Top German court sides with broadcaster in Nazi camp row | News | DW | 21.08.2018
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Top German court sides with broadcaster in Nazi camp row

German broadcaster ZDF will not have to post a specifically worded apology as demanded by a Polish court after calling WWII Nazi camps "Polish death camps." The court ruling runs the risk of Polish castigation.

German public broadcaster ZDF cannot be forced to post the specifically worded apology demanded by a Polish court after mistakenly calling two World War II Nazi camps "Polish death camps," the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) ruled on Tuesday.

The TV station referred to Majdanek and Auschwitzas "Polish death camps" in advertising a 2013 documentary.

After the Polish embassy in Berlin complained, ZDF changed the wording to "German death camps on Polish territory."

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Damage to national pride 

Auschwitz survivor Karol Tendera then launched legal action, demanding the broadcaster publish an apology that he had formulated. A court in Krakow ruled ZDF had damaged Tendera's dignity and Polish national identity and should post the apology on its website for 30 days.

The description was changed online and the broadcaster twice apologized for the error, publishing the plaintiff's text from December 2016 to January 2017. 

However, Tendera felt the measure insufficient and sought to have the original Polish ruling enforced.

Lower German courts concurred, but the BGH disagreed, arguing the required formulation would violate the broadcaster's right to freedom of opinion.

Read more:  Poles told to denounce 'anti-Polish' compatriots following Holocaust law

Ruling would be 'disproportionate'

The court noted that ZDF's original formulation was "clearly wrong," but that the issue was the wording of the apology required by the Polish court, which it said the broadcaster couldn't be required to "publish as its own opinion."

It also found that the punishment was "disproportionate" because the original formulation was online for only four days and ZDF had apologized and published a correction.

Sensitive subjects

The use of the term "Polish concentration camp" by international media outlets has triggered complaints from Poland in recent years.

The government sought to pass controversial legislation that would make it illegal to use the term 'Polish death camp.'

jbh/rt (AP, dpa)

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