Othmar Plöckinger: Lecture- Mein Kampf: An Infamous Book

2019.04.23 - Plöckinger poster

Milan Hauner, Othmar Plöckinger

Othmar Plöckinger:  Okay. I may sit here. Or should I stand up, I think that in the background

Skye Doney:  You’re fine.

Plöckinger:  You’re fine with that? Okay. Thank you. So, first of all, I’d like to thank you for the invitation here to stay here and talk to you. As Mr. Hauner talked, we met several times in Munich and it’s a great honor for me to be here today. And I’d like to thank for the invitation, I’d like to thank you very much for all the efforts you took and of course for the Mosse Program to enable this event. And it’s a kind of a homecoming for me. Just one or two weeks ago I met a student of George Mosse in Berlin, Oded Heilbronner, who’s now working in teaching in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. And I didn’t know that he was a student of Mosse. I just told him I’m going to Madison. And he said, “Well, Madison and George Mosse.” And so it’s kind of, the world’s very close and very narrow sometimes. And it’s also a kind of personal homecoming for me. A good friend of my mother married in the 1960s an American soldier to Munich. And my first trip ever to United States was to visit her and her family in Wauwatosa, in Milwaukee. (laughter)

That was my first time stepping into the United States was not far away from here. So I’m very honored to be here today. And I’m going to give you some impression about the book Mein Kampf, and about the critical edition. And we agreed to have a talk about half an hour and give some room for discussion or questions or whatever come up.

Marc Silberman:  Can you move over a little bit?

Plöckinger:  I think you’re in the – yeah. I’m going to talk about this book and the work we were doing about for several years. The challenges and problems we’ve had, and there have been plenty of them. Designing an introduction was a very critical thing for us. I will give you some impression in that. Of course, the printables of the annotations we made, there are about 3,700 in this book. And last but not least, how to arrange and layout all this information we put together. And how we tried to make a readable book out of it.

Maybe you know Mein Kampf was one of the main books in the 1930s, [19]40s, and after 1945 it was somehow not forbidden, but it was a part of the policy of the American authorities, but English and French and Russian authorities as well, to get it out of libraries and other stuff. And the copyright was held by the German, well so to speak, Bavarian government. And they tried to prevent every new kind of edition. But we came up with a problem, 70 years after the death of an author the copyright expires. And so that was after Hitler’s death at the end of 2015. And that’s why we had to come up with an edition at the beginning of 2016. And I’m still surprised that we made it, because the time pressure was very, very high.

So when in January, 2016 at the Institute for Contemporary History presented this edition of Mein Kampf, a long story came to an end. A long story with great amount of problems, great amount of discussions and public interest usually historians are not confronted with, that was strange for us, and that was kind of our problem. And it was a kind of question how to transform a historical book, Mein Kampf, you see here, the jubilee edition from 1939. It was made for Hitler’s fiftieth birthday. It was over the fifth million copy which was sold in these days. How to transform this book into a historical source which scientists, students, can use afterwards.

But as Mein Kampf is something else than just a book of the past, we had not only discussions about historical and scientific questions, but also about moral questions, educational questions, and questions concerning the German society and the public. So it was a kind of project which was quite unusual for historians to work with. Usually you’re not this kind of focus in the public discussion, the moral discussion, historical discussions.

Maybe just a short impression of what we’re talking about. Mein Kampf was written in, after the failed putsch in Munich and Bavaria in 1923, Hitler was imprisoned for quite a short time, for several reasons. And in Landsberg, there he started to write his book, Mein Kampf. It was at first thought to be a reckoning with his political opponents in Bavaria. But after a few months, he reconstructed the whole idea of Mein Kampf. It became a kind of autobiographical, ideological, programmatical book all in one. And that would be a problem for us afterwards.

Just give you a few impressions about the book. You’ll see here the first cover of the first edition, it’s kind of symbolic. You see, of course, a swastika. And if you count, that’s exactly seven snakes. It’s of course an antisemitic symbol which comes up here. And you see the later covers here. Usually this one was used for editions after 1930. A few main informations about the book, it was published first in July 1925. The second volume in December 1926. Very important was the so-called Volksausgabe, popular edition. Usually you find this edition in libraries. It was very, very popular and was the main, the leading edition. But of course you have several others. Another very important one was in 1940, the so called Dünndruck edition. It was made for the Wehrmacht. It was very small and not very heavy, so the soldiers could carry them during their fights in Europe.

Until 1944, you had about 1,000 editions of the Volksausgabe, and about 150 more different copies and editions. All in all, about 12.5 million copies of Mein Kampf produced and sold in Germany. Not to speak about translations into English, into French, into several European countries. Even into Russian, into Japanese and Chinese. So you have, of course, some more editions all around the world. And astonishingly I was talking to you, still several translations are coming up now again. And just for example, you have about 50 translations into Turkish. And you have a lot of other translation, Portuguese, Spanish, and several more.

Yeah, so to give you a short impression what is going on with Mein Kampf, You have here some main informations about that. But Mein Kampf is not only a book which is an historical source, but it’s much more complicated. And these complications influenced our work very much when we tried to make a critical edition. First there’s the structure of the book, which is quite confusing at first sight, and it reflects its complex genesis. Especially 1925. The book was reorganized completely. Hitler first designed one book and one volume in 1925. In springtime, he decided to split it off for several reasons and make two different volumes. That makes the book very complicated, because Hitler shifted different chapters between the two volumes. And sometimes you really get lost, where is he now in the party he’s doing this biographical history and all this stuff. And that is not because Hitler wasn’t able to write in the proper way. But to a great degree, this is reconstruction of the book in 1925.

