The first hearing in the court case of German-Swiss media empire Ringier Axel Springer against Polish journalist Witold Gadowski was set to take place in the regional court of Warsaw Provincial court of Warsaw but was postponed due to security concerns after up to 100 of Gadowski’s supporters showed up in court.
Axel Springer SE is the largest digital publishing house in Europe, controlling two of Germany’s largest news brands, Bild and Die Welt. In Poland, it’s the publisher of country’s largest tabloid “Fakt” and one of the largest weeklies “Newsweek” as well as the largest newsportal Onet.pl.
The media group sued Gadowski for his statement in which he claimed that the company, founded in 1946, was from the outset linked to people from the Wehrmacht, the SS and Gestapo, while the company’s founder, Axel Springer, was himself involved with the Nazi regime”. In response, the media group Gadowski for infringement of personal interests.
Axel Springer, born in 1912 worked as an editor in his father’s newspaper “Altonaer Nachrichter”. After Hitler came to power in 1933, the paper participated in the anti-Jewish progaganda campaign directed against the German Jewish community. He was also a member of the Nazi paramilitary organization “The National Socialist Motor Corps”. Another stain on his legacy was his decision to abandon his half-Jewish wife Martha Else Meyer, who just had given birth to their first child, soon after the Nurnberg laws came into force and remarrying with an “Aryan” woman.
Witold Gadowski told the media present for the hearing that he hopes that justice will prevail and that the proceeding will be on the grounds of the Polish law, where the constitution guarantees the Polish journalists’ freedom of speech. He also underlined that Axel Ringer Springer is trying to infringe on that exact freedom of speech by taking him to court.
The judge was surprised by the number of people who appeared in the court to support Gadowski and postponed the hearing due to safety concerns.
According to Gadowski, the case filed against him by Axel Springer could first step on the road to restoring the faith in the media in Poland. The columnist said that he still has faith and believes that facts and the truth will be enough to win the case.