Professor Slobodian tells a remarkable story concerning the controversial Cold War German reception of one of the world’s most printed books: Mao’s Little Red Book.
In 1967, West Germans bought over one-hundred-thousand copies of Mao’s Book of Quotations, also known as the Little Red Book. Three editions were sold, each bearing a distinct ideological imprint. Alongside the familiar, plastic-bound edition of the Beijing Foreign Languages Press was a paperback published by the left-liberal Fischer Press. Translated and edited by West German students of Sinology, the Fischer edition provided a scholarly perspective on the Cultural Revolution that was broadly sympathetic, signaling its orientation with a cover photograph of a young girl and an elderly woman in a benign moment of intergenerational communication [left]. The third edition [right] of Mao’s book of quotations, published by the anti-communist Marienburg Press had the title, The Mao Zedong Breviary: Catechism of 700 Million. The editor, a minor functionary in the Economics Ministry, Kurt C. Steinhaus, warned of a coming race war led by the Chinese against the world’s white populations. The publishers declared that their goal in releasing the book was to “show Mao in all his severity.” “It is necessary,” they said, “to give Germans and Europeans the creeps.” Continue reading “Reading Mao’s Little Red Book in Divided Germany”