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Family of Nazi minister sues Random House over diary excerpts

The estate of the Nazi war criminal Joseph Goebbels is suing the publisher Random House over a book that used extensive excerpts from Goebbels’ copyrighted diaries.

At the center of the dispute is “Goebbels,” a biography of Hitler’s infamous propaganda minister written by German historian Peter Longerich, published in Germany in 2010. An English edition is set for release on May 7.

Cordula Schacht, the lawyer who brought the case, owns the copyright to the diaries, which Goebbels kept from 1923 until his death in 1945. She is suing on behalf of Goebbels’ estate.

Schacht is the daughter of the late Hjalmar Schacht, who was Hitler’s economics minister from 1934 to 1937. Hjalmar Schacht later pledged support to the German Resistance after becoming disillusioned with the Nazi regime.

Random House initially agreed to pay Goebbels’ estate one percent of the net retail price of the biography but later rescinded the offer.

Rainer Dresen, Random House Germany’s general counsel, told the Guardian that the publisher objected on moral grounds to paying Goebbels’ estate.

“We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal,” Dresen said.

According to The Guardian, Dresen offered to pay Schacht the royalties on the condition that she donated the money to a Holocaust charity. But Schacht refused, saying it should go to Goebbels’ family, thought to include descendants of the propaganda mastermind’s siblings.

Goebbels has no direct descendants, as he and his wife Magda poisoned their six children before committing suicide in a Berlin bunker as Soviet troops overwhelmed the city on May 1, 1945.

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