Should you read Adolf Hitler’s manifesto, ‘Mein Kampf’?
By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 20, 2016
For 70 years, Adolf Hitler’s infamous book of anti-Semitism and hatred, Mein Kampf (My Struggle) had been sitting stagnant in the ownership of Bavaria. This year, the publication has crossed the copyright expiration and is now a part of the public domain. Like the work of Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and Mark Twain, Hitler’s book can now be reprinted over and over again.
But just because something is allowed to happen, does it mean it should? Mein Kampf, for many people, is an insensitive diatribe meant to marginalize, nay, inspire genocide on a whole class of people. The ideas locked within the pages are the exact opposite of what we want the world to think. Yet, since returning to the shelves, the publishers at the Munich Institute for Contemporary History have received requests for 15,000 copies—approximately 11,000 more than reprinted.
It would be easy to take all the copies of Mein Kampf and burn them, but then we would be performing the same act the Nazis did during their reign. The elimination of knowledge, even knowledge in its most vulgar and vile form, is a great shame.
I think Mein Kampf, when read by someone with a confident mind, will supply aid in understanding the darkness inside a person, a person capable of performing such atrocities. I believe reading Mein Kampf with the knowledge of the person who wrote it will help guide us in the direction away from those ideals.
Sometimes we read to find the place we want to be. There are many books in the library that will help you become better at doing this or educate you in doing that. However, a book can also be a cautionary tool—a warning. If you yourself want to have an open mind, you must expose yourself to the bigotry and self-aggrandizing rants of a monster.
Pick up Mein Kampf and read it. You don’t need to finish it. You don’t need to enjoy it. But text with such historical and societal impact should not be brushed off and ignored. Hitler was a great leader, thinker, and persuasive criminal. Few can deny that. If you have any aspirations of being a great leader and thinker, but want to cut out the criminal part, you should definitely read the book. The old adage from George Santayana is as true as ever: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
The world is not without evil. We hear it on the news every day. Reading a book will not turn you bad. Reading a book will help you understand what bad looks like.