Secondly, there’s the undefined genre. What is Mein Kampf? Is it a highly stylized autobiography? Is it an intellectual text? An ideological text? A propagandistic pamphlet? It’s hard to say what Mein Kampf really is. It tries to be everything, and is nothing at all, really in the proper way. So we don’t have a kind of a genre that we can put in this book. So we have no direction where to go when annotating this book. Do we work with biographical aspects, ideological aspects, propagandistic aspects? It’s always shifting around somewhere.

And a third very difficult situation was the huge amount of topics Hitler’s talking about in Mein Kampf. Of course, we have some main topics which we found all over the book. But we have some kind of number of side topics. Hitler is behaving like the master of time and space in this book. He writes about prehistoric topics as well as medieval topics. He’s writing about Japanese fleet policies in the beginning of the twentieth century. He’s writing about medieval cathedrals, and so on and so on. So he’s kind of explaining everything in this kind of master of the universe, like he behaves. And we have bear in mind when he wrote this book, it’s by a man 35 years old. So it gives you an impression about how he saw himself, a man from 35, 36 years, explaining the world to everybody. It gives you a kind of impression about the hubris that he had in this early stage.

And fourth problem was the language of Mein Kampf. The language is sometimes brutal and apodictic he’s pseudo-academic and heavy-handed, and sharp and offensive. But I have to say, and most people do agree, it’s not unreadable. It’s a book you can read. It’s not a book which is confusing the reader. It’s a book you can read. And more than that, it’s a kind of typical style of these years. We have a lot of books produced in the 1920s was some kind of style which Hitler uses. But for good reason, we forgot all those books. But Mein Kampf stayed in the mind of the people. So we have some kind of unusual impression about the literature, rightwing literature of the 1920s, because only one book is left from this kind of literature.

Yes, and of course we have kind of problem with the history of the book itself. The book was a kind of propagandistic book in the 1920s. It was kind of a book of the Nazi regime in the 1930s and [19]40s, and of course it became a symbol of the Nazi regime after 1945, for the horrors of the Nazi regime. And we had to bear in mind all those aspects. And when we started to think about how to annotate the books, the public was quite interested in what we were doing. And a satirical magazine suggested how to do it, well every second word making annotation, writing down “nonsense.” In German, it’s quatsch. Of course that’s a satirical aspect. But it shows the problems we had. How to annotate the book, which is full of lies, full of stereotypes, full of historical distortions. How to deal with this kind of book. And that was a question which bothered us for very, very long time.

We took a lot of decisions. I hope most of them were good. But looking back I know sometimes could have been better. And I usually am not very happy with every decision which was taken. But in general I think we made some good decisions how to deal with this book.

What were the difficulties we faced with, the first one, the principal on was, for whom are we working? The pressure from the public was very high. They wanted to have a book for the scientific community, but of course for schools and for students, and for the public. But how to write an annotated version of Mein Kampf which covers all those expectations? And speaking frankly, we never found an answer to that. We tried to make a book which is of course on the highest scientific level. But it’s also a book which might help laymen to understand what Hitler is talking about, which can be used in schools, which can be used in universities. And when you took that from your library, that was our aim, to help students to understand how Hitler was explaining the world. But we had some problems with specific topics. Where and how far do we have to go by annotating this book? We annotated, for an example, the colors white and blue. For a Bavarian, it’s very clear what he is talking about. It’s the colors of the Bavarian state. But somebody in Paris, somebody in France, somebody in Italy, who knows what he’s talking about when he’s talking about blue and white? So we annotated and explained it. And some experts criticized us for annotating much too much. Having too much annotation, which are clear for historians. But we said, well, not everybody who is using the book is an historian. Not everyone is a Bavarian to understand what Hitler’s talking about. So that was a decision we had to make. And sometimes we were accused of annotating too many things. Sometimes we were accused of annotating even not enough. So we were somewhere in the middle here.

A structural problem, which I will talk afterwards, is how to keep a balance between introductions to the general book, introductions to the different chapters, and the annotations. How far can we go – and that was a huge discussion for us – how far can we go to take the reader by his hand and show him his way. We had difficult discussions. I was the one who said well, every reader has to find its own way. We can show him the direction, but we shouldn’t take him by the hand and make him every single sentence say, “This is how you have to understand this.” It was a difficult discussion. And I know from the colleague in France, which are just preparing a new edition in France, and it will be published in a few months, that they decided to go a different way. They are very strictly in how to understand this, how to understand that. It’s another decision. And colleagues in Dutch, which in the Netherlands, who published a few months ago a Dutch edition, just were the opposite. They explained almost nothing. There’s almost no annotations in this book. And they said, well, everyone has to read it by its own and understand it by its own. So it’s a very difficult thing how to do that, not to show everybody that here is the sentence you have to think about this in a sentence. But not to leave the reader alone with Hitler and his text. It wasn’t very easy to find the way down here.

