IN A MOVE stirring lively debate on the limits of free speech, online and storefront booksellers have pulled a book glorifying Hitler from their shelves.
The Czech-language book published by the Czech publishing house Guidemedia, entitled
“100 dokumentů o vzniku války” (100 Documents About the Outbreak of the War), contains Czech translations of international treaties and diplomatic correspondence that, according to the publisher’s note, show: “England was decided in advance to use violence to cross the path of the Leader, whose genial art of statesmanship has managed to remove the worst Versailles crimes without any bloodshed and any interference with the English interests.” The note continues in similar tone, praising Hitler and condemning countries which later allied against the Nazi Germany in World War II.
Customer reactions have led both Martinus bookstores to stop selling the “100 Documents” book, citing its promotion of extremism in the book as their main motivation. The Panta Rhei book store cited the same reason, noting they haven’t had the book on stock for a long time, and they aren’t planning to order more.
Additionally, Martinus’ founder and CEO Michal Meško said that Guidemedia’s Facebook page “openly sympathises with the Nazi regime and promotes extremism”, and that the annotation to the book by Guidemedia provided to booksellers was misleading.
“While in the official statement to the book “100 Documents” the publisher writes about historical documents without any edits or additional notes, in reality the book contains strongly subjective comments which leave no doubt about what keys were used in selecting the documents for the book,” Meško told The Slovak Spectator.
Deciding where to draw the line
The “100 Documents” decision came just days after the same book stores refused to withdraw another book from sale. In that book, “Mlčanie” (Silence), author Tibor Eliot Rostas posits a series of conspiracy theories about global politics. It remains near the top of the bestseller lists and still available in stores.
“While Rostas deals with various topics and his main agenda are conspiracy theories, the aim of the Guidemedia publishing house is to spread Nazi propaganda and ideology,” Meško said.
A manager at the Panta Rhei bookstore called Rostas’ book “a controversial and widely debated title”, but insisted they will continue selling it in their stores.
“Withdrawing a book from sales is a very rare step and it must be taken only in exceptional situations,” Eva Rezníková, the marketing manager of Panta Rhei, told The Slovak Spectator.
Meško spoke along the same lines, saying that limiting the sale of a book is a decision of last resort.
“The task of the bookseller is not to decide for readers about what they can read, but to be a place where people can decide for themselves what to buy and read, and to make up their own mind about it,” Meško said.
At the same time, bookshops are private businesses like any other and as such they have the right to decide about their product line without having to give reasons, Meško added.
Another book store chain, Artforum, does a strict selection of books based on the decision of their staff “who know about books and really read them”, said Monika Kompaníková, speaking on behalf of the company.
“It’s not a question of censorship, but rather of decision,” Kompaníková told The Slovak Spectator. “A decision whether you will offer everything, including the wrong, low-quality, or even harmful, but in large quantities, or you will stand behind every book on your counter and guarantee it to your clients.”
Artforum did not sell Guidemedia books, and Rostas’ book was offered only in its Žilina store, where all three copies have already sold.
Criminal case in the Czech Republic
The Guidemedia publishing house was mentioned in a recent Czech Interior Ministry’s report on extremism, Meško told The Slovak Spectator, as he continued to list reasons why they eventually pulled their books from shelves.
In an interview with the daily Sme, Guidemedia co-owner Pavel Kamas has denied accusations that the “100 Documents” books propagates extremism and suggested that business interests come first in publishing business too.
“Adolf Hitler is one of the best trademarks in the world,” Kamas said as quoted by Sme. “I see no single reason not to use that, especially in the free-trade world where the ones with sharper elbows win.”
Czech police, however, launched prosecution of Kamas’ co-worker and the author of the commentaries in the “100 Documents” book, Lukáš Beer, on July 25, Sme reported, charging him with denying Nazi crimes and downplaying genocide.
5. Aug 2013 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani