[INDOLOGY] In defense of MLBD

Philipp Maas philipp.a.maas at gmail.com
Thu May 22 18:43:49 UTC 2014

In my understanding of the social role of the academia, academics and other
intellectuals have the right (and even the obligation) to address the
society as a whole or social institutions (among which I would also count
publishers and book-sellers) whenever they feel the need to do so. This
right, in my view, exists irrespective of the nationality of those who
address and of those who are addressed. As far as I can see, many German
colleagues were happy when people from foreign countries signed the
petitions for maintaining Indological chairs at, for example, Berlin.

Even if one takes into account that different cultures have different
values, there are universal human rights. In the present case, i.e. with
regard to the question of how to judge the advertising and distribution of
Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” in India by to MLBD, obviously two human rights
oppose each other: (article 1): All human beings are born free and equal in
dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should
act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood and (article 19)
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

I think that as members of institutions that are designed for research and
teaching we (me included) are full entitled to communicate to MLBD that it
is a mistake to advertise and offer Hitler’s work for sale, because (1.)
the intention of the work is to violate human dignity, and (2.) its
advertisement and distribution actually contributes to the violation of the
dignity of millions of innocent victims and their descendents.

In my judgement, and I think that this is a general consensus of the
society in Germany today, this weights much heavier than the right of
freedom of expression.

Moreover, I would like to use this opportunity to express my uneasiness
with an argument that came up in the recent discussion. In view of the
dimension of the crimes that Germans have committed during the Nazi rule,
any attempt to relativize the impact of “Mein Kampf” for the Nazi movement
by even comparing it with, for example, the work of Heidegger is out of

Philipp Maas

2014-05-20 16:48 GMT+02:00 Walser, Joseph <Joseph.Walser at tufts.edu>:

> I have been keeping silent for a while, largely because whenever scholars
> think they catch a whiff of anti-semitism, there inevitably follows a
> barrage of angry emails and I, like anyone else, would hate to be painted
> with that brush. But I have to agree with Robert. Furthermore, while I do
> understand that there are many benighted (and well-caffienated) souls out
> there who may order Mein Kampf for inspirational reading, do we as a
> scholarly community want to see works become unavailable simply because the
> work (or the author) promotes something horrific? What if I am writing an
> article on Nazi influences on Jakob Hauer's writings on yoga? Conceivably I
> might want to consult a copy of Mein Kampf and I might turn to MLBD to get
> a cheap copy. I suspect that most scholars who own a copy, bought it for
> scholarly purposes. If we as a scholarly community want to wipe the world
> clean of Nazi ideas, we enter a slippery slope that ends up not being very
> scholarly. Do we also boycott presses that publish Carl Schmitt's Political
> Theology (a demonically brilliant argument for the suspension of the Wiemar
> Constitution)? Do we boycott the works of (many) political theorists who
> use his ideas? What about Heidegger? On the other hand, if there are bozos
> out there who can stay awake through it enough to endorse Hitler's agenda,
> wouldn't it be helpful to have access to a copy?
> This thread started by pointing out the hypocrisy of Penguin pulping a
> work of indology while letting Mein Kampf be published. I get the irony.
> But what stared out as an observation has now become a movement to hurt a
> press that had nothing to do with the pulping of Wendy's book. If anybody
> cares to read the blurb for the book on the MLBD site, they will see that
> MLBD is NOT promoting the agenda of the book. Allow me to quote:
> Mein Kampf will give you an insight into one of the greatest evil geniuses
> of the last century; his political ideals, his beliefs and motivation, and
> his struggle to consolidate Germany into one great nation, and a Nazi-Third
> Reich.
> "The terror and the brutal treatment he unleashed during his years of
> power can be best said in his own words: “…Cruelty impresses, people want
> to be afraid of something. They want someone to whom they can submit with a
> shudder, the masses need that. They need something to dread…”
> "This great tyrant will go down in the history of the world. And all those
> who lived through the holocaust will shudder to think that such a man was
> ever born, and fervently wish that such a history would never repeat
> itself. "
> This is hardly a promotion of an anti-semitic agenda. Let's save our
> collective ire for folks that deserve it. I am sure I am going to get
> flamed for saying this, but somebody had to.
> -j
> Joseph Walser
> Associate Professor
> Department of Religion
> Tufts University
> ________________________________________
> From: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] on behalf of Robert
> Zydenbos [zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de]
> Sent: Tuesday, May 20, 2014 9:50 AM
> To: Indology
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] Hitler and MLBD
> 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
> (
> http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/08/12/german-jews-want-mein-kam_n_257937.html
> ),
> 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
> https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf#Aktuelle_Rechtslage).
> (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
> (
> http://www.deutschlandfunk.de/der-kampf-um-mein-kampf.724.de.html?dram:article_id=99882
> ).
> 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?
> (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf#Online_availability)
> (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
> popularized.
> (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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Dr. Philipp A. Maas
Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde
Universität Wien
Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 2, Eingang 2.1
A-1090 Wien

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