The first reprint of Adolf Hitler's infamous anti-Semitic manifesto Mein Kampf since World War II, after which it was banned for seven decades in Germany, has turned out to be one of country's nonfiction bestsellers.
Though its republication (already on its sixth print run) has been surrounded by controversy — particularly concerns about its capacity to fuel neo-Nazi sentiment — the institute that produced it says its surprise success is due not to its popularity among "reactionaries or rightwing radicals," but "customers interested in politics and history as well as educators."
"It turned out that the fear the publication would promote Hitler's ideology or even make it socially acceptable and give neo-Nazis a new propaganda platform was totally unfounded," the Institute of Contemporary History of Munich (IfZ) director Andreas Wirsching said in a statement.
"To the contrary, the debate about Hitler's worldview and his approach to propaganda offered a chance to look at the causes and consequences of totalitarian ideologies, at a time in which authoritarian political views and rightwing slogans are gaining ground," said Wirsching.
The project took three years to complete and, as the New York Times underscores, "stirred controversy" from its inception. "The success of the critical and annotated version, it said, was proof that the attempt by a team of historians to annotate, criticize and contextualize the original much-reviled work was worth it," writes Times.
The new historically annotated dual-volume version of Hitler's manifesto has sold around 85,000 copies since its publication in January 2016. The institute had only planned to print 4,000 copies, but quickly found that its demand was far higher than anticipated. The sixth run will begin in late January.
"We are very happy that the ambitious bridge between fundamental academic work and historical-political explanation appears to have succeeded," said Wirsching.