Mein Kampf was illegal in a lot of countries for a very long time. Yet, while browsing GoodReads I realised reading it might be very interesting to get some insight in how the horrors of WW2 came to be.

I noticed the year of publishing on said list was 1973. With A. Hitler’s demise being in 1945 that seemed rather difficult to believe, so I am assuming the book has been modified/edited. There were quite a few earlier translations so I am positive it is not simply the year the translated version was released.

So how likely is it that the book has been censored? If a government decides to illegalize it, publishing it with changed contents does not sound very far-fetched.

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    Are you talking about the German edition? IIRC, the state of Bavaria has or had the copyright and decided against publishing it as a critical/study edition a few years back.
    – mart
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:03
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    Dutch, in this case.
    – Berry M.
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:04
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    Okay, I can't comment on the situation in the NL. FWIW, the bavarian ministry of finance had the copyright of the German edition until it expired in dec. 2015. 2016, the Munich based IfZ (Institut für Zeitgeschichte, institute for contemporary history) published a heavily annotated edition (to volumes, 6kg, 3500 footnotes, 5 years of work by many historians, 60€). Selling copies of Mein Kampf was never illegal in Germany AFAICT but reprints were forbidden via the copyright.
    – mart
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:10
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    The Mein Kampf was not strictly illegalized; as the state of Bavaria held its copyright it simply denied permission to anyone to reprint it, so any modern copies would have been illegal everywhere due to copyright laws, regardless of specific censoring laws. IIRC the copyright was set to expire soon (or maybe it already has) and there were talks of providing an "official" version with appropiated critical comments to prevent the spread or uncommented and/or modified versions. Any 1973 reprint would have been done by a shoddy organization and should not be trusted to be the original text.
    – SJuan76
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:12
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    ... and the english copyright was sold in the 30ties and are or were held by random house (who donated the earnings from the book). I doubt that Mein Kampf is actually illegal in the NL (but I could be wrong!) and suggest hitting your local library?
    – mart
    Jan 31, 2017 at 16:16

2 Answers 2


Mein Kampf was illegal in a lot of countries for a very long time.

As already noted in a comment, it was never illegal in Germany. You could sell and buy any existing copies. Reprinting it was not allowed by the copyright holder (the German federal state of Bavaria inherited it from Hitler after his death).

The copyright expired 70 years after Hitler's death and so reprinting it is allowed again. Germany decided that instead of leaving the reprinting business to a lot of private right wing organizations, the "Münchner Institut für Zeitgeschichte" (Munich Institute of History) published a version that contained the original print accompanied by a comment: "Hitler, Mein Kampf: Eine kritische Edition"

Except for illegal reprints, anything printed between 1945 and 2015 are probably books that feature excerpts, comments and texts by other authors. But again, the book itself was never "illegal". Existing copies could always be sold, bought and read freely.

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    While this provides some interesting context it does not directly answer the question of whether currently circulating copies are in any way censored.
    – BZN_DBer
    Jan 31, 2017 at 22:55
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    What does "Hitler, Mein Kampf: Eine kritische Edition" translate to in English? Jan 31, 2017 at 23:10
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    @KodosJohnson: "eine kritische edition" means "a critical edition". In other words, an addition that takes into consideration variations in previously published (and unpublished) editions. Depending on how scientific it is, it may feature an apparatus that records differences in different manuscripts, or differences in texts that claim to cite it. Since it was not published for the first time that long ago, I don't know how critical this critical edition really is. I haven't seen it, but I suspect they're just calling it a "critical edition".
    – Shimon bM
    Jan 31, 2017 at 23:18
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    @ShimonbM - as I understand from a radio interview, the "critical edition" means that it has been heavily annotated throughout (putting in context and pointing out outright falsehoods) and (as far as I could tell from the interview) without changes to the original text.
    – user13123
    Feb 1, 2017 at 1:15
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    I would translate "eine kritische Edition" to "annotated version".
    – RedSonja
    Feb 1, 2017 at 6:57

There's some indication that the English version circulated in the late 1930's deliberately omitted or reduced Hitler's anti-semitism and aspirations on Europe.

US Senator Alan Cranston had read the German version, and found an English translation in Macy's Bookstore in New York in 1939. On browsing he noted it was too short and too light, and had significant differences. So he and a friend worked to publish an "anti-Nazi" version of the book in English.

“I wrote this, dictated it [from Hitler’s German text] in about eight days, to a battery of secretaries in a loft in Manhattan,” Cranston told the Los Angeles Times in 1988. They produced a tabloid edition of 32 pages, reducing Hitler’s 270,000 words to 70,000 to yield a “Reader’s Digest-like version [showing] the worst of Hitler.”

Further info from Los Angeles Times archive, dated 1998-02-14

So depending on the source, you might indeed be reading a deliberately-altered version, beyond the changes that plain translation would produce.

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    I'm not sure of the level of quoting expected in this SE. Should it be mostly left in the link, or should more of the information be brought through to this post? A holus-bolus quote of the LA Times story would be too much I think.
    – Criggie
    Feb 1, 2017 at 11:29
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    My personal view is that quotes should contain just enough to support the case that's being made (in context) without needing to view the source document - this quote seems fine.
    – Steve Bird
    Feb 1, 2017 at 13:59
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    Hm. So he thought the previous edition was too short, so he decided to make an.. even shorter?
    – pipe
    Feb 1, 2017 at 14:15
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    @pipe - Perhaps it was a 'two can play at THAT game' thing? The edition he found was making Hitler not look so bad by carefully choosing it's contents, while his edition showed the worst of Hitler by doing the same thing. Feb 1, 2017 at 14:50

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