New verdict in "Mein Kampf" case

14-08-2003

Michal Zitko, the man who published the first complete Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf" three years ago, has been sentenced in Prague for the second time. The first time he got a three-year suspended sentence for supporting or promoting a movement that aids the suppression of the rights of man. But the Supreme Court struck down the sentence stating the prosecution was unable to specify which movement Mr Zitko had allegedly promoted by publishing "Mein Kampf". The case was returned to the district court which this week passed a new verdict.

The court ruled that Michal Zitko should receive a 22-month suspended sentence with a probation period of three years. The publisher immediately appealed against the verdict. I spoke to Mr Zitko earlier, and began by asking him what he thought of the fact that while he is being sued and the Czech edition of "Mein Kampf" was confiscated from shops, the English translation of the book is freely available in bookshops around the country.

"I think it is normal and I think if there were more people who speak other languages than English, for example Spanish, Italian, Swedish or Hebrew, we could buy these editions as well, because they exist and are available. I know that German editions are available in this country as well, mainly in second-hand bookshops. I think it is logical. If people cannot buy the book in Czech, they will buy it in foreign languages, and if they cannot get it in bookshops here, they will order it through Amazon or another internet shop."

Mr Zitko maintains he published the book only as a historical document, as part of a series which includes such works as the "Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx and Fridrich Engels, Lenin's "State and Revolution" or "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx. He says he only wanted people to be able to read the book and see for themselves the vicious nature of Hitler's ideology. However, anyone who wishes to do so will have a tough time reading it. The translation obviously was not proofread and is full of grammatical and stylistic mistakes. As Michal Zitko believes that, ultimately, he will be acquitted, would he in that case consider publishing a corrected version?

"If I lived in Poland, Finland, Great Britain or the United States, I would say there will be a new edition. But because I live in the Czech Republic, I say no, a new edition is not possible, the state has banned it. Maybe there will be a publisher - and I already know of someone in London - who would like to publish the Czech translation and give the Czechs a chance to come to London to get "Mein Kampf" if they can't buy in their country."

While in some countries "Mein Kampf" is freely available, others have banned the publication and distribution of the book on different grounds. Legal experts from around the world have not agreed on who is the owner of the copyright for "Mein Kampf", now claimed by the German state of Bavaria. In some countries the publication and distribution of "Mein Kampf" is considered copyright infringement even though they do not recognise Bavaria's claims. In any case, in most countries, the duration of copyright is 70 years after the author's death, and Michal Zitko says that a corrected translation of "Mein Kampf" could not be published legally in the Czech Republic for another twelve years anyway.

14-08-2003