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The Hitler Diaries

The Hitler Diaries: Fakes that Fooled the World

CHARLES HAMILTON
Copyright Date: 1991
Edition: 1
Pages: 232
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130jfw9
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  • Book Info
    The Hitler Diaries
    Book Description:

    Now for the first time, the complete expose of the most daring and successful forgery of all time. For seven days in April 1983, the sensational discovery of Hitler's sixty-two volumes of secret diaries dominated the news headlines of the world. Scholars hailed the diaries as the greatest find of the century, a historical bonanza that would entirely alter our views of Hitler and the Third Reich. Shocked readers followed daily installments showing that Hitler knew nothing about the Holocaust. Then, in an abrupt reversal, the diaries were proved to be bogus!

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-5054-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Characters in the Cast
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Prologue
    (pp. 1-1)

    On Friday, April 22, 1983, newspapers in Europe and America headlined the sensational discovery byStern(Star), a West German photo-news weekly, of sixty-two volumes of secret diaries written by Adolf Hitler. With the diaries, some said to be annotated by Martin Bormann and Rudolf Hess, was a massive archive of material by and about the Fuehrer: 300 watercolor paintings by him (including some of his paramour Eva Braun), drafts of speeches, minutes of meetings, important letters to his henchmen, his Nazi party card, and his World War I uniform and helmet.

    The collection,Sternexplained, had been rescued from...

  6. 1 The Legend of Adolf Hitler
    (pp. 2-5)

    From a distance the ancient toymaking town of Berchtesgaden on the Untersberg in the Bavarian Alps gave the impression of a pleasant medieval village basking in the July sun. To a young American naval officer, only recently discharged from the hospital, it seemed like an idyllic painting of a town; but as his jeep drew nearer, he saw what he had observed in other German cities. The old village was pockmarked and cratered like the moon’s surface. The houses were burnt and topless. There was scarcely a building into which light did not flow through innumerable bomb holes.

    The twenty-seven-year-old...

  7. 2 Birth of a Forger
    (pp. 6-18)

    “What is history but a fiction agreed upon?” said jesting Napoleon, and need not have stayed for an answer. Many historians would concur. Certainly, no one can overestimate the effect that exaggerations and outright lies have upon history. They affect events that have happened, that are happening, and that will happen. A well-told lie, as I am sure Dr. Joseph Goebbels would have attested, is worth a thousand truths.

    The entire Nazi regime was built upon a foundation of lies. It hardly mattered that many of those who told the lies believed them to be truths. Lies they were, and...

  8. 3 The Remaking of Adolf Hitler
    (pp. 19-23)

    “I was sitting at my typewriter,” said Kujau, “and it suddenly struck me that I could write a book,Die Tage der Lebens Adolf Hitler[A day in the life of Adolf Hitler]. So I started to type. After fourteen pages I looked it over and said to myself, ‘That is the same tripe you see everywhere.’ Then I got a better idea. In my cellar I dug out some old copybooks that I’d bought to keep a record of my collection. I decided I’d write a book entirely in Hitler’s handwriting.”¹

    The task faced by Kujau—“only a gag,”...

  9. 4 The Quest for Kujau
    (pp. 24-32)

    Like many mighty affairs that shake the world, the Hitler diaries got launched during a raucous drinking party. On October 20, 1979, Kujau’s favorite client, Fritz Stiefel, threw a soiree at his mansion in Waiblingen, not far from Stuttgart, to honor the birthday of Senta Baur, wife of SS Lieutenant General Hans Baur, once Hitler’s close friend and personal pilot. Senta was not feeling well, and neither she nor her husband attended. Among the guests, however, were Konrad Kujau and Edith Lieblang, as well as Jakob Tiefenthaeler, age fifty-three, who was in charge of audiovisual instruction at a local United...

  10. 5 Operation Green Vault
    (pp. 33-40)

    While Herr Ten Percent was dispatching fruitless appeals to the elusive Kujau, Heidemann continued to dog the footsteps of Konrad Fischer with the relentless determination of a German Javert. Eventually, purely by accident, he discovered that Fischer lived with a girlfriend, Edith Lieblang. This provided the clue the reporter was looking for. He quickly found out that his quarry was listed in the telephone book under the name Lieblang.

    An avid believer in the adage “money talks,” Heidemann decided to let money do most of the talking during his first meeting with Kujau alias Fischer alias Lieblang. To obtain the...

  11. 6 Evil Portents on the Rock of Apes
    (pp. 41-47)

    “Right from the very start,” a German journalist said to me, “the editors atSternhad under their noses the damning evidence that the diaries were faked. They’d published Kujau’s forgeries before, you know—those rhymes supposedly by Corporal Hitler. And they were aware that the first ‘Hitler diary’ came from the same source—Fritz Stiefel’s collection.” As you know, Eberhard Jaeckel published a bunch of these Kujau-Hitler poems, all provided by Stiefel, in a book on the early writings of Hitler. Jaeckel got into trouble when a clever Munich archivist pointed out that one of the poems was actually...

