A Munich court ruled Thursday that the woman who inherited the rights to the literary estate of Joseph Goebbels is entitled to royalties for the extensive use of diary extracts in a biography about the Nazi propaganda minister.
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The German edition of the biography, by Peter Longerich – a professor of modern German history at Royal Holloway, University of London – was published in 2010 by Siedler Verlag, a division of Random House. A 992-page English edition, entitled “Goebbels: A Biography,” was published this May.
Goebbels was a leading figure in the Nazi Party from 1924 to 1945, and kept a diary throughout that time. He had no direct surviving descendants because he and his wife murdered their six children and then committed suicide in a Berlin bunker at the end of World War II.
Goebbels’ siblings transferred the rights to his writings to pro-Nazi Swiss banker François Genoud, who, prior to his death in 1996, transferred the rights to the victor in Thursday’s court case, Cordula Schacht. Her father, Hjalmar Schacht, was Adolf Hitler’s economics minister in the 1930s. Schacht ended the war incarcerated in Dachau concentration camp, following a plot against Hitler in 1944. He was subsequently tried at Nuremberg by the Allies for “peace crimes,” but was found not guilty.
Reacting to Thursday’s ruling, Rainer Dresen, the general counsel of Random House Germany, said he had previously proposed that the case be settled by the royalties being paid to a charity involved in Holocaust commemoration. Schacht had rejected the offer, insisting she was entitled to the royalties.
Dresen called Thursday’s ruling “a sad day for Germany,” and said the case involved a moral rather than legal issue. He added that the court had ignored the basic question over what should be done with the proceeds of the estate of a Nazi war criminal.
The amount of money involved has not been disclosed. Since the rights to Goebbels’ literary estate expire after 70 years, they will end at the end of 2015.
Copies of Goebbels’ diaries are in libraries around the world, including in Israel.