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Posted Sunday, August 22, 1999

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August 9, 1999

Internet Sale of Nazi Books in Germany Is Assailed


Contending that the two largest online booksellers are violating German laws against the distribution of hate literature, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on and to stop selling books like "Mein Kampf" to customers in Germany.

In a letter this month to Germany's minister of justice, the center, an educational group in Los Angeles that monitors anti-Semitism, wrote that "the books ordered by Internet are sent directly to the homes of the customers, thereby circumventing the German laws."

With electronic commerce making international transactions far more common, the case raises questions about the extent to which cyberspace merchants are bound by terrestrial laws.

Officials of both online booksellers said that their policy is to sell any book in print to any customer who wants to buy it.

"We are a U.S. store," said Lizzie Allen, an Amazon spokeswoman. "We view this as though a German was on vacation here and went into a physical bookstore and bought the books." She said Amazon's German-based site,, would not sell any literature that was banned in Germany.

The issue arose when a German-based researcher for the Wiesenthal Center successfully ordered "Mein Kampf" and other banned books from the two online booksellers. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the center, said he had received confirmation on Friday from a German official that the Justice Ministry intended to investigate. The companies declined to say whether they had received any other German orders for the books.

Liz Young, a spokeswoman for the German-based media giant Bertelsmann AG, which owns an equity stake in, said that the company was also investigating after receiving a letter from Cooper.

"Our lawyers are looking into the applicable law to this specific question," she said. "We want to give a correct response to the letter."

Such circumstances are expected to arise with greater frequency as more companies market their products online. But Jack Goldsmith, an expert at the University of Chicago Law School, said plenty of precedents exist. When a merchant ships a product, he said, the merchant is obligated to uphold the laws of the jurisdiction to which it is being sent.

"The questions are the same but the answers are more important, because transnational transactions are going to be more important," Goldsmith said. "It used to be consumer transactions across borders were rare unless someone was traveling abroad."

Mueller von der Heidi, a lawyer for the 7,000-member German Booksellers and Publishers Association, said he believed that it was illegal for Internet companies to ship Nazi propaganda into Germany.

"It's not permitted to distribute 'Mein Kampf' in Germany," he said. "Our members have long been forbidden to distribute this book."

In a letter to Amazon, Cooper also objected to the feature that recommends books to customers based on the selections of other customers who purchased a given title.

The researcher who ordered "Mein Kampf" from Amazon received e-mail suggesting that he might also like "White Power," by the American Nazi leader George Lincoln Rockwell, for instance.

"We never had to worry before that the Book of the Month Club was going to take the lie of the century and make it a selection," Cooper said. "That's what Amazon has done, and to me it raises serious alarm bells."


August 9, 1999:

 Mein KampfOnline firms said selling hate books in Germany

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - America's two largest Internet booksellers are shipping hate literature to Germany, including Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," in violation of German law, a Jewish organization said Monday.

The Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center said it complained to the German Justice Ministry about the shipments by and

In a statement Monday the center said it had received confirmation from the ministry that it was investigating the two Internet retailers.

The center has also complained to the German-based Bertelsmann company which owns 50 percent of, and to, urging them to take steps to see than neither company "inadvertently emerges as a major purveyor of hate in Germany."

Spokesmen for and were not immediately available for comment.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the center's 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 the two Internet companies.

In a letter to the German Justice Minister, Cooper said the books were "sent directly to the homes of the customers thereby circumventing the German laws regarding these publications."

"Mein Kampf" and "Protocol" are both banned in Germany, Cooper said.

Wiesenthaldpa - 09Aug1999

Los Angeles/Munchen (dpa) - Das deutsche Justizministerium untersucht den Verkauf von Nazi-Lekture im Internet an deutsche Kunden. Wie das Simon-Wiesenthal-Zentrum in Los Angeles (Kalifornien) am Montag bestatigte, liegt eine entsprechende Antwort auf einen Brief vor. Die Einrichtung, die der Erinnerung an den Holocaust und dem Kampf gegen Rechtsradikalismus gewidmet ist, hatte das Ministerium zuvor auf den Vertrieb des Hitler-Buches "Mein Kampf" durch zwei Internet Buchhandelsfirmen aufmerksam gemacht.

Das Wiesenthal-Zentrum bestatigte einen Bericht der "Suddeutschen Zeitung" (München), dem zufolge "Mein Kampf" und andere Nazi-Literatur über " und "" in Deutschland bezogen werden konnen, obwohl dort der Verkauf von solcher Lekture verboten ist. In einem am Montag veroffentlichten Brief an die deutsche Justizministerin Herta Daubler-Gmelin bat Rabbiner Abraham Cooper, einer der Leiter des Zentrums, um "sofortige und effektive" Reaktion.

Die via Internet bestellten Bucher wurden den Kunden unter Umgehung deutscher Gesetze direkt ins Haus geschickt. Das Zentrum wandte sich auch direkt an "" und an das Gutersloher Medienunternehmen Bertelsmann, das mit 50 Prozent an "" beteiligt ist. In den Briefen bat Cooper sicher zu stellen, dass die Firmen nicht unbeabsichtigt zum Vertreiber von Hass in Deutschland wurden. Der "Suddeutschen Zeitung" zufolge hat Bertelsmann eine sorgfaltige Prufung der Vorwurfe zugesagt. Die "New York Times" zitierte unterdessen eine Amazon-Sprecherin mit den Worten:

"Wir sind ein US-Laden. Wir betrachten den Vorgang so, als ob ein Deutscher hier (in den USA) Urlaub machte und dabei in einen richtigen Laden ginge, um diese Bucher zu kaufen."

Amazons direkte deutsche Website würde keine in Deutschland verbotene Lekture verkaufen? dpa 092245 Aug 99


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