Eva Herman successful before the Cologne Higher Regional Court

On 28 July 2009, the television presenter and book author Eva Herman was also upheld in the appeal proceedings against the Axel Springer publishing house before the Cologne Higher Regional Court (OLG Köln). The 15th civil senate forbade the publishing house to continue misquoting the presenter in the way that she had approved of National Socialism in parts, namely in relation to the esteem in which she held her mother. In addition, the Springer publishing house must pay monetary compensation of 25,000 euros and correct in a further publication that Ms Herman did not make the statement in this way (case number OLG Köln 15 U 37/09).

At a press conference in Berlin on 6 September 2007, Ms. Herman and her publisher presented their book "The Noah's Ark Principle - Why We Must Save the Family" and answered questions from the journalists present. The "Hamburger Abendblatt", published by Springer, wrote about this in its print and internet edition with regard to Herman's statements on National Socialist politics: "There was a lot that was very bad, for example Adolf Hitler, but there was also a lot that was very good. For example, the appreciation of the mother." The TV presenter then filed a claim against the Axel Springer publishing house - together with the editor of the article - for injunctive relief and for payment of monetary compensation, arguing that her right of personality had been severely impaired by the fact that the misquote portrayed her as a sympathiser of Nazi family policy. In truth, she had always made it clear, both during the press conference and in other public appearances, that she abhorred National Socialism.

The judges of the Higher Regional Court today - like the Regional Court of Cologne in the previous instance - essentially upheld the TV presenter. The quote that was put into her mouth in the article in the "Hamburger Abendblatt" as her own statement was wrong and did not correspond to Herman's actual statements during the press conference. In reality, it was an interpretation of the ambiguous statement actually made by Herman at the press conference. This should have been made clear in the article. The statement and attitude attributed to the television presenter by the misquote massively impaired her general right of personality and made her appear in a negative light, since the statement ultimately trivialised the unjust character of the Nazi regime by reducing it to a level that was at least partly bearable and in reality not so bad. The misquote also attributed to Ms Herman the substantive approval of the Nazi role of mother as the bearer of Aryan offspring. This would massively impair and degrade her social value, which was particularly serious as Ms. Herman enjoyed a high profile and role model function as a newsreader and had to meet special requirements of seriousness and neutrality.

In view of the serious violation of the right of personality and the degree of fault on the part of the publisher, the Senate also awarded monetary compensation in the amount of 25,000 euros. Since the statement was highly likely to cause massive damage to Eva Herman's public image, the editors responsible for the article could and should have ascertained by simple and prompt enquiry whether Herman's statement had actually been made at the press conference, especially since no prepared statement had been read out there, but free speeches had been exchanged. It could also have been easily clarified that it had been an interpretation of Herman's statement. In assessing the compensation, however, the senate did not take into account that the media campaign that followed the article had considerably affected Herman's professional and private existence. Springer-Verlag was not to be held solely responsible for these further effects.

The Senate did not allow an appeal against today's judgement. However, the publisher may file a non-admission appeal with the Federal Court of Justice within one month after service of the judgement.

In 3 other cases, the Higher Regional Court did not have to pass a judgement because the Springer publishing house and the defendant editor had already withdrawn their appeals against the judgements of the Regional Court. According to this, "Bild" or the corresponding internet publications may no longer call Herman a "stupid cow". This phrase had been used by Bild columnist Franz Josef Wagner in his column "Post von Wagner" after the TV presenter's expulsion from the legendary "Johannes B. Kerner" programme. The Regional Court had already considered this an insult and awarded Herman damages of 10,000 euros.


Source: Press release of the Cologne Higher Regional Court


Goldberg Attorneys at Law

Attorney at Law Michael Ullrich, LL.M. (Information Law)

Specialist lawyer for information technology law (IT law)

E-mail: info@goldberg.de