A Brief History
On April 22, 1983, the world was shocked to hear that the Diaries of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler had been found.
Stern, a respectable German magazine, reported that they had received the diaries that had been found in the wreckage of an airplane crash in East Germany.
Obviously, with documents of such great historical importance the establishing of their authenticity was the first order of business, and Stern allowed representatives of Times Newspapers (British) and Newsweek (American) to view the documents. The diaries were declared genuine and the world was prepared to reassess what we thought we knew about Adolf Hitler.
Skeptics surfaced immediately, speculating that the Soviets or East Germans may have forged the 60 volumes of documents included in the “find.” The journalists that had previously vouched for the documents’ genuineness started to back track their statements and West German officials declared the diaries fake, pointing out various inaccuracies and the use of modern equipment and ink to produce them.
Not surprisingly, in 1984 the journalist that sold the documents to Stern and the forger that had created them were tried for the crimes of forgery and fraud with both receiving 42 month prison sentences. Stern had paid 9 million Deutsche Marks for the forgeries.
The reputations of Stern as well as the media officials that had authenