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News from Germany

14 October 2002

The 2002 Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. seems to have confounded most of the doomsayers. In spite of initial figures which suggested that attendance would be 4% down, visitor figures for the first day were 3% up on last year, with international visitors up 6.5%. The overall attendance throughout was slightly down however and the Fair was described as 'steady', rather than spectacular. The 2002 Fair may have lacked 'big book' excitement, but solid business was the order of the day. There also seem to be some slightly better signs as regards the German book business, which has been going through hard times, possibly supporting the old adage that books do well in times of recession.

Bertelsmann Acknowledges Nazi Past

An independent commission appointed in 1998 to investigate discrepancies in the wartime record of Bertelsmann has made its report public. The German company, which controls the fifth largest media empire in the world, including Random House, the world's biggest publisher, is shown to have used its ties with the Nazis to transform itself from a provincial printing company into a mass-market publisher and the largest supplier of books to the German army. The firm was also involved in the use of Jewish slave labour and the then head of the family, Heinrich Mohn, belonged to a circle of supporters who donated money to the SS.

Although it is shocking to find that Bertelsmann was involved with the Nazi regime in this way, it is greatly to the credit of the company that the commission has been allowed to investigate freely and to report its findings fully.