A year after its publication in Germany in the form of a critical edition, the pamphlet of Hitler has sold 85,000 copies, especially to history buffs.
It was often found in the yard sales, even more easily on the Web, but since 1945, Mein Kampf was the subject in Germany of a ban on any new edition. Fallen into the public domain in January 2016, the book signed Adolf Hitler immediately found again the shelves of bookshops, enriched with thousands of historical notes.
A year later, the record of this re-edition made a tremendous surprise. Hitler, Mein Kampf, Eine kritische Edition proved to be a successful bookstore, with no less than 85,000 copies sold. Its publisher, the Institute of Contemporary History in Munchen, had originally produced 4,000 copies. The book is already in its sixth edition.
“There is necessarily a catching-up effect since the book was banned from publication for seventy years,” analyzes Florent Brayard. This researcher of the CNRS co-directs for Fayard the French version of Mein Kampf, which will be like in Germany accompanied by an important critical apparatus. According to him, even if the historical editions of the pamphlet were accessible, “many readers did not want to read a version of the 30s or 40s. The critical edition changed the situation without completely dissipating the historical burden of the book . If sales are so important in the next few years, that will be a question. “.
Two volumes, six kilos
The German edition is presented in two austere volumes of 2,000 pages in all, weighing “not far from six kilos,” says Florent Brayard. The original text is accompanied by 3,500 explanatory notes. It is sold 59€, a low price for the enormous volume of critical work.
Who buys it? The Institute of Contemporary History of Munchen asked the booksellers of the whole country to give them information about the sociology of the acquirers of Mein Kampf. They are “history enthusiasts, teachers, rather youngs, with a high studties level “, details Florent Brayard, for whom “this edition did not arouse any expectations among the people of the far-right. As soon as the text is available free on the Internet, why would they be embarrassed by a critical edition? “
Jérôme Vaillant did not wait for the 2016 version. This professor of German civilization in Lille/France, editor-in-chief of the magazine “Allemagne(s) Aujourd’hui”, bought historical editions of the Hitler’s book in the German Flea markets. “As a teacher, I could not imagine talking about Mein Kampf without having the text, and having my students read excerpts directly from the source,” he commented. From a scientific point of view, giving to read the same words of the dictator in this re-edition would be a good thing. On the importance of the text, the researcher nevertheless recalls that the place of the book is “to relativize in the success of Hitler in Germany”, and even in the history of Nazism.
The project (and virtue) of this new edition is of course not “to rehabilitate the Third Reich,” recalls Jerome Vaillant. But to make the most of things, to show where Hitler exaggerates the facts, where he is caught in error.” This critical aspect is absent from the pirate versions circulating on the Internet, and in particular from some American editions which on the contrary aim to defend Nazism. “That’s what we can be worried about,” he explains.
An overwhelming book
Do its buyers really plunge into Mein Kampf? Nothing is less certain, as its reading is reputed to be unattractive. “Certainly, we do not read it like a detective novel,” Jérôme Vaillant ironizes. “To read is an extraordinarily painful experience, judge for his part Florent Brayard. Hitler’s style is awkward and complicated.” In fact it remains that the text is as strongly symbolic as if it had alone the responsibility of the twentieth century massacres.
A weight of which the co-director of the future Hitler, Mein Kampf, a critical edition of the Fayard editions is particularly conscious. “To engage in an adventure such as this is the assurance of taking blows. And yet it must be done, poses Florent Brayard. We are working on the institutional and scientific arrangements, which must be irreproachable. We will present it publicly once it is finalized.” Meanwhile, the man refuses to talk about it too much. “We must work calmly, and stand far from the public debates and controversies“.
Source : Libération Magazine