E-books have taken off in a huge way among the iPad- and Kindle-obsessed, but one electronic tome that's topping the charts — both free and paid-for — is Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," the book of political writings by the Nazi leader published before he became dictator of Nazi Germany.
There are six versions of the book available electronically, and it's also available as a PDF. Chris Faraone, who wrote about its popularity on Vocativ.com, says that, much like "Fifty Shades of Grey," "These are things that people would be embarrassed to read otherwise…Books that people would probably be a bit more embarrassed to read or display or buy in public, they are more than willing to buy on their Kindle, or iPads."
The book's popularity has angered Jewish leaders. "While the academic study of 'Mein Kampf' is certainly legitimate, the spike in e-book sales likely comes from neo-Nazis and skinheads idolizing the greatest monster in history," World Jewish Congress CEO Robert Singer told ABC News.
Q: Can you think of any reasons why "Mein Kampf" should be such an e-book hit?
I tend to agree with most observers who suggest that this phenomenon can probably be largely attributed to curiosity, but I still feel that some element of anti-Semitism is propelling these sales.
Sadly, demonization of Jews remains commonplace in almost all of the Middle East and even in much of Europe. This anti-Semitic environment often drives people to buy books like "Mein Kampf." It is even more frightening to know that many young people who read Hitler's hate-filled words end up acting on their prejudice. As we have seen all too often, the results lead to harmful crimes against Jews, and sometimes even murder.
Following the Holocaust, the world promised "never again." But since then we have seen the world community fail to prevent genocide in places like Iraq, Bosnia, Cambodia, Rwanda and most recently Sudan. One has to question how much we have really learned from history's painful lessons.
Today, the arch-terrorists of Tehran threaten the Jewish state with annihilation. And barely 70 years after the Holocaust, Hitler — the worst butcher mankind has ever seen — is still idolized by many as some kind of hero.
Unfortunately, I am not at all shocked by this fact. Human nature does not change on its own. The same character traits that allowed for the slaughter of millions of innocent men, women, and children can still be found within our species. What really changes people is education. If we teach our youth to respect human life regardless of race, color or creed, then we can hope for progress. If we replace ignorance and bigotry with knowledge and tolerance, our future looks bright. Otherwise, we are destined to witness endless waves of prejudice that will have tragic results for humanity.
Rabbi Simcha Backman
Chabad Jewish Center
I have had many careers in my life. One was as a page (a kid who reshelved books) and later as an assistant librarian (an adult who recommended interesting books, and when nobody was in the library, reshelved books!). I remember clearly that in the public library in which I worked, "Mein Kampf" or "My Struggle" was on the shelves, in the autobiography section, 943 point something or other. Lots of older people used the library where I worked, and lots and lots of students of all races and ages did research from that little neighborhood branch library. As I recall the book was well worn, so it went out quite a bit.
E-books allow you to carry a large part of your reference library with you. Public speakers and professors find this tool invaluable. Then as now, intelligent well-balanced people may read Hitler's writing to complete assignments, or simply for information. As one reflects on Hitler's life, it is difficult to believe that anyone could justify that much hatred and entitlement. Perhaps reading his words might give one insight into his nature, his attempts at reasoning, and allow readers to be more aware of the seeds of such intolerance in their own local 21st century communities.
E-book autobiographies penned by Stalin, Idi Amin, or 20th-century segregationists might also be illuminating reads into their respective ways of thinking. Conversely, while not an autobiography, the e-book biography: "The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks" contains many of the civil rights leader's spoken words and is a revealing insight into a great American woman who contributed way more to our country's sense of tolerance and inclusion than tired feet.
The Rev. Dr. William Thomas Jr.
