Fake Hitler diaries from 1980s scam to be displayed at German national archives

Forgery sparked fury when published as authentic by Stern Magazine, UK’s Sunday Times, before truth came out; publishing house commissions new probe into how fiasco came about

Michael Horovitz is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel

Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs at the Berghof vacation house.
(Bundesarchiv Bild/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA)
Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun with their dogs at the Berghof vacation house. (Bundesarchiv Bild/Wikimedia Commons CC-BY-SA)

The counterfeit “Hitler diaries,” whose publication attracted global controversy in the 1980s, are set to go on display at Germany’s national archives, the firm that owns them said Monday.

The forgery was crafted by petty criminal Konrad Kujau and then sold for 9.3 million Deutschmarks ($7.8 million) to Germany’s Stern Magazine, which published it in 1983. It was also serialized by the British Sunday Times, despite doubts over its authenticity.

The diaries were later found to be a forgery after forensic testing of the ink used and its content, leading to an embarrassing retraction by the publication and by English historian Hugh Trevor-Roper, who originally declared them to be authentic.

Bertelsmann publishing house said Monday that it had commissioned the Leibniz Institute for Contemporary History to launch a fresh probe to shed light on “how and why it was possible for the fakes to be published” 40 years ago.

“The forged Hitler diaries are in good hands in the Federal Archives as peculiar testimonies to contemporary German history,” said the national archive’s president, Michael Hollmann. The archives had been the first to reveal the diaries were forged.

The diary’s content included Adolf Hitler’s lack of knowledge of the Holocaust, expressions of frustration with “the English” and then-UK prime minister Winston Churchill, praise of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin for his purges, descriptions of Hitler’s halitosis and flatulence, and casual comments about his girlfriend Eva Braun.

Kujau’s handwriting resembled Adolf Hitler’s but was given away by historical inaccuracies. He was later jailed for four and a half years for the scam.

Holocaust denier David Irving pointed out at the time that Hitler could not have written the diaries because his arm was injured in his attempted assassination in July 1944. Another doubted that he would have written in pen ink, since the Nazi dictator wrote in pencil.

Billionaire businessman Rupert Murdoch, the owner of The Times, who made great efforts to secure the rights for the fake at the time, expressed regret for his action at the 2012 Leveson Inquiry.

“It was a massive mistake I made and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life,” he said.

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