American book publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced last week that it would give the profits of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf to a local nonprofit that supports elderly Holocaust survivors.
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The Boston-based publishing house has received heavy criticism recently for donating the past year’s profit from the book – an estimated $60,000 annually – to organizations that promote tolerance, but are neither specifically related to the Holocaust nor have a Jewish affiliation. After winning back the royalty rights in 1979, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt kept the book’s profits for itself until 2000. That’s when public pressure led the publisher to begin donating the proceeds to charity. Those funds were put towards grants for organizations directly involved in Holocaust education or combating anti-Semitism, The Boston Globe reports.
Then, in a controversial announcement made last year, the publisher quietly changed course. The Globe found Houghton Mifflin Harcourt would forgo the specialized charities and instead offer grants to two local beneficiaries promoting the broader theme of tolerance: Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Boston Children’s Museum.
"We also object to the deemphasizing of the murder of six million Jews in favor of the tolerance of diversity, a shift that threatens to destroy the history of the Jews as surely as the Nazis nearly destroyed us in fact."'
Soon after the shift, an editorial in The Jewish Advocate condemned the move for what it called a “deemphasizing of the murder of six million Jews in favor of the tolerance of diversity” and implored the publisher to reconsider.
That controversial decision was reversed last week when Houghton Mifflin Harcourt agreed to instead give the book’s proceeds to the greater Boston branch of the national organization Jewish Family & Children’s Services. That office in Waltham, Massachusetts, works directly with aging Holocaust survivors.
“We have heard voices on many sides of this debate and they reflect the complexity of the issue,” Andrew Russell, the publisher’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in a statement provided to The Boston Globe. "We appreciate the honest and thoughtful dialogue that has occurred amongst those who care deeply about this important work."
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has published Mein Kampf since 1933.
Earlier this year, an annotated edition of the infamous manifesto was made available for sale in Germany for the first time since it was banned in 1945. The first 40,000 copies sold out immediately.