[INDOLOGY] In defense of MLBD

Walser, Joseph Joseph.Walser at tufts.edu
Thu May 22 19:09:37 UTC 2014

I am assuming that you are referring to my email. I was hoping folks would move on, because this discussion doesn't seem to be getting anywhere. Anyway, if what you got out of my email was that I was trying to "relativize" Mein Kampf by comparing it to Heidegger, then you need to read more carefully. I was making a slippery-slope argument, so obviously the two ends of the slope are not identical. However, if you don't fancy that argument, then go back to my Carl Schmitt example, because he was definitely sitting on the top of the slide with Hitler (as were Hauer,  etc.). All I was saying is that, as a scholar, I maintain that these works remain important and should be published. That said, I think that it is problematic to use any of these works (political or indological) without an understanding of the larger political world they were part of. And how are we to get that understanding without reading and writing about some pretty horrific material? On the other hand, if scholars do not engage these works regularly, then we abdicate the field to a lot of misguided individuals who will then be the only voices out there. Either that, or a future generation will be ignorant of the connection between these ideas and the atrocities they produced and will be doomed to repeat them.

Nazi ideology might be, as Nietzsche said "scabies of the heart," but you can't catch it from a bookstore. If anything you bring it in with you.

Ok, back to work.


Joseph Walser

Associate Professor

Department of Religion

Tufts University

From: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] on behalf of Philipp Maas [philipp.a.maas at gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2014 2:43 PM
To: Indology
Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] In defense of MLBD

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 place.

Philipp Maas

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

Joseph Walser
Associate Professor
Department of Religion
Tufts University

From: INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info<mailto:indology-bounces at list.indology.info>] on behalf of Robert Zydenbos [zydenbos at uni-muenchen.de<mailto: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
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<http://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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