Amazon is banning the sale of Hitler's book 95 years after publication - here's why

Monday, 23rd March 2020, 2:16 pm
Updated Monday, 23rd March 2020, 2:16 pm

Amazon will no longer be allowing the sale of Adolf Hitler’s autobiographical manifesto, Mein Kampf, nor other books containing Nazi propaganda.

The decision comes after decades of protest from Holocaust charities, so why is it happening now?

Which books have been banned?

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Booksellers have been told that they will no longer be allowed to use Amazon to sell a number of Nazi-authored titles. This rule also applies to second hand booksellers who use Amazon’s online marketplace.

The list of titles includes all of the main editions of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi manifesto, Mein Kampf, including the one published by London’s Random House. The e-book versions of Mein Kampf have also been banned, and Adolf Hitler’s author page has been shut down.

However, certain foreign language editions of the book remain available for purchase via Amazon UK. This includes the heavily-annotated German version, which was published in 2016, becoming the first edition to be published in Germany since the Second World War.

Several other Nazi-authored titles have also been banned, including children’s book, The Poisonous Mushroom, written by Nazi publisher, Julius Streicher. The story was designed as an illustrated children’s guide to the so-called "Jewish question” and featured a variety of degrading comparisons between Jewish people and animals.

Streicher ran the Nazi’s Der Stürmer newspaper, and was later executed for crimes against humanity.

Why is the ban controversial?

While Amazon has banned the sale of Nazi memorabilia for a long time, Nazi literature has traditionally been exempt.

Holocaust charities have been appealing to Amazon since the 1990s to stop the sale of these books, to prevent further enflaming anti-Semitic attitudes. Just last month, the Auschwitz museum criticised Amazon head Jeff Bezos for profiting from “vicious anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda.”

However, some have argued that the books should remain on sale, either on the grounds of free speech, or because they are important historical documents which should be available for those who wish to better understand the part of history they refer to.

In the past, Amazon has leaned towards the latter viewpoint, stating that they were “mindful of book censorship throughout history.”

An Amazon spokesperson said, “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.”

For example, the German version of Mein Kampf - which remains on the website - is believed to provide sufficient academic context for its contents to give it educational value.

However, a recent appeal to ban the books by the London-based Holocaust Educational Trust gained national attention and was backed by several senior British politicians, increasing the pressure on Amazon to act.

Amazon also recently made the move to ban more recent titles which contain hateful content, such as former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s book, My Awakening: A Path to Racial Understanding, and Louis Farrakhan’s The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews.