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Paying Royalties to War Criminals – Goebbels: A Biography

It’s funny how things often all come along together, it was only yesterday we were discussing the merits (or not) of Mein Kampf over in our Facebook group and today I read that Joseph Goebbels’ family are suing UK publishers Random House for royalties on an upcoming biography of the war criminal’s life. Now while I stood as the voice of reason in the debate yesterday, defending anyone’s right to read this book, I stand with Rainer Dresen of Random House in saying I am horrified at the idea that Goebbels’s estate might benefit from the sale of this book. So much so in fact that knowing that royalties were being paid would put me off reading it.

Goebbels by Peter Longerich is due to be released by Random House in the UK after already being released on the continent in several languages. It’s worth noting at this point that many European publishers have paid the royalties unquestionably. However Rainer Dresen of Random House says he was astonished to receive the demand from Cordula Schact, acting for the estate, for royalties as he finds it hard to believe that anyone would think it was acceptable to accept payment for Goebbels’ words.

In his words to pay royalties would be immoral, that Goebel’s words prolonged the war and to pay money to republish these words would prolong the atrocity. We’re sure there are many who would believe that publishing the words at all is the immoral act, but we’ll put that to one side for now.

For those thinking that Random House is just out to save some cash, the publisher has offered to pay the royalties but to a holocaust charity, a move that Schact dismissed immediately. It was last September when the demand for royalties was made and Random House appealed on moral grounds and pretty soon we’ll find out how this case has been ruled.

While it may be understood that the money may have helped Goebbels’s children, he doesn’t actually have any, having poisoned all six of them before he and his wife took their own lives. The diaries then passed to François Genoud, a Nazi sympathiser, who copyrighted the papers. These then passed to Cordula Schact whose father was minister of economics in Hitler’s National Socialist Government, and it’s Schact who is leading this case against Random House.

I’d like to think that common sense will prevail here and royalties will be paid to a charity not to the Goebbels estate, but the law doesn’t always judge on the side of morals and what’s right. Random House is the first publishing house to even query paying royalties and for that they deserve some commendation.

Even aside from the difficult subject and topic, I have a great issue with generations of people earning royalties from the achievements, or in this case infamy of a past generation. However when you also add in that Goebbels was a substantial orchestrator of the atrocities of WWII I’m surprised Shact even wants her name associated with the whole mess.

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