Friday, April 02, 2010


Several months ago I found a fascinating book, hidden in a box full of mildewy titles about algebra and geometry. Published in Stuttgart in 1938, Deutschlands Autobahnen can best be described as a Nazi "coffee-table" book about Hitler's road-building programme and, in addition to over 200 pages of text, it has many stunning photographs and full-colour maps.

A quick internet search revealed only one other copy on sale, for over £100. I decided that £89 would be a fair price and wrote a long description in English and German (courtesy of Google translate, I hasten to add).

I was confident that the book would sell within days.

After two weeks with no offers or enquiries, I decided to check if my Google-translated German had unwittingly come out as something like "All pages are made of jelly" because it didn't make sense that such a rare title hadn't sold. I checked, using different combinations of title, author and date.

The book had never gone on sale.

As it wasn't unusual for my software designers to mess things up, I decided that it would be quicker to list the book again, with a shorter, umlaut-free description. Once again, the book failed to appear on sale, even though titles that I'd logged before and after had uploaded without any problem.

Eventually, I discovered that many internet bookselling platforms like AbeBooks won't allow people to list titles about Hitler if they were written and published in Nazi Germany. Apparently, my book about motorways of the Third Reich had been automatically deleted.

This sort of censorship is both heavy-handed and inappropriate. I do not need the likes of eBay to protect me from the apparently seductive forces of Naziism or second guess why I am purchasing a particular title. I am a grown-up.

I thought that banning books was more Hitler's style.

In the meantime, here are some remarkable photographs from another book that I'm not allowed to sell: a 1936 hagiography called, simply, Adolf Hitler. If you're unable to look at the following images without succumbing to the urge to join an Aryan supremacist movement, please click here:

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We will shortly begin bombing Poland."

Members of the Master Race greeting their Fuhrer

This young man is obviously blissfully unaware of the Nazi eugenics policy

Apparently, the Nazi party was never that popular with the German people

"Herr Hitler, instead of just waving at people, have you ever thought of trying a special salute like this?"

Adolf Hitler is an important historical document and if you want to know how a nation came to fall under the spell of a mass psychosis, it is important to read contemporary source material like this. Of course there will be people out there who are attracted to material of this kind for the wrong reasons, but that doesn't justify banning books.

There are occasions when censorship can be a necessary evil, to safeguard the civil liberties of the vulnerable. But do we really need to be protected from images like these? I don't think so.


Lulu said...

Ooh, he looks like a lovely, friendly chap. NO,'s happening! I'm falling under his spell! I cannot be trusted to look at Nazi propaganda without succumbing to it, and you, sir, are responsible for any reprehensible actions I may take as a result.

Of course, even my sarcasm is probably being traced and recorded to use against me at a later date. Ah, it's good to live in a democracy. I'd hate to live in one of those authoritarian regimes where freedom of speech and free sale of literature were banned...

kimbofo said...

Lulu's comment made me laugh out loud!

But you're right, censorship of this kind is questionable.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

I agree with Lulu - it's the high life of Nazi-ism for me!

How could anyone resist?

Amazing photographs. I think the German population of 1936 could be forgiven their innocent exuberance however, since they presumably did not know what an evil monster they were voting in at the time, and frankly that photo of the peasant glowering looked far more sinister. In fact Hitler even manages to look quite affable in some pictures.

I particularly like that 'glamour' shot of HH on the telephone. Talking to one of those ever-available chatline girlies I wonder?

If only he'd received more critical acclaim for his artwork, what a different course history might have taken.

I am astonished that an internet user can seemingly pay to download child porn with alacrity but not buy a book published in Nazi Germany. Strikes me the internet censors have got their priorities somewhat wrong.

Mrs M said...

The history teacher in the classroom next door to me has a lovely poster featuring Hitler as a baby wearing lacy bootees. He looks absolutely adorable with big, round goo goo eyes and a cupid's bow pout (minus the mustache naturlich). Anyone sent back in time to do away with him, might find it tough...

Steerforth said...

Lulu - don't do it! Quick - put on The Sound of Music before it's too late.

Laura - yes, he was listening to Frau-line.

Simoom - I've often thought about the whole time travel thing - could you kill a baby if you knew it would grow up into Hitler, Pol Pot or Stalin? In Hitler's case, I'd prefer to convince him that he was a great artist and buy lots of his paintings to keep him away from politics. But then the Second World War might have been delayed until after the atomic bomb was invented...

As for censorship, the whole thing's a mess. You can't buy Deutschlands Autobahnen from Amazon, but you can buy Triumph of the Will.

Bob said...

AH had some classy cars for his rural gambols. Would have cost a bit to fill up at the bowser.

David said...

I wonder if it depends whether the seller company has a presence in Germany? I know they have quite strict rules there and maybe it's an attempt not to inadvertently break them.

Plain stupid though.