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Estate of Nazi propaganda minister Goebbels sues Random House over biography

The family of Joseph Goebbels is suing Random House for royalties from a biography which draws on his diaries. The publisher says the copyright belongs to the Bavarian government.

The family of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda, has sued for royalties from a biography on him by Peter Longerich published by Random House Germany and its imprint Sidler in 2010. The biography used the minister's diaries as source material.

An English edition of the Goebbels biography is due to be published by Penguin Random House UK and its imprint, The Bodley Head, on May 7.

Cordula Schacht is acting for the family in the case against Random House Germany. Her own father Hjalmar Schacht was Hitler's minister of economics and president of the Reichsbank. He was acquitted of war crimes at Nuremberg and died in 1970.

Cordula Schacht reportedly refused an offer of royalties from the biography on condition they be paid to a Holocaust charity. Schacht holds that the royalties should be paid to Goebbels' family.

Goebbels poisoned his six children before he committed suicide with his wife in Hitler's bunker in Berlin in 1945.

Lawyer for Random House Germany, Rainer Dresen, told the Guardian newspaper: "We are convinced that no money should go to a war criminal."

He told the British newspaper: "I did not want to believe that anyone can claim royalties for Goebbels' words."

Random House has questioned the copyright ownership of the diaries as they were supposed to be published posthumously by Hitler's publisher. The intention was described by Goebbels in a 1936 entry in the diary but no contract exists. The publishers believe the Bavarian government should own the copyright.

A case is due to be heard in Munich on April 23.

jm/bk (DW)