A scholarly edition has also been deemed irrelevant by Wolfgang Benz, head of the Centre for Anti-Semitism Research in Berlin. "How can you annotate an 8,000-page monologue exposing Hitler's insane worldview? After every single line you would have to write, ‘Hitler is wrong here' and then ‘Hitler is completely off the rails there'," he is reported as saying. Actually most German academic books have cliffs of footnotes beneath a couple of lines of text. He claims that precisely those who ought to read an academic edition will not do so, because they will not pay €120 for something they can buy as a cheap paperback from a canny neo-Nazi publisher.
I think both Korn and Benz are wrong and Horst Möller, the outgoing IfZ director, is right. The team working on the scholarly edition includes Othmar Plöckinger, whose work includes a 2006 scholarly history of Hitler's book. The first volume, originally entitled A Reckoning, stemmed from the period Hitler was on remand in Landsberg jail for his role in the November 1923 Munich putsch. He was in low spirits and felt betrayed by the broader Bavarian nationalist Right. For a few days he went on hunger strike. After a besotted Winifred Wagner supplied a typewriter and paper, Hitler initially produced statements of his views to use in court.
Following his conviction, Hitler was sued for non-payment of fees by his lawyers, so he urgently needed to generate cash. He used his fellow inmate Rudolf Hess as a captive audience for each evolving chapter, after Hess had brought his 5am mug of tea. When Hitler was released, his manuscript was smuggled out inside a gramophone. None of these factual details is likely to incite neo-Nazis in Germany or anywhere else.
A scholarly edition of Mein Kampf will not just deal with its tendentious self-justifications, or how successive editions were massaged to suit Hitler's diplomatic postures once he was in power. It will also examine what, in both German or translation, is an execrable style that Karl Kraus called "slovenly, illogical and pretentious". Ironically, the writing improves when Hitler drops the pseudo-philosophical "an sichs" and streams of substantives in favour of unadorned rage.
Stylistic turgidity was among his minor sins. For whether or not many Germans actually read the whole book, Churchill was surely right in saying, "Here was the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message." If a scholarly edition gets to the heart of the book's subliminal appeal, despite itself, then it is worth undertaking.