2.11.16 / Copyright-Free Evil
The copyright restrictions for Adolf Hitler’s incendiary Mein Kampf, the rant that foretold the Holocaust, were lifted this year. And for the first time in 70 years, publishers now have free access to the original text and Hitler’s Nazi manifesto is available to all.
According to the Guardian, “Reprinting the anti-Semitic book was banned after WW2 by Bavaria’s regional government, which held the copyright. The copyright has now expired and Munich’s Institute of Contemporary History is to publish a new edition.”
New editions are on the way and historians welcome them, arguing that the book helps academics understand more about the Nazi era. At least one edition, with thousands of academic notes, “will aim to show that Mein Kampf (‘My Struggle’) is incoherent and badly written, rather than powerful or seductive.” Nonetheless, it was a bestselling book in Nazi Germany, although when it was originally published in 1925 sales were piddling. Eight years later it was required reading.
The ban was in place to prevent incitement of hatred, although vintage and new editions have been in abundance throughout Europe and the United States since the end of the war.
Under European copyright law, the rights of an author of a literary or artistic work runs for the life of the author and 70 years after his death—in Hitler’s case on April 30 1945, when he shot himself in his bunker in Berlin. Copyrights ceased on the first day of January, 70 years after the author’s death. “However, German officials have said they will limit public access to the text amid fears that this could stir neo-Nazi sentiment.”
The volume here was a hand-bound and lettered (designed by Arthur Bemeleit) one-of-a-kind parchment version produced in 1936 and presented to Hitler for his birthday. “It may seem strange … that this modern book should be clothed in a form with all the characteristics of the medieval art of book production,” wrote H.K. Frenzel, editor of German design journal Gebrauchsgraphik. “But these objections on the part of moderns are unjustified, for, however advanced our graphic arts may be, there is nothing in the whole of modern book technique that could compare with the stately impression produced by a handwritten page. … Albert Fuss, who gave the book its internal form and cover, created something modern in the best sense of the word; the only feature that recalls the form of old books is the great care bestowed on the craftsmanship.”
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is the co-founder and the co-chair of the MFA Designer as Author program at the School of Visual Arts. He writes the Visuals column for the New York Times Book Review and the Graphic Content blog for T-Style. He is the author, coauthor, and/or editor of more than 120 books on design and popular culture, including the recent book Born Modern: The Life and Design of Alvin Lustig (Chronicle).