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Friday, August 20, 1999 Published at 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK

Business: The Company File

Hitler shelved by Online bookshop

The book was available only on BOL's English and French services

Hitler's Mein Kampf has been taken off the shelves of the BOL Online bookstore after accusations that the company was selling hate literature.

BOL, which is owned by German media giant Bertelsmann, has never actually sold the book on its Dutch and German services, as it is banned there.

But it has decided to withdraw it from its English and French outlets to prevent Germans buying it.

The case highlights the problems of publishing material on the Internet, a medium which ignores national boundaries.

Hitler's autobiographical manifesto was written in prison in the 1920s, several years before he led the Nazi party to power in 1933.

[ image: Once compulsory reading, the book is now banned]
Once compulsory reading, the book is now banned
Distributing unannotated hate literature is illegal in Germany, although there is no official list of proscribed books.

However, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles had filed a complaint with the German Justice Ministry about the selling of such books Online to German customers.

It accused - Bertelsmann's US Online bookselling partner - and rival of violating German law.

'Historical responsibility'

But Bertelsmann decided to withdraw the book, saying that as a German company it had a historical responsibility.

"We are aware that we are operating on the thin line between a publisher's responsibility and the accusation of censorship," said spokesman Christof Erhart.

He added that he was not aware of BOL ever selling a copy of Mein Kampf. continues to offer the book on its site - although the company said it had not sold it through its German-based service - and it is also available from other Online booksellers.

Some right-wing organisations even publish the text in full on their Websites.

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