The first plan was to make comprehensive introductions to every chapter. We dropped that plan and came to another plan, which we realized, at least. We decided to make a very comprehensive introduction to the critical edition at the beginning. So we had about 90 pages [of] introductional passages. You see here, the overview, what we did and what we were talking about in the introductions. You find, of course, the history of the book, Hitler’s language. I always hesitate to call it Hitler’s language. It’s not Hitler’s language, it’s German, and he uses it. But more interesting is what was he thinking about himself, what is he explaining about himself, how does he want to be seen in Mein Kampf, what does he want to see and think the audience should think about him? You find, of course there a history of the party, the discussions within the völkisch movement, and some more categories you can see here. And that’s something we tried to give a direction how to see the book, how to read the book, but not explaining every sentence. I will give some more information about that later on. Yeah. When you see here informations about the different aspects of Mein Kampf, you can also find, and that’s a problem in Mein Kampf which was critical when you have a look at it.

You have different kind of fonts in here. Even the discussion about the fonts was very heavy because first it was decided to take a font from a person from the Netherlands, it developed it in the 1930s. And during the process of lay outing the book, we found out this person was somehow close to the Nazis in the Netherlands. So we can’t use a font developed by somebody who was not very far away from the Nazis in the Netherlands. So we had to quit everything again and start from the beginning. That shows how difficult some decisions were, and which problems we were facing.

So we decided to make a huge introduction for the whole critical edition, but keep the introductions for the different chapters very short, and very dense. So when you’re reading the introductions to a single chapter, you will find some information. When the chapter was written, that is sometimes very important, when Hitler wrote this or that chapter. You find some informations about main topics in there. But that’s it, what you get in the introductions to the chapters.

As I told you, the French colleagues decided to do it in another way. They do a very huge introduction to every chapter. They analyze the chapter, they summarize the chapter, so you have about twenty pages of introduction to the chapter and then you have twenty to forty pages of Hitler text. So it’s absolutely a different way, the decision that they made. And I mentioned the colleagues in the Netherlands, they went another way, again.

So these were the problems with the introductions we had. A consequence of that was that the annotations we made are very specific. And during the process of annotating Mein Kampf, we came up with about ten different kinds of categories which we tried to comment, which we tried to annotate. You find the list here, and some of them are quite obvious. When we are talking about Mein Kampf, of course, it’s going about biographical statements. What is Hitler talking about Mein Kampf about his life, and correcting very precisely some of his comments. Also we have factual informations. I told you about blue and white. He mentions sometimes person, you don’t understand who he’s talking about when he’s talking about the Sattlermeister, nobody understand that Friedrich Ebert (1871-1925), the first president of the, of the, was meant with it. Or when he’s talking about the teacher from Tuttlingen, [Matthias] Erzberger (1875-1921) is meant. So you have to explain a lot of those factual things.

Another example I wanted to give you was his self-description. We know a lot of things about Hitler, but his time in Vienna, Brigitte Hamann wrote a book about it. We know several things about his time in the First World War. Thomas Weber wrote a book about it. So we were able to make many corrections. But some of them are still mysterious to us. Two examples, he mentioned that he failed at the Academy of Arts in Vienna, but he conceals, he doesn’t mention that he failed two times. He only explains one time. So what happened there? We can understand that to several reasons.

But a more mysterious thing is why he doesn’t mention the Iron Cross, which he became in the Second [First] World War, at the end of the last month, he became the Iron Cross. And during Second World War, he wore it very proudly here. Whenever you ever look at a picture of Hitler making a speech at the Reichstag, he always has the Iron Cross from the First World War. He doesn’t mention this Iron Cross in Mein Kampf. We still don’t understand why he did that. But you have to make clear what he even doesn’t write in Mein Kampf.

Hauner: [Hugo] Gutmann (1880-1962).

Plöckinger:  That’s a difficult thing. I don’t believe Gutmann was very strongly involved in that. Nevertheless, during the Second World War, he was wearing it. So it’s a complicated thing.

You find here contextualization. That’s a very important thing to us because you have always to bear in mind Hitler is talking about his time, in what was going in his time. Just very interesting for the United States is he praises very much the Immigration Act from United States in 1924. He really appreciated this Immigration Act, which was kind of a racial direction in these times. And he speaks strongly in favor of Prohibition. He was involved in the discussion about Prohibition. He reflected on that was going on in United States. Though he’s always talking about things just happening. It’s a very contemporary text, and not always just ideological overviews. And of course he’s sometimes speaking in the public mainstream. Hitler is not always taking a special stance. Several of his remarks on German politics and so on is mainstream in Germany. It’s not everything special Hitler in it. So we have to understand he’s sometimes really on the right wing, or even the public mainstream. It’s not everything special Hitler in there. And that’s difficult to deal with in Mein Kampf.

Very important, of course, is the complex about Hitler’s sources. The roots of his historical and ideological ideas, and the ideological key terms. For an example, it is necessary to understand the influence of the Baltic Germans, which had on Hitler. Well known is Alfred Rosenberg (1893-1946), Max Erwin von Scheubner-Richter (1884-1923) and several others. And to understand Hitler’s perception of Russia and Bolshevism we have to understand which influence those people had on him. And Michael Kellogg was writing about that very intensively. So it’s helped to understand what is Hitler thinking about Bolshevism and Russia and so on, to know where the ideas came from.

