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Net bookstore to stop selling Hitler manifesto

Barnesandnoble.com is going to stop selling Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in Germany, some four months after the Simon Wiesenthal Center questioned the sales.

Barnesandnoble.com said today it will stop selling Adolph Hitler's "Mein Kampf" in Germany, some four months after the Simon Wiesenthal Center questioned the sales.

Barnesandnoble.com spokesman Gus Carlson said the German government had advised the company that selling the book in Germany is illegal. Although he acknowledged that the company had sold copies of "Mein Kampf" in Germany, Carlson said the book "was not a big seller" and the German government would not prosecute the company for its past sales.

"We have been working very closely with the German government so that we are in compliance with their laws," Carlson said.

Barnesandnoble.com's move comes one month after chief rival Amazon.com ceased its own sales of Hitler's manifesto. It also comes more than four months after the Wiesenthal Center notified Barnesandnoble.com and Amazon that one of its German-based researchers had ordered the book and other hate literature through their sites. The organization, which battles anti-Semitism and bigotry, later notified the German government of the sales.

Borders.com spokesman Rich Fahle said his company ceased sales of "Mein Kampf" in Germany last week.

Carlson said Barnesandnoble.com's delay in ceasing the sales came from trying to balance its opposition to censorship with a desire to comply with the laws. Carlson said the company will still ship the book to customers outside of Germany.

"We abide by the laws of the countries in which we do business," he said. "That's the basis of our decision here to stop the sale."

Bertelsman, the German-based media giant that owns about 40 percent of Barnesandnoble.com, said in August that it would urge the online book retailer to cease sales of "Mein Kampf." But Carlson denied that Bertelsman pressured the company to stop the sales.

"To say that there was pressure is overstating it," he said. "All parties involved worked together to study the situation and do the right thing."

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Wiesenthal Center, said that while the organization is sensitive to first-amendment concerns, corporations need to be aware of the laws of other countries, especially those of democracies such as Germany. Cooper credited the German government and Bertelsmann for persuading Barnesandnoble.com to stop selling "Mein Kampf" in Germany.

"We asked Barnesandnoble.com not to sell 'Mein Kampf' in a democracy where it is illegal," Cooper said. "We think they made the appropriate decision."