The world knows the infamous Adolf Hitler as one of the most despicable people in history. But aside from that, he is also one of the wealthiest authors of all time. He gained so much fortune from his best-selling book titled Mein Kampf that he was able to fund not only a luxurious lifestyle but also the early rise to power of the Nazi party.
His book’s worldwide sales were able to reach over 10 million copies. The royalties that he was able to get from it are massive enough for him to afford a fleet of Mercedes luxury cars and several luxe mansions located across his empire. He was even able to make money off licensing his image to his own government so they can use it on official stamps and political posters.
The talk about royalties of his controversial book has become more significant nowadays with the rise in popularity of e-readers such as Amazon Kindle and Apple iPad. The ebook version of his work even became a best-seller.
Back in January 2014, its $1 electronic version, which was produced by a publishing company in Brazil, clinched the top spot in the Propaganda & Spin chart and number 2 in the Political Science category of Amazon.
The rise in popularity of its ebook version might be because a lot of people don’t want to be seen nose-deep into a hardcopy book of Mein Kampf. Almost 75 years after his death, is there someone who’s still cashing in the royalties of his book?
The Story Behind Mein Kampf
Hitler reportedly wrote Mein Kampf while serving a 5-year sentence in Landsberg Prison in 1923. It is said that his cellmates, Rudolph Hess and Emil Maurice, had to listen to him dictate the book for around a year and a half.
Hitler first thought about writing this book as a way to gain funds to pay his massive accumulation of debt due to legal fees. Although he had low expectations about the book, he hoped that it would be popular among his fellow members in the National Socialist Party.
In 1925, during the 1st year of publication, Mein Kampf only sold 9,000 copies and earned him zero royalties. However, as he rose to power, his book sales also surged. The book was able to sell 55,000 copies by 1930, but the number climbed to more than 850,000 when he became the Chancellor of Germany three years later. By the time he took power, the German government had acquired and distributed around 6 million copies to average citizens and soldiers.
At his peak, Hitler was earning US$1 million (or equivalent to US$12 million in 2012) per year just from the royalties.
When he passed away in 1945, sales of his books have already reached the 10 million mark. Adjusted in 2012 US dollars, the sales of his book have given him a fortune of $152 million.
Who’s Cashing In the Royalties?
Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal Jr., his half-sister’s child, was eligible to claim the rights to the royalties. However, he adamantly refused to have anything to do with the book’s profits, so it became the property of Bavaria, the state where Hitler resided.
Although Bavaria banned the publishing of Mein Kampf all around Germany, the country’s copyright law had it become public domain on April 30, 2015, which means that any printing press can sell the book in the country royalty-free.
The royalties could have been given to Hitler’s nephew, Leo Raubal, but he reportedly declined
After World War II, an American publishing company named Houghton Mifflin bought the U.S. rights of the book for $37,000. In the next two decades, they went on to earn $700,000 worth of royalties. However, they decided to donate the money to charity following public outcries and protests.
Royalty situations in other countries varied, though. Publishing the Mein Kampf was prohibited in the United Kingdom from 1945 to 1969. After that period, the royalties were donated to different anonymous charities. Even finding a charity proved difficult because most didn’t accept the donation after knowing its source.
The state of Bavaria also begrudgingly accepted the royalties but ended up distributing it to charity. On the other hand, the book is unrestricted in some countries. It even became a best seller in India, Sweden, and Turkey.