You can also find some key terms. And you have to bear in mind some key terms came very lately to Hitler, like Lebensraum, living space. He learned very late in 1924, it was very popular in the right-wing scenery. But Hitler mentioned it the first time in 1924 to a very late time. And another key term, you usually know and use in another kind, or another intention than Hitler used it. It was the key term Rassenschande. When you hear Rassenschande, racial defilement, we’re thinking about the Nuremberg laws and the fatal consequences for the Jews in Germany. When Hitler used that term, it was a term coming out from the discourse about colonies. He was referring to the intercourse between white women and black men. It was other kind of Rassenschande in these days connected with the First World War and the occupation soldier in the Rhineland. France sent a lot of black soldiers to the Rhineland. And that was a term used, propagandistic term, against this kind of occupation in Germany. So when we read in Mein Kampf about Rassenschande, we think about the Nuremberg laws. When contemporaries read in Mein Kampf about Rassenschande, they were thinking about white women and black men in the First World War in the Rhineland occupation. So the people were thinking a different way than we do today.

And when you have a look at that, it’s also an example about how Hitler changed sometimes words and sentences in Mein Kampf. You don’t find great changes during the time until 1945. The text wasn’t changed very heavily. But sometimes you find stylistic changes. And that’s an example for small stylistic changes during the publication process here.

Yeah, that’s some information about the different kind of annotations we made in Mein Kampf. And you see, there was a lot of different kind of information we had to put into Mein Kampf, the critical edition. And finally I’d like to give you an impression about how this worked, or we tried to make that work. You find here the layout, if you open somewhere in the critical edition, looked like that. So you see it here. You have to, only on the right side, you have the original text from Hitler. Maybe it’s easy to explain it here. So you have here the original Hitler text, Mein Kampf text, slightly in a different type, slightly more Fettdruck I don’t know the German –

Hauner:  Bold.

Plöckinger:  Bold? Okay. Bold, find it here. It’s only on the right side so you have enough space for the annotations. You find here, variants of the text. Mostly it’s just changing words. Sometimes it’s only interjection, making a point, making other things. It’s very little, very small changes, but nevertheless you have changes from the 1920s until the 1940s. You have some more changes in very small parts. It’s interesting somehow how he uses the term Russia and Soviet Union. You find sometimes a book where you have before Russia and then Soviet Union and then Russia again. So you’re moving somewhere about 1939, 1930, [19]40, during the Hitler-Stalin pact. It’s small changes sometimes. When sometimes here he’s talking about the south and east of Europe. And in 1940 he’s just talking about the south of Europe. The east is left out. Very small changes. Not huge changes. So that’s the changes you can find here.

And then you find the annotations we made here. Quite unusual kind of making annotations. It’s not only here. Usually you have annotations down here at the end of the book. But you also have it over sometimes on the left side of the edition. It was a huge discussion about that, how we should do it. And for us, it was very important to make the annotations equivalent to Hitler’s text. Not to have a kind of subordination to Hitler’s text. Here is the important text, and then comes the annotations. We wanted to be on the same level as Hitler was. To make people clear that’s a version of a text, that’s the other version of the text. To make it on the same level, visually and symbolically. That was very important to us. A colleague of mine called it Hitler Umzingelung. I don’t know the English word for that. It’s a military term to make a kind of, to circle Hitler in the military sense. I’m not very happy with this interpretation. It’s not a military strategy here. But it’s a very symbolical strategy, and that was important to us. We are on the same level as Hitler is. That’s his version of the text. That’s our version of the text. And to make it on the same level, that was very important to us. And that’s how we were trying to put all this information together in a very symbolical way, and in a readable way. And that’s what we were trying to do to make a useful historical source out of a very infamous, a very notorious book from the 1930s. And get it somehow into modern history, modern educational programs and all that stuff.

Well, I hope I was able to give you some ideas about the problems we were facing about how we worked, which challenges we had, which discussions we had, which solutions we took and which failures we made sometimes. Yes, if you have some questions, some annotations to that, I’m very pleased to try to answer them. And thank you very much for your attention. (applause)

Hauner:  Let me, now, Dr. Plöckinger is open to questions. I think the first was you, Marc? And then you, Mike, yeah.

Marc Silberman:  So one comment first. In terms of the genre and what you described as a kind of confusion of the genre, at least from a contemporary perspective, we’re quite familiar now with hybrid texts, especially in literary studies. And it would be interesting to consider whether this doesn’t anticipate that kind of hybridity in textuality. And we have methods for dealing with that and names for it. So that’s just one comment. A very concrete question, will there be an online edition of this that we can search? (laughter, groans) And another question that interests me in particular is the reception of this edition in Austria. Since you come from Austria, you probably followed that. Because Austria has a somewhat different relationship both to Hitler and to the Third Reich.

Plöckinger:  Yeah. Yeah. For your first question, I think it’s very important to understand that the discussions are now going in a different way. German professor for German literature, [Albrecht] Koschorke tried to analyze which patterns Hitler follows in different parts of Mein Kampf. And it’s a kind of hybrid text which is now very common in literary scenes. But we have to bear in mind when Hitler wrote the book it was not very common. So we have to understand what he did in the 1920s. We can understand better now what he was doing. But we have to bear in mind the readers of the 1920s and the 1930s. But some models we have, still we have, from the left-wing scene. Noske, Gustav Noske (1868-1946) one of the politicians after the First World War wrote the kind of biography like Hitler did, mixing up autobiographical things, political things, propagandistic things, so we have some kind of comparable texts from the 1920s and 1930s. But none of them was really this kind of confusing in putting odd things together. When you read the first text, Hitler is jumping from his birthplace Braunau, two or three sentences later he’s in the great politics of the German Reich. So he’s jumping here and fore and everywhere, so he’s really mixing up. And it’s, I would agree with that. We can understand it better today. The 1920s, [19]30s, was quite unique, this kind of a strange mixture.

