Czech court clears publishers of Hitler speeches

Marcy Oster

PRAGUE (JTA) — The publishers of a book containing Adolf Hitler speeches were cleared of hate-crime charges in the Czech Republic, spurring concerns from the country’s Jewish community.

The Brno municipal court ruled Wednesday that it found no evidence that the 2012 book put out by a Brno-based publishing house, Guidemedia, promoted Nazi ideology. The court said the publication of historical documents cannot be considered a criminal act.

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Under Czech law, propagating Nazism is a crime that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The book features 18 speeches delivered by Hitler between 1939 and 1942.

“This is a historical text with all the attributes of historical Nazism, and the court found no evidence that any contemporary movement would be following up on Hitler’s version of Nazism,” Justice Martin Hrabal said.

The Federation of the Jewish Communities of the Czech Republic expressed concern over the verdict.

“The Czech society has always rejected the Nazi ideology in all its forms,” the head of the federation, Petr Papousek, told JTA on Thursday. “But the possibility to freely spread such texts puts this stance into question. We should not forget that in the past, verbal aggression paved the way for the disaster of WWII with millions of victims.”

During the trial, which started in June, the publishers denied that their goal was to promote Nazism, claiming instead it was a business decision.

“The book is the flagship of our company. Hitler sells better than Coca-Cola,” one of the firm’s owners, Pavel Kamas, told the court earlier this week.

The text of the speeches was accompanied by editorial notes and commentaries that the prosecution claimed pictured Hitler as a “peaceful man” who “strived to achieve peace among nations.” But the court said it was obvious the commentaries were compiled from the Nazi dictator’s own statements.

In 2005, the Czech Supreme Court cleared another Czech publisher who faced similar charges for releasing Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.”