The first German publication in 70 years of Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s semi-autobiographical political treatise and the foundation of Nazi ideological thought, has run to six editions after its publisher was swamped by demand.
The book’s German publisher says 85,000 copies of controversial book, which translates in English to “My Struggle”, have so far been sold so far.
The increased sales come at a time of unprecedented rising populist support for far-right opposition party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), a string of Islamist terror attacks and tension caused by refugee arrivals.
Initially banned by the Allies after their victory in WWII, the copyright of Hitler’s text was held for 70 years by the Bavarian state government.
In January last year, however, the copyright expired and a second edition of the text was allowed to be published.
The reprint of the text includes explanatory sections and more than 3,000 historical annotations in an effort to make the book approachable for historical study without supporting Nazi propaganda.
But the demand for the text has caused surprise.
Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History (IfZ), in charge of republishing the text, said it has had to issue its sixth edition of the book in the past year after initially only printing 4,000 copies.
“These sales figures have taken us by storm,” said IfZ Director Andreas Wirsching. “No-one could really have expected them.”
Data collected by the historical institute show the buyers of the reissue are mostly “consumers interested in history and politics as well as educational professionals”, Wirsching said.
“It turns out that the fear that this publication will allow the promotion of Hitler’s ideology proved to be unfounded,” Wirsching added.
Germany, however, has routinely had to ban far-right neo-Nazi groups, the most recent in March 2016, to curb the rise of fascist political thought. Nine groups have been banned in the country since 2012, reports the New York Times .
German laws against incitement prohibit the publishing of the original Mein Kampf text, but the book itself is not out-rightly banned.
The original version of Hitler’s opus can be found and purchased in antique shops or online.
Like in Germany, the book in Italy is enjoying a rising level of interest as well.
Centre-right daily Italian newspaper Il Giornale, based in northern Italy, came under fire in November 2016 for giving away free copies the new Mein Kampf edition as a supplement to the newspaper.
Il Giornale is based in Milan. Like Germany, the city is also seeing a resurgence of populist far-right politics in the form of the Lega Nord .
In December 2016 an Italian Ministry for Education survey to promote reading and measure which books are most popular among pupils, found Mein Kampf ranked in the top 10 books in 10 schools.
Alessandro Fusacchia, a ministry official speaking to The Local , said he suspects the appearance of the text was a “particularly nasty case” as students were asked to vote for Italian authors published after 2000.
Hitler wrote the book in 1923 while incarcerated in Landsberg prison after failing to overthrow the German government in Munich. He wrote a second volume of the book from his Alpine retreat near Berchtesgaden.
It became a bestseller in 1933 once he became Chancellor. By 1945 it had sold 45 million copies and had been translated into 18 languages.