For the online version, I do think, I hope, I think it will have an online version. We were discussing about that for several years. And the discussion was how to make it online. Just copying it, making scans and putting an online version, we didn’t agree to do. So you have to make great technical efforts to make it usable online. How many annotations you put where, how to find the annotations, and to make it nearly impossible to cut out Hitler’s text without the annotations. That’s a thing we didn’t want to have. But I think there will be an online version, hopefully, in one year. But I’m not the one who is making the decisions on that. It’s the Institute in Munich. And they’re making sometimes their own decisions without asking us very much.

For Austria, you’re right, we have a very strange, very strange attitude about, towards Hitler and National Socialism. There was no great discussion in Austria. Everybody was happy that the discussion was in Germany. And while we had some newspaper articles, we had some scientific articles, of course. But there was no discussion in Austria about the book. It’s a German problem. And it has been since 1945. Hitler always was a German problem, not an Austrian one. I don’t agree with that, but it was obvious. Nobody was really interested to make it an Austrian problem. It’s here, we’re talking about it scientifically and other things, but not politically or on a moral level. So it was no big deal in Austria.

Mike: Yeah, thanks. I think what you’re doing bears a remarkable similarity to Biblical commentaries. You have the same level of work. In fact, a Biblical commentary might be even more complicated. I guess I have one question, couldn’t you have used maybe, for the original text by Hitler, you could have put that in a Fraktur font. That would make it much more distinguishable than that. And my last question, how many Euros is this going to cost?

Plöckinger: (laughs) For the first one, you’re right. There are some similarities from Biblical commentaries. Hebrew Bible is working in this kind of, also from the, Humanisten [Desiderius] Erasmus (1466-1536) from Rotterdam was working in this kind of – so we have some symbolical connection to historical texts as well, of course. So we were discussing about how to justify working on this level. It was not always easy to decide to do in this way, because some people make this connection, of course. It’s obvious sometimes. But I think it was still a good idea to have the text and our comments on the same level. I still think it was a good decision.

About the cost, it’s about 60 euros. Both volumes. It’s very cheap for this kind of book. And for Fraktur, well, it’s not easy to have people who can read Fraktur. I’m a teacher, and if I’m reading with students which are 15, 18, 20 years old, they usually don’t read Fraktur, though it would mean to cut out all the young people being able to read the book. And it should be a book which can be used in, for educational things as well. So Fraktur never was a topic. Yeah. Okay?

Hauner:  Yeah. Over there.

Chad Gibbs:  Me? There was some, well I would say there was considerable coverage of this edition coming out in the United States. And one of the things I never quite understood, and learned some from your introduction, was the edition needed to come out at the time the copyright was going to expire. But, does this maintain copyright? Does the release of this critical edition maintain copyright in the possession of the Institut für Zeitgeschichte or is it just to get this out there at the same time that people might be allowed now to reprint it themselves?

Plöckinger:  Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, we have to differ between the primary text of Hitler’s book. There’s no copyright anymore. And as I mentioned in the last two or three years, dozens of translations of Mein Kampf were published in Turkey, Portugal, Spain. It’s unbelievable what’s happening just a few weeks ago I saw that there was an Indonesian translation now. And I’m afraid I don’t get information about every translation, which is all around the world. Not to speak about the Arabic world, that’s quite another topic. We could discuss about that. So the primary text, Mein Kampf, is without any copyright now. You can publish it like good or whatever you think. But for Germany and Austria to speak, there’s still some kind of, what we call it Volksverhetzung. I don’t know the English word for that. So Mein Kampf is considered to be a text spreading hatred. And you can still prevent publishing Mein Kampf with any annotations with this law instruments. Volksverhetzung, hatred speech –

Hauner:  Would fall under –

Plöckinger:  Yeah. So we had a case about half a year after the critical edition was published by a right wing publishing house in Leipzig, Der Schelm Verlag. He tried to publish Mein Kampf without annotations. And we were strongly in favor, the German and Bavarian state, very strongly reacted to that. They forbid it, the people were brought to court, were sentenced to and were punished for this attempt. And I think that was a signal for the right-wing community and scene in Germany, Bavaria, Austria. So from the point of copyright, it’s free. From the point of speech of hatred and Volksverhetzung, it’s not free. So it’s, we are talking about different laws. But it’s not without any, any illegal problems.

Another thing, the annotations, the text of the IfZ, so you cannot take 20 pages of our annotation and translate it and publish it. That’s normal copyright for a scientific work. So it’s a complex thing in there from a legal point of view. But if you wanted to, some of the things I always say, please get into contact with the Institute of Zeitgeschichte. They are more informed about legal aspect as I am. But it’s still complicated. And you can’t do with Mein Kampf whatever you like. Still. Although copyright is not a topic anymore.

It might be different in the United States. I don’t know if you have some kinds of law like that against speech of hatred and Volksverhetzung and so on.

Hauner:  Someone else might comment, but Jost, you wanted to ask?

Jost Hermand:  How would you react to the statement Hitler made in the first chapter talking about [Karl] Lueger (1844-1910) and [Georg Ritter von] Schönerer (1842-1921) and said during this time I created the granite foundation of my ideology and I didn’t change it later on. I think you have a very different view. How do you explain that statement in Mein Kampf? Why does he make such a strong emphasis that his ideology is from pre-World War One, and not caused by the 1919 and later republic.

