LONDON, June 24 (JTA) —A controversy has erupted after reports that a British charity set up to aid German Jewish refugees accepted royalties from the sale of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” — even though the group no longer accepts the royalties.
The public announcement that the German Welfare Council no longer accepts the funds followed a report last week in Britain’s Sunday Telegraph newspaper claiming the charity had received more than $675,000 from Hitler’s work.
The council disputed the Telegraph’s numbers, saying it had received an average of $5,400 a year from the royalties for the last quarter-century.
The charity said it used some of the funds to meet shortfalls in its budget, and invested the rest. It decided to stop taking the money last year due to the decreasing number of Jewish refugees requiring the charity’s service, it said.
The remainder of the “Mein Kampf” money — which the council estimates to be $50,000 — has been kept separate from other council funds, pending a decision about what to do with the money.
Lord Janner, chairman of the British-based Holocaust Educational Trust, condemned any charity’s decision to accept funds from Hitler’s opus.
“I would be surprised if any charity would knowingly wish to benefit from Hitler’s royalties,” he told JTA, describing “Mein Kampf” as an “evil work” and “political pornography of the worst kind.”
A combination autobiography and political manifesto, “Mein Kampf” was banned in Britain from 1944 until 1969. But it has been available in English for more than 30 years, despite protests from Jews and the West German government.
When royalties from the sales of the book began arriving at the offices of the literary agency Curtis Brown, the agency asked the West German Embassy in London what to do with the money.
The government of the German state of Bavaria owns the foreign publishing rights to the tract, but the embassy told Curtis Brown that the German Welfare Council would be an appropriate recipient of the funds.
The council was founded in 1952 to aid German Jewish refugees in Britain, and is largely funded by the German Foreign Office.
“The council opposes the commercial publication of ‘Mein Kampf.’ However, as the publishing house did not refrain from commercial publishing in the U.K., the view was taken that the royalties should at least benefit the victims of Nazi persecution,” the council said in a statement.
The charity decided at the end of last year to stop accepting the royalties because “over the past years the advice and support work devoted to victims of Nazi persecution has steadily declined and now amounts to about 10 percent” of the charity’s total caseload, the council said.
No figures were available on the number of Jewish Holocaust survivors in Britain. The council now focuses most of its efforts on helping non-Jewish Germans who live in Britain.
Hitler wrote “Mein Kampf” in prison in 1924 after his failed Beer Hall putsch, and it was first published in 1925.
When he became chancellor of Germany in 1933, the book became a required school text. It sold in the millions, and for many years was Hitler’s main source of income.