This article is written by nationally recognized historian and oft-quoted Alcoholics Anonymous archivist Mitchell K. - a witness in the German court case, updating a previous report on this court proceeding.

German Court Orders A.A. Books Destroyed

There is good news, and there is bad news... 

On May 14, 1999 the German courts rejected the claims of AAeV (the German AA GSO) regarding the free distribution of a reprint of the 1st 164 pages of the AA book in English, Finnish, Swedish, Russian and Hebrew. Those books will continue to be distributed at no charge around the world -- to those who cannot afford the approximately $45.00 (US funds) a couple of these country's "official" GSO's are charging for their "authorized" versions. 

The German GSO, with the approval and help of Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. (AAWS) in New York, wanted to fine the AA member and group a half million German dollars (over $330,000 US). The German GSO was ordered to pay all court costs in this case -- one of three which were pending. 

Books to be Destroyed

The second case was found in favor of the German GSO. It means that an individual AA member (one of the only ones named in the case) must pay all costs relating to the German translation of the AA book. He has to stop distribution of the German translation, reveal all distribution and production details (including the full names of AA members into public court records). AND turn over all of the remaining German books over to the german GSO in order for them to be DESTROYED!

 By following the directions of the German courts, the individual fellow AA member will not only be rendered bankrupt, he will be forced to break the anonymity of many fellow AA members. 

The other case is a criminal charge levied against the AA member that has been postponed until November. If found guilty in that one, he will be branded a criminal in a case brought by fellow AA members with the help and consent of AAWS in New York. 

The AA member in question will appeal the decision on the 2nd case to a higher court. However, this will also bring forth the criminal charges. 

Breaking Anonymity

The German GSO had revealed into public court records the full names and addresses of more than 130 AA members. That means AA in Germany with the consent and help from AAWS in New York, violated AA's Tradition on Anonymity by allowing over 130 names of AA members to be placed in the public record. 

The reason that there was a need for a free German translation was that there were already three different translations (1962, 1974 and 1983). These translations were NOT accurate translations, often leaving out the spiritual aspect of the AA program as well as interpreting the original English text in a biased manner inconsistent with the intent of our founding members. 

The German GSO, again with the approval, help and consent of AAWS was also asking that the individual fellow AA member be forever banned from owning, purchasing, or giving away ANY AA literature. This would have effectively blocked him from carrying the message of recovery to the still sick and suffering alcoholic, thus would have removed him from membership in AA itself. 

I Plead Guilty

In solidarity with this individual AA member and the over 130 other members named in the court papers and the hundreds of others whose names will publicly be revealed as the result of this case, I will plead guilty. 
  • I plead guilty to carrying the message of recovery to the still sick and suffering alcoholic.
  • I plead guilty to freely giving of what I have been freely given.
  • I plead guilty to not believing that newcomers should be forced to pay about ten times more for an AA book that we pay in the US.
  • I plead guilty to believing in our Tradition of Anonymity and not placing AA member's names in the public record.
  • I plead guilty to believing what it says in the AA Service Manual under the Concepts that AA WILL NEVER BE PERSONALLY PUNITIVE towards AA members and that what we have we must freely give away.
  • I plead guilty to believing that AA is supposed to be a spiritual entity, based upon principles of honesty and not upon money, property and prestige.
  • I also plead guilty to distributing free books to the still sick and suffering alcoholic and anyone else in AA who wishes to recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. 

Property and Prestige

AA is no longer run from the bottom up (the membership), it is run by a board of trustees bent upon maintaining an approximate $11,000,000 a year business and feels threatened by the free distribution of books by stating that this free distribution violates their so-called intellectual PROPERTY.

 AA is not now, nor has it ever been fully self-supporting through its own contributions. It relies upon the sale of literature in order to maintain high salaried employees, large comfortable offices, worldwide travel (paid for by us) and other amenities. Most of these sales go to outside enterprises and thus much of AA's income is derived from outside sources. 

For all this I plead guilty and am saddened by the turn of events in Germany. AA Inc. will litigate against anyone who threatens their property, income and prestige or questions their ultimate perceived authority over AA members. They are not protecting us from the bad guys, they are protecting themselves and their employees from the loss of MONEY. 

If anyone else wishes to plead guilty to carrying the message of recovery, please contact your delegate, the board of trustees and other AA members. Their answer of course will be a terse one. It will state that AA cannot survive without literature sales and they are protecting intellectual property. Free books will continue to be distributed in many languages, even in German if the court so decides upon appeal. 

If carrying the message of recovery is a crime, EVERY AA MEMBER IS A CRIMINAL. If this is indeed the case, I am proud to proclaim it from the rooftops, I am a grateful criminal, sober by the Grace of God and the Fellowship of AA.