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99% Invisible: The Giftschrank

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In May 8, 1945, the Allied powers declared victory in Europe, putting an end to the Nazi regime. There was much to be done, and figuring out what to do with Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”), Adolf Hitler’s fictionalized autobiography, was prominently on the list.

In the years leading up to and through the war, one in five Germans had read the book. Clearly, there was no place for it in postwar Germany.

The rights to Mein Kampf were given to the Bavarian government, which decided not to publish any new German editions, and worked to ensure the existing copies held by libraries were only used for scholarship, not politics. Fortunately, Germany had a centuries-old system in place for just such a nuanced approach: the Giftschrank.