Last week we gave evidence to the Legal and Social Issues Committee of the Victorian Parliament as part of their Inquiry into Anti-Vilification Protections. In the hearing we told the Committee how Dymocks had 94 different editions of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on sale via their website. One version has also recently been seen on sale in multiple physical stores. The Online Hate Prevention Institute (OHPI) calls on Dymocks to immediately stop selling this “Nazi bible” which is a “staple of neo-Nazis, antisemites, and racists” around the world.
For the purposes of free speech and to assist scholarship, OHPI supports an exception for certain editions which contain useful commentary / annotations which put the ideology expressed in Mein Kampf in the context of the resulting Nazi atrocities. Few of the 94 editions would meet this threshold; most are simply extremist hate literature and should not be on sale. We commend Amazon for doing the right thing and ceasing sales of this book.
We highlighted to the committee how one of these editions has a description on the Dymocks site saying:
“This book shows the foundations of White Resistance and White Nationalism. It is the foundation and seed for the preservation of our Race”
The ideology led to the Holocaust. It is also the basis of modern white supremacy, the kind that led to the attack in Christchurch this time last year ago. Helping people become radicalised on this ideology creates a real threat. The blurb continued describing the book saying:
“It shows us that we must not look at nature in terms of good or bad, but in an unfiltered manner. It describes what we must do if we want to survive as a people and as a Race.”
This blurb was not a critical reflection on the book, instead it explains with pride that it is the Nazi’s own translation: “James Murphy translation is OFFICIAL NSDAP translation.. NSDAP have paid Murphy to translate Mein Kampf”. NSDAP is short for Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei which is the formal name in German of the Nazi party.
Another version of Mein Kampf was available in Dymocks stores, on sale for $9.99. This version said the book is “often called the Nazi bible”. It described Hitler as “a leader… who pursued his hatred for Jews by committing genocide in what came to be known as the Holocaust” adding that “reading it is like listening to Hitler to get a glimpse into his life”.
In an e-mail with Dymocks over these books a Dymocks representative wrote:
“We do not seek to promote or discourage any particular point of view and nor do we censor material. We abide by the State and Federal Government mandates on banned materials and do not extend the consultation process further. I’m sure you will understand that our position is not to offend but to have the widest range of books available to suit our customers’ needs.”
This stands in stark contrast to a recent decision by Amazon which recently banned most versions of Mein Kampf and other Nazi literature. The exceptions are versions of Mein Kampf with sufficient commentary or annotations to support a scholarly understanding of the work. The ban extends to Amazon’s services to resell secondhand books. Amazon explained:
“As a bookseller, we provide customers with access to a variety of viewpoints, including titles that serve an important educational role in understanding and preventing antisemitism. All retailers make decisions about what selection they choose to offer and we do not take selection decisions lightly.”
The ban on Amazon appears to be global, with the New York Times noting it is also applying in the United States. In the US “Amazon Books” are physical book stores owned by Amazon. There are 23 either operational or about to come online. As the only stock content also available online, the ban will apply there as well.
Mein Kampf is only available on the Dymocks website, and sometimes in stores, because of decisions Dymocks makes on what books they stock. At a time of concern around rising far-right extremism, and growing glorification of Nazi ideology, selling the “Nazi bible”, as the one book put it, facilitates radicalisation and increases the risk of harm to society. It is not a socially responsible action.
OHPI’s CEO, Dr Andre Oboler, stated “We call on Dymocks to immediate cease selling Mein Kampf. The only exceptions should be those editions which have sufficient additional commentary to support a scholarly understanding of the book and which place the text in the context of the inhumanity which then resulted.”
Dr Oboler also congratulated Amazon saying “It’s taken a long time and a lot of campaigning by many organisations, but this is the right decision and we congratulate Amazon on taking this step.”
Update 24 March: In the UK, W.H. Smith, a major chain of book stores, has apologised for selling Mein Kampf and removed it from the shelves.
Update 26 March: While many supported the position we advocate here, some raised arguments against it. We look at those arguments in a new article.
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