For years, German scholars and the country’s most prominent Jewish organizations have argued that Germany should allow “Mein Kampf” to be published in Germany before the copyright expires, in 2015. It is not illegal to publish the book in Germany, but the state of Bavaria, which holds the copyright, had adamantly refused for decades, saying that the longer the book was out of print, the better.
Scholars countered that it was vastly better to have a serious, scholarly edition released before the text enters the public domain, when budding neo-Nazis will likely have a field day extolling its virtues. But Bavarian state officials have suddenly changed course. This week, in a striking reversal, the state announced it would publish a scholarly critical German edition before the 2015 expiration date.
It’s hard to say whether we Jews should celebrate. The logic of the scholars and Germany’s prominent Central Council of Jews, which has also advocated publishing sooner, are no doubt correct—better that curious minds have a trustworthy edition than a sordid, boot-leg, neo-Nazi version teeming with exclamatory praise. But it’s hard to avoid that depressed feeling, knowing that one of the most dangerous, vile, vicious—and influential—texts will now see the light of day, soon, and in Germany, the country where it had once had a feverish audience.
Rather than wait till the annotated German volume hits the shelves in a few years, perhaps it’s best, then, to cherry-pick some of Hitler’s best Jewish bon-mots. Here’s what I was able to crib from one of many English translations already free and available online. The passage comes all from the sections titled, in the table of context, “The Aryan and the Jew,” “The ‘Clever’ Jew,” “Jewry’s Instinct of Self-Preservation” and “Judaism’s Sham Culture”:
In the Jewish people, the will to sacrifice oneself does not go beyond the bare instinct of self-preservation of the individual. The seemingly great feeling of belonging together is rooted in a very primitive herd instinct, as it shows itself. in a similar way in many other living beings in this world. Thereby the fact is remarkable that in all these cases a common herd instinct leads to mutual support only as long as a common danger makes this seem useful or unavoidable.
The same pack of wolves that jointly falls upon its booty dissolves when its hunger abates. The same is true of horses, which try to ward off the attacker in common, and which fly in different directions when the danger is gone.
With the Jew the case is similar. His will to sacrifice is only ostensible. It endures only as long as the existence of the individual absolutely requires this. However, as soon as the common enemy is beaten and the danger threatening all is averted, the booty recovered, the apparent harmony among the Jews themselves ceases to make way again for the inclinations originally present. The Jew remains united only if forced by a common danger or is attracted by a common booty; if both reasons are no longer evident, then the qualities of the crassest egoism come into their own, and, in a moment, the united people becomes a horde of rats, fighting bloodily among themselves.
If the Jews were alone in this world, they would suffocate as much in dirt and filth, as they would carry on a detestable struggle to cheat and to ruin each other, although the complete lack of the will to sacrifice, expressed in their cowardice, would also in this instance make the fight a comedy.
Thus it is fundamentally wrong to conclude, merely from the fact of their standing together in a fight, or, more rightly expressed, in their exploiting their fellow human beings, that the Jews have a certain idealistic will to sacrifice themselves.
Here, too, the Jew is led by nothing but pure egoism on the part of the individual.
I’m grateful that a scholarly annotation, in German, is on its way. But somehow how I feel the text more than speaks for itself.