[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Robert Zydenbos zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de
Wed May 21 12:55:36 UTC 2014

Dear Dominik (whom I owe more than you probably will ever know),

Dominik Wujastyk wrote:

> Robert, I do not agree with most of your points.

That is no surprise. :-) However, I would like to point out a few
relevant matters that have gone unnoticed. You may actually decide to
alter the wording of your petition, if you wish to go through with that.

Below I will give some more thoughts about what is happening here (see
esp. “Joachim Fest” below), based on information which anybody can read.
But first a few clarifications:

> It has been said by me and others that the central argument here is
> that MLBD as an Indological publisher owned by Jains has no good
> justification for publishing /Mein Kampf/. MK is not an Indological
> work (and indology is MLBD's main business identity) and it is a
> work that promotes cruelty (MLBD is owned by a pious Jain family).

Has anybody made the effort to look closely at the MLBD Website 
http://www.mlbd.com ? Please go there. Then look not at the right edge, 
but the left edge of the screen. What I see is a list that says 
“Administration, Current Events, Fashion, Cooking, Medical,...” 
Evidently, as booksellers, they already sell anything that is printed.

I do not think it appropriate that we label an independent Indian 
publishing house an “Indological publisher” and then pretend that we 
overseas Indologists can decide what they should publish (e.g., whether 
they should limit themselves to Indological publications or not). Like 
it or not, they have already diversified.

Also, let us leave it to the Jainas (at times, throughout their long
history, a persecuted minority, whose traditions I have studied for 38
years) to know how to survive in a pluralistic Indian society with their
values intact. To turn the Jainas into a caricature (through a 
simplistic formula "Jainism = ahiṃsā, therefore we will not allow them 
to even remotely deal with anything violent in world history") is, in my 
honest opinion, patronizing and not at all appropriate either.

> The internal controversy precisely shows how uncomfortable the
> Bavarian govt. is about publishing this work, even the crit. ed.

It rather shows that the present government is dodgy and lets itself be
swayed this way and that by lobbies. I have already given links to the
relevant information, incl. the reaction of the leftist (yes! the Greens
and the SPD) opposition in parliament.

> As we also know, other signs of Nazism are criminal offences in
> Germany (SS runes, Hakenkreuz, salutes, slogans, holocaust denial
> aimed at incitement, etc.; /Strafgezetzbuch/ para 86a, apparently).

This is not relevant here. Possession of the book, also in Germany, is
not punishable. In India, with its own laws, the book can be freely sold
(like in the USA, for instance).

> Consistency: you exactly invert the truth. If the Indian Penal Code
> can be used to prevent the publication of relatively harmless
> academic books, then let it also be used for its original purpose, to
> prevent the publication of genuine hate literature. Let the law of
> the land be used to do some good.

To clarify: I wrote about consistency in the stance of the overseas
academic community, not about an impossible consistency spanning several
Indian publishers and diverse sections of the Indian populace.

I am not aware that, in this case, that Indian law has been invoked in
India by any person who has felt aggrieved. The continued existence of
other editions of Mein Kampf since decades sufficiently shows that this
is so.

> Effectiveness: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is
> for good men to do nothing." -- Edmund Burke

That is a nice quote, even if it is apocryphal

I am concerned about the condescending, really very eurocentric
displays of emotionalism in this thread which are unlikely to generate
any real understanding in India, but resentment instead. (I remember a
soft-mannered Indian diplomat (!) here in Munich who once innocently
asked me: “Why is everybody here so upset by the use of a good word like

> [...] when I have conversations with friends in India about the
> European experiences during the two World Wars, they are often
> horrified and had no idea beforehand about the Holocaust and other
> facts.
> Superfluousness: Yes the book is not on the front page of MLBD's
> website today. But they are apparently still selling Mein Kampf,
> together with a DVD of a film.

Please, Dominik... stay cool, have a good look and read the text
(http://www.mlbd.com/BookDecription.aspx?id=14737). That film is a
documentary by Joachim Fest, Germany's best-known historian for the
Nazi period (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_Fest – I love the
last sentence in that article).

