Italy's education ministry was in for a shock when a poll regarding the most beloved books among schoolchildren revealed a "pretty nasty" entry. The cross-country survey was meant to understand which books written by Italian authors were the most popular but somehow, Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's manifesto Mein Kampf made it to the list.
The semi-autobiographical work was among the top 10 choices at 10 schools in the country. The surprising choice was not concentrated in only one region of the country either. Students in Palermo, Catanzaro (Calabria), Potenza (Basilicata), Tivoli and Gaeta in Lazio, Trieste, Udine (Fruili-Venezia Giulia), and Piacenza (Emilia Romagna) all mentioned Hitler's book as one of their favourite reads.
Alessandro Fusacchia, from the education ministry, described the entry as a "particularly nasty case", but pointed out that the book was ineligible for the vote since the secondary school pupils who listed it, had been asked to select books by Italian authors published after 2000.
"We are looking into it, but we are convinced that it was not a bad interpretation of the request, but rather a free choice," he said according to The Local.
Written in 1924, Mein Kampf — which means 'My Struggle' describes Hitler's ideologies that were used to justify the cruel imprisonment and massacre of six million Jews in the Holocaust.
The top three books to make it on to the list among secondary students included Bianca come il latte, rossa come il sangue (White As Milk, Red as Blood) by Alessandro D'Avenia — a 2013 romantic-comedy drama, along with Io Non Ho Paura (I'm Not Scared) by Niccolò Ammaniti, and Gomorra by Roberto Saviano.
The survey also showed students' interest in social issues. Two entries in the top 10 included Nel mare ci sono i coccodrilli (There Are Crocodiles In The Sea) by Fabio Geda — a novel about an Afghan refugee's journey to Italy; and Mio fratello insegue i dinosauri (My Brother Chases Dinosaurs) by Giacomo Mazzariol — a story about a young boy with Down's Syndrome.
Primary school children were exempt from the regional and language limitations and by popular vote, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, and Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl made it to the top of the list respectively.
A total of 3.5 million students from 138,000 different schools took part in the study and voted for more than 10,000 books.