Family of Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels SUE publisher for royalties for quoting from his diary

Publié le par Mail Online by Dalya Alberge

Family of Hitler's propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels SUE publisher for royalties for quoting from his diary
  • Cordula Schacht is representing the case against Random House Germany
  • Her own father Hjalmar Schacht was Hitler's minister of economics
  • Dispute over historian Peter Longerich's book Goebbels released in 2010
  • Paying money would be 'immoral', Rainer Dresen of Random House said
The family of Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, pictured (above) in September 1934, is suing a publisher for royalties over a biography that used extracts from his diaries

The family of Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, pictured (above) in September 1934, is suing a publisher for royalties over a biography that used extracts from his diaries

The family of Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda is suing a publisher for royalties over a biography that used extracts from his diaries.

Cordula Schacht - whose own father Hjalmar Schacht was Hitler's minister of economics - is representing Joseph Goebbels' estate in the case against Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler.

The dispute comes after Peter Longerich, a leading authority on the Holocaust and Nazi Germany, drew on the diaries for a biography called Goebbels, which was published in Germany in 2010.

Now the English edition of the biography, which includes the same entries, is due to be published by Penguin Random House UK and its imprint The Bodley Head on May 7.

Rainer Dresen, general counsel of Random House Germany, believes this case carries an important principal and that paying such money would be immoral.

'We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal,' he said.

'This war criminal didn't really commit acts by his hands, but by his words.

'These words prolonged the war… [and] should not bring any money… to [his] heirs.'

Mr Dresen was astonished when Schacht first demanded money after contacting the publisher as a representative of Goebbels' heirs.

'I did not want to believe that anyone can claim royalties for Goebbels' words,' he added.

Cordula Schacht, pictured (left) with her father and Hitler’s economist Hjalmar Schacht - Schacht is representing Goebbels' estate in the case against Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler over Peter Longerich's bookCordula Schacht, pictured (left) with her father and Hitler’s economist Hjalmar Schacht - Schacht is representing Goebbels' estate in the case against Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler over Peter Longerich's book

Cordula Schacht, pictured (left) with her father and Hitler’s economist Hjalmar Schacht - Schacht is representing Goebbels' estate in the case against Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler over Peter Longerich's book

Last September the district court of Munich ordered the publisher to disclose its earnings. It appealed on legal, copyright and moral grounds, and the case is due to be heard in Munich on April 23.

Mr Dresen has suggested to Schacht in court that royalties could be paid if she were to donate them subsequently to a Holocaust charity.

Dr Goebbels with his wife. He poisoned their six children before he and his wife took their own lives

Dr Goebbels with his wife. He poisoned their six children before he and his wife took their own lives

She rejected the idea on the grounds that money should go to Goebbels' family, who are thought to include descendants of his siblings.

Goebbels poisoned his six children before he and his wife took their own lives. His diaries – spanning the years 1924 to 1945 - remain in copyright until the end of 2015. Copies are held in public libraries.

Responsibility for the literary part of Goebbels' estate was transferred to Schacht by François Genoud, a Swiss businessman with Nazi sympathies and a friend of Schacht's father.

Mr Schacht was minister of economics in Hitler's National Socialist government from 1934 to 1937 and was president of Germany's leading financial institution, the Reichsbank. 

He was responsible for the unemployment and rearmament programmes. Mr Dresen said: '[He] helped Hitler finance his preparation of war.'

Captured by the Allies he stood trial at the postwar International Military Tribunal at Nürnberg but was eventually acquitted. He died in 1970. 

Mr Dresen believes that other publishers have paid for the use of Goebbels's diaries in the past. He said: 'We're the first publishing house who avoided that - and have been sued.' 

Mr Longerich spoke of the censorship implications of this case: 'If you accept that Schacht controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries, then – theoretically - you give this person the right to control research.'

He added: 'She could have asked to see the manuscript or [told me] that I should leave out certain passages. We cannot allow such control from a private person, whatever their interests. 

'This is an absolutely unacceptable situation. It's a question not only of morality, but of professionalism for an historian.'

Part of Random House's legal argument centres on the copyright ownership because the diaries were going to be published posthumously by Hitler's own publisher.

Although no publisher's contract has survived, Mr Dresen points to evidence within one of diary entries of 1936 which confirms the publication plans. He believes that the Bavarian government should in fact own the copyright. 

Schacht declined to comment.

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