BERLIN (AFP)---Germany's Jewish community on Wednesday welcomed a landmark decision to republish Adolf Hitler's manifesto "Mein Kampf" for the first time since World War II, in an annotated edition.
The southern state of Bavaria, which holds the rights, has not permitted reprints of the vicious anti-Semitic tract and rambling memoir since the Nazi leader's 1945 suicide.
But it said Tuesday it would release an edition with historians' commentary as well as a separate version for schools in 2015 before its copyright runs out at the end of that year in order to beat commercial publishers to the punch.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dieter Graumann, called Bavaria's decision "responsible" and a "good idea".
"If it is going to be released, then I prefer seeing a competent annotated version from the Bavarian state than profit-seekers trying to make money with Nazis," he told AFP.
"I would of course prefer it if the book disappeared on a dust heap of
contempt but that will not happen," he added, noting that the text was already widely available on the Internet.
The book is not banned as such in Germany but because of Bavaria's blanket refusal to permit sales of old copies or reprints -- even taking potential publishers to court -- the decision marks a historic step.
Bavarian Finance Minister Markus Soeder said Tuesday that the state aimed to release an edition filled with respected historians' commentary that would be impossible to use as far-right propaganda.
"We want to make clear what nonsense is in there -- with, however,
catastrophic consequences," Soeder said.
A spokesman for his ministry said Wednesday that the state had proceeded extremely carefully.
"We are aware of our responsibility," the spokesman, Thomas Neumann, told AFP. "We believe we can demystify the book with a clean edition."
He said Bavaria would earmark 500,000 euros ($661,000) for the project and is reportedly also planning an English edition, an electronic book and an audiobook.
The state made its decision after winning a court battle last month against a British publisher who planned to release parts of "Mein Kampf", also along with commentary from historians.
Daniel Erk, an author and blogger on how Germany confronts its Nazi past, called the decision "long overdue".
"My impression is that it's not as emotionally charged as it was a few
years ago," he told AFP. "It is no longer taboo like it was in the 50s or 60s but it is still not normal -- you wouldn't call me if it were normal."
The head of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee, Deidre Berger, said the publication plans made her uneasy.
"I think we shouldn't underestimate the potential danger to this day of this book," she told AFP.
"This book presented a genocidal theory that was then enacted and the book continues to exert a horrible attraction for many young people and that's why it's very important to consider the context in which it's available, and to shape that context."
Berger said she was also wary about the notion of exposing young Germans to "rabid propaganda" with an edition for schools.
"I would certainly hope this wouldn't become a standard part of the history curriculum," she said. "Surely there is more important material for them to learn."
Hitler wrote "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) in 1924 -- nine years before he rose to power -- while serving a prison sentence in Bavaria following his abortive Beer Hall Putsch the previous year.
The two-volume work combined elements of autobiography with his views on Aryan "racial purity", his hatred of Jews and his opposition to communism.
Around 10 million copies were published in Germany until 1945, according to British historian Ian Kershaw. From 1936, every German couple marrying received a copy as a wedding gift from the Nazi state.