When “Mein Kampf” fell into the public domain on January 1 this year, enabling it to be freely printed, often those that choose to do so justified it as the publication of a historical document. The merits of that argument were undoubtedly dubious although the German edition, published for the first time since World War II, included critical annotations by historians.
However, on Saturday, a right-wing Italian newspaper was giving away free copies of Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic manifesto in a move which, unsurprisingly, has sparked both shock and condemnation.
“Know it in order to reject it” was the weak justification given by conservative tabloid Il Giornale. Known for its right-wing position, notably over the question of immigration, Il Giornale has a circulation of around 200,000.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi quickly denounced the initiative on Twitter, writing: “I find it sordid that an Italian daily is giving away Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’. I embrace the Jewish community with affection. #neveragain”
It was also denounced by Italy’s 30,000-strong Jewish community, “It is a vile act, light years away from any in-depth learning or study about the Holocaust,” said Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, describing the initiative as “indecent.”
The paper said the text was being freely distributed alongside the first of a series of eight history books on the Nazi Third Reich.
For 70 years, the German state of Bavaria which was handed copyright of the book in 1945, refused to allow it to be republished out of respect for the victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.