Now, more than 90 years since it was first written, and 70 years since the death of Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf has entered the public domain. The publication and translation of his works has created ethical dilemmas on multiple levels since it first appeared in print to the present day.
The Conversation is an academic and research journalism project has an aim to “rebuild trust in journalism.” It makes an ideal platform to weigh in on the sobering, controversial topic of Hitler’s blueprint for conquest. As Americans enjoyed commemorating their liberation through their July 4th Independence Day celebration, Manu Braganca, Research Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, published a historical perspective on the 90-year-old book that would lead to the subjugation and decimation of tens of millions and war that spanned the globe.
The article bears reading in full. Because it isn’t about the contents of the book itself, but the context around how Mein Kampf was translated into French, both before and after the Second World War. First, how it was used by an opportunistic French publisher as a tool of profit, which was then suppressed by Hitler himself until he retooled and re-released it for Nazi propaganda purposes.
International translations have long been a source of misappropriated intellectual property and misconstrued meanings. Here, the misappropriation was committed by the original translation: an unauthorized, though rather faithful-to-the-source edition released in 1934 by Nouvelles Éditions Latines. The 1938 re-release, published by Fayard, was a purposeful misconstrual: expurgated and bowdlerized under Hitler’s direction specifically to keep the French from being alarmed by the original fiery and bellicose German. Even the title was changed to Ma Doctrine (My Doctrine) to sound less threatening. Produced just a year before the dawn of the Second World War, the same year as the fateful Munich Agreement, it was a purposeful attempt to sow misunderstanding and allay suspicions for political ends.
Braganca details the fate of the book after the Second World War on to the present day, and presents multiple sides of the debate. Should the book be blacklisted and banned outright? Published with additional front matter and addendum to provide historical context? In a modern world that is increasingly polarized and radicalized, and in a world wide web where historical texts can be found online for free, such controversy has been highly charged. One thing is for certain: debate over the book in France and elsewhere will not end any time soon.
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