People get conned, hoaxed or made to look fools all the time. But every now and again a really big hoax hits the mainstream media. Sometimes
Here are two global “hoaxes” that have their origins based in stories from the 1940s . Both resurfaced decades later in the 1980s and 1990s
respectively. One story was spotted for what it was within weeks of hitting the news and the men behind it went to prison. The other lingered for
another decade and the man behind it all made a lot of money.
The Hitler Diaries
In April 1983, German weekly Der Stern came out with an exclusive report on what
was seemingly the most exciting find from World War II ,the collected thoughts of Adolf Hitler in his own words, and more importantly his own
The story began in the autumn of 1979 when an investigative reporter for the German magazine Der Stern, Gerd Heidemann, was invited to the house of a
man named Fritz Stiefel, to look over some Nazi memorabilia. After going through various items, Heidemann was shocked to discover that Stiefel was in
possession of a secret diary , just one of a number of volumes, that Adolf Hitler had kept. He realised this would be a journalistic scoop of the
century if he could get his hands on the diaries but would need the financial might of his magazine to acquire them.
Heidemann (pictured right) knew this meant proving the diaries were real.
He established that the diary in Stiefel’s possession had originally been cargo on a Junkers 352 transport that went down carrying some of Hitler's
personal effects in the village of Boernersdorf at the end of the war . A chest containing some of the Fuerher’s personal effects and papers were
on the aircraft. Local farmers had hidden the documents and then given them to a high ranking German officer after the war. Heidemann also learned
there were even more volumes of Hitler’s diaries in the hands of a certain Konrad Fischer.
He eventually convinced Stern to purchase the diaries but found it difficult to contact Fischer. Even after contact was made, Fischer was reluctant to
deal with Heidemann. Having eventually been persuaded that his anonymity would be guaranteed and a rather tempting payment of around 2m Deutschmarks
offered , a deal was struck.
The first diary was delivered to Stern editorial offices in January of 1981. After that they kept appearing like diarrhoea with eventually 62 volumes
spanning the period 1932-1945 turning up.
The diaries themselves portrayed Hitler as a much more genial man than in history books. He seemed to have little knowledge of his own death camps and
sought to deport the Jews to other lands in the East rather than exterminate them.
It was believed that an East German General was having them smuggled out of the East in pianos. Stern paid 9.9m Deutchsmark in total. The magazine
was initially sceptical but as the years went by Heidemann’s bosses became more and more convinced by his research.
Stern was also seeking to sell the publishing rights on to international media corporations.
Before bidding on the diaries, handwriting experts Max Frei-Sultzer, Ordway Hilton and Kenneth Rendell, were brought in to verify the authenticity of
Hitler’s handwriting. All agreed that the diaries were authentic .The Times (UK) and Newsweek engaged historians Hugh Trevor-Roper and Gerhard
Weinberg to examine the papers, with Trevor-Roper also convinced of their authenticity stating in the Times of April 24th 1983.
Hugh Trevor-Roper & Gerhard Weinberg
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.
It was only later discovered that the samples of Hitler’s writing provided by the West Germany Federal Archives were actually forgeries!
Of course there were doubters as soon the story broke. Long time scholar of Hitler’s life, David Irving, was the most outspoken critic of the Hitler
Diaries. He had written a book “Hitler’s War” and accumulated many original letters and documents from Nazi Germany that gave him reason to
testify that the Hitler Diaries were completely false. On the other hand many argued that no one could possibly forge over 60 diaries.
Upon review by the West Germany Federal Archives, they deemed that a large number of the entries were taken from “Hitler’s Speeches and
Proclamations” a book by Max Domarus, a federal archivist. Errors from this document were repeated in the diaries. They were then chemically
tested. Experts analyzed the ink and found that it was less than a year old. The paper was placed under an ultraviolet light and contained a paper
whitening chemical that was not used in paper manufacturing until 1954. The glue and bindings were also created after World War II. When another
sample of Hitler’s writing was compared to the questioned documents, it was found that the handwriting did not match.
The consequences were that Trevor-Roper's reputation was ruined and editors at Stern, the Sunday Times and Newsweek lost their jobs . As for the
diaries themselves, they turned out to be the work of notorious Stuttgart forger Konrad Kujau. Both Heidemann and Kujau went to trial and were each
sentenced to 42 months in prison for forgery and embezzlement.
Some 30 years later, in April 2013, fake history took it’s place in real history
. Germany's Federal Archives accepted a collection of the forgeries from Stern, not as part of Nazi history, but as a part of news media history.
Konrad Kujau – Forging ahead
And so we move on…………(continues below)
edit on 11/5/13 by mirageman because: typos