In March 2020, Amazon as part of its efforts to limit anti-Semitic material, took most versions of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) (1925) off of its website for sales, but this lasted only a week after controversy over whether censorship or confronting works of hate was more effective. What they did was put a note from the Anti-Defamation League as well as a critical review of the book on its listing. The sales of the book in Hitler’s lifetime not only spread his message, but it also made his fortune with the help of the Nazi Party’s publisher, Max Amann. These sales carried internationally after his rise to power in Germany but different versions were released to different nations. This was something that journalist Alan Cranston, who had been a correspondent in Germany in 1937 and 1938, discovered after seeing an English version of Mein Kampf in an American bookstore and noticed it was significantly less thick than what he had seen. Missing were the explicitly anti-Semitic and militaristic sections, parts that would cause alarm with the American public. Cranston, wanting to do more to change the world as opposed to reporting on it, got published the original work in full with an anti-Nazi cover through Stackpole Sons, a Hearst subsidiary, with the profits going to war refugee organizations rather than Hitler himself.
Hitler was not pleased and sought to censor his very own book in the United States by suing through publisher Houghton Mifflin on grounds of copyright infringement. The legal theory behind the defense was as follows, as the book had initially been published in Austria and Austria was no longer a nation through the Anschluss that the copyright had expired. The court that heard the case in Connecticut did not buy this argument and sided with Houghton Mifflin, but before the book was taken off the market by court order half a million copies had been sold. That’s right, Adolf Hitler censored his own book in the United States!
Cranston would after World War II pursue a career in politics, serving as state controller of California and then as one of its senators from 1969 to 1993, where he would be known as a staunchly liberal Democrat who supported civil rights and environmentalism and opposed nuclear weapons. He was also reprimanded as one of the “Keating Five”, which is a story in itself for a future post.
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Hartmans, A. (2020, March 18). Amazon has reinstated Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’ after quietly banning the book last week. Business Insider.
Langeveld, D. (2009, September 11). Alan Cranston: a beating from Keating. The Downfall Dictionary.
Masnick, M. (2015, May 15). That Time Hitler Used Copyright Law To Block Future Senator Alan Cranston From Publishing Mein Kampf. Techdirt.