The case of Hitler’s Diaries was a  notorious scandal. In 1983 the German news magazine Stern paid 9.3 million Deutsche Marks (£2.33 million or $3.7 million) for the publication rights to recently “discovered” diaries ostensibly lost in the last plane transferring items from Hitler’s Berlin bunker to Berchtesgaden. This plane never arrived, having crashed in a forest near the Czechoslovakian border where it was picked over by locals before the SS cordoned it off. The Sunday Times bought English serial rights to the diaries for £250,000, but even before they were published suspicions as to their authenticity surfaced. The Independent has a nice account. Wikipedia has a very full entry.

Lord Dacre, Sir Hugh Trevor Roper that was, a director of the company at the time, vouched for the authenticity of the material The Sunday Times was about to publish, then had second thoughts, leading to Rupert Murdoch’s immortal courageous-publisher words “Fuck Dacre. Publish”. It turned out in the end that Konrad Kujau, a dealer in Nazi memorabilia, had in fact written the diaries himself using modern ink on sheets of paper stained with tea in order to make them look old. The Sunday Times had already in 1968 been involved in the purchase of Mussolini’s diaries which also were revealed to be fakes. WWII memorabilia is obviously a honey pot.

Kujau signing specimen pages from a cookbook (Photo: Reuters)


The fakery was in fact pretty obvious: the diary was presented between a set of covers embellished with Hitler’s initials, stuck on the front, but as Fraktur had gone out of current usage by 1976, the forger got it wrong and pasted FH on the front instead of AH. He used metal-looking plastic letters manufactured in Hong Kong! Superficially it looked all right but was obviously wrong to anyone who knew; which at that time must have been almost everybody. The use of Fraktur had been mandated by the Nazis. When I was learning German many of the books we used were still printed in black letter: almost everyone in Germany who could read, would, one would think, have noticed this boner. Obviously a lot of people desperately wanted these diaries to be real. The initials FH can be seen in this picture of Stern‘s announcement of the discovery: someone there must have surely been hit between the eyes by this obvious error, and decided to suppress the thought in the interest of a scoop.

Surely the times must be ripe for another run at a new “discovery”.