Hitler Diaries
In April 1983, the West German news magazine
Magazines, periodicals, glossies or serials are publications, generally published on a regular schedule, containing a variety of articles. They are generally financed by advertising, by a purchase price, by pre-paid magazine subscriptions, or all three...

Stern (magazine)
Stern is a weekly news magazine published in Germany. It was founded in 1948 by Henri Nannen, and is currently published by Gruner + Jahr, a subsidiary of Bertelsmann. In the first quarter of 2006, its print run was 1.019 million copies and it reached 7.84 million readers according to...

 published excerpts from what purported to be the diaries
A diary is a record with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person's experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comment on current events outside the writer's direct experience. Someone...

 of Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

, known as the Hitler Diaries , which were subsequently revealed to be forgeries
Forgery is the process of making, adapting, or imitating objects, statistics, or documents with the intent to deceive. Copies, studio replicas, and reproductions are not considered forgeries, though they may later become forgeries through knowing and willful misrepresentations. Forging money or...

. The magazine had paid 10 million German mark
German mark
The Deutsche Mark |mark]], abbreviated "DM") was the official currency of West Germany and Germany until the adoption of the euro in 2002. It is commonly called the "Deutschmark" in English but not in German. Germans often say "Mark" or "D-Mark"...

s for the sixty small books, plus a "special volume" about Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Hess
Rudolf Walter Richard Hess was a prominent Nazi politician who was Adolf Hitler's deputy in the Nazi Party during the 1930s and early 1940s...

' flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945.

"Discovery" of the diaries

Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann
Gerd Heidemann
Gerd Heidemann is a German journalist best known for his role in the publication of purported Hitler Diaries that were subsequently proved to be forgeries....

 claimed to have received the diaries from East Germany, smuggled out by a "Dr. Fischer
Konrad Kujau
Konrad Paul Kujau was an illustrator and forger who became famous in 1983 as the creator of the so-called Hitler Diaries, for which he received DM 2.5 million from a person who in turn sold it for DM 9.3 million to the magazine Stern.-Early life:"Konny" Kujau was one of five children of Richard...

". The diaries were supposed to be part of a consignment of documents recovered from an aircraft crash in Börnersdorf near Dresden
Dresden is the capital city of the Free State of Saxony in Germany. It is situated in a valley on the River Elbe, near the Czech border. The Dresden conurbation is part of the Saxon Triangle metropolitan area....

 in April 1945.

Sterns parent company, Gruner and Jahr, collected the diaries in great secrecy over the course of more than 18 months. Three separate handwriting analyses were arranged, in Europe and the USA, of one page from one of the diaries; all the tests identified the writing as Hitler's. However, Gruner and Jahr delayed forensic analysis; and fear of leaks meant that no experts in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 history were allowed more than cursory access to the diaries prior to publication. Two historians who did briefly see them, Hugh Trevor-Roper and Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Weinberg
Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg is a German-born American diplomatic and military historian noted for his studies in the history of World War II. Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the...

, were retained by Times Newspapers and Newsweek
Newsweek is an American weekly news magazine published in New York City. It is distributed throughout the United States and internationally. It is the second-largest news weekly magazine in the U.S., having trailed Time in circulation and advertising revenue for most of its existence...

, respectively, to authenticate the diaries prior to bidding for the serialisation rights.

Trevor-Roper, an independent director of Times Newspapers, flew to Switzerland to see the diaries. Stern showed him not only the diary volumes, but a large archive of additional Hitler material, said to have been salvaged from the Börnersdorf crash along with the diaries. Trevor-Roper was convinced of the diaries' authenticity, writing in the next day's The Times that:

I am now satisfied that the documents are authentic; that the history of their wanderings since 1945 is true; and that the standard accounts of Hitler's writing habits, of his personality and, even, perhaps, of some public events, may in consequence have to be revised.

Discovery of the forgery

Doubts quickly emerged. A press conference held to launch publication on 25 April 1983 was a fiasco for Stern. Both Trevor-Roper and Gerhard Weinberg qualified their previous endorsements, and writer David Irving
David Irving
David John Cawdell Irving is an English writer,best known for his denial of the Holocaust, who specialises in the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany...

 held up photocopies of a fake Hitler diary that he said was from the same source as Sterns material.

Within two weeks, the West German Bundesarchiv revealed that the Hitler Diaries were "grotesquely superficial fakes" made on modern paper using modern ink and full of historical inaccuracies. Content had been largely copied from a book of Hitler's speeches, with additional "personal" comments. Much of the "archive" that had impressed Trevor-Roper in Switzerland was also discovered to have been forged.

Dr Julius Grant
Julius Grant
Julius Grant was a British forensic scientist and intelligence officer.Grant made a career exposing forgeries on the basis of chemical analysis of paper, ink and other characteristics of written documents. Much of his work was for British Intelligence as illustrated in the Colin Wallace Clockwork...

 in London confirmed the forensic analysis. The autograph expert Kenneth W. Rendell
Kenneth W. Rendell
Kenneth W. Rendell is an American dealer and expert in historical letters, manuscripts, and documents. He is president of Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc., in South Natick, Massachusetts, and the Kenneth W. Rendell Gallery in New York City. Rendell is also founder of the Museum of World War II in...

 concluded the Diaries were not particularly good fakes, calling them "bad forgeries but a great hoax" and stating that "with the exception of imitating Hitler's habit of slanting his writing diagonally as he wrote across the page, the forger failed to observe or to imitate the most fundamental characteristics of his handwriting."
Stern editors Peter Koch and Felix Schmidt resigned from the magazine; Frank Giles stood down as editor of The Sunday Times; and William Broyles resigned from Newsweek. The episode was much ridiculed in the UK media (particularly by the Sunday Times rival newspapers), and historian Hugh Trevor-Roper's reputation was seriously damaged.

