BERLIN — Media giant Bertelsmann will ask its online book-selling partner BarnesandNoble.com to stop offering titles like Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and other hate literature after a complaint from the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The Wiesenthal Center this week sent a complaint to the German Justice Ministry accusing the Internet bookseller and its rival, Amazon.com, of selling hate literature that’s banned in Germany.
The ministry said it is reviewing the charges, adding that companies can be prosecuted for distributing hate literature in Germany even if they are based in the United States.
Bertelsmann chief executive Thomas Middelhoff told Reuters that it aims to block the distribution of “Mein Kampf” and other hate literature in Germany immediately. Though BarnesandNoble.com is an independent company and its management has the right to determine its own policy, Middelhoff said he expects the ‘Net seller’s management to cooperate.
Bertelsmann and U.S. bookstore chain Barnes & Noble each have a 40% stake in BarnesandNoble.com.
Middelhoff added that Bertelsmann might use a list of hate literature from the Wiesenthal Center as a basis for suggesting which books to ban from its German selection.
Amazon.com execs were not available for comment.
The Wiesenthal Center reported earlier in the week that its Internet researchers in Germany had ordered and received copies of “Mein Kampf” and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a fraudulent early 20th century document that claimed an international Jewish conspiracy, from both BarnesandNoble.com and Amazon.com
Noting the newly developed legal gray zone created by the Internet, Middelhoff said a new way has to be found to handle this “mass medium that doesn’t recognize any boundaries.”
While anyone distributing hate literature or possessing such material with intent to distribute in Germany can be sentenced to up to three years in prison and fined, simply owning books with anti-Semitic or racist content is not necessarily illegal in the country.