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Hitler Diaries

In 1983, the German news magazine Stern published extracts from what perported to be the diaries of Adolf Hitler, known as the Hitler Diaries. The magazine had paid 10 million German marks ($6 million at that time) for the sixty small books as well as two "special issues" about Rudolf Hess' flight to the United Kingdom, covering the period from 1932 to 1945.

Journalist Gerd Heidemann claimed to have discovered them, and submitted them to be reviewed by a number of experts in WWII history, including the renowned Hitler expert Hugh Trevor-Roper (by then ennobled as Lord Dacre). At a press conference on April 25, 1983, the diaries were declared by these experts to be authentic. Even though they had not yet been properly examined by scientists, Lord Dacre endorsed the diaries thus:

"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"

Lord Dacre was at that time a director of Times Newspapers, and although he denied acting dishonestly, there was a clear conflict of interests, because The Sunday Times had already paid a substantial sum for the rights to serialise the diaries in the UK.

Heidemann claimed to have received the diaries from East Germany, smuggled out by a Dr. Fischer. The diaries were claimed to be part of a consignment of documents recovered from a aircraft crash in Börnersdorf near Dresden in April 1945. However within two weeks the Hitler Diaries were revealed as being "grotesquely plump fakes" made on modern paper using modern ink and full of historical inaccuracies. The content had been largely copied from a book of Hitler's speeches with additional 'personal' comments. As a reaction, Stern editors Peter Koch and Felix Schmidt declared the end of their work with the magazine and Heidemann was arrested for fraud.

The diaries were actually written by Konrad Kujau, a notorious Stuttgart forger of Hitler's works. Both he and Heidemann went to trial in 1985 and were each sentenced to 42 months in prison.

In 1991 a television mini-series based on the Robert Harris book of the affair called Selling Hitler was produced for the British ITV network. A 1992 film by German director Helmut Dietl called Schtonk with fictional characters mirrored many of the events.

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