European Court of Human Rights
European Court of Human Rights

Germany: Court to rule on Nazi-era ‘aryanisation’ free-expression complaint

Two journalists, who allege that a German publisher family benefited from Nazi-era confiscation of Jewish property, have made a free-expression appeal to the European court.

They will find out tomorrow (15 January) if they have the backing of Strasbourg judges in their complaint. A decision in the case Kieser and Tralau-Kleinert v. Germany (no. 18748/10) is scheduled to be announced at 10h (CET).

The applicants, Albrecht Kieser and Peter Tralau-Kleinert, are German nationals, who were born in 1949 and 1937 respectively and live in Cologne (Germany). They work as journalists for the online magazine Neue Rheinische Zeitung.

The case concerns their complaint about being ordered to refrain from publishing statements alleging that a well-known publisher’s family had unduly benefited from “aryanisation” of Jewish property during the Nazi era.

In an article published in February 2006, the applicants alleged in particular that the publisher family Neven DuMont had benefited from the expropriation of Jewish property in three real-estate purchases in Cologne in 1938 and 1941.

In proceedings brought by the chairman of the supervisory board of the publishing company – the son of the couple who had made the purchases in question – the Cologne Regional Court, in September 2007, prohibited any further publication of the relevant statements.

It found, in particular, that the allegations amounted to a serious interference with the plaintiff’s personality rights. The allegations had been presented as statements of fact, the veracity of which had not been proven by the applicants.

The judgment was upheld on appeal, and the Federal Constitutional Court declined to consider the applicants’ constitutional complaint in September 2009.

Relying on Article 10 (freedom of expression), the applicants complain that the German courts’ decisions violated their freedom of expression.

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