For years there has been a dispute over a book about Helmut Kohl by his ex-memoir writer. The Federal Court of Justice now wants to clarify crucial questions about compensation and prohibited passages.
Karlsruhe – The Federal Court of Justice is negotiating today about a million dollar compensation for the widow of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl after a controversial book publication.
As the sole heir, Maike Kohl-Richter, like her husband, who died in 2017, is demanding at least five million euros plus interest from Kohl’s ghostwriter and former confidante Heribert Schwan. In addition, the negotiation in Karlsruhe is about the distribution of more than 100 passages from the bestseller “Legacy: The Kohl Protocols”. It is unlikely that a judgment will be made on Monday.
Journalist and historian Schwan was supposed to write Kohl’s memoir and sat down with him for more than 100 days in 2001 and 2002 in the house of the former chancellor in Ludwigshafen. Kohl talked about his life and time in office, and Schwan recorded around 630 hours of conversation. But after three of the four planned volumes it broke. The author then published “The Kohl Protocols” on his own initiative in 2014, in which he quoted the former CDU leader with derogatory judgments about politicians and social figures.
Compensation in the millions
Shortly before his death, Kohl won the highest compensation in German legal history before the Cologne district court – one million euros for violating general personal rights. After the 87-year-old died, the Higher Regional Court (OLG) Cologne ruled that the claim to this monetary compensation was not hereditary. Kohl-Richter is now taking action against this before the Federal Court of Justice.
In addition, the district court had strengthened Kohl’s right to omit the objectionable text passages. In Schwan’s case, the OLG rejected the appeal because it had agreed to maintain secrecy with Kohl on the occasion of the “memoir talks”. Schwan’s complaint that the OLG did not allow an appeal to the BGH was unsuccessful. The procedure is over.
It looks different in the case of co-author Tilman Jens and the co-defendant publisher. According to the OLG ruling, both of them are only obliged to cease and desist with regard to the verbatim reproduction and distribution of (allegedly) verbatim quotations from Kohl. His widow wants to fight before the BGH that the more far-reaching judgment of the regional court is restored. The publisher wants the lawsuit dismissed. Because Jens died last year, the legal disputes with his heirs are reportedly interrupted on both points.
It is not the first time that the BGH has dealt with the issue. A good year ago Kohl-Richter achieved a partial success against Schwan: He has to give her information about what still exists on tape or typed out of the conversations with the former chancellor. However, the Kohl page can no longer access documents from the Chancellery that Schwan may have in his possession.
Schwan lodged a constitutional complaint against the judgment, as his lawyer announced. That has not yet been decided. Nevertheless, Kohl-Richter had already requested information that Schwan also gave. dpa