Plöckinger:  When we’re talking about Mein Kampf, we have to be aware Hitler’s permanently self-stylization. He’s making a picture of himself how he wants to be seen. And he wants to be seen as a genius. We write it somewhere, and I wrote it somewhere. He’s kind of in the tradition of a romanticist. And the thesis of the young genius. He wants to be seen as a young genius who had all these ideas by himself. He had some influence from outside, not too many influences. He doesn’t mention many people in there. But he tries to create the picture of a young genius which grew up in Vienna and had all his ideas by himself. And that’s the picture he wants to create. He was chosen by fate to save –

Hauner: Providence.

Plöckinger:  Yeah providence, to save the German people, to save Germany. And that was proven already in his early years in Vienna. That’s the overall text he’s trying to develop. And Schönerer and Lueger are two people which he criticized very strongly as well in Mein Kampf. We shouldn’t forget. He’s saying well, I had some influence from them, but they make big mistakes. They are not uncriticized people there. And they are two people who had two different aspects, which he, Hitler, claims to have unified. Schönerer, the ideological one, Altdeutsch, Lueger, the propagandist. And he declares he was the first one who was able to put all those things together in one person. And that developed in Vienna from his point of view. But as we know from Brigitte Hamman and her very famous book, there’s no great ideological aspect in Hitler’s life during Vienna. He even worked together with Jews, he had contacts with Jews.

Hauner:  Yeah. No traces of antisemitism there.

Plöckinger:  There’s no proof whatsoever. And of course, Lueger and Schönerer were prominent in the days where he was spent there. But I don’t think they had that influence that he later on tried to create.

Hauner:  You wanted to add more, Jost, to your comment?

Hermand: Yeah, but he makes a big difference between Schönerer and Lueger he says, Schönerer was wrong saying without Jude, oh no, how can you do this? That is the propagandistic aspect. And he said, Lueger was right, because Austria is a Catholic country. Therefore he didn’t react against the church, of course.

Plöckinger:  Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hermand:  But there’s, I still believe that there are some influences by [Jörg] Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954) or other Idealisten also in this area.

Plöckinger:  But I would disagree here. When we have, when we look at, all the sources we have from 1918, 1920, 1919, Lueger, Schönerer, [Guido von] List (1848-1919), [Jörg] Lanz von Liebenfels (1874-1954) they are mentioned almost never. So for a young party, when we look at [Anton] Drexler (1884-1942), at [Karl] Harrer (1880-1926), at later [Dietrich] Eckhardt (1868-1923) when we look at [Alfred] Rosenberg (1893-1946), all the leading figures in the very early stage of the NSDSP, Lueger isn’t mentioned, Schönerer isn’t mentioned, Lanz von Liebenfels is not mentioned, List is not mentioned. All those people are not mentioned anywhere in the protocols of the meeting of the party. Never. Schönerer doesn’t appear. All the others never appear.

Hermand:  But they wanted to be a new movement, of course.

Plöckinger:  Not in this stage, I will say. This changes in 1921, [19]22, they’re trying to develop a new kind of party. So we have to differ between which phase we’re talking about. And when Hitler was entering the NSDAP in 1919, the NSDAP saw themselves as a party within the völkisch movement.

Hauner:  DAP, Deutsche Arbeiterpartei

Plöckinger:  Yeah, Deutsche Arbeiterpartei. And Socialist topics were much more important in the early stage of the NSDAP than later on. Yeah. That’s Drexler came from a very socialistic point of view, we are forgetting. And Lueger is never mentioned, Schönerer is never mentioned in the early discussions. Drexler is never writing about Schönerer. And Hitler doesn’t mention Schönerer, Lueger in his early speeches, ever. And that’s why I think it’s a creation of a career, turning back to early history of his life to prove he was a young genius who had early ideas who was chosen by providence. I don’t think it’s a historical –

Hauner:  If I may add my observation, it’s striking that his main ideological corpus, Dietrich Eckhardt and later Rosenberg, Rosenberg wrote several brochure about antisemitism which preceded Hitler’s publication. But he never refers to Rosenberg, who was editor of Völkische Beobachter

Plöckinger:  Hitler refers to nobody, almost nobody.

Hauner:  And that includes also his family members.

Plöckinger:  Yeah, of course, of course.

Hauner:  His two sisters, Angela (1883-1949) and Paula (1896-1960) are never mentioned in Mein Kampf.

Plöckinger:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hauner:  He says something, one sentence, one paragraph, that he respected his parents. That was all. And his best friend, who was of Czech origin, [August] Kubizek (1888-1956)

Plöckinger:  Yeah, Kubizek

Hauner:  was never mentioned. Never mentioned.

Hermand:  Just one brief question, because you know everything.

Plöckinger:  No, sorry –

Hermand:  How about Artur Dinter (1876-1948), Die Sünde Wider das Blut of 1919, because Hitler is as you say, did he read it? Did he know it?

Plöckinger:  I think he knew it, because it was a huge success.

Hermand:  Oh, it was a best seller.

Plöckinger: Yes, it was a best seller. It was a huge success.

Hauner:  Could you explain in a few sentences to the audience what was in it.