  12. 7 The Selling of Adolf Hitler
    (pp. 48-59)

    To get the top price for the Hitler diaries,Sterndecided early in 1983 to issue a prospectus to all potential buyers—Newsweek, Time, Paris Match,and the Rupert Murdoch syndicate.

    For a year and a half, the editors atSternhad maintained their excitement over the tedious, meandering comments of Kujau’s Hitler. Apparently they were so ignorant of the Fuehrer and his character that they really imagined they were reading the thoughts of the great dictator. They had some four million dollars in the diaries, however, and they felt it was now time to find out if they were...

  13. 8 Adolf the Amiable
    (pp. 60-65)

    “Sixty volumes of hitherto unknown diaries kept by Adolf Hitler,” wrote Michael Binyon on the front page of the prestigiousTimesof London, “have been discovered after lying for almost 35 years concealed at an undisclosed location in East Germany. The documents . . . have been painstakingly tested and analysed by experts including handwriting analysts from the Federal Archives in Koblenz for the past two and a half years. . . . Extracts from the astonishing documents . . . will significantly alter historical judgments on Hitler’s strategic thinking, exercise of power and personality.”¹

    This impressive introduction to the...

  14. 9 Hitler’s Diaries in the Headlines
    (pp. 66-74)

    On the morning of Friday, April22, 1983, a madness was about to infect the literate world, a madness that in many cases warped and corrupted the ability to think and showed how easily mortals can succumb to delusion. Before it ran its course, it had pitted historian against historian, publisher against publisher, and expert against expert and had confused half the world’s populace.

    My first hint of the mass lunacy that followed the announcement the discovery of Adolf Hitler’s “authentic diaries” came at 11:30 in the morning that Friday when a young reporter fromNewsweek,Maks Westerman, walked into my...

  15. 10 The Furor over The Fuehrer
    (pp. 75-79)

    By Monday, April 25, 1983, the fourth day after the discovery of the diaries, millions of people throughout the world had been tricked into believing that Adolf Hitler was a peace-loving statesman. Neo-Nazis were rendered ecstatic by the Fuehrer’s reincarnation as an amiable leader who abhorred brutality and war. However, the forger’s whitewash had only glossed the tyrant’s mask. Here there the gloss was beginning to rub off, and the original handful doubters was adding to its ranks hour by hour.

    To silence their critics,Stern’s editors held a huge press conference their brilliantly lit basement. They summoned a few...

  16. 11 The Forger’s Motive
    (pp. 80-82)

    The motive of an uncaught and unidentified criminal is always guessing game—a nagging problem for the police and great sport amateur sleuths. Even after the malefactor is apprehended and confesses, the guessing goes on. For each of us, whether he knows it not, usually has at least three motives for every overt act: the motive admits to others, the motive he hides from everyone except himself, and the subconscious motive.

    Long before the forger gave himself up to the police, there were wild guesses about why he had sunk so much time and effort into fabricating the Hitler diaries....

  17. 12 Secrets of Hitler’s Handwriting
    (pp. 83-96)

    Adolf Hitler’s handwriting is violent and explosive, a torrential cataract of anger and power that plunges across the page, then often collapses in depression. This savage Teutonic script holds the key to the Fuehrer’s psyche. It is hard, brutal, determined. The forger’s imitation, on the other hand, is dainty, tripping, almost effeminate. The swift dagger thrusts of Hitler are transformed by Kujau into delicate, threadlike strokes.

    What I have described above is basically thefeelof the handwriting, the instantaneous impression created by a writer’s script rather than the way he forms his letters and words. It is by feel...

  18. 13 The Official Verdict: Forgery!
    (pp. 97-102)

    By the morning of Thursday, May 6, 1983, two weeks after the diaries had burst upon an amazed world, the fierce debates over their authenticity had pretty much ceased to rage. A deceptive lull lay over battle-field. Opponents of the diaries had expressed their views were silent.Newsweek’s Kenneth W. Rendell had still refused to give pro or con opinion in print. TheNew York Post,ignoring all warning signals, was busy exploiting lurid excerpts from the diaries. In Hamburg, ruffled by his humiliating reception in America,Stern’seditor Peter Koch angrily proclaimed his abiding conviction that the diaries were...

  19. 14 Panic on the Rock of Apes
    (pp. 103-109)

    The forgery of the Hitler diaries was a crime that left almost no clue for the Bonn police. In fact, the scenario appeared to have run its course in a dense fog. A credulous publisher (Henri Nannen) claimed he had shelled out over $4 million in cash (no receipts required) to an unseen and unnamed recipient; and a mendacious middleman (Gerd Heidemann) alleged he had tossed the huge bundles of marks into a speeding car from which, in tum, the Hitler diaries were pitched into his car.

    From the very start there was another big problem that hampered the Bonn...

  20. 15 The “Reincarnated” Forger
    (pp. 110-122)

    Forgery is the most audacious of all the arts. At its best it is an adroit meld of impertinence and skill, of daring and brilliance. For two hundred years every generation has had its spate of historical literary forgers who created their moment of mayhem in the world scholarship and were then forgotten. There was Baron von Gerstenbergk in Germany, who turned out hard-to-spot Schillers over a century ago; “Antique” Smith in the 1890s, whose output of Robert Bums almost doubled the known writings of the Scottish poet; Charles “The Baron” Weisberg, a master of Lincoln’s script who created rare...

