Publisher of "Mein Kampf" stands trial again

12-06-2003

Michal Zitko, the man who published the first complete Czech translation of Adolf Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf" three years ago, stood trial again in Prague on Wednesday. He had already been sentenced before for supporting or promoting a movement that aids the suppression of the rights of man. But, his three-year suspended sentence was struck down by the Supreme Court last year, when the prosecution was unable to specify which movement Mr Zitko had allegedly promoted by publishing Hitler's book. The Supreme Court returned the case to the district court, ordering it to re-examine whether Mr Zitko's driving motivation really was the promotion of extremist movements. Another motivation could be simple financial gain.

Shortly after its publication, the Czech translation of "Mein Kampf" was banned and police confiscated the rest of the print run - after 93, 000 copies had been sold. Political analyst Zdenek Zboril, from the Institute of International Relations, is the country's leading expert on extremist movements. He was asked by the council of prosecution to write an expert opinion on the Czech edition of "Mein Kampf".

"I think it was financial profit in the first place but God only knows if Mr Zitko has some personal motives. I don't know, that is up to the investigator to find out. We have no way of knowing."

As the principal witness for the prosecution, Mr Zboril gave evidence that he could not specify whether any of the current neo-Nazi or far-right extremist movements had really found inspiration in the Czech edition of "Mein Kampf". He only admitted that some referred to the book or quoted parts from it in their texts. Zdenek Zboril says that it is a positive thing that the book actually came out.

"Of course, I myself bought it immediately as I only had a German edition. How else could I read it? My objection is that the quality of the translation is poor and that we don't know which edition was used for the Czech translation, because the first and second German editions are different from the later ones. And I have a feeling that at least one chapter is missing. But owing to the sloppiness of the Czech edition I was not able to tell."

The court on Wednesday failed to rule on the case. The trial will continue in August and the court will hear further testimonies of witnesses and experts who could not attend this time. Mr Zitko maintains his innocence, saying he published the book only as a historical document, as part of a series called "Books that changed the world". That series includes such works as the "Communist Manifesto", Lenin's "State and Revolution" or "Das Kapital" by Karl Marx. Michal Zitko believes that, ultimately, he will be acquitted.

"The testimonies of all the witnesses remained the same and we appreciate they were extended by that one important sentence, which is that the witnesses denied knowledge of any current movements inspired by "Mein Kampf". And as the Supreme Court had previously rejected the verdict using these testimonies - which are now even more in our favour, we presume that the verdict will be an acquittal. The question is whether it will be at this court, another higher court or the Supreme Court again."

12-06-2003