Plöckinger:  Okay, Artur Dinter was a, he came out from, he was an author, literary author. At first he published a kind of a three-part anthology. And the first one was The Sin against Blood, in 1917. It was a huge success. He’s writing about the influence of Jews to German families and alcoholism and all that stuff, is written in there. Dinter became very famous with his book, and later on joined the NSDAP and so on. And he wrote several – Die Sünde wider die Liebe (1922), Die Sünde wider den Geist (1920) – follow-up books. And it was very, very popular in the sense of some hundreds of thousands of copies that were sold. So I think he had some ideas of the book if he didn’t read it after all, at least. But Dinter then turned into a politician. He joined the NSDAP and got into trouble with Hitler in the late 1920s. And he left NSDAP again. I do think Dinter was quite influential to the whole völkisch movement. He was very influential for political reasons, but also propagandistic reasons.

Hermand:  Antisemitism.

Plöckinger:  Yeah, antisemitism, yeah, of course.

Hermand: The Rhineland besetzung, that’s because it already 1917.

Plöckinger:  He was a bigshot in the völkisch movement, and he, I think, had some influence on antisemitism and racial concepts. But he had a quite strange racial concept, it’s discussing about [unclear] theory. And [Julius] Streicher (1885-1946) was from this kind of theory as well. Rosenberg was from a different one. It’s not always one-way. But I do think he knew about Dinter, and he was familiar with his book, I do think so, whether he read the whole book or not.

Hauner: You, Sunny, please.

Sunny Yudkoff:  Thank you for your talk and also for your work on this project. I guess I have two questions. The first is that whenever I’ve taught Mein Kampf, I always teach excerpts. Excerpts that have been translated. But one of the things that this work accosts us with is trying to take it as a whole object. I’m wondering in your experience when you teach it, independent of the fact that it’s long, for example, do you recommend teaching it in its entirety, or in segments? And a second question is, I’m interested in what you commented on about the origin of the typography. That because the Dutch individual who had created the typography was sympathetic to Nazism, that the decision was made not to use that font. And I guess my question is, is there a larger ideology behind this product? To distance itself from any, any let’s call it attaint of sympathy. Or is that an impossible project? I’m not questioning the decision, because I can’t imagine making any of these decisions. But you know, what if one finds out that the person who contacted the paper mill’s grandfather or grandmother was into this. So how do you create that, is there something, is there an investment in certain decisions versus others? Or how is that part of the project a reckoning with Mein Kampf?

Plöckinger:  That’s a very interesting question. Just coming to first about teaching Mein Kampf. Well, I’m a teacher working in a high school. And never work with Mein Kampf as an entire text. I think for, even for students in university, it’s too complex topic to deal with the whole, the entire anthology, entire book here. When I’m working with Mein Kampf, I’m trying to focus on one aspect, or a second one, maybe. And always try to incorporate Mein Kampf into the literature and the thinking in German society in general. I think one of the main things which you should not do, put the focus on Mein Kampf and leave it alone. To create the impression there was Hitler, and he had some ideas, and the rest of society was something else. I always try to make connections to main topics in the Weimar Republic, main topics in the völkisch movement, other authors which were writing about then, to show that Hitler was part of a huge scenery. Sometimes a small scenery. Sometimes a huge scenery. But he was never standing alone. He was a part of the German society. Part of German thinking and right wing thinking. Sometimes even left wing thinking.

When we’re thinking about eugenics, that was a topic even in the left part of the Weimar Republic. So trying to incorporate him in the German history. And I think everything else is okay what you do. But making the impression there was Hitler and the rest was something else, I think you should avoid this impression, whatever you do. And we were always talking about that, and I feel guilty a little bit about that, working on Mein Kampf and working on Hitler. Again, put Hitler into the focus of the discussion and leaving the rest outside, I’m not very happy about that. And I think it should be always seen in the broad context of German European history, right wing discussions, antisemitic discussions. He was part of that. Not the only one. And I think that’s very important for me.

And so I forgot the other question.

Yudkoff:  About distancing yourself from any, any, that nothing in this production would have a relationship to anything –

Plöckinger:  Okay, yeah, yeah, okay. I think that’s a problem of the whole project. And sometimes a problem of the Institute for Contemporary History. We have been afraid very, very much about the reaction when this book will come out. Nobody had an idea what will happen when it comes out. So we try to avoid any track which could be somewhere around. In some phases, it was kind of being afraid of everything. Can we do that, can we do that? When it was published, one said, well, of course that’s Wehrmacht grau. (laughter) Yeah, what to do with that, just to make it some kind of a, to show how much, yeah, how much care we took not to make any mistake. Looking back, I think that was not a good idea. But we can justify a lot of decisions we made and I think most of them were good decisions. Not all of them. I don’t agree with everything what happens in here. But most decisions were good ones. But it shows how it was a kind of black box for us. We had no idea what will come, how the reaction would be. We were, yeah from some reactions, we were really surprised. And some of them were very supportive. Some of them were very angry. With mention Jeremy Adler from London. He wrote two very, very negative texts about the critical edition. At one stage, he accused us of antisemitism. That was heavy. That was very, very difficult for us to deal with. He wrote a book afterwards about the edition. Although I disagree of course with him in some aspects, reading his texts, his principle and moral text about Mein Kampf is still worthwhile. I always really try to make an impression about the text from Jeremy Adler as an additional text about our edition. It’s very, very worthwhile. I don’t agree with him in many aspects. But it’s really very, very clever and very good written text about the edition, about the moral problems of such a project. And as I said, I don’t agree in many aspects. But it’s still worthwhile reading his text. But as I said, we were afraid of everything which could happen. Now we are more clever afterwards. But it was really a black box. What will happen?

Hauner:  If I, now we have almost reached the end of our time.

Plöckinger:  I’m not in a hurry.

