In A Nutshell
We’ve all heard of Mein Kampf. Adolf Hitler’s atrocity against literature was the Bible of the Nazis—a turgid tome filled with hatred, bile, and incitation to genocide. Although it was reviled for many years, it’s recently made a comeback and is currently one of the best-selling eBooks in the world, topping the Amazon charts in the US, UK, and Europe.
The Whole Bushel
Adolf Hitler needs no introduction. The frontrunner for history’s “biggest tool of the 20th century” award is the archetypal megalomaniac: a deluded idiot who turned to slaughter when his dreams of being a painter self-destructed. But while he may have been lacking any artistic talent whatsoever, young Hitler did manage to get a book published—a borderline-insane racist screed known as Mein Kampf.
Unleashed on the world 89 years ago, Mein Kampf is considered utterly unreadable. From the close of World War II right up until 2012, the only people who would even consider going near it were historians and far-right lunatics. But then 2013 came along and changed everything.
Suddenly, without any warning, Mein Kampf became popular again. And we mean popular: Currently the book is topping Amazon.com’s Propaganda and Political Psychology Chart, while in the UK it is second place on the Political Science and Ideology list. The Internet Archive has reported a 100,000-plus surge in free downloads, while iTunes has it ranking above Glenn Beck’s latest creation. Speaking to the Guardian, one of the book’s modern publishers was quoted as saying “sales are great.”
There are a couple of theories as to why this might be. One is that neo-Nazis are simply flocking to buy it. But another is that most of those downloading Mein Kampf are just ordinary people indulging anonymously in a “guilty pleasure.” Print sales remain incredibly low, suggesting that we all feel safer reading racist dogma on our Kindles than buying it from a store; the same psychological quirk that sent the romantic fantasy 50 Shades of Grey to the top of the bestseller lists.
There is a bright(ish) side to all this. Those of you feeling uncomfortable about publishers making money off race-hate should know the copyright is held by the German state of Bavaria, which donates all the profits to (mostly) Jewish charities. It’s somehow comforting to know that Hitler must be spinning in his grave.