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Intolerant Bestseller

9 January 2014

Digital editions of Mein Kampf have apparently become a surprise hit over the past months.

Guardian Books has today picked up on a blog by an American author detailing the growth in e-book sales of Hitler’s personal manifesto since it was first made available in 2008. There are currently 100 versions of the text available in various formats with 100,000s of downloads.

This is not necessarily evidence that iPads have allowed twenty first century consumers to indulge in closet Nazism.

In March 1939 English language translations of Mein Kampf were on sale in Britain and the USA in both abridged and unabridged forms. The interest in the ideas included was so marked that the text became a British bestseller.

Exact sales estimates range from 5,738 to over 100,000. By the 4 May 1939 Hitler had reached the top of The Bookseller journal’s bestselling author’s list (see Valerie Holman, Print for Victory: Book Publishing in England, 1939-45 (London, 2008), pp. 252-4).

This interest continued beyond the outbreak of war on 3 September 1939. In fact, in March 1940, it was found that Mein Kampf was the most borrowed item in nearly all British libraries.

The reason?

The social research organisation Mass Observation believed that the text’s popularity was due to an increased interest in political issues and current affairs (File Report 46, ‘Book Reading in Wartime’, 1940).

Perhaps the more recent surge in interest has a similar root – an attempt to understand some of the Twentieth Century’s least explicable events by analysing the ideas that underpinned them.

Or perhaps I’m too optimistic.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Alex Walker permalink
    22 November 2014 3:52 pm

    I tried to read Mein Kampf as an undergraduate and looked for it in the university library (Cambridge). It was missing. The librarian told me they had to regularly buy new copies as it was the book stolen most often from the library. That was in the 1980s before e-books.

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