THERE IS MUCH COMMOTION IN GERMANY THESE days about what to do about Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler's hate-filled rantings from jail. The fear is that when the copyright expires in 2015, the possible mass publication of the book would introduce new generations to Hitler's odious views and traumatize the remaining survivors of the Holocaust.
A German historian, Horst Moeller, has called for a sort of pre-emptive measure. Moeller, director of the Institute of Contemporary History in Munich, suggests that an annotated edition of the book be published before the copyright expires. He apparently believes that a version of the book with footnotes refuting Hitler's views would somehow deflate them.
Sadly, there is no evidence that such debunking works. Take the invidious book The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The enduring tract is labeled as the minutes of meetings of the so-called "Elders of Zion," a Jewish criminal conspiracy to dominate the world. It has been exposed as a libel, a fraud, a plagiarism. We can debunk it until we are blue in the face. Called the greatest hoax of the century, it survived for so long and generated so much hatred that it comes with a warning, a "special note" from Amazon.com, the world's most recognizable bookseller. "This book is one of the most infamous, and tragically influential, examples of racist propaganda ever written. It may be useful to some as a tool in the teaching of the history of anti-Semitism, but it's unquestionably propaganda," the bookseller says on its website. (1)
Not everyone who has sold the book has gone this far. In fact, in one of the most notable examples of the opposite approach, Wal-Mart's website reportedly carried the following:Some say the issue has already been settled conclusively--that it is clearly a forgery. Although there may be final evidence to this...