By Erik Kirschbaum
BERLIN, Dec 11 (Reuters) - The German state of Bavaria announced on Wednesday it had scrapped plans to publish a new academic reprint of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" with critical commentary when its legal power to ban the book expires in 2015.
The southern German state owns the copyright and has banned any republication. But the copyright expires at the end of 2015, 70 years after the author's death. Bavaria had been planning to then publish a new edition with critical commentary from the Munich-based Institute for Contemporary History (IfZ).
"Many conversations with Holocaust victims and their families have shown us that any sort of reprint of the disgraceful writings would cause enormous pain," said Bavarian science minister Ludwig Spaenle on Wednesday.
That is why, he said, the Bavaria state government unexpectedly agreed at a cabinet meeting late on Tuesday to scrap plans for the edition with commentary from IfZ historians two years after handing the assignment to the Munich institute.
Spaenle said in a statement on the state government website that Bavaria would continue to take legal action against anyone who tries to publish even excerpts of "Mein Kampf". He said Bavaria would ask the new German government to help it find a solution to the looming expiration of the copyright.
The state had invested some 500,000 euros in preparing the academic reprint, officials from the IfZ were quoted as saying in German media reports. The institute would nevertheless continue working on the edition with critical commentary.
Germany's Jewish community welcomed the decision to scrap the reprint. "Hitler's sorry effort is full of hatred and contempt for humanity," said Charlotte Knobloch, a former leader of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
In April 2012, Bavaria had forced the removal of excerpts of "Mein Kampf" from a magazine supplement by threatening legal action.
Critics of the German ban have said it is anachronistic in an age when the book's contents are available over the Internet and when it is readily available in other countries.
Austrian-born Hitler wrote the autobiographical "Mein Kampf" (My Struggle) in prison after his failed Munich coup. Responsible for the Holocaust, Hitler was chancellor from 1933 until he committed suicide in 1945 at the end of World War Two. (Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrew Roche)