Richard (rem21) wrote in free_media,


ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkish bookshops have a best seller, but some of them are hesitant about giving it too much display.

It's "Mein Kampf."

The popularity of Adolf Hitler's book, filled with anti-Jewish diatribes and dreams of world domination, is puzzling some Turks. Does it reflect rising anti-Semitic or anti-Western sentiment in Muslim Turkey? Or anger over Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and the war in Iraq? Is it a backlash against the country's moves to join the European Union? Or does it simply offer a cheap thrill?

At least two new Turkish-language versions are out in paperback and selling for as little as $4.50, but they could run into legal trouble. They were printed without the permission of the Finance Ministry of the German state of Bavaria, which was given control of Hitler's estate after World War II and is keen to suppress the book.

German diplomats in Turkey have been told to explore court action. "The book 'Mein Kampf' should not be reprinted," says Bavarian Finance Minister Kurt Faltlhauser. "The state of Bavaria administers the copyright very restrictively to prevent an increase of Nazi ideas."

Last month the ministry said it was seeking legal action to stop the book's publication in Poland.

"Mein Kampf" — meaning "My Struggle," was written in the 1920s and has long been widely available in Arab countries, but no increase in sales has been noted there lately. So Turkish analysts are hard put to explain why tens of thousands of copies have been sold here in recent months.

Lina Filiba, executive vice president of Turkey's 25,000-member Jewish community, called it "disturbing."

She said price and media attention were major factors, but also pointed to a "worrying trend" of anti-Semitic publications such as "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" being sold even in bustling department stores.

"Metal Storm" by Orkun Ucar and Burak Turna, a novel imagining a war between Turkey and the United States, is Turkey's top seller. Conspiracy theory books sell well and the press is extremely critical of the United States and Israel.

Filiba tied the phenomenon to the European Union's Dec. 17 decision to open membership talks with Turkey, a move long sought by Turkish governments but unpopular among those who fear it will expose their country to permissive European influences.

"I think there's an increase in anti-Semitic, anti-American, and anti-foreigner feeling that has paralleled Dec. 17," Filiba said.

Umit Ozdag, writing in the daily Aksam, worried that Turks feel ill-treated by the West and are anxious as ethnic Kurds in Turkey and neighboring Iraq are increasingly assertive. Some Turks, he wrote, are finding comfort in Hitler's claims that Germany lost the first world war because of the Jews.

"Turks think they are being exploited. They are angry with the demands of the European Union and United States. But those who anger them the most are Kurdish nationalists," he wrote. "Turks who think they're are being stabbed in the back read Hitler. That is a ... very dangerous development."

At least two publishing houses, Emre and Manifesto, have released cheap versions of "Mein Kampf."

Oguz Tektas of Manifesto said it had sold at least 25,000 of its print run of 30,000.

"It has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. Our only aim was commercial," Tektas said.

Esin Aka of the D and R bookshop chain said Thursday that the Emre book, released five weeks ago, was No. 2 this week, after "Metal Storm." Senol Bilginan of the Bilgi store in Ankara said it was No. 3.

"The price is of course low. And the fact that it has been ordered confiscated in some countries also helped," he said. "Everyone is buying it ... Young people have an intense interest."

Still, it's not always easy to find. One D and R shop in Istanbul buried it on a low shelf. The Dost bookshop in Ankara put it on a high shelf, where the cover featuring a saluting Hitler couldn't be seen. The manager said he was selling about five books a day and added he deliberately didn't put it on the best-seller shelves.

"I saw the book on TV and got curious about Hitler's life and decided to buy it," said Asli Ugur, 20, a university student.

She also bought a book about Che Guevara.

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