchinson's list. In 1939, Hutchinson commissioned a Jewish emigre Ralph Mannheim to translate the book, a choice of translator not approved by Berlin.
After the war, Mein Kampf went on to Hutchinson's backlist, but was reprinted in 1969. Richard Cohen, Hutchinson's trade publishing director in 1985, recalls the difficulties publication raised. "The questions we faced at Hutchinson were: what were a publisher's responsibilities when confronted with such a book, and should we do anything to increase sales?"
The moral dilemma was solved by describing the book as "Vile" on the dust jacket. Today's version, now published by Pimlico, still calls it an "evil" book.
Hutchinson was bought by Random House, and in an ironic twist were in turn bought by the huge German conglomerate Bertelsmann. It was an irony not lost on Cohen: "Thus Hitler's racist tract, unavailable in German bookshops, will be published throughout Britain and the Commonwealth by a German company."
In the UK, royalties went through the Curtis Brown literary agency, which, from 1976, transferred the money to a charity whose name the agency refused to reveal.
Eventually it became known that the German Welfare Council has been absorbing the royalties since 1976 who claim they distributed the cash to German Jewish refugees and, now that so few remain alive, "the trustees have decided that the funding is no longer appropriate". The balance of funds was apparently returned to Random House.
The edition still sells and is also available from Amazon
Here is a screen shot today of what browsers buy after they have looked at the page for Mein Kampf..... make of the figures what you will.
Eher Verlag , the Nazi Party's central publishing house, also had its registered office in Munich, so now by chance the state government owns the rights to Hitler's anti-Semitic tirade.
As copyright holder, the state has since refused to allow the book to be published, on the grounds that it would promote right-wing extremism. The German Foreign Ministry has also repeatedly recommended that the book not be published, for fear of damaging Germany's image abroad.
They also attempt sedulously to prevent unauthorised publication in other countries. A rather seedy Polish publisher cum second hand car dealer Marek Skierkovsky (he has no ffice address, no telephone and no website) attempted to cash in on the Auschwitz memorials with an edition in 2005.ISBN number 83-921822-0-0. At 208 pages, he planned to sell it for 29 Zlotys (just over €7).
Article 256 of the Polish criminal code calls for a maximum sentence of two years in prison for anyone who "promotes a fascist form of government." However when Bavarian Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser sent a letter to the German foreign minister, asking him to exert his influence ... Skierkovsky simply got a bit of a grilling from the local police.
Bavarian Prime Minister Edmund Stoiber (retires Sept 2007 - opponent of Iraq invasion) pulled rank and wrote a letter to his chum Czech President Vaclav Havel, asking him to look into a small Czech publishing housewhich had a published a few thousand copies - but it appears his intervention was too late.
Until 1999, however, an English translation of Mein Kampf was the second-ranked bestseller on Amazon.com's German website before complaints from the German government and the Simon Wiesenthal Center led Barnes & Noble.com (part owned by Bertelsmann) to block German sales.
Amazon agreed to stop selling through its German site last November.
There have been irregular suggestions for re-publication in Germany.
Professor Eberhard Jäckel professor of History at the University of Stuttgart,has long supported a scholarly publication but as his book Adolf Hitler, Sämtliche Aufzeichungen published in 1984 contained forged documents made by Konrad Kujau, who also forged the Hitler Diaries which Jäckel authenticated ; his voice has been ignored.
But now Horst Möller, director of the Institute for Contemporary History in Munich, in an interview published yesterday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung proposed publication in the form of an academic edition with comprehensive footnotes.
"As long as 'Mein Kampf' is not available in a carefully annotated edition,
there will be no end to the oft simple-minded speculation about what is actually
in the book. An academic edition could break the peculiar myth which surrounds 'Mein Kampf.'" .
"There will be enough publishers who will want to sell it then with the inevitable sensationalism," said Möller, who argues that it would be better to produce an annotated edition which explains why Hitler was wrong now, rather than wait for a flood of uncommented commercial editions.
It is not without it's lessons today when so many madmen run the world.
Here is a nice illustration of the state of the D mark against the US$ at the time when Mein Kampf was first published in 1923.
The top picture is interesting in that it is one of the editions by Hutchinson published in about 1940 1in 18 parts complete editions can be bought today for £138