- One of two rare copies of "Mein Kampf" signed by the young Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and due for auction, photographed in Los Angeles on Feb. 25, 2014. (FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
Reprinting Hitler's autobiography "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) was long prohibited in Germany — a country that considered the book too dangerous to be read.
Now, it's a German best-seller.
An annotated version currently ranks second in nonfiction on the German weekly Der Spiegel's bestseller list, which is considered an authority in German literature circles.
It's almost certainly not because of anything German bookstores are doing: In fact, most had virtually hidden the book from customers, according to a BBC report in January. Some had refrained from advertising it, while others ordered only a single copy. But online sales picked up, and in-store sales soon followed.
The German copyright for "Mein Kampf" was held by the state of Bavaria, which upheld a ban on reprinting the book for 70 years. Bookstores as well as federal regulators and historians were worried that Hitler's autobiography could be used for right-wing propaganda.
“This book is too dangerous for the general public,” library historian Florian Sepp told The Washington Post last year.
German authorities kept official copies of the book like a state secret. Access was granted only to professionals who formally requested it. Critics had claimed that banning the book from being reprinted added to the mystery surrounding it and did more harm than good.
The secrecy ended when the copyright expired in December.
However, the book that is currently topping the German bestseller lists is far different from Hitler's original version. The new 2,000-page edition is heavily annotated with remarks by experts to help put Hitler's comments into context.
The publishers think that this solution exposes Hitler's destructive and violent ideology.
Today's right-wing movements, which include the Alternative für Deutschland party, whose leadership recently advocated for shooting refugees at the German border to stop them from entering the country, have so far refrained from using Hitler's brutal ideology to justify their contemporary goals.
Most of today's right-wing politicians acknowledge that "Mein Kampf" laid out a violent vision that would lead to the Holocaust and World War II.
The German right recently has made gains as it condemns an influx of refugees that has led to frustration in some parts of eastern Germany in particular. In the city of Bautzen, locals cheered as an asylum home that was under construction burned down last weekend. Only dozens of miles away in Clausnitz, angry protesters surrounded a bus of refugees arriving in the village Thursday. Chanting "We are the people," the crowd made children cry — a situation that ended in a chaos that the German government later described as "shameful."