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Mysterious discovery in ‘Mein Kampf’

The National Liberation Museum 1944-1945 in Groesbeek has made a remarkable discovery:

along the spine of three Dutch editions of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf German text passages were discovered belonging to a book forbidden by the Nazis and authored by the famous and antifascist writer Thomas Mann. It is not yet clear whether this concerns and act of resistance or if it is a mere coincidence.

Curator Rense Havinga made the discovery when he received a copy of Mein Kampf with a broken spine. Through a rip in the spine a small passage of German text could be seen. Havinga identified this to be a passage from Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks, a novel prohibited by the Nazis. This remarkable discovery of a passage of forbidden text in a copy of Mein Kampf was the start of an investigation. In the collection of the National Liberation Museum Havinga discovered two more copies of Mein Kampf which had similar passages from Buddenbrooks along the spine.

Thomas Mann is regarded as one of the most important German writers from the twentieth century and he was a fierce opponent of fascism. Due to his resistance to the Nazis, Mann had to flee Germany in 1936. In exile he published Das Problem der Freiheit in Nijmegen. In this small booklet Thomas Mann argues passionately against National Socialism and for a social democracy which safeguards a balance between freedom and equality. A copy of this rare booklet can be found in the collection of the Liberation Museum. The novel Buddenbrooks, on the downfall of a German merchants family, had already been written by Mann in 1901. Still, this book became illegal because the National Socialist censorship prohibited publishing and selling all books by Thomas Mann. Owning the book, however, was not prohibited.

On order of the Liberation Museum, Historian and researcher Has van Goethem has researched how Buddenbrooks ended up in the Mein Kampf owned by the Liberation Museum. He dove into the production process of the 51,000th to 100,000th books of the fifth edition of the Dutch Mein Kampf, for the forbidden texts were found in three copies of this edition. It is possible that all the books from this edition contain a piece of the book by Thomas Mann.

Only the name of the publisher, De Amsterdamsche Keurkamer, is mentioned in the books. Research uncovered that they were printed at Drukkerij Thieme in Nijmegen and further research has shown that the books were bound at book bindery Kusters in Duivendrecht. The war archive of the book bindery contained many gaps due to which it cannot be determined how and why this book ended up in the cover of Mein Kampf. To glue the spines of books, strips of old paper were used during the war as next to a scarcity of paper there was also a scarcity of cardboard. It is possible that the book bindery was left with a pile of Buddenbrooks, which had become unsellable due to censure, and simply decided to recycle them as binding material. It is also possible that the book was consciously used as a small act of silent resistance against the censure. Van Goethem continues his investigation, but if no witnesses come forward and no other evidence is found, it is very likely that it will remain a mystery.

The copies of Mein Kampf will temporarily be on display for the public in the recent additions display of the museum.

Location: National Liberation Museum 1944-1945, Wylerbaan 4, 6561 KR Groesbeek
Information: Rense Havinga, MA, curator, at +31(0)24-3974404 or info@bevrijdingsmuseum.nl
Facebook: /Bevrijdingsmuseum, Twitter: @liberationNL

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