Monday’s announcement that Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is going to be republished in Germany for the first time since the end of World War II brought a couple thoughts to mind.
I find it interesting that the State of Bavaria holds the copyright to the book. According to the news report, Bavaria took over the rights as part of post-war de-Nazification. A bit more surprising is the fact that, while banned in Austria and Russia, Mein Kampf has not been banned in Germany. It just hasn’t been published because the Bavarian government didn’t want to inspire neo-Nazis.
With Bavaria’s copyright set to expire in 2015, the state is trying to beat neo-Nazis to the punch in republishing the work. It plans to publish the book with “commentaries on the text debunking Hitler’s arguments.” An edition tailored for schools is also planned. That all leads to the most philosophical question. Should Mein Kampf ever be published in the German states or Austria?
To me the answer is simple — yes. That, of course, stems from my intractable view that the only way to defeat despicable speech is to expose it to the light. Republication in Germany may inspire some wannabes and assorted miscreants but we can never change the fact that cranks, racists and bigots tend to attract their kind. With or without commentaries, the horrible events Mein Kampf brought to the world and Germany will magnify just what Hitler’s ideas were and what they meant.
If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis, concurring opinion, Whitney v. California (1927)