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Digital sales of Adolf Hitler’s 1923 manifesto Mein Kampf (or “My Struggle”) are surging on Amazon and iTunes, an interesting commentary on how modern society views history’s most notorious dictator.

And how is that? “In secret …”

“What exactly is going on here?” author Chris Faraone wonders. “Are people reading Hitler on their smartphones and Kindles? Is this what happens when Mein Kampf becomes available in the privacy of our own iPads? Could it be a cultural curiosity much like what’s happened with sleazy romance novels, which surveys show are increasingly consumed in more clandestine e-form?”

Hmmmm …

“Sales are great,” one digital publisher of Hitler’s book acknowledges, although he adds “I have not heavily promoted the book and decided, for the most part, to let it spread among those who have a true historical and academic interest naturally.”

It’s the so-called 50 Shades of Grey effect … in which people feel less reticent to read digitally downloaded taboo texts (i.e. books they can peruse without the disapproving glares of shopkeepers or fellow patrons at the local coffee shop).

Ready for the irony?  Given the Nazi-esque domestic spying undertaken by the federal government, purchasing a hard copy of Mein Kampf and reading it in the privacy of one’s home would probably attract less attention than a digital download.

Think we’re joking?

We’re not … 

Naturally our founding editor has read Mein Kampf.  He’s also read William L. Shirer’s Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, Albert Speer’s Inside the Third Reich and Ian Kershaw’s two-volume biography of Hitler: Hubris and Nemesis.  All of them he owns in hard copy (including first editions of Shirer and Speer’s volumes).

Why? He loves history … and believes it is important to learn from the past.

First published in 1925, Mein Kampf was dictated by Hitler to fellow Nazi Rudolf Hess in Landsberg Prison in the months following the Nazis’ failed Beer Hall Putsch in Munich.  Hilter originally wanted to call the book Viereinhalb Jahre (des Kampfes) gegen Lüge, Dummheit und Feigheit (or “Four and a Half Years of Struggle Against Lies, Stupidity and Cowardice”), but his friend Max Amann suggested the shorter, now iconic title.

The book was edited by Catholic priest Bernhard Stempfle, who as fate would have it was murdered by Hitler less than a decade later in the “Night of the Long Knives.”