Little White Chapel
I understand that there are a number of ways to drive up sales that would give the illusion of a book's popular acceptance. I've heard of cult members buying multiple copies of their leaders' books, and I've heard of deals with book clubs to make large purchases. Maybe in this case the segment of society that idolizes Adolf Hitler is just now starting to use e-book readers. Maybe it's Hitler's historical celebrity factor two or three generations removed from the brutal reality of the atrocities he committed. Maybe people want to know how Hitler rose to power so they can use his tactics for their own purposes.
This isn't meant as a compliment, but Hitler was obviously able to touch people's hearts and influence them. An entire nation followed him into murder and battle and death. He was a wicked shepherd of a deceived flock. Maybe it shouldn't surprise us that his deceptions recorded on paper, or hard drives, still deceive hearts.
God wants us to dwell on truth and goodness and purity, not on wickedness. There is no better example of these good things than Jesus Christ, no better book (the most popular in human history) than the Bible. Darkness appeals to darkened hearts, light appeals to those who desire it. What we worship we seek and what's in our hearts is always expressed in the way we treat God and others.
Pastor Jon Barta
Valley Baptist Church
Although I personally have not read "Mein Kampf", which means"My Struggle," I'm not all that surprised at its popularity. Many people are really fascinated by the "dark side," for lack of a better term. Look at how popular "The Godfather" was, both in books and movies. We as human beings are fascinated by the criminal life. Who is the most popular character in the "Star Wars" movies? Isn't it Darth Vader?
True, there may be some neo-Nazis and others who do a lot of buying of "Der Fuhrer's" rantings. But even some of us "normal" people have a peculiar fascination with evil. We don't want to be evil, and we certainly don't want to go to Hell (if there is one) when we die. But think about it: Do you want to hear about the adventures of Dudley Doright, or are you more interested in Al Capone and other mafia types?
By the way, back when I was in high school, I wrote my senior term paper, not on Christianity or the church, but on the mafia. No, I didn't get a good grade, but I did pass! Hey, it's almost Valentine's Day; wanna go out and get massacred?
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
La Cañada Congregational Church
La Cañada Flintridge
I don't really know why "Mein Kampf" has become a best seller in various e-book formats. I would like to believe it is the result of their cheap price, the desire for people to be anonymous readers, an anomaly in electronic book sales numbers, or the curiosity of those who would like to find out about the historic document that had such a horrific impact on the world in the 20th century. However, my serious concern is that it could be the sign of an upswing among those who truly want to assimilate some of these anti-Semitic ideas into our world day.
To say I am distressed that the ideas in this book would be taken seriously by people today would be a vast understatement. It is simply unthinkable to me. The chalice that is now the symbol of my religious tradition grew from the resistance to Nazism by our Unitarian Service Committee in their rescue of thousands of Jews and others in danger of being killed by the members of the Third Reich. It was that emblem that was used on documents to help people escape to freedom and safety under the protection of brave men and women of our faith. In fact, there are three of those people who are now honored at Yad Vashem in Israel for their courage and personal sacrifice.
My hope is that those of all religious faiths will speak out against hatred and bigotry wherever it is found and will work to make our world safe for those of any race, culture, nationality, class, sexual orientation, gender expression or religion. I believe that to do less is to allow evil to grow in the hearts of people and to fail to act from the loving hearts that we profess to have.
Rev, Dr, Betty Stapleford
Unitarian Universalist Church of the Verdugo Hills
When I was a kid, my big interest was WWII. I watched "Twelve O'clock High" after school, I built models of planes and tanks, and of course there were the comic books and GI Joes, and when we played "Army," we all possessed some WWII memorabilia we'd picked up from grandpa or the surplus store. That war left a mark, and everyone was fully aware of the megalomaniac who gave birth to the Nazis.
I recall my father having "Mein Kampf" in his library. I believed that most educated people had read that tome which was fatter than my lunch box, and I had thought that eventually I would do likewise. Shouldn't anyone who thinks they know anything about WWII read the manifesto of its primary cause? Yet I never did. Today's question has freshly piqued my interest, however, and there is a free, abridged copy online, so maybe now.
