Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Serialized Hate

Mein Kampf in exhibition case
The German copyright for Mein Kampf (My Struggle), Adolf Hitler's autobiography and master plan, has finally expired, and German scholars have just released a critical edition. But we have a copy that turned Hitler's propaganda back on itself: an unauthorized, war-time translation for a wary British public fretting over German expansion to the East. It is part of our current exhibition Light and Shadow in the Thirties.

In the early 1930s, Hitler refused to authorize an unexpurgated translation, allowing only a few positive abridgments. As Hitler's policies escalated with the annexation of Austria and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, English-speaking audiences demanded a full translation. The publication history is long and complicated -- there was a lawsuit, threats, and, for translator James Murphy, a narrow escape from Nazi Germany.

Rauner has James Murphy's translation, issued by the London firm Hurst & Blackett in eighteen parts. Our copy was probably published during World War II. Each cover boasts that the proceeds will benefit the British Red Cross -- not Hitler's German publishing house Eher Verlag. Mein Kampf became a bestseller in English, even after the war's outbreak, as Britains sought to understand their enemy's convoluted and hate-filled ideology.

The pamphlets use Hitler's face on every cover and stock photos of German sites fill the interior pages, showing how cheap and popular books depended on photography to increase their intellectual and cultural cache. "Illustrated" was just another selling point, just like the "Binding Cases" advertised on the back cover.

For Rauner's Mein Kampf in parts, see Rare Book DD247.H5 A326 1939, currently on display in the Class of 1965 GalleriesThe exhibition comes down on April 3, 2016, as we install an exhibition by the first year seminar Anthropology 7: Values of Medicine.

To learn more about the publication history, check out James J. Barnes and Patience P. Barnes' Hitler's Mein Kampf in Britain and America: A Publishing History, 1930-39 (Baker Berry DD247.H5 A3426).

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