PARIS - A massive and long-awaited new translation of Mein Kampf — peppered with scholarly commentary to explain Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's disjointed, hate-filled manifesto — has been released in France. The project has been controversial, but supporters say it could serve as a warning against rising acts of hate and antisemitism today.
The book is a recast translation of Mein Kampf, or My Struggle, Hitler's 1925 manifesto detailing how he became antisemitic, his ideology and his plans for Germany. The recast is 1,000 pages and costs more than $120. Adolf Hitler's name and face do not appear on its plain white cover.
The new edition by French publisher Fayard — titled Putting Evil in Context: A Critical Edition of Mein Kampf — does not aim to be a bestseller. French bookstores cannot stock copies, which are available by order only. All proceeds will go to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation.
Historian Christian Ingrao, part of the academic team involved in the Fayard edition, told French radio the book aims to desacralize Hitler's work that has attracted a kind of fetishism. It aims to offer an unvarnished take on the Nazi leader's writing, which Ingrao and others say is repetitive, rambling and riddled with mistakes. Translator Olivier Mannoni called Hitler's manifesto an "incoherent soup."
The translation is accompanied by lengthy historians' notes and annotations that make up most of the book.
Germany and Poland have published similar scholarly translations in recent years.
In France, the first edition of Mein Kampf came out in 1934, and attempted to improve on Hitler's writing. By that time he was chancellor of Germany, where his book had become a bestseller. Hitler's rule saw Europe plunged into World War II — and the Holocaust that killed roughly six million Jews, including more than 70,000 from France.
Today, antisemitism is again on the rise across Europe, watchdog groups say. So is the far right. While printed copies of Mein Kampf have stagnated worldwide, digital editions have surged in recent years, although publishers point to a mix of reasons. Last year, Amazon banned most editions of the book from its site.
Ninety-six-year-old Holocaust survivor Ginette Kolinka speaks to French school groups about her memories. She told French radio she never read Mein Kampf — mostly, she says, because she had other books to read. But she says young people need to read everything — good and bad — to form opinions for themselves, and eventually understand tolerance.
The Fayard translation project has been controversial. A few years ago, far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon called it "morally unacceptable." Since then, it has been endorsed by several prominent Jewish figures, including Nazi hunter Serge Klarsfeld.
France's Grand Rabbi, Haim Korsia, told VOA that Klarsfeld's support for the translation shaped his own views. His argument: You can't reproach the world for not having read Hitler's writings nearly a century ago — which forecast the horror the Nazi leader was preparing — and then tell people today not to read this new translation, which could help prevent hatred, prejudice and antisemitism from reappearing.