The estate of Adolf Hitler’s propaganda chief, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, is suing a publisher for royalties for the use of extracts from his diaries.
A biography of Goebbels published by Random House quotes extensively from Goebbels’ diaries, which are copyrighted until the end of this year. Random House initially agreed to pay a fee, but later said “it was wrong to pay the estate of a Nazi war criminal”. Other publishers have paid royalties to use extracts from the diaries.
The biography was first published in German in 2010, and is due to come out in English in May.
Cordula Schacht, whose father was a minister in the 3rd Reich, owns the copyright to Goebbels’ diaries.
Her father, Hjalmar Schacht, was tried and acquitted at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunals held after World War Two.
A representative for Random House had initially agreed to pay 1% of the net retail price to Goebbels’ estate.
However, the publisher has since declared the agreement void, saying “it has moral objections to paying a war criminal’s estate”.
The biographer, Peter Longerich, a professor of German history, has argued that a private person should not be given control of important historical documents.
However, lawyers have questioned whether copyright laws can be ignored because of moral objections, the BBC’s Damien McGuinness reports from Berlin.