Mein Kampf in pride of place on bookshop shelves

Bookshop shelves displaying both Mein Kampf and a book about Barack Obama in a department store in Jakarta

Hitler's notorious diary ‘Mein Kampf' was translated into Indonesian in 2007. An immediate bestseller for publishers Narasi, it became one of their top five favourites. An employee from the publishing house explains why. Should we be worried about this seemingly unhealthy interest coming from the most populated Muslim country in the world?

The book comes in two volumes; both with the swastika on the front cover. It's got prime place in most big bookshops; in a country that consists 85% Muslims, and has only thirty confessed Jews despite a 234 million-strong population.

“Mein Kampf is in the top five bestsellers”

Comment from Narasi; an employee of the publishing house that prints Mein Kampf in Indonesian. They prefer to stay anonymous:

We were the first to publish Mein Kampf in Indonesian. Before that you could only find it in English. In 2007 sales were excellent, so much so that we had to reprint the book three times. Between the two volumes more than 15,000 copies were sold, and Mein Kampf got into the top five bestsellers. But, for no apparent reason, this trend seems to have come to an end. Less than 500 copies have been sold since the start of 2008, so we didn't see any point in printing anymore."

"There's a strong anti-Israel feeling here, unquestionably"

Comment from Endy Bayuni, editor of the daily newspaper the Jakarta Post:

Indonesia is the most populated Muslim country in the world. There's a strong anti-Israel feeling here, unquestionably. Obviously the anti-Semite ideology of Mein Kampf pleases some people here, especially religious extremists. But I think that it's a minority. There are also those who read the book just to enrich their cultural understanding. Even I have a friend who has the book at home. That doesn't mean he's now taken on Hitler's ideas! I don't think this type of book should be banned. I'm for freedom of speech and I trust in people to make up their own minds. Banning certain books would only arouse people's curiosity on the subject more."

"Impossible to miss Mein Kampf"

Comment from Dyssia Hayat, a French woman based in Jakarta:

Within hours of arriving in Jakarta I saw a black and white picture of Hitler plastered proudly on a bus window by the driver. I was on my way from the airport. In the next few days I saw the image in many bookshops, and realised that his image is seen quite differently over here. In a bookshop in the Sogo department store in Senayan, one of the biggest in the capital, it was impossible to miss Mein Kampf; put in prime place on the display as you entered, with all the new books and bestsellers.

You can also find pro-Jihad, Nazi-oriented and Ahmadinejad-praising literature here. But on the other hand, there are also works on the horror of the Second World War and autobiographical accounts of Indonesians who suffered the hell of concentration camps. Such a combination is rather strange. From questioning booksellers I realised that Mein Kampf was indeed a good seller, but it wasn't creating the frenzy that it had in Turkey in 2005."

'Such a combination is rather strange'

Comments

Pointing out Indonesia is

Pointing out Indonesia is not fair. This book can be bought in many countries (see the list here :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mein_Kampf). So if you buy it in the US, it's for your personal interest, but if an indonesian buy it, it's because he's antisemitic... Indonesia is a muslim country, but moderate. And Nazi theories don't have a larger echo there than in the US.

Book Banning

Yes, I too am all for freedom of speech and I abhor the thought of banning books. However, the irony of this is that those people who find Mein Kampf and its ideas so fascinating, will - if allowed the power to do so - undoubtedly be the first to ban (or even burn) any other book of which they disapprove. So we give freedom of speech to those very people who would deny it to others. What a paradox!

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