B& Won't Sell 'Mein Kampf' in Germany
John Mutter -- 12/20/99

After months of deliberation, has decided to stop selling Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf in Germany. Along with, B&N. com had been under some pressure to discontinue selling Mein Kampf and other hate literature to customers in Germany, where the sale of such titles is illegal. After reviewing the situation, decided in November to halt sales of the book to Germany.

Like, B& struggled with the issue of censorship, noting in its announcement about the change in policy that it believes censorship "causes more problems than it cures." In the end, however, the company said it understands "the very special problem Mein Kampf poses in the context of German history and for the German government." In addition, B& said it wanted to be "responsible corporate citizens" and show that "we respect the laws of the countries where we do business."

In August, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles had complained that one of its researchers in Germany was able to order copies of Mein Kampf and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion from B& and The center notified Germany's Ministry of Justice of the problem, which said it had "no doubt" that the sale online of Mein Kampf to people in Germany is illegal.

B& was in an especially tricky position because 40% of the company is owned by Bertelsmann, whose headquarters is in Germany. CEO Thomas Middelhoff had taken a hands-off approach to the controversy, saying publicly that he hoped B& management, which is headed by former Bertelsmann employee Jonathan Bulkeley, would "cooperate with us on this."

In a related item, a regional court in Poland early this month decided not to punish a history professor for publishing a book that denies aspects of the Holocaust, according to the Associated Press. In a sense, the author was saved because he was a self-publisher. The court said that the book, Dangerous Themes by Dariusz Ratajczak, had limited distribution -- the author printed 320 copies at his own expense and gave most away -- and thus was not damaging enough to deserve punishment under a Polish law outlawing the denial of Nazi- and Communist-era crimes.Government and Jewish officials were indignant about the ruling. Ratajczak claimed that he was merely summarizing the opinions of revisionist historians, not presenting his own case.