CLOSE
Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Who Gets The Royalties for Mein Kampf?

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Mein Kampf is one of the most controversial books ever sold. Written in prison by Adolf Hitler following his failed 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, the two-volume autobiography/rambling screed outlines his anti-Semitic worldview and the political reasoning that would eventually fuel the Third Reich. Mein Kampf is still printed and it is readily available in American libraries and bookstores, which raises the question: Who gets the royalties? Hitler has no heirs, and the moral dubiousness of profiting from his vile manifesto has prompted scrutiny since its initial publication.

In 1933, textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin released the first English language version of Mein Kampf in America under the title My Battle. A petition was circulated calling for the New York City Board of Education to stop using Houghton Mifflin titles, to which the publisher's board responded by defending itself in a statement, saying, "The greatest service one can render humanity in general and Germany in particular is to place My Battle within the reach of all, that each, for himself, may see whether the book is worthy or is an exhibition of ignorance, stupidity, and dullness." However, the Mein Kampf controversy that reached U.S. courts was not about subject matter, but rather copyright infringement.

When Hitler copyrighted Mein Kampf in 1925, he had already renounced his Austrian citizenship and had registered himself as a ”stateless German.” Stackpole, a Pennsylvania publisher, picked up on this, and released a competing version of Mein Kampf in America without securing the rights. When a federal judge permitted this on the grounds that Mein Kampf was public domain, a third publisher, Reynal & Hitchcock, released their own version into the market as well. According to Cabinet Magazine, "Stackpole advertised that it paid no royalties to Hitler, to which Reynal & Hitchcock responded by promising all profits from the book to a refugee relief fund." Meanwhile, Houghton Mifflin appealed the initial ruling, and on June 9, 1939, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, giving them sole rights to publish Mein Kampf in America.

Hitler never saw any of the American royalties. By the time the legal dust had settled, World War II erupted and the U.S. enacted the Trading with the Enemy Act, which allowed the government to seize all profits from Mein Kampf. According to the New Statesmen, "During the Second World War, the U.S. government made more than $20,000 from royalties on Mein Kampf ... By 1979, the Justice Department had collected more than $139,000 in royalties." These profits were handed over to the War Claims Fund, and, "eventually, the monies were paid on a pro-rata basis to claimants, many of them American ex-POWs."

In 1979, Houghton Mifflin paid $37,254 to purchase Mein Kampf's publishing rights back from the U.S. government. Cabinet reports that "over the next two decades, with sales of approximately fifteen thousand copies per year, the best estimate is that Houghton Mifflin realized profits of somewhere between $300,000 and $700,000 on its 1979 investment of $37,254. With the publication in October 2000 of a U.S. News and World Report story detailing the history of its publication of Mein Kampf, however, Houghton Mifflin announced that it would donate all of its accrued Mein Kampf profits to charity."

A Houghton Mifflin representative tells us that they "donate all royalties and profits from the book to organizations that promote diversity and cross-cultural understanding. These have included The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation and Facing History and Ourselves."

Under German copyright law, a book automatically goes into the public domain at the start of the new year 70 years after the author's death. On January 1, 2016, Mein Kampf's copyright will be lifted. In Germany, the book's rights are owned by the state of Bavaria and they have forbidden its publication there. German ministers are currently prepping for the copyright's expiration, and are considering a new law to prevent its publication or, should that prove futile, a guarantee "that there is a scholarly edition which provides a scientific and critical analysis in order to demystify this horrible text."

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
What's the Difference Between Gophers and Groundhogs?
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
Gopher or groundhog? (If you chose gopher, you're correct.)
iStock

Gophers and groundhogs. Groundhogs and gophers. They're both deceptively cuddly woodland rodents that scurry through underground tunnels and chow down on plants. But whether you're a nature nerd, a Golden Gophers football fan, or planning a pre-spring trip to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, you might want to know the difference between groundhogs and gophers.

Despite their similar appearances and burrowing habits, groundhogs and gophers don't have a whole lot in common—they don't even belong to the same family. For example, gophers belong to the family Geomyidae, a group that includes pocket gophers (sometimes referred to as "true" gophers), kangaroo rats, and pocket mice.

Groundhogs, meanwhile, are members of the Sciuridae (meaning shadow-tail) family and belong to the genus Marmota. Marmots are diurnal ground squirrels, Daniel Blumstein, a UCLA biologist and marmot expert, tells Mental Floss. "There are 15 species of marmot, and groundhogs are one of them," he explains.

Science aside, there are plenty of other visible differences between the two animals. Gophers, for example, have hairless tails, protruding yellow or brownish teeth, and fur-lined cheek pockets for storing food—all traits that make them different from groundhogs. The feet of gophers are often pink, while groundhogs have brown or black feet. And while the tiny gopher tends to weigh around two or so pounds, groundhogs can grow to around 13 pounds.

While both types of rodent eat mostly vegetation, gophers prefer roots and tubers (much to the dismay of gardeners trying to plant new specimens), while groundhogs like vegetation and fruits. This means that the former animals rarely emerge from their burrows, while the latter are more commonly seen out and about.

Groundhogs "have burrows underground they use for safety, and they hibernate in their burrows," Blumstein says. "They're active during the day above ground, eating a variety of plants and running back to their burrows to safety. If it's too hot, they'll go back into their burrow. If the weather gets crappy, they'll go back into their burrow during the day as well."

But that doesn't necessarily mean that gophers are the more reclusive of the two, as groundhogs famously hibernate during the winter. Gophers, on the other hand, remain active—and wreck lawns—year-round.

"What's really interesting is if you go to a place where there's gophers, in the spring, what you'll see are what is called eskers," or winding mounds of soil, Blumstein says [PDF]. "Basically, they dig all winter long through the earth, but then they tunnel through snow, and they leave dirt in these snow tunnels."

If all this rodent talk has you now thinking about woodchucks and other woodland creatures, know that groundhogs have plenty of nicknames, including "whistle-pig" and "woodchuck," while the only nicknames for gophers appear to be bitter monikers coined by Wisconsin Badgers fans.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
Big Questions
Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?
iStock
iStock

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios