The estate of Joseph Goebbels is suing a publisher over the use of his remarks in a biography of the Nazi’s chief propaganda minister.
Random House faces legal action from the family of the infamous Nazi after the decision to publish an English version of a Goebbels biography by Peter Longerich, previously published in Germany in 2010.
The dispute centres around the use of Goebbels’ diary, which Mr Longerich, a professor of modern German history at the University of London’s Royal Holloway, quotes extensively from in his book.
Although the publisher initially agreed to a fee – as have other publishers when using Goebbels diaries – the company later decided against it, stating they felt it was wrong to pay the estate of a Nazi war criminal.
Cordula Schacht, whose father Hjalmar Schacht was Hitler’s minister of economics and who owns the copyright to the diaries, is reportedly representing the Goebbels family in the case against Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler.
Mr Schacht, who died in 1970, was tried but acquitted at the Nuremberg war crimes tribunal held in the aftermath of the Second World War.
“I did not want to believe that anyone can claim royalties for Goebbels’ words,” said Rainer Dresen, general counsel of Random House Germany.
Mr Dresden told the Guardian he had suggested to Ms Schacht that royalties would be paid should she donate them to a Holocaust charity.
He claims she rejected the idea, claiming that the money should instead go to Goebbels remaining relatives, descendants of his siblings.
Professor Longerich believes his case revolves around larger and more important issues of censorship.
He claims that by allowing a “private person” to hold the copyright to historical documents, “you give this person the right to control research”.
During the final hours of the Nazi regime, which saw six million killed in concentration camps, Goebbels poisoned his six children before he and his wife Magda killed themselves in Adolf Hitler’s bunker.