Stephen Hicks considers the implications of Germany permitting the publication of Mein Kampf for the first time in decades.
German authorities will allow the republication of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, after decades of censorship. Decent people can argue that the book is too dangerous to be published. But the fact is that Mein Kampf is too dangerous not to be published.
The great fear is that Hitler’s ideas are not dead and that his book could trigger another horribly pathological social movement. Nationalism and socialism still appeal to many, and combinations of the two ideologies attract new adherents every day in Europe and around the world.
Mein Kampf is available in many editions, in many languages and online. So the furor over its republication is about the Germans in particular: Can they handle it?
One of many old jokes has one German ask another, “How many Poles does it take to change a light bulb?” The other German replies, “I don’t know. Let’s invade Poland and find out!”
Always fun to poke at the Germans’ historical reputation. But it has been three generations since the end of World War II. There have been major cultural shifts in German attitudes towards militarism, authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, and other elements in the National Socialist package. There is plenty of evidence that today’s German are well above the average in civility and decency. So the post-Nazi cultural training wheels can come off.
Yet beyond the specifics of the German debate, there is a more important general point about prohibiting even the most repulsive of ideas: Censorship weakens our ability to combat them.
Levi Salomon, speaking for the Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism based in Berlin, opposes republication of Mein Kampf: “This book is outside of human logic.”
Salomon’s statement is more outrageous than anything Hitler wrote in the book. National Socialism is not only human logic, it is considerably more logical, and truthful, than Communism, feminism, or secular Zionism. That was part of the tragedy of Germany’s descent into it. Unlike the first two ideologies, it actually functioned effectively.
National Socialism is also cruel, pitiless, and militaristic, but those are undeniably human failings.
Indeed, one of the most striking things about Mein Kampf is that it is not, as one would tend to imagine, a wild-eyed, frothing-at-the-mouth sort of text. Perhaps the most disturbing thing about it is how reasonable Hitler often sounds throughout. And that is possibly the best reason of all that it should be published; it is a vivid reminder that far from being “outside of human logic”, every rational man is capable of choosing between good and evil, and choosing between setting himself to achieving great good and committing great harm.