Virtual reprint of Dutch fascist papers is OK

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The Netherlands' Royal Library cannot be accused of hate-mongering because of its online publication of Nazi papers from World War II.

Dutch Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin told the Lower House on Tuesday that the library is acting within the law, since it is publishing the historic propaganda material for professional reasons.

The government-funded institute recently began a long-term project aimed at online availability of each and every paper published in the Netherlands since 1470. The printed papers are slowly disintegrating, and digital publication offers new possibilities for academic research, the library said on its website. Although the mammoth undertaking was generally applauded, questions were raised about the digitising of wartime newspapers containing anti-Jewish propaganda. They include both papers controlled by the German occupiers of the Netherlands, and those published by wartime collaborators.

The Royal Library, the national library of the Netherlands, said on its website that it wants to reproduce the papers as they were, retaining items which may be found offensive by survivors of wartime persecution.

It is illegal to publish discriminatory texts in the Netherlands, but the Justice minister said an exception is made for such texts if they are reproduced as informative historic material. The ministry is negotiating whether extra safeguards can be added, for instance by cautioning online readers about the nature of the content they are about to see, or by restricting download possibilities of the propaganda material. It is far from certain, however, whether that is technically possible.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

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