Jim Waterson, The Guardian, March 16, 2020
Amazon has banned the sale of most editions of Hitler’s Mein Kampf and other Nazi propaganda books from its store following decades of campaigning by Holocaust charities.
Booksellers were informed in recent days that they would no longer be allowed to sell a number of Nazi-authored books on the website including Hitler’s autobiographical screed and children’s books designed to spread antisemitic ideas among children.
In one email seen by the Guardian individuals selling secondhand copies of Mein Kampf on the service have been told by Amazon that “they can no longer offer this book” as it breaks the website’s code of conduct. The ban impacts the main editions of Mein Kampf produced by mainstream publishers such as London-based Random House and India’s Jaico, for whom it has become an unlikely bestseller.
Leading Holocaust education charities and Jewish groups have campaigned since the late 1990s to stop Amazon from selling copies of Mein Kampf but the retailer had traditionally defended the right of free speech and the need for students to understand Hitler’s thinking when it comes to selling a book which is legal to publish. Most Nazi publications are easily available to download for free from other websites.
Dozens of cheap Kindle eBook editions of Mein Kampf have also been deleted from Amazon’s listings, along with Hitler’s Amazon author page, which encouraged individuals to follow for author updates and for information on new releases.
The various editions of Mein Kampf have collectively had thousands of Amazon reviews, with many individuals giving the book five stars.
Other Nazi publications including the children’s book The Poisonous Mushroom written by Nazi publisher Julius Streicher, who was later executed for crimes against humanity after running the Nazi Der Stürmer newspaper, have also recently removed from Amazon’s listings.
Until recently customers looking to purchase Streicher’s The Mongrel were able to buy the illustrated children’s guide to “the Jewish question” for £7.61. The book described itself as offering a “dozen stories about dangerous or harmful animals, each followed by an unflattering comparison to Jewry”.
Amazon would not comment on what had prompted it to change its mind on the issue but a recent intervention to remove the books by the London-based Holocaust Educational Trust received the backing of leading British politicians.
Last month Amazon acknowledged the charity’s concerns, saying the company was “mindful of book censorship throughout history” but was taking “concerns from the Holocaust Educational Trust seriously”.
Amazon had already banned the sale of many other far-right books in recent months, although its policies remain opaque. A handful of foreign-language academic editions of Mein Kampf currently remain available on Amazon’s UK bookstore, including an expensive heavily-annotated German language edition published in 2016 entitled: A Critical Edition, suggesting there may be exceptions for versions of Hitler’s words that provide sufficient historical context.
A spokesperson for Amazon would not comment on what had prompted the effective ban on Mein Kampf, with the book listings simply replaced by a picture of a dog.
“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.”