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Michael Sohn/AP
A reproduction of the Nazi newspaper Voelkischer Beobachter is seen on two copies of the
magazine Zeitungszeugen.

Munich Court Approves Reprinting of Nazi Newspapers

March 27, 2009 11:30 AM
by Rachel Balik
A Munich court will allow a London publisher to reprint Nazi newspapers in a weekly publication sold in Germany for educational purposes.

No Legal Bar to Republishing Nazi Newspapers, Says German Court

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Against the objections of the Bavarian state government, a weekly publication has been granted permission to reprint Nazi newspapers. The Bavarian government acquired the rights to Nazi newspapers from the publisher not long after World War II. On Wednesday, a Munich court ruled that the 70-year copyright period has expired for all publications printed before 1939, clearing the way for the reprinting of Nazi newspapers published through 1938.

Publications printed after 1939 are still off-limits. The Bavarian government will appeal the decision, concerned that the publication will be ideologically appropriated by neo-Nazis.

Albertas, the London-based publisher of the weekly entitled Zeitungszeugen (“newspaper witnesses”), says that the intent is to offer historical insight into events of World War II and Nazi-era Germany. They consulted with historians and offer commentary with certain articles. “The purpose of the project is scientific,” publisher Peter McGee told the BBC in February. He also said that the legal battle was for the freedom of the press, in addition to asserting the educational value of historical documents.

Background: Bavaria tries to seize papers, publishers say documents are history

It is illegal in Germany to publish Nazi symbols, such as a swastika. When copies of Zeitungszeugen first appeared on newsstands in January, Bavarian authorities confiscated them until the copyright and Nazi symbol issues could be resolved, the AP reported. The publishers said their addition of commentary to the pages prevents them from copyright infringement, and that the law permitted printing Nazi symbols for educational purposes.

The first edition of the weekly reprinted a poster showing the fire in the Reichstag. On February 27, 1933, an arsonist set fire to the German parliament and created a climate of fear and disorder that enabled Hitler’s rise to power. The headline was 76 years old when it hit the newsstands in January, but still drew purchasers. Later editions of the weekly were heavily censored.

German news agency Deutsche Welle reported that sales were quite successful. Those who purchased the paper do not face legal action. Some historians have praised the weekly, but other members of the public, including Jewish groups, have expressed concern.

Charlotte Knobloch, head of the German Central Council of Jews, told the BBC, “As a Holocaust survivor, these texts for me are more than interesting historic sources. They are part of a gruesome reality that I was able to escape. Millions of other Jews were not.”

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Related Topic: Banning Nazi symbols

When Germany began its six-month leadership of the EU in 2007, it hoped to institute EU-wide bans of denying the Holocaust and displaying all Nazi symbols, but was met with resistance, the London Times reported. An attempt to institute such bans in 2005 had also failed. However, as of 2007, 10 out of 27 states in the EU prohibited the denial of the Holocaust.
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