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One of the most frustrating books I've often used is Ralph Manheim's English edition of Hitler's Mein Kampf. Not on account of the wearisome content, but because there is no index. You have to know a book pretty well to be able to find the precise point you need, amid its 600 rambling pages, when you come back to it after years. 

First published in 1925, Mein Kampf is making minor waves again because the copyright lapses in 2015. The copyright was "inherited" from the Nazi Party's Munich publishing firm by the state government of Bavaria and is technically held by the finance ministry, which has withheld permission to reprint the book, even in academic form. 

During Hitler's lifetime, Mein Kampf was a "nice little earner". It sold 10 million copies, and from 1936 onwards every German married couple received a copy. Along with royalties for use of Hitler's portrait on banknotes, coins and stamps, the revenue from Mein Kampf swelled a personal slush fund, which the Chancellor used to reward successful  generals with landed estates or huge cheques. Prussian aristos were not above taking money from the little Austrian corporal turned Führer.

Until recently, the authorities in Munich have sought to frustrate the proliferation of unauthorised editions of the book, though there is no scholarly edition either. While it is possible to do this with a printed book, with legal action against publishers in Sweden in 1992 and Poland in 2005, it is impossible to do so with internet editions, which do well in the Middle East. During the 1990s, Amazon was "persuaded" not to sell the book in Germany, where the Hitler salute and the swastika are still verboten.

One solution to the unexpurgated second-hand versions readily available online is for the Bavarians to publish a scholarly edition. They have been at work since 2010 under the aegis of Munich's Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ), on whose advisory board I served for eight years. This project has run into criticism. Salomon Korn, vice-president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, thinks publication should be delayed out of sensitivity towards Holocaust survivors. That of course could take a long time, if the children of actual survivors redefine themselves in such a way too.

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