  21. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  22. 16 Fake Biographies of Hitler
    (pp. 123-132)

    In the spring of 1945 I was with the United States Army in Namur, Belgium. The collapse of Nazi resistance and the surrender of all German forces in Europe on May 7, 1945, had brought me three new friends, M. and Mme. Tricot and their son, who had invited a fellow soldier and me off the street to share a drink with them on the Allied victory. Within a few weeks we were fast friends. The Tricots amiably tolerated my fractured French. Late that May I picked up a little French paperback that had just been published in Namur:La...

  23. 17 Kujau’s Amazing New Career
    (pp. 133-137)

    “You can see, of course, that Konrad Kujau is an artist of remarkable talent,” said the man who sat chatting with me on the morning of June 14, 1984. “He has a clever touch, this forger! Notice how he portrays Hitler as his guiding spirit. And just look at how adroitly he turns sour-faced Fuehrer into a comic figure!”

    My visitor was Kurt Groenewold, Kujau’s lawyer. He struck me even more amusing than his client’s drawings. His thinning gray sprang out wildly in every direction, as though charged with electricity. He looked like a mad scientist, a genius forever divorced...

  24. 18 The Battle of the Liars
    (pp. 138-143)

    If there’s a Baron Munchausen Club in Germany, I’d like to nominate Konrad Kujau and Gerd Heidemann for membership. Between them, these two artful liars can in a few seconds pulverize the truth. Both with earnestness and plausibility, and since their stories are nearly always diametrically opposite, it would appear that one of them may telling the truth. Usually, however, both are lying. Instead of the truth being somewhere in between, as is so often the case when two exchange heated words, it is sometimes never touched upon at all.

    In the remand prison in Hamburg during the summer of...

  25. 19 The Five Million Marks That Vanished
    (pp. 144-152)

    Now you see them, now you don’t—five million marks in crisp, fresh banknotes that disappeared into the thin air of Stuttgart Hamburg.

    Of all the clever tricks performed by Kujau and Heidemann, legerdemain twins, this was the only one that even Houdini couldn’t have duplicated. The marks that vanished were last seen when they were handed over to Heidemann by Gruner & Jahr, publishers pursestrings ofStern.The crack reporter was then dispatched to invest them in Hitler diaries. The publishers asked for no receipts and none. Operation Green Vault was an undercover transaction in which financial records were...

  26. 20 The Conspirators on Trial: The Evidence
    (pp. 153-167)

    Right from the start of the fraud trial in August 1984, it seemed obvious that Kujau and Heidemann, the two featured actors, were going fracture the world's record for lying under oath. Whatever the verdict, it also appeared clear that the trial was going to be a farce, a real slapstick affair that would enrage the judge and amuse the entire world.

    Juergen Steinhoff,Stern’s reporter, asked Kujau: “If you could write your sentence, how many years would you give yourself?”

    “Oh, six months with probation.”

    “Not bad. What about Heidemann?”

    “For his stupidity I’d give him two years.”

    Civil...

  27. 21 The Conspirators on Trial: The Verdict
    (pp. 168-173)

    “Everytime I come into this courtroom,” observed Pieter Koenig, the jovial lawyer for Edith Lieblang, “I look at Kujau and Heidemann and think that five million marks are unaccounted for. We still don’t know which one of them has the money.”

    By this time the lawyers had harangued the judge and jury for ten months. The jury had listened patiently, and thirty-seven witnesses had sat in the witness box and testified, most of them deftly skirting the truth. As the marathon neared its hundredth day with no hint yet as who absconded with the missing millions, the judge banged his...

  28. 22 Machinations of the Media
    (pp. 174-183)

    “Hitler is the one creature all respectable people can hate without qualms of conscience,” wrote Russell Baker in his column “Sunday Observer.”

    If you are servicing the masses, Hitler means big money, and the prospect of that gaudy profit makes wise men abandon sense and taste.

    The Hitler diary hoax, which saw worldly, cynical editors easily gulled by the crudest forgery, illustrates the point. There are bitter ironies here for those who fought so hard to destroy him. While his betters make a new generation yawn, Hitler, as a rare and invaluable hate object, threatens to become the enduring symbol...

  29. Epilogue
    (pp. 184-191)

    Kujau’s forgeries are still with us. In fact, they are likely to be with us for the next century. They tum up for sale here and there, in dealer’s catalogs and at auction. They seldom wear tags that identify them as impostors of history. Often they are peddled as precious originals—manuscript letters, speeches, sketches, and watercolors still tingling from the Fuehrer’s touch.

    For three years I pursued an elusive wholesale vendor of Kujau’s fakes in the hope of blocking further sales. Slowly but inexorably I worked to pin down his address. First I learned that the seller was “somewhere...

  30. Notes
    (pp. 192-198)
  31. Bibliography
    (pp. 199-203)
  32. Index
    (pp. 204-211)