Friday, May 25, 2007

Mein Gott, Mein Kampf!

News that a publisher in Poland had been contemplating a re-issue of Mein Kampf, came as something of a surprise. News that the Austrian authorities objected on the grounds that they held the copyright, was even more surprising.
I would have thought that the prospective readership of Polish Neo Nazis was barely into double figures and that the Austrians would have done better to disclaim all knowledge of the book and its author. A. Hitler Esq., hardly ranks among that nation’s favourite sons, one would have thought.
Now when A.H. was the bloke running the rather over-optimistically named 1000 year Reich, it was a runaway best seller. Even the least bookish house would have one on display in case the Gestapo should come a-calling. It was sold rather on the same basis as a Prudential insurance policy.
Keen students of history will no doubt be aware that, on the death of A.H., sales took a bit of a dive and I would have thought that market research should have warned the Polish chap that it was going to be a tough sell.
It was, in any case, a tough read. My father had a copy and, although he could usually manage the most abstruse works, he gave up before the halfway mark. I never got much past the first chapter initially although, years later, I did drag myself through to the end. It was a sovereign remedy for insomnia, I found.
As you know, much of it was dictated to his mate, Rudolph Hess, while they were holed up in the Landsberg slammer and this soul-searing experience might account for Hess’s later touch of madness, culminating in his madcap venture when he flew to England, thereby becoming one of Britain’s most celebrated illegal immigrants. His timing was off. Had he waited fifty years or so, he could have collected a pension, social benefits and probably a nice little council house from the State.
Mein Kampf should have been of great interest to historians if only because few of the Nazi hierarchy put pen to paper, only Joseph Goebbels recording much of any interest. Most of the others were too busy beating up on Jews and Gypsies to pay much attention to literary stuff, until later, when it might come in handy at any War Crimes trial.
Hitler’s only other recorded thoughts, other than his speeches, come from transcripts of his “table talk,” secretly recorded by Bormann, and these are only interesting inasmuch as they demonstrate just what a shallow thinker he was.
But I’m still puzzling why the Austrian authorities should be preserving the copyright. Surely they can’t be expecting a second coming?

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