The diaries were actually written by Konrad Kujau
Konrad Kujau
Konrad Paul Kujau was an illustrator and forger who became famous in 1983 as the creator of the so-called Hitler Diaries, for which he received DM 2.5 million from a person who in turn sold it for DM 9.3 million to the magazine Stern.-Early life:"Konny" Kujau was one of five children of Richard...

, a notorious Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

 forger. Both he and Heidemann went to trial in 1984 and were each sentenced to 42 months in prison (for forgery and embezzlement).

It was never determined where the missing money went. Kujau certainly received a portion of it, but it is likely that Heidemann pocketed a majority. At the time the fraud was being investigated, authorities learned that Heidemann purchased two villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

s in Spain, two luxury sports cars, expensive jewelry, rare WWII memorabilia for his collection, and extravagant vacations, amongst other things. All of the items, totaling well over 1.5 million marks, were allegedly paid for out of Heidemann's monthly salary of 5,400 Marks.

After release from prison, Kujau was able to use his new fame as a forger to open a studio and sell "original Kujau forgeries".

Accounts of the hoax

Journalist Robert Harris
Robert Harris (novelist)
Robert Dennis Harris is an English novelist. He is a former journalist and BBC television reporter.-Early life:Born in Nottingham, Harris spent his childhood in a small rented house on a Nottingham council estate. His ambition to become a writer arose at an early age, from visits to the local...

 published an account of the hoax in 1986 — Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries.

Between 11 June and 9 July 1991 Selling Hitler
Selling Hitler
Selling Hitler is a 1991 ITV television drama-documentary mini-series about the Hitler Diaries hoax and was based on Robert Harris's 1986 book Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries.-Plot:...

, a five-episode Euston Films
Euston Films
Euston Films was a British film and television production company. It was a subsidiary company of Thames Television, and operated from the 1970s to the 1990s, producing various series for Thames, which were screened nationally on the ITV network...

/Thames Television
Thames Television
Thames Television was a licensee of the British ITV television network, covering London and parts of the surrounding counties on weekdays from 30 July 1968 until 31 December 1992....

 drama-documentary series based on Harris's book, was broadcast on the British ITV
ITV is the major commercial public service TV network in the United Kingdom. Launched in 1955 under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority to provide competition to the BBC, it is also the oldest commercial network in the UK...

 channel. It was directed by Alastair Reid
Alastair Reid (director)
Alastair Reid was a British television director whose credits include the TV series Traffik and Tales of the City....

 and starred Jonathan Pryce
Jonathan Pryce
Jonathan Pryce, CBE is a Welsh stage and film actor and singer. After studying at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and meeting his longtime partner English actress Kate Fahy in 1974, he began his career as a stage actor in the 1970s...

 as Heidemann, Alexei Sayle
Alexei Sayle
Alexei David Sayle is a British stand-up comedian, actor and author. He was a central part of the alternative comedy circuit in the early 1980s. He was voted the 18th greatest stand-up comic on Channel 4's 100 Greatest Stand-ups in 2007...

 as Kujau, Tom Baker
Tom Baker
Thomas Stewart "Tom" Baker is a British actor. He is best known for playing the fourth incarnation of the Doctor in the science fiction television series Doctor Who, a role he played from 1974 to 1981.-Early life:...

 as Gruner + Jahr
Gruner + Jahr
Gruner + Jahr GmbH & Co. KG is the largest European printing and publishing firm. Its headquarters is in Hamburg, Germany.-History:Originally founded on August 1, 1948 as the Henri Nannen publishing house, Gruner + Jahr was created in 1965 from a merger by acquisition, by publishers John Jahr Sr....

 Chairman Manfred Fischer, Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

 as Hugh Trevor-Roper, Roger Lloyd Pack
Roger Lloyd Pack
Roger Lloyd-Pack is an English actor known for his roles in the TV shows The Vicar of Dibley, Only Fools and Horses and The Old Guys.-Career:...

 as David Irving
David Irving
David John Cawdell Irving is an English writer,best known for his denial of the Holocaust, who specialises in the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany...

, Richard Wilson as Henri Nannen
Henri Nannen
Henri Nannen was a famous German journalist....

 and Barry Humphries
Barry Humphries
John Barry Humphries, AO, CBE is an Australian comedian, satirist, dadaist, artist, author and character actor, best known for his on-stage and television alter egos Dame Edna Everage, a Melbourne housewife and "gigastar", and Sir Les Patterson, Australia's foul-mouthed cultural attaché to the...

 as Rupert Murdoch
Rupert Murdoch
Keith Rupert Murdoch, AC, KSG is an Australian-American business magnate. He is the founder and Chairman and CEO of , the world's second-largest media conglomerate....

. The series, which The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 described as "a rollicking comedy with black edges", was released on Region 1 DVD in July 2010.

In 1992 the story of the Hitler diaries was also adapted to the big screen. The satirical German movie Schtonk!
Schtonk! is a satirical German movie, retelling the hoax of the Hitler Diaries.Subtitled Der Film zum Buch vom Führer , the movie is a grotesque farce about the events when, in 1983, German Stern magazine began to publish, with great fanfare, the 60 volumes of the alleged diaries of Adolf Hitler...

 garnered positive reviews by critics and won three German movie awards
Deutscher Filmpreis
The Deutscher Filmpreis is the highest German movie award. From 1951 to 2004 it was awarded by a commission, since 2005 the award has been given by the Deutsche Filmakademie...

 as well as an Academy Award nomination.

External links

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