New Estonian translation of Mein Kampf published, bookshops refuse to sell ({{commentsTotal}})

A Nazi era copy of Mein Kampf.
A Nazi era copy of Mein Kampf. Source: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Scanpix

Publishers Matrix Kirjastus have a new translation of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf out. What according to earlier announcements is an edition of 1,000 is ready for sale, but Estonia's two largest book shop chains, Rahva Raamat and Apollo, have decided not to sell it.

The Matrix edition is the original German text as translated into Estonian by Margus Lepa. Though Lepa's translation isn't the first: Fritjof Hallmann, an Estonian Nazi sympathizer, allegedly translated the book into Estonian in 1934. Another attempt was made in 2003, when Peeter Kask translated a few chapters for a local publication of the Estonian Defence League, based on the freely available Russian version.

Mein Kampf ("My struggle" in English, "Minu võitlus" in Estonian) is an autobiographical manifesto written in the early 1920s by later Nazi dictator, Adolf Hitler. During the Nazi regime, more than 12 million copies were published in Germany. Perhaps augmented by the banning of the book in several countries, it has since become a core devotional item in the neo-Nazi scene.

Critics of more recent editions include journalist Andrei Hvostov, who commented the publication of a new German edition in 2016, saying that he would be very uneasy about seeing it published in uncommented form in Estonian.

"This book was written for simple people. I'm not just thinking about people's origin or profession, but of people who think in very simple patterns, who have a very simple world of ideas," Hvostov said on ETV at the time.

He pointed out that this was precisely what made the book dangerous. The simple-minded people it addresses have a very simple understanding of the world. "That's exactly the approach of Mein Kampf," Hvostov said, pointing to the fact that Hitler's simple answer to everything that was wrong with the world was to blame the Jews.

According to Hvostov, Hitler was an "evil genius" whose work still influences Estonia's youth today. "If this book is published in Estonian in uncommented form, there will be a great lot of people in Estonian society who will read it as their new bible," he said.

While the commented German edition includes some 3,700 footnotes that unmask Mein Kampf as racist diatribe with barely a grip on reality, the new Estonian translation does not, and thus lacks the element of historians countering Hitler's ramblings with facts.

Opinions diverge as to whether or not publishing Mein Kampf in Estonian is dangerous. While Hvostov points to the danger of the book's basic purpose as a propaganda piece and how easy its statements can be quoted out of context, others, like editor-in-chief of foreign policy magazine Diplomaatia, Erkki Bahovski, think it is principally wrong to "ban history" (link in Estonian).

Publisher Mati Nigul thinks that Mein Kampf has been "slandered" in the past, and told online news portal Delfi.ee (link in Estonian) that Hitler in fact "did a lot of good" for the German people before World War II.

While publishers Matrix Kirjastus did approach both Rahva Raamat and Apollo, Estonia's largest book store chains, the latter eventually decided not to sell it.

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Editor: Dario Cavegn



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