Goebbels inheritors win royalties legal action for Nazi criminal’s diaries

A court in Munich has ruled the publisher of Goebbels’ biography must disclose proceeds from the book to calculate fees to be paid to the Nazi propaganda minister’s inheritors, rejecting claims of “amorality” of payments to war criminal’s beneficiaries.

Random House Germany (RHG) was ordered to disclose information about proceeds from the sales of the book by Peter Longerich, published in Germany in 2010.

While the copyright royalties for the quotes from Goebbels’ diaries used in the book are estimated at only about €7,000, according to Süddeutsche Zeitung, for RHG the case is a matter of morality rather than money.

“That of course is not a legal thing. It’s a moral issue,” said Rainer Dresen, the general counsel of Random House Germany, as cited by the Guardian.

“You have a strange feeling. You’re crossing those buildings, buildings where … Hitler was … on the balcony,” Dresen added, hinting at the coincidence that the court is in Munich, where Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch took place in November, 1923.

READ MORE: Publisher rejects ‘immoral’ claim of royalties by Goebbels estate

He added that he was shocked by the court’s verdict and said that is was a sad day for Germany. Dresen pointed out that the court did not take into account the moral aspect of the case. “Elegant verdict without morality,” he concluded.

According to the judge, an exception was unacceptable even in such a controversial case, as it would set a precedent for an “indefinite number” of copyright infringement wrangles, the German Die Welt newspaper reported. The court pointed out that copyrights on Goebbels’ diaries will expire at the end of 2015 – so no more similarly scandalous cases will occur.

Last September, a Munich district court ordered RHG to disclose its earnings, but the publishing group lodged an appeal to the Higher Regional Court of Munich.

After a new failure, RHG wants to continue the struggle and to appeal through the German Supreme Court.

Joseph Goebbels was a propaganda minister in Nazi Germany and one of the architects of the Final Solution – a plan to totally exterminate the Jewish population in occupied Europe. He and his wife Magda Goebbels poisoned their six children and after that committed suicide on May 1, 1945 when Soviet troops were in the process of capturing Berlin.

Who are the heritors?

The complainant is 72-year-old lawyer Cordula Schacht, a daughter of Hjalmar Schacht, Hitler’s minister of economics and president of the Reichsbank. She claims to be a copyright holder of the literary heritage of Goebbels and a representative of Goebbels’ heirs.

Cordula Schacht was a legal adviser of François Genoud, a Swiss financier and a benefactor of the Nazi diaspora. François Genoud was a strong advocate of the Nazi regime even after its fall and claimed to be a copyright holder of Goebbels’ diaries.

Genoud tried to exonerate the Nazi regime, calling Hitler “a great leader” long after WWII was over. Cordula Schacht inherited the alleged right to license Goebbels’ diaries after Genoud’s death in 1996.

Dresen said that he made Cordula Schacht an offer – privately and in court – to pay her royalties in case she donates them to a Holocaust charity, but she reportedly rejected it saying that the money should go to Goebbels’ relatives, including the descendants of his siblings.