An Italian newspaper owned by the brother of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is giving out copies of Adolf Hitler's anti-Semitic manifesto "Mein Kampf", in a move which sparked both shock and condemnation in Italy. 

For 11.90 euros ($13.40), on top of the regular newsstand price of 1.50 euros, readers of Il Giornale were offered on Saturday 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.

"Know it in order to reject it" was the justification given by the conservative tabloid, which is owned by Paolo Berlusconi.

In a frontpage 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.

The initiative, however, received widespread criticism, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi writing on Twitter: "I find it sordid that an Italian daily is giving away Hitler's 'Mein Kampf'. I embrace the Jewish community with affection. #neveragain"

READ MORE: Hitler's manifesto 'Mein Kampf' back in bookstores

It was also denounced by Italy's 30,000-strong Jewish community, which is one of the oldest in Europe. 

Giving out copies of Mein Kampf "is light years away from all logic of studying the Shoah [Holocaust] 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.

Many Italians also expressed their anger about the newspaper's decision on social media.

Alan Friedman, an American journalist who penned the first authorised biography of Silvio Berlusconi, branded Il Giornale's campaign as "Regrettable".

Partly autobiographical, "Mein Kampf" - which means "My Struggle" - outlines Hitler's ideology that formed the basis for Nazism. Written in 1924, it sets out his hatred of Jews which led to the Holocaust in which about six million of them were murdered at the hands of Nazi Germany.

For 70 years, the German state of Bavaria, which was handed copyright of the book in 1945, refused to allow it to be republished out of respect for the victims of the Nazis and to prevent incitement of hatred.

But "Mein Kampf" fell into the public domain on January 1 this year, when a special edition was published for the first time since World War II which included critical annotations by historians.

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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.

Known for its right-wing positions, notably over the question of immigration, Il Giornale has a circulation of around 200,000. Neither the paper nor its owners are suspected of harbouring anti-Semitic views. 

Anything touching on national-socialism is particularly sensitive in Italy due to the alliance between the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini and Hitler.

Hitler's manifesto 'Mein Kampf' back in bookstores

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies