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.
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.'
'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 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
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.
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.