[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de
Tue May 20 13:50:37 UTC 2014

A view on this not really Indological matter from an Indologist in 
Munich, Bavaria (the historical starting place, which is why I regularly 
deal with such questions; again in class, last Monday).

(Situation in Germany:) It is not true that the Government of Bavaria 
“refuses to allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany” 
(sorry, Dominik, but the statement in your open letter is not quite 
accurate). In fact, the Bavarian government has subsidized a new, 
historically critical edition of the book by the Institut für 
Zeitgeschichte with an amount of half a million euros. In spite of 
support from many German Jews for this idea 
the present chief minister of Bavaria suddenly announced, a few months 
ago, the stopping of a further subsidizing, apparently because of 
protests from certain other Jewish groups (which I consider foolish: 
both the protests as well as the interruption of the subsidy, and this 
stop has been criticized by oppositional left-wing political parties in 
the Bavarian parliament), but the editing work continues. For the latest 
details, see http://www.br.de/nachrichten/mein-kampf-hitler-100.html

(Prohibition through exercise of copyright:) The Bavarian government has 
been quite selective in exercising its copyright to prohibit new 
editions of the book elsewhere. E.g., nothing has been undertaken 
against several editions in Israel (see 

(Availability and how to deal with it:) “Mein Kampf” is freely available 
anyway, as has already been amply pointed out in this thread. The 
critical edition (see above; also an edition for schools is planned) is 
meant to counterbalance the surge of new editions that unavoidably will 
appear from 2015 onwards 
If MLBD brings out an integral edition of the book (not historically 
critical, but at least complete; does it have an explanatory preface? 
Has anybody seen it?), then readers can judge for themselves just how 
dull and crazy it is. (How many of the prudishly politically correct 
critics in this thread have actually read it? I stopped reading it – 
precisely because most of it is dull, and the rest is crazy in a not 
entertaining way.) This craziness may not be so visible if, in an 
uncontrolled manner, mere excerpts are published, which is not what MLBD 
has / had in mind. Furthermore, MLBD explicitly speaks / spoke of the 
author on its website as “evil”, thus explicitly not endorsing the 
contents of the book (did anybody here see that? Or were we too busy 
being outraged?).

(Commercialism:) MLBD is a commercial publisher and evidently has 
stopped being a purely academically Indological publisher at least for 
some time now (if ever they have been one). Already for years they have 
been bringing out books on all sorts of topics, many of which, in my 
view, are rather trashy. Is it really fair to be intercontinentally 
critical of them while their commercial competitors, like Jaico, are 
making money with it? Like Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell it? 

(Consistency:) If the overseas academic community cries out against the 
banning of books in India (Doniger, Ramanujan) in the name of freedom of 
expression, it looks odd that such people demand a ban on this old book 
for reasons which hardly any Indian understands (cf. for an illustration 
Veeranarayana Pandurangi’s characteristic post in this thread, last Sunday).

(Effectiveness of protest:) Hitler’s book has already been popular in 
India for a long time, apparently esp. among Hindu nationalists (see 
“Hitler als «Management-Guru» in Indien” - 
http://www.20min.ch/ausland/news/story/29880511). It seems that India 
demands the right to make every mistake the West has made, from 
environmental destruction, turbo capitalism, nuclear armaments, to 
reading warped books. A mere loud condemnation of (just another) edition 
of Hitler’s book coming from the West is likely to be seen as yet 
another bit of neo-colonial holier-than-thou moralizing. What 
effectively is being said is ‘Americans and Israelis should read the 
book, but it is too dangerous for you foolish Indians to have it’, and I 
do not think that any Indian wants to hear that. Banning a book has 
never stopped the spread of nefarious ideas anyway (only better books, 
open discussion and explanation do that), and if we make a fuss, it may 
only mean additional publicity for something that we do not want to see 

(Superfluousness:) For whatever reason, MLBD has apparently already 
taken down the offer from its website www.mlbd.com as of today (May 20, 
2014). This may mean that this entire discussion, the open letter etc. 
are superfluous. (Or it may mean that only the online advertising has 
stopped, but not the production and sale. I do not know.)

Because I believe protests to MLBD in this matter are unfair, 
discriminatory, ideologically ineffective, not Indological, at worst 
publicitywise counter-productive, and perhaps superfluous anyway, I will 
not sign the public petition.

Robert Zydenbos

Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Institut für Indologie und Tibetologie
Department für Asienstudien
Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU)

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