Toronto, Thursday, November 29, 2001
Mein Kampf from Chapters and Indigo
BY JAMES ADAMS
Globe and Mail
HEATHER Reisman has ordered all
copies of Mein Kampf pulled from the shelves
of Chapters and Indigo bookstores and deleted from
the company's on-line ordering service.
an action praised in some quarters and criticized
in others, Ms. Reisman, the Toronto-based
chairwoman and CEO of Indigo Books and Music Inc.,
confirmed Wednesday that she banned the
controversial title from all 200-plus Indigo and
Chapters outlets after she spotted a display of the
694-page book earlier in the week while touring a
Ms. Reisman said Adolf Hitler's Mein
Kampf is inappropriate for sale in her
"We consider it hate literature," she said.
"With freedom of expression, the line is drawn on
hate literature. It's a corporate decision. It's
what we stand for. It's our point of view.
"It isn't written down, but I would have no
difficulty writing it down."
She said that even before Indigo assumed control
of the Chapters chain earlier this year, Mein
Kampf was a banned title in her view.
It "got ordered accidentally, I don't know how,"
she said. "It might have been part of Chapters's
"All of them have been returned and are en route
back to the publisher," she said, adding that she
did not know how many copies were involved. (As of
Wednesday evening, however, Chapters' flagship
store in downtown Toronto still had three copies in
its European history section for sale.)
Tracy Nesdoly, media-relations
spokeswoman for Indigo, acknowledged Wednesday that
Mein Kampf, which retails as a trade paperback for
$31.95, is "not technically and legally hate
"It is, in fact, dissemination of hatred and as
such does not belong in our mix."
to Ms. Reisman's action was predictably mixed.
Louis Gentile, executive director of PEN
Canada, agreed that while Mein Kampf --
published in 1925, eight years before Hitler's Nazi
Party began its 12-year dictatorship of Germany --
"is an ugly document by an ugly person," it is
nevertheless "a very useful learning tool about how
hatred is begun and promoted. A lot of people have
learned about the evils of nazism from it."
Calling Ms. Reisman's stand "disturbing,"
Franz Donker, owner of Book City, a
four-store chain in Toronto, suggested Ms. Reisman
is seeing shadows. "She might as well not carry the
Koran now, if you believe we're in a holy war, if
you want to carry that kind of logic on."
Mr. Donker's stores carry Mein Kampf as
"a historic item" in their history/politics section
"where it belongs." So far this year he's sold a
total of nine copies -- "that's next to nothing" --
of the title, distributed in Canada by Thomas Allen
and Sons for New York's Houghton Mifflin, which has
published the North American edition for 68
Michael Marrus, a University of Toronto
history professor and author, said he couldn't
comment on Ms. Reisman's motives, but suggested the
book had its place.
"It's an important thing to have access to this
book. For instance, I would expect students who are
knowledgable about nazism to have read Mein
"Let us suppose Osama bin Laden has
written his memoirs," he added. "Wouldn't we want
to read these?"
Jewish Congress, by contrast, applauded Ms.
Reisman's stand. "This is an act of a responsible
bookseller who's exercising her right and freedom
to sell any book that she desires," said Keith
Landry, national president of the congress.
It is not an issue of free speech, or of
censorship, he said. Mein Kampf is readily
available in many libraries and other bookstores
for those who wish to read or buy it. Mr. Landry
said he can't remember the Jewish Congress ever
launching a campaign to have Mein Kampf
banned. "This decision was clearly of Ms. Reisman's
Mein Kampf has had a controversial
publishing history in the 56 years since Hitler's
death in Berlin near the end of the Second World
It remains banned in Germany where it cannot be
legally obtained even via the Internet or at
More recently, the state of Bavaria, which
claims it owns world copyright to the title except
for North America, the United Kingdom and British
Commonwealth countries, has quashed efforts to have
it published, in translation, in Turkey, Croatia
From the mid-1940s through 1979 royalties from
sales of the North American edition -- totalling
about $140,000 (U.S.) -- were confiscated from
Houghton Mifflin by the U.S. government's War
Claims Fund. Houghton Mifflin regained full rights
for the title in 1979 for about $35,000. A
media-relations representative of Houghton Mifflin
said yesterday her firm sells a total of about
15,000 copies of Mein Kampf in the United
States and Canada each year.
Last year Mifflin agreed to start donating its
Mein Kampf royalties to three unidentified
charities after reports that Mein Kampf's publisher
in Great Britain, Random House, had, for almost 25
years, quietly donated an estimated $500,000 in
royalties to a little-known London-based charity
called the German Welfare Council.
Last June the Welfare Council board voted not to
have anything more to do with the royalties and is
still attempting to determine how it should dispose
of the $250,000 from Mein Kampf that it has
in its possession.
Related stories on this website: German
Government tries to ban Hitler's book Mein Kampf
| Simon Wiesenthal
Center also tries to ban book from giant
Internet bookstores | Internet
comment on antisemitism provoked by such
bans | Amazon still
banning sales at request of German justice
ministry | Mein
Kampf voted one of the 100 books of the 20th
century -- banned from Frankfurt book fair
tried, failed to ban Mein Kampf | Unbanning
above news item is reproduced without editing other
SO NOW, Canada's biggest
book retailer is banning Mein Kampf, with
the blessings of the Canadian
who call it "a prudent action"! I have never read
it myself, but Hitler's staff, and others who have
read it, told me that it is endlessly verbose, self
important, and turgid -- like the works by Prof.
Richard Evans. I wonder what it is about this
book that the international Jewish community (who
evidently have read it it in some detail) seem to
fear so much that they do not mind the ridicule and
obloquy that their repeated calls for its banning