A major Italian newspaper has published Adolf Hitler’s political manifesto Mein Kampf and distributed it for free angering the Prime Minister and provoking a wave of public outrage as well as condemnation from the Jewish community.
The conservative Milano daily Il Giornale distributed the Hitler’s text as a free supplement to the William Shirer's ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’. The book is the first in a series of eight history books on the Nazi Third Reich, which are sold alongside editions of the paper.
Partly autobiographical, Mein Kampf, which means ‘My Struggle,’ outlines Hitler’s ultranationalist, anti-Semitic ideology that formed the basis of Nazism. Published in 1924, the book also spread Hitler’s hatred of Jews, which culminated in Holocaust resulting in about six million Jews being murdered by the Nazis.
The move immediately provoked a wave of indignation among the public and politicians. "I find it sordid that an Italian daily is giving away Hitler's 'Mein Kampf' today. I embrace the Jewish community with affection. #neveragain," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wrote in his twitter post, denouncing the publication.
Many Italians supported the Prime Minister and also condemned the move in their posts.
The daily has “crossed the red line” by attaching Hitler’s books to its editions, another Twitter user wrote in his post.
The move 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," Renzo Gattegna, president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities, said, describing the initiative as "indecent," AFP reports.
In response, Il Giornale said its initiative was aimed at educating people.
"Reading 'Mein Kampf' is a real antidote to the toxicity of national-socialism," the paper said, as quoted by AFP. , Il Giornale’s editor Alessandro Sallusti stressed that the 1937 version of the Hitler’s book published by the paper contains annotations and commentary by an Italian professor of contemporary history Francesco Perfetti.
Sallusti also emphasized he wanted to make readers understand "where and why absolute evil was born,” as reported by AP. At the same time, he admitted that the outcry provoked by the publication was “legitimate” and even “understandable.”
Some readers of the paper appear to support Sallusti’s educational initiative and understand its goals.
"I want to understand what happened when I was not born. I want to understand their misbehaviors, so that we can protect ourselves from similar occurrences," an Il Giornale buyer told Ruptly.
"Sales are great. We had five copies and we already sold four. I think people are looking for it to understand what happened and what should not happen again …. [When a copy has been picked up], it has already been sold. I know a client wants it. The others were sold in a couple of hours,” a kiosk operator that sells controversial editions said, as quoted by Ruptly.
After World War II, the copyright of Hitler’s work was handed to the German state of Bavaria, which refused to allow the book to be republished for 70 years out of respect for the victims of Nazism and to prevent incitement of hatred.
In January 2016, the copyright of the book fell into the public domain and, on January 8, the book was re-published in Germany for the first time since World War II in a special edition that contained thousands of critical academic notes. The German government was widely supportive of the new annotated edition.
Germany's main Jewish group, the Central Council of Jews, said at that time that it did not object to the critical edition, but strongly supported efforts to prevent any new “Mein Kampf” being released without annotations.
At that time, the new edition of the inflammatory book sparked a huge interest, with 15,000 advance orders placed for an initial print run of just 4,000 copies. The publisher, the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History, has also received requests to translate the edition into Italian, French and English.
Even before the release of the annotated version, the German Teacher’s Association proposed that the Nazi manifesto be taught in high schools to help “immunize” youngsters against far-right ideologies. In April, regional parliament in the German state of Bavaria held a discussion on that matter.