From October 2016 to March 2017 the team is joined by Guest Kats Rosie Burbidge and Eibhlin Vardy, and by InternKats Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo, Tian Lu and Hayleigh Bosher.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Mr Kohl and his ghostwriter... the Regional Court of Cologne decides

As he was: Dr Helmut Kohl as Chancellor
According to German media reports, the Regional Court of Cologne yesterday handed down an interim injunction banning journalist Heribert Schwan (the ex-ghostwriter of former German chancellor Helmut Kohl) from including a list of alleged direct quotes attributed to Kohl in Schwan’s recently published book: "Vermächtnis: Die Kohl Protokole", in English Legacy: The Kohl Protocols.  For our younger readers or those not so keen on German history: Helmut Kohl was Germany’s chancellor for sixteen years and the chancellor of German reunification.

The court’s decision reportedly prevents further prints of the book which include the quotes in question. However, books that are already available in stores may still be sold.  The court further reportedly found that including the quotes against Mr. Kohl’s express wishes amounted to an unlawful infringement of confidentiality. Tt was up to Mr. Kohl to decide whether or not he wished to authorize the use of his quotes in a publication, bearing in mind that he made in confidentiality when working with Mr. Schwan on a book back in 2001 and 2002.  

Now why is Mr Kohl so worried about the things he (may have) said?  Some of the quotes refer to Angela Merkel, now Germany’s chancellor, who used to be a minister during Kohl’s time in office. Kohl reportedly stated she was not capable of using fork and knife properly when eating and had to be told to pull herself together at state banquets. Other quotes refer to another former Minister as “traitor”, etc. etc.. Mr Kohl also made – rather outspoken and pointed - comments about former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her handbag, Mr Gorbachev, Bill Clinton and the Lewinsky scandal, about Prince Charles’ and the late Princess Diana’s doomed marriage.    

This is, however, not the first time both men – or their lawyers to be precise – have met in court.  The background is a lot more involved. Mr Schwan used to be Mr Kohl’s authorized ghostwriter and in this capacity conducted hundreds of hours of interviews, reportedly 630 hours worth (!) in 2001 and 2002 with the aim of ghost-writing Mr Kohl’s autobiography.   Kohl and Schwan had previously already published three books together.  Kohl and Schwan however “fell out” and Mr. Kohl decided that he did not wish to go ahead with the fourth book after all.   Kohl had previously successfully sued Mr Schwan for a return of the tapes made during the conversations. While this looked like a copyright dispute, it was decided on the basis of Article 985 BGB as a return of property to the rightful owner.  Schwan had initially refused to return the tapes and argued that the recordings were of public interest and should be available to historians.  He clearly also managed to make copies of the tapes before returning him and even seems to argue (if German media is to be believed) that the original court decision only mentioned a return of the original tapes but did not mention any copies.

The "second wife": Dr Maike Kohl-Richter
The whole dispute has some elements of a 1980s soap opera:  Mr Schwan also appears to feel morally justified and sees Mr Kohl’s second wife, 49 year old Dr Maike Kohl-Richter, whom Kohl married after the tragic suicide of his first wife Hannelore, as his (Schwan’s!) “nemesis”.  The second Mrs Kohl was controlling, according to Mr Schwan and the reason why Mr Kohl fell out with him, as well as with his sons from his marriage with Hannelore and other old and trusted friends.


While Mr Kohl has since published his own book (a lot less juicy reportedly), the dispute surrounding the interview recordings will certainly continue.  On a personal note, this Kat can understand why Mr. Kohl, who holds a PhD in history, felt that his quotes should not be shared with posterity.  Mr. Kohl’s lawyers have already announced that they will seek damages from Mr. Schwan which would become “very very expensive” for Mr. Schwan.

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