Apparently the works of Adolf Hitler make anything but the “perfect” Christmas gift. I can’t say that Mein Kampf is a choice I expected to be topping the bestsellers chart this festive season, but I’m not really sure what’s so wrong if it is.
After staff in the Huddersfield branch of Waterstones gave the book prominent placing in store and supplied it with both a “perfect present” sticker and a staff recommendation, an angry backlash from consumers has lead to a national public apology and the book being taken back to its carefully constructed hiding place.
I speak as someone who has actually taken the time to read Mein Kampf. Whilst I can confirm it contains one of the most horrific ideologies I have ever come across, this in itself does not constitute a reason to hide it away behind a stack of other much happier, and notably less contentious, historical novels.
Reading Adolf Hitler’s memoirs is not an offensive act in itself, it’s a vital element of understanding history and setting it into context. Waterstones themselves seem to understand this in their recommendation, stating it to be:
“an essential read for anyone seeking to understand one of history’s most despicable figures. A shocking read and a vital warning for future generations”.
They may be pushing it for mass sale, but Waterstones are a commercial enterprise. They exist purely for profit. If a product is doing well, they will push it for further sale. Why should the same not be true of Mein Kampf when it is sold in an educational and sensitive way?
The ideas contained with Mein Kampf may indeed be offensive and vile, but it is not being promoted or praised. In order to avoid history’s mistakes we all need to thoroughly aware of them in the first place. Wrapping ourselves up in cotton wool simply because they are to horrible to talk about is a recipe for repetition.