The film: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hitler_%E2%80%93_Eine_Karriere

That film is just the sort of thing which we WANT to see distributed
anywhere, also in India.

The idea of packaging the film by Fest with that book is excellent. It
is a way of saying ‘here is that book that everybody is reading –
together with a serious explanation of just what it is.’

> It seems that they have changed the edition that they are selling, or
> at least the covers illustration. I am not yet sure about the meaning
> of this change.

Offering the award-winning Fest film suggests that the meaning is to
seriously inform the public.

My conclusion, for the time being, is that MLBD may be doing something
brilliant: jumping onto the bandwagon and at the same time diverting the
course of that bandwagon. It is constructive engagement. Why should
anyone want to stop that?

> "Discriminatory"? How? Because we haven't written to every
> publisher?

I will tell you how. My use of the word “discriminatory” was meant as a 
short recapitulation of what I wrote earlier in that same posting of 
mine: “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 believe it is VERY bad for Indologists (of all people!) to 
create such an impression.

The way things stand now, it almost seems that you are rebuking MLBD
because they want to distribute a genuinely informative film along with
the book (which booksellers and publishers like Amazon, Jaico a.o. do
not do).

> "Not Indological?" Well, that's point, isn't it? Why should an
> Indological publisher promote Mein Kampf?

Please forget about MLBD being an “Indological publisher” (see above). 
It is not a valid argument.

Furthermore, one can hardly call it ‘promoting’ when MK is bundled with
the Fest documentary.

> Or do you mean that we shouldn't discuss this issue because it isn't
> Indological?

I am discussing it! But a serious Indologist who deals also with
contemporary India and its more recent cultural history and living
culture must also take into consideration “the complex dynamics of
Indian democracy today”, as Ram-Prasad Chakravarthi rightly mentioned.

> "Publicitywise counter-productive"? We don't yet know, do we? MLBD
> has removed the advertisement from their website's front page
> already, within 24 hours.

(Without your petition, mind you. Think about that.)

I am thinking of possible headlines like: “Arrogant Western
‘Indologists’ tell Indians to read Doniger's blasphemous, perverted
fantasies, want to forbid Indians to read embarrassing historical text
from the West”, or “Forget real history, Indians! Go for Wendy's sick

> You want MLBD to sell Mein Kampf?

I would also like people to stop selling cigarettes, pornography, and a
few other things. (I believe cigarettes kill more people than Mein Kampf

Selling MK together with the Fest film? Not a bad idea, as I have
explained above.

And I would like to repeat my question: has anybody seen this MLBD
edition? (No, of course not.) Does it have (like the translation which I
have) an explanatory preface that says people have a right to see this
classical text about a criminal mentality, so that they can recognize it
when it crops up again? And how many of us have seen that DVD with the
Fest film?

If any reader here wishes to join the petition, thinking that this will 
give him / her a nice, warm feeling, then of course I cannot stop them. 
Nor can I prevent any smug, ill-informed, knee-jerk politically correct, 
patronizing, see-how-good-I-am statements from being made. But in view 
of everything that I have said here and in my previous posting, let it 
be understood that I cannot join.

I also thank those list members who, unwilling to jump into the 
emotionalized fray for a variety of reasons, have written words of 
appreciation to me off-list.



P.S. Before anyone thinks up cute ideas: I am not a German (I just work 
here in Munich). The study of contemporary India is part of my 
professional duty. I have no Nazis among my relatives, but I do have 
Jews among them, also in my ancestry. I too lost relatives in WW2 whom I 
never met. And nobody is paying me to write these postings.


Prof. Dr. Robert J. Zydenbos
Institute of Indology and Tibetology
Department of Asian Studies
University of Munich
Tel. (+49-89-) 2180-5782
Fax (+49-89-) 2180-5827
Web http://zydenbos.userweb.mwn.de/

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