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Ex-chancellor Kohl wins €1 million in legal battle with ghostwriters

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Ex-chancellor Kohl wins €1 million in legal battle with ghostwriters
The controversial the biography, "Legacy: the Kohl Protocols". Photo: DPA.
15:43 CEST+02:00
A court awarded former chancellor Helmut Kohl record damages on Thursday in a lawsuit against his one-time ghostwriters for publishing an embarrassing unauthorized biography.

The judges in the western city of Cologne ordered the book's two authors and their publisher to pay €1 million to Kohl, 87, dubbed the "Father of German Reunification", for breaching his trust and sullying his reputation.

"This is the highest sum ever awarded by a German court in a right to privacy case," the city's district court said in a statement.

Kohl served for 16 years, steering the country through the final years of the Cold War and the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

In 2001-02, he taped more than 630 hours of interviews with journalist Heribert Schwan for a multi-volume memoir project that was scrapped part-way through.

Over a decade later, Schwan used the material to co-author the biography "Legacy: the Kohl Protocols", which was published in late 2014 and became a bestseller - infuriating Kohl, who later won a court case halting further print runs.

The book, co-written with Tilman Jens, quoted Kohl as playing down the importance of pro-democracy protesters in the fall of the Berlin Wall and belittling the historic role of former Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The elder statesman was also cited besmirching his former protegee Angela Merkel.

The court on Thursday upheld the ban on reprinting 116 passages of the book which it said had derived from confidential discussions.

Schwan had argued that he had given Kohl the option of switching off the tape recorder when discussing matters he did not want published.

Lawyers for Schwan and Jens as well as the Heyne publishing company, a unit of Random House, said they would appeal the ruling.

Kohl left active politics in 2002.  Since a fall in 2008, he has suffered from impaired speech and uses a wheelchair.

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