Here's how a German magazine fell for Hitler's fake diaries which are set to be made public
Adolf Hitler's fake diaries, which sparked outrage when they were published by a German magazine as real accounts 40 years ago, will be put on public display at the national archives in Berlin.
Germany’s Stern magazine published the counterfeit journals and circulated their editions around the world. The fake diaries will now be given to the state for preservation, said Bertelsmann publishing house, which currently owns them.
Biggest fake news story in Germany's press history
More than 200 journalists and 27 television crews had gathered on April 25, 1983, at the Gruner & Jahr publishing house in Hamburg to witness what Stern magazine was about to present in front of the world. The editors-in-chief of the magazine arrived at the press conference with 12 black notebooks in their hands, which they claimed to include the personal notes of Adolf Hitler.
Stern's reporter Gerd Heidemann posed with the diaries and the clicked photos were published across the world along with the sensational find of the reports.
Three days later, a special edition was published by Stern with excerpts from the diaries. The circulation of the magazine increased by 400,000. "The history of the Third Reich must be rewritten in large parts," Stern editor-in-chief Peter Koch said.
Forged accounts, years of humiliation
After the diaries were submitted for forensic analysis, it was discovered that the accounts were forged and that the paper used in these diaries had no existence in the Third Reich but was developed in the 1950s.
A week after publishing the forged diaries of Hitler, Stern had to make a humiliating admission that was fooled by the seller who coaxed them into buying the diaries for 9.3m Deutschmarks.
The owner of the Sunday Times, Rupert Murdoch, had been personally involved in the bidding war to secure the rights of the diaries and had flown to Zurich to finalise the deal. Speaking at the 2012 Leveson inquiry, Murdoch later said that he would never live down the error. “It was a massive mistake I made and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life," he said.
President of Germany’s federal archives Michael Hollmann described the diaries as “a shameless attempt to give the brutal crimes of National Socialism a human veneer, which struck a chord in 1980’s society.”
Creator the forged diaries
A petty criminal, Konrad Kujau, who was earlier creating fake luncheon vouchers had produced the diaries. He had a successful career as a Nazi memorabilia forger who also claimed to have a few paintings created by Hitler. The diaries were written by Kujau between 1981 and 1983, and he had sold them to the West German journalist Gerd Heidemann, who was famous for his obsession with Nazi artefacts.
The two men served jail sentences for the roles they played in creating and circulating fake diary entries and various newspaper editors were fired over the scandal.
English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who was an expert in Nazi history, had his reputation tainted after he called the works to be authentic.
The diaries will now be placed on permanent display in Koblenz, in the western part of Germany, and will be made available to the general public academics in accordance with the law.