Italian former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Picture: AFP/ Tiziana Fabi

Rome – Il Giornale, a conservative newspaper owned by the family of former premier Silvio Berlusconi, was under fire on Saturday over a decision to give out copies of Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s anti-Semitic diatribe.

For 11.90 euros (13.40 dollars), on top of the regular newsstand price of 1.50 euros, readers were offered the option of buying the book along with The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by US journalist and World War II correspondent William L Shirer.

In a front page editorial headlined “Understanding Mein Kampf so that it never returns,” Il Giornale editor Alessandro Sallusti denied that his paper was being an apologist for Nazi ideology or was trying to boost circulation with a “sly” move.

“Studying evil to prevent it from happening again, perhaps in new and deceptive guises. That is the real and only purpose of what we have done,” Sallusti added.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was unconvinced.

In a Facebook message, he said he found the initiative “squalid,” and extended his

solidarity to the Jewish community, which expressed its outrage in the run-up to the publication.

Giving out copies of Mein Kampf “is light years away from all logic of studying the Shoah and the different factors that led the whole of humanity to sink into an abyss of unending hatred, death and violence,” the president of the Union of Italian Jewish Communities Renzo Gattegna said in a statement.

Shoah, meaning the “catastrophe” or “calamity” in Hebrew, is the word used by Jews for the Holocaust, the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jewish people in World War II.

In Germany, Mein Kampf was published for the first time since 1945 in January. It came out as a heavily annotated edition, aiming to add context to Hitler’s racist and anti-Semitic world view, and became a sell-out success.

The version distributed by Il Giornale is a reprint of the first Italian translation, published in 1938, the year Fascist Italy adopted anti-Semitic laws. It includes a modern critical introduction by an Italian historian, Professor Francesco Perfetti.

DPA