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Court rules Zeitungszeugen Nazi newspaper project is legal

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Court rules <i>Zeitungszeugen</i> Nazi newspaper project is legal
Photo: DPA
17:27 CEST+02:00
A British publisher who has reprinted Nazi-era newspapers for educational purposes has won a German court battle over their distribution, a tribunal spokeswoman said Tuesday.

The superior regional court in the southern city of Munich said it had ruled that Peter McGee had not intended to whip up racial hatred when he published annotated facsimiles of Nazi newspapers such as the Voelkischer Beobachter for his weekly series Zeitungszeugen (Newspaper Witnesses).

The court statement, dated April 17, noted that printing Nazi swastikas from the original mastheads, which are generally outlawed in Germany, are legal in an educational context.

"This condition applies in this case because the accused as the publisher of Zeitungszeugen is evidently pursuing the goal of enlightening citizens with his publication, based on the choice of commentators and the selection of other supplements," it said.

The publication includes three to four original newspaper sections from 1933-1945 sandwiched between commentary and analysis from a team of experts, and sells for €3.90.

The state of Bavaria had ordered the paper pulled from newsstands because they could cause offence or be misused by neo-Nazis.

Defenders of the series, which went on sale in January, said the accompanying commentary from leading historians put the papers in their proper historical context.

The tribunal said that the state of Bavaria, which owns the rights to Nazi publications, could not appeal the decision. After the war, the US gave the Bavarian state government copyrights for Nazi party publications, including Adolf Hitler's book “Mein Kampf.” It was also given the explicit responsibility to prevent the further propagation of Nazi propaganda.

The ruling was the second German court victory in a month for McGee.

In late March, the regional court in Munich ruled that he could continue to sell the reprints for editions up until the start of World War II in 1939.

McGee has led similar projects in eight other European countries, including one in Austria called NachRichten last year. But that publication was endorsed by the Ministry of Education and used by teachers, according to McGee. “People quickly understood that it was a serious attempt to address historic material,” he told The Local in January.

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