Perhaps the resurging interest in "Mein Kampf" has to do with my own sense that it should be read, like "Moby Dick" or the works of T.S. Eliot, and so people are snatching it up because it's always been on their bucket list, and now it's cheap. It would feel weird admitting to a judge at a jury selection that the book I was reading happened to be Hitler's, but I think the thing should be read lest we forget his impact, and isn't that the haunting refrain of the Holocaust, "Never Forget"?
Proverbs 10:28 says, "The prospect of the righteous is joy, but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing." Mr. Master Race committed suicide, his country was decimated and dissected, and the world never wants to experience a repeat. Might I suggest that other fat tome, the Bible, to supplement your reading and to see how things should properly go?
The Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
I don't think we should be too surprised that Hitler's "Mein Kampf" is doing well in current e-book sales. Clearly, part of the popularity could be simple curiosity or as one person commented on a blog, "I just wanted to get into the mind of one of humanity's greatest sociopaths and see how he put his world together."
The fact that the book was offered at very cheap prices and even for free probably drove up demand. Then too, the anonymity of an e-book and the ability to easily delete it, suggests people who've only heard about it might want to take a peek, but aren't interested in owning a permanent text.
We might equally ask ourselves why movies such as "Nightmare on Elm Street," "The Silence of the Lambs," "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" or "Psycho" were such big box office hits. Why is Stephen King such a popular author or why are the most popular video games also some of the most violent? Why do we slow down to see better when we pass an accident on the freeway? For that matter, why does the news focus on the tragic and catastrophic?
From our youngest age, when we shared scary stories around the campfire with a flashlight under our face, we seem to have a fascination for the darker side of things. Scripture calls this fascination with the darker side "sin," and candidly states that we all struggle with it. "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23) Scripture is also clear that the only way to overcome our fascination with evil is by accepting the sacrifice accomplished through Jesus Christ's, death and resurrection.
Pastor Ché Ahn
Increased sales for "Mein Kampf" would be more of a surprise if the world wasn't approaching economic conditions similar to those of Weimar Germany, the period when the book was published.
Historians and sociologists have noted that ethnic tension and xenophobia grow along with economic hardship. I would think this is especially true today, when populations are more diverse than ever. Neo-fascist activity has increased in several European countries, including Spain and Greece, both still recovering from the recession. We still are hurting in the U.S. as well, and this may account for a spike in sales at home.
Let's reluctantly set aside, just for a moment, Jesus' teaching that we love one another. The consequences of Hitler's rise, alone, should prove that "Mein Kampf" is a blueprint not for recovery, but for destruction.
One need not read far to grasp Hitler's intent. In the book's second paragraph, he alludes to racism and conquest with calls to unify those of German "blood" and to use the "sword" to restore prosperity. His plan didn't turn out well. Within nine years of its publication, Germany's cities had been leveled, it's land occupied by foreign armies and more than 5.5 million of its people were dead, based on conservative estimates.
Reading "Mein Kampf" to gain insight into the nature of evil has value. The book provides a glimpse into a mind that brought war to three continents. However, to view "Mein Kampf" as a road map for political action is dangerously foolish.
In Matthew 7:18, Christ taught that we can recognize evil things by the "fruits" they produce. "A good tree," he said, "cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." "Mein Kampf" isn't one of the good trees.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Because it is there, notorious and costs 99 cents (or nothing)?
We have no way to know how many of these downloaders actually read "Mein Kampf." I suspect not many. It is almost 700 pages of self-important bombast. He hectors. He scolds. He blusters. He vacillates between raving paranoia and silly sentimentalism. It is not even one shade of grey.
Some countries make "Mein Kampf" illegal, restricted, or require that it include explanatory notes giving historical context. All of which
only serves to make it more enticing to the curious, ignorant,
disaffected or rebellious.
Books don't kill people. Murdererous thugs voted into office and then enabled by a mostly complicit or passive international community kill
people. And guns of course.
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