Is it worth the fight to become a CA

"Mein Kampf" is now also available in Polish

Five years after the German edition, which was published by the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) in Munich, the scientific edition of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is now coming to bookshops in Poland. The start of sales was actually planned for January 20th - but in many places the book has already been available for a few days.

"We already had 'Mein Kampf' on sale on Saturday. But all copies are already out of stock. The boss is supposed to bring the supplies in the afternoon. Should I put you on the waiting list?" Asked a saleswoman in on Wednesday (January 20th, 2021) the bookstore Eureka in Warsaw's Saska Kępa district the author of this text.

The Polish critical edition of "Mein Kampf" between other titles in a Warsaw bookshop

In fact, there is great interest: "There were a lot of pre-orders on the Internet. Wholesalers are also taking more copies than usual," said DW Bogusław Kubisz, deputy editor-in-chief of the Bellona publishing house. His publishing house, which specializes in historical topics from the Second World War, dared the project. "We initially printed 4,000 copies. It looks like the second edition will have to be reprinted soon," said Kubisz.

This cannot be taken for granted in the country that became the first victim of Nazi Germany in 1939 and lost six million people in the course of the war, half of them Polish Jews. For this reason alone, the publisher had renounced any advertising for "Mein Kampf". A high price by Polish standards of 149 złoty (approx. 36 euros) should also ensure that the book does not fall into the wrong hands.

A connoisseur of the Third Reich

Bellona-Verlag had originally thought of a translation of the Munich edition. But in the end the Warsaw historian Cezary Eugeniusz Król got the job. He is considered a proven expert on the Third Reich, has published about Nazi propaganda and edited the diaries of Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. From 2002-2006 he headed the branch of the Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN) in Berlin.

Cezary Eugeniusz Król, contemporary historian and author of the Polish critical edition of "Mein Kampf", with the book

Król spent three years working alone on the translation and on the critical apparatus, which contains almost 2,000 annotations. He also wrote the introduction, in which he describes the genesis of the Hitler book and its reception in the Third Reich and after the Second World War on 60 pages.

Warning of dismantling democracy

"Hitler's book should be understood as a warning. People should understand how quickly a democratic system can be dismantled and transformed into a dictatorship," explains Król. "That can happen anywhere in the world today, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow if we are not vigilant," said the historian.

The German critical edition of "Mein Kampf" was published in 2014 on behalf of the Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ) Munich - Berlin

Król admits that opinions about his work are divided among Polish colleagues. "Opponents of the project advised me: Keep your hands off it. You insult the Nazi victims and their families, you only strengthen the right-wing extremists and you may have to face criminal consequences. Don't jeopardize your good reputation," recalls the historian. His initial idea of ​​realizing the book in cooperation with the PAN had failed due to resistance from some colleagues.

Demythologize Hitler's book

But Król did not allow himself to be dissuaded from his idea. "Somebody had to do that," he emphasizes. The scientific edition was overdue, especially since two illegal editions of "Mein Kampf" had appeared in Poland in the 1990s - both based on a greatly abridged English version and without scientific commentary.

An edition of Hilter's "Mein Kampf" from the "Third Reich" in the Documentation Center of the Nazi Party Rally Grounds in Nuremberg

"Hitler's book was considered a 'forbidden fruit', so it was high time to demythologize this 'work' with a critical edition," argues the Król.

Too much commerce?

His Wroclaw colleague Krzysztof Ruchniewicz is skeptical about the project. "It is good that 'Mein Kampf' has finally been published by a professional historian in Poland," he says. However, Ruchniewicz would prefer the publisher to have translated the IfZ edition, which he considers exemplary, into Polish. "The French translation will soon be on the market. The Polish publisher should have gone the same way."

Ruchniewicz also thinks the cover has failed. The black title on a red background is noticeable in the shop window - but he much prefers the gray front page of the German edition. "That is too much commercialism. Does it have to be?" Asks the director of the Willy Brandt Center for German and European Studies at the University of Wroclaw.

Author Król, on the other hand, hopes for lively debates among experts - and with readers. Unfortunately, the already planned public readings had to be canceled for the time being due to Covid19. After all, an online discussion with journalist Piotr Zychowicz on YouTube is on the agenda. In his publications, he launched the thesis that Poland should have entered into an alliance with the Third Reich in 1939 - against Stalin's Soviet Union.