Leading Article: History's dirty money

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The Independent Online
'14 MARCH 1941. Yesterday: A minister for eight years. What a time, how many joys and how much work] But what a path to the top] I am very grateful to fate.' The author of these banal exclamations, Joseph Goebbels, had six children: Helga, Hilde, Helmut, Holde, Hedda and Heide. He and his wife poisoned all of them before killing themselves in May 1945. He was also, of course, Hitler's propaganda minister, the author of the Big Lie and the engineer of pogroms against Jews. Forty- seven years on, even the most banal detail of his life is still horribly fascinating. Most newspapers would publish previously unseen extracts if they were offered.

Nobody therefore should dispute the right of the Daily Mail or of the Sunday Times to publish such extracts, as they are doing now. But the Mail has paid a copyright fee of pounds 17,000 to Francois Genoud, who is an open admirer of Hitler, and who will pass on most of the money to the heirs of Joseph Goebbels. The Sunday Times has contracted to pay pounds 75,000 to David Irving, whom the paper's editor describes as an 'amateur Nazi'. Mr Irving, too, has said that he wishes to make a substantial payment to Mr Genoud. Equally important, Mr Irving, who has denied that the gas chambers existed, will help to select extracts - which sounds like asking a flat- earther to become science correspondent.

This is not a case of newspapers trying to contribute to historical knowledge. This is a scoop, intended to satisfy that horrible fascination. The beneficiaries are the family of one mass murderer and the admirers of another. In our view these are immoral payments and immoral earnings.