Hauner:  If I may add to this, summarize, somewhat, the impression of the critical edition which made, I would, this is a rough division. Basically divide the camp into two blocks. One, I would call the conservative. These are mostly survivors of the Holocaust who see in any kind of attempt to make Mein Kampf, whether critical, non-critical edition, as a serious attack on their own legacy. And then there you have the progressive, if you like, camp, people who are represented, for instance, by the Germans Teachers Union, who fight it, the Lehrerverband, who see in the critical edition something which might stimulate the critical education of the students. So you have these two opposable – how do you see it? Do you agree with one side or the other? Or do you think that both approaches are useful for the discussion, for the dialog?

Plöckinger:  Yeah, yeah. Well of course it’s not up to me to talk about the feelings of the survivors of the Holocaust. I think I can understand, really, understand going into a bookshop in Germany and seeing Mein Kampf standing there, that’s hard. That’s really hard for somebody. But it’s also, I was in contact with Stefan Kramer, in these days he was general secretary of the Juden in Deutschland, he was, my age, he said, well, that’s a conflict of generation as well. Young Jews are not very concerned about Mein Kampf. It’s the older generation. That’s what he told me. And I was surprised. It was two or three years before the critical edition was published. He asked me, “why don’t we do it online?” I really was surprised. I thought I will have a very difficult discussion with him. He said, “Why don’t you do it? I can’t understand. For older people, it’s difficult. But for us young, it’s normal to have online things. Why are you not making just an online thing?”

And we also had discussions with Dan Michman from Yad Veshem. He’s totally supportive, very much. But he knows he’s not the majority at Yad Veshem. There are many people against it. But it’s not up to me – Jeremy Adler, as well. He’s the son of a Holocaust survivor. Of course, I always have had a lot of respect after all, it’s not up to me to judge that. And I understand that going into bookshops wherever you are, finding Mein Kampf, that must be horror! I understand that, really. But on the other side, what to do? Leaving Mein Kampf to the right wing parties, so they can do whatever they want on the internet without any annotation, without any explanation? I think that would be the educational aspect. And I’m leaning to this side, and it’s important to explain what Hitler is doing. How he’s working. How he’s writing about things. and we can’t leave teachers alone when they’re confrontated, and they are confrontated.

Hauner:  Confronted.

Plöckinger:  Confronted. Sorry. In Eastern Germany, especially in Eastern Germany, teachers tell me, “Well, pupils are coming with old books of Mein Kampf which they got from their parents or grandparents. Found it somewhere in the house. They come here and they want to talk about it.” They never knew what to do with it. Now they take this one, take the page, and can explain what Hitler’s saying this, and then that is wrong, and that is another point of view. They really appreciate very much, strangely enough, well not strangely, mainly in Eastern Germany. The new –

Hauner:  could be the discussion over the evil.

Plöckinger:  Yeah.

?:  I once read a strange opinion that in the years on Landsberg, the writing of Mein Kampf was greatly helped by Rudolf Hess (1894-1987).

Plöckinger:  Make a short answer. No. That’s a legend which is simply –

?:  You’ve heard that legend.

Plöckinger:  Yeah. We have all the letters Rudolf Hess wrote from Landsberg, there are dozens, they are now in Bern, in Switzerland. And there’s no hint whatsoever.

?:  But you’ve heard that story.

Plöckinger:  Yeah, of course I’ve heard. Yeah. But that’s simply not true.

?:  And I found it strange.

Hauner:  Is this also because afterwards, Hess and his future wife were very much involved in editing –

Plöckinger:  Editing, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Hauner:  in Hitler’s text.

Plöckinger:  They made corrections, stylistic one, and all those stuff, especially for the völkisch copy.

Hauner:  And as you explain it, actually, in the book, the reason why Hess was mentioned as the executor, if you like, of Hitler’s ideas by typing the text, was because they discussed aloud the topics. And this was overheard by the wardens and people. And they assumed that Hess was basically stimulating Hitler. Which wasn’t true

?:  He mainly helped to type write it.

Hauner:  Yeah.

Plöckinger:  No, Hess

Hauner:  No, Hitler apparently typed himself.

Plöckinger:  We have some drafts of his work. We have some original papers from his, concept papers, and how he drafted Mein Kampf. So we can see how Hitler typed on the machine. So some part of the original manuscript survived. We have them, and we can see how he was working.

Hauner:  But not the whole.

Plöckinger:  Not the whole from the first volume. About five chapters where we have the complete concepts, how he drafted the chapters. And we have five pages of the beginning of Mein Kampf.

?:  Who had them? The people in Bavaria had it?

Plöckinger:  Sorry?

?: The people in Bavaria had it?

Plöckinger:  No, it was bought from American historian, an American collector of Nazi or however they call it – it’s a pity. A lot of material is now disappearing in organizations or in the cellars of people who have a lot of money. Unfortunately, a lot of things are going to Russia. A lot of things are going here to America. One of the things, but I was allowed to examine those things. And sometimes they show a picture of them. They’re very interesting to see how Hitler was thinking. How from a concept developed the text of Mein Kampf. What was his first idea? What did he change? What did he drop? All the stuff, so we can have some look into his brain, if you want to call it –

Hauner: I am afraid we have reached the end of the necessary time. I will round it up by expressing on behalf of you all, many thanks for you coming here.

Plöckinger:  It was a pleasure for me. Thank you very much. (applause)

Hauner:  Thank you.

Plöckinger:  Thank you.

71:00

[End Session.]

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