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BERLIN (Reuters) - The Central Council of Jews in Germany has expressed concern about the reprinting of Nazi-era newspapers by a British publisher as part of a campaign to raise historical awareness.
The first issue of the controversial weekly "Zeitungszeugen" (Newspaper Witness) contains copies of three daily newspapers first published on January 30, 1933 -- the day Adolf Hitler took power. Included is the notorious propaganda paper "Der Angriff" (The Attack).
"I'm highly dubious about this project," Stephan Kramer, general secretary of the Central Council, told Reuters after the first 300,000 copies of the "The press in Nazi times" were distributed across Germany late last week.
Kramer said he feared neo-Nazis could rally around the collection of newspapers and ordinary Germans might take the Nazi claims at face value, even though balancing comments by historians are included in a four-page covering section.
On page one of "Der Angriff," Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's propaganda minister, attacked the "Jewish press" in a column under the headline: "Make a clean sweep!" He wrote: "It's time to cure the ill German body and bring it back to life again."
Peter McGee, the British publisher of the newspaper, rejected the criticism, saying the aim is to offer a glimpse of the Nazi era and reflect on it.
The paper went on sale for 3.90 euros, about double the usual newspaper price, and similar publishing projects have been carried out in eight other European countries.
German media have been divided on the new publication.
Some praised it for offering a unique view of Nazi era newspapers -- complete with their Gothic print.
"You flick through these old newspapers as anyone born long after the war might: in shock and amazement," the daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote in its article "The evil on paper."
Others, such as the Peiner Allgemeine Zeitung, suggested commercial interests might be behind its publication: "Hitler sells better than sex." It noted that German magazine sales and TV ratings are often high when Hitler is featured.
The Nazi-era newspapers are tucked inside a cover of "Zeitungszeugen" with accompanying analyses by historians. McGee plans to publish a year's worth of weeklies with reproductions of Nazi-era newspapers dating from 1933 to 1945.
"It's just too easy to take off the cover with the analysis, throw it away and then you just have a pure Nazi newspaper," said Kramer of the Central Council. "And a significant part of the population isn't able to judge that critically enough."
"This isn't going to lead to more historical awareness, it's just going to put authentic material from the era in the hands of (Nazi) sympathizers," he added.
The publisher said he was aware of the possible dangers.
"Our team of experts doesn't just present the newspaper -- it discusses, it describes, it analyses and it shows people how to interpret the information," McGee told Reuters.
"'Zeitungszeugen' is for people who would never pick up a history book but still value quality analysis."
Editing by Tim Pearce