[INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at gmail.com
Wed May 21 14:39:39 UTC 2014

​Thank you for your kind words, Robert.

On 21 May 2014 14:55, Robert Zydenbos <zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de> wrote:

> 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
> ‘Aryan’?”)

​There is a view held amongst ​some Indian citizens that nobody who isn't
Indian (or a Hindu) has the right to say anything challenging or
interpretative about Indian history and culture.  "If you're not Indian,
you have no right to a voice."  Similarly, can an atheist be allowed to
write about Christianity, or a Jew about Islamic history, etc. etc.?  I do
not agree with that view.  I don't think you do either.  But I think we
teeter towards that false view when we start worrying about our serious
views being interpreted as condescension.  In my letter, I was speaking to
the adults at MLBD as an adult myself.  I *do* suspect that they may be
inadequately informed about the horrors of Nazism in Europe, but that is
not the same as condescension.  I admire and care about MLBD, I've had
lunch with members of the family at their homes, visited the doctor with
them when they were sick, etc.  It is because of my positive feelings to
the MLBD family and business that I consider it worthwhile to engage with
them about this topic.  (I do not care enough to engage with Biblia Impex,
for example, who are far more reprehensible, in my view.)

Anybody whose view or judgement is being challenged is likely to feel
resentment.  It's a psychological fact.  That's no reason to refrain from
making the challenge or for calling such a challenge "condescension."
Sometimes people in India, like people anywhere, make mistakes or act
inappropriately.  If such people resent this being discussed, then I'm
sorry but, like everyone, they must suck it up.

​Your point about the film by Joachim Fest is quite strong, I think.  In
the MLBD Newsletter ​and the first version of the web advertisement, there
was no mention of Fest's film being part of the item offered for sale.  Now
the web advert has changed, and it  seems that the book, MK, is accompanied
by the film.  If it is really MLBD's intention to frame the book as part of
a narrative about the evils of Nazism, then that needs to be very explicit,
and present in all the locations that they advertise.   Up to now, this was
not so.  But perhaps that is a way they could go.

However, I would point out that Fest's "Eine Karriere" film was not
received without criticism.  According to the English WP article linked
from the source you cite, the film,

which was intended to explain why ordinary people in Germany loved Hitler,
created some controversy among some critics such as the American
historian Deborah
Lipstadt <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deborah_Lipstadt> who wrote that,
by featuring extensive clips of Hitler from propaganda films while totally
ignoring the Holocaust, Fest had engaged in a glorification of the *Führer*.
[3] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joachim_Fest#cite_note-3>

In the Indian context, and when shown to audiences innocent of Fest's other
work and of the historical context of German Vergangenheitsbewältigung, it
seems to me that MLBD could have made a better choice if they wished to
accompany their *Mein Kampf* with materials providing critical
contextualization.  I do not see Fest's controversial film as adequately
sanitizing MK for safe consumption in contemporary India.  Fest's use of
extensive film archive showing that Hitler was lionized by the German
population could be taken in exactly the wrong way if not contextualized.
It's like asserting that Mein Kampf is a harmless book because it's
terribly boring.  Well, yes, but no. Similarly with Fest's film.  It's
meant one way, but could be taken another.

If MLBD seriously wants to get into Nazi studies, then they might be better
advised to publish books like those of Bullock and Trevor-Roper, the film *Der
Untergang*, and many other books and media that make the case unequivocally.

> “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’.”

​This is a straw man.​ It's not what I think or what I said.  Nor is it
implied in what I said.  I don't think any of us in this discussion is so
naive or misguided.

What I *do* think is that with a book like MK it is critical to consider
reception.  The *way* MK may be read by an average reader in Israel or
America is quite different from the way it would be read in Bavaria, or
indeed in a BJP-led India.  Cultural context determines reception.  The
presuppositions, historical background, educational presuppositions, and
present politics all mean that distributing MK in India is a semiotically
entirely different act than distributing it in, say, Israel.  It's not
about foolishness or otherwise, it's about meaning.

 "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.)

​but a day *after* I sent them my letter.  They may still be unaware of the
petition - I personally have not drawn it to their attention.  It only goes
to them formally when the petition closes.  Think about that.


> 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?

​None of this matters, since people will buy MLBD's Mein Kampf on the basis
of their advertisements, and the advertisements have not been unequivocal
about what is being sold.

> 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.

​​It doesn't help a serious conversation to insult your opponents or
belittle their views.​

​You return several times to characterizing the views of others in this
debate as emotionalism.  It isn't obvious to me that the people who hold
views different from yours are all suffering from excess emotion.   It also
isn't the case that emotion is the opposite of reason.


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