Ten years of work, a thousand pages, three times as many notes. The dimensions of the structure Historicize evil, to be published by Fayard at the beginning of June, express in their own way the scope of the task imagined in 2011: to propose a critical edition of Mein Kampf, which will fall into the public domain in January 2016. In France, only a faulty translation of 1934 remains available in a few clicks on the Internet.
Ten years of hard work
It was the translator Olivier Mannoni, recognized for his translations of Freud, Kafka and even Zweig, who then opened the site. “ The first characteristic of this monstrous text is its illegibility ”, he explains, describing “ circular writing ” and a text “ hypnotic by its very confusion “. The challenge was to restore it to its original state, “ confused, loaded, sometimes obsessive “. A challenge for a translator.
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Then in 2015, a committee of a dozen historians in turn plunged into five years of hard work, based on the German edition carried by the Institut für Zeitgeschichte in Munich. Under the leadership of its director Andreas Wirsching and historian Florent Brayard, they establish the critical apparatus, including around thirty introductions. With three objectives. “ Contextualize the text, deconstruct it and make the link between this anti-Semitic, racist, authoritarian and warmongering worldview and the barbaric reality of Nazism, details Florent Brayard. Thus, the reader is provided with the tools and knowledge to keep Hitler’s discourse at bay.. “
The return of Hitler-centrism?
That year also saw the start of controversy. Was it necessary that a non-university house, to which we attribute commercial aims, take hold of such a project? The same one who had made a profit with a first edition in 1938? In response, Fayard is now presenting a detailed plan: an agreement with the Auschwitz-Birkenau association which will receive all the benefits; 1,000 free copies sent to libraries; an ordering system from booksellers who will not be able to display the book on their tables.
More tenacious, a second concern shakes the world of specialists in Nazism. “Why and for whom to do it?” The teachers, the students? But these already have the work of historians, much more instructive on Nazism. “, continues to wonder historian Johann Chapoutot, who refused to participate in the scientific committee. Because, he recalls, the place of Mein Kampf and its author has long been reviewed. “ To understand Nazism, we know, we have to look at other sources, Johann Chapoutot slice, go see doctors, lawyers, university professors or even senior officials who theorized and put into practice Nazism. “
“We pretend to demystify a text but we sanctify an object”
In other words, according to him, this edition puts forward a “Hitler-centrism” that has lived. Worse, she rushes us “In the panels of the Nazis, who built this centrality of Hitler and the” bible of the IIIe Reich”, which is in fact only a collecting basin for all that has been carried by the far right since the end of the 19th century.e century “. A cult book, offered at the time of weddings as exams, sold 12.5 million copies in 1945. “ We pretend to demystify a text but we sanctify an object, he worries. If it is a question of disseminating knowledge, why not stick to a digital edition? “
Member of the scientific committee, historian Christian Ingrao understands these reservations well. They even made him hesitate for a long time before embarking on the adventure. Before convincing him to commit to it. “ In France, even among the most literate, the idea that the explanation of Nazism would depend on Hitler’s personality alone is still alive, that is precisely what I wanted to deconstruct. What we show, what we have learned, on the other hand, is the centrality of the “Mein Kampf moment”, when, between 1924 and 1926, National Socialism ceases to be one party among others and becomes the main offer. “
Certainly, he adds, Mein Kampf is not programmatic but it is possible to understand the attractiveness of Nazism in it. “ It’s done a matrix that sets up a set of possibilities, some have come true, others have not, yet others are not clearly expressed but are still floating around. “
Previously, two complete editions and a trial
The first complete edition was established in 1934 by Fernand Sorlot for Nouvelles Éditions latines and contains many misunderstandings.
Hitler initiates legal action at the Seine Commercial Court, claiming 10,000 francs in damages and the destruction of all copies. He only obtains a symbolic franc in damages.
Between 1933 and 1939, around forty abridged versions of the book are released in France.
In 1938, Fayard published My doctrine, a version redacted and authorized by Hitler.
Mein Kampf could have sold between 20,000 and 25,000 copies until 1945. The Nouvelles Éditions Latin still sells between 1,000 and 2,500 copies per year.