These days, a lot of folks seem to have the unlamented late mass-murderer Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on their minds.
First, comes the news that Hitler’s controversial manifesto, “Mein Kampf, ” where he laid out many of his (murderous) plans is a hot seller on Amazon and iTunes. Now comes the news that Google maps inadvertently placed his name on some plazas in 21st century Germany and has apologized. Nazism is not a happy-talk theme. Last year a cafe in Indonesia sparked worldwide outrage with it’s Nazi-themed swastikas. It seemed like any day they’d offer gas masks to go with burritos.
The late dictator who massacred 6 million Jewish men, women and children and was responsible for millions of other deaths (new research suggests over 20 million people total may have died horrific deaths in concentration camps) in his instigation of World War II is a hugely popular author today on ebooks:
Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is ranked as the second most downloaded item from the online University Library Project. The 1925 controversial manifesto has also been one of the top-selling political books on iTunes and Amazon throughout this week.
One electronic edition ranked 12th in the Politics section of the iTunes bookstore, with another version ranking 15th. On Amazon, it has been the number one bestselling book in the Propaganda & Political Psychology section.
One possible explanation is that readers feel more comfortable with the level of privacy provided by ebook readers. While readers might not want to have Hitler’s writing on their bookshelves, electronic books allow them to read books like “Mein Kampf” in secret.
Journalist Chris Faraone told ABC News that the phenomenon may be similar to that of “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which sold more than 1 million copies on Amazon’s Kindle. While most book titles earn 20 percent of their revenue from ebooks, “Fifty Shades of Grey” has drawn 50 percent of its earnings from digital sales.
Hitler’s book for years was an almost forgotten book, banned in some countries, available in public libraries, and highly popular on neo-Nazi websites. Most people wouldn’t want to be seen caught dead seen reading it. But ebooks most assuredly do make privacy while reading easier:
The sales for the print version of the dictator’s autobiographical book have been stagnant for years, and its publication is illegal in several countries. “These are things that people would be embarrassed to read otherwise,” Faraone said. “Books that people would probably be a bit more embarrassed to read or display or buy in public, they are more than willing to buy on their Kindle, or iPads.”
Still, the book has been available in digital form ever since ebook readers became popular, and it remains a mystery as to why sales have skyrocketed this week. Another mystery surrounding the title is the question of who is entitled to the book’s royalties, as Hitler had no immediate heirs. Historians suspected that Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal was the one who inherited the book’s earnings, but Raubal has said he does not want his share.
“Mein Kampf,” which translates as “My Struggle,” promotes antisemitism and Aryan supremacy as part of the Nazi doctrine..
Meanwhile, Google, which is diligent, and cutting edge, now has a need to start looking into some fail-safe safeguards. Adolf Hitler was rising again — as a name on some of its maps:
Google lets anybody suggest changes to its maps, and on January 2, an anonymous user suggested that Theodor-Heuss square in Berlin shouldn’t be named after Germany’s first federal president but after Adolf Hitler. Google uses a small army of volunteers and its own moderators to check all submissions before they go live, and whoever checked this one apparently thought the submission was correct. So for the next few days, the square was called “Adolf Hitler Platz” in Google Maps.
Given that Germans (understandably) take all things Nazi pretty seriously, that caused a bit of a scandal. Germany’s LandkartenBlog, which first detected this issue, tracked down what happened in detail (Google Translate). After “Anonym5394? suggested adding the historic name, Google Maps moderator “Vishali,” who approved over 24,000 edits over the last 550 days, accepted the change. Indeed, he liked it so much, that he didn’t just mark it as a secondary alternative name, which “Anonym5394? suggested, but as the canonical name for the square.
Other users quickly noticed the change and another moderator then reversed the changes after they remained online for a few days.
In many ways, this is just another example of crowdsourcing getting something wrong and then correcting itself.
Google couldn’t explain the error when approached by German mass-circulation daily B.Z., which first reported the story, but a Google representative said they were looking into the matter. The square had been returned to its current name by 9 p.m. on Thursday night.
The square was originally called Reichskanzlerplatz when it was constructed in the early 1900s. In April of 1933 it was renamed Adolf-Hitler-Platz, which it retained until the Nazis were defeated in World War II. The square’s name returned to Reichskanzlerplatz from 1947 to 1963, when it was given the name of the first federal president of Germany, Theodor Heuss.
Google apologized after its Internet mapping service temporarily renamed a popular Berlin square after Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler on Thursday.
Instead of Theodor Heuss Platz, the map named the street along one side of the eponymous square Adolf Hitler Platz after the Fascist leader.
“We were made aware of a wrong and inappropriate Berlin street name on Google Maps and have corrected this as quickly as possible,” the Internet search giant said in an email to NBC News. “We apologize for this error.”
In reality, this occurred due to a danger posed to many “new media” outlets, including TMV. On weblogs, people get the codes to comment. Comments have to be removed that are potentially libelous. All websites that give codes to people to automatically put up their posts (on a blog such as The Moderate Voice writers put their posts up and the posts are not screened in advance, which is how most blogs work) are assuming people with the codes act in good faith and won’t go over the line or play games.
But the other issue is this:
Hitler is on a lot of minds these days.
What the heil is going on?
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.