Mein Kampf (German "My Struggle") is a book written by Adolf Hitler. The first volume, titled Eine Abrechnung ("A reckoning") was published on July 18, 1925; the second volume Die nationalsozialistische Bewegung ("The national-socialistic movement") was published in 1926.
Hitler dictated the book during his imprisonment in Landsberg to his later secretary Rudolf Hess, who edited it. The book is convoluted, repetitious and hard to read, but even cursory browsing clearly outlines major ideas that culminated in the horrors of WWII. Particularly prominent are Hitler's violent anti-semitism, his logic bordering with obsession (for example, he claims the international language Esperanto was part of a Jewish plot), as well as his arguments towards the old German nationalist idea of Drang nach Osten: the necessity to gain Lebensraum ("living space") eastwards, especially in Russia.
Like many autobiographies, much of the material was distorted or fabricated by the author.
Before Hitler's rise to power, the book sold very slowly. Although the NSDAP (the Nazi party) claimed that it was already a huge seller, documents revealed following World War II proved this to be false. Some historians have speculated that a wider reading might have alerted the world to the dangers Hitler would pose to peace in Europe and to the Holocaust that he would pursue. An abridged English translation was produced before World War II. However, the publisher removed some of the more anti-semitic and militaristic statements. The publication of this version caused Alan Cranston, who was an American reporter for UPI in Germany and later senator from California, to publish his own abridged and annotated translation, which he believed to more truly reflect the contents of the book. In 1939 he was sued by Hitler for copyright infringement and a Connecticut judge ruled in Hitler's favor; the publication of Cranston's version had to be stopped after about 500,000 copies had been sold.
After Hitler's rise to power, the book gained enormous popularity and virtually became the Bible of every Nazi. Every couple intending to get married was required to own a copy. Sales of Mein Kampf earned Hitler millions; however, many of those who purchased it never read it, and many bought it simply to show their allegiance to Hitler, gain position in the NSDAP and avoid the attentions of the Gestapo. By the end of the war, about 10 million copies of the book had been distributed in Germany.
Today, the copyright of Mein Kampf is owned by the state of Bavaria. The copyright will end on December 31, 2015. The government of Bavaria, in agreement with the Federal Government of Germany, does not allow any copying or printing of the book in Germany, and opposes it also in other countries but with less success. Owning and buying the book is legal. Trading in old copies is legal as well, unless it is done in such a fashion as to promote hatred or war, which is generally illegal. Most German libraries carry heavily commented and excerpted versions of Mein Kampf.
In 1999, the Simon Wiesenthal center documented that major internet booksellers like amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com sell Mein Kampf to Germany. After a public outcry, both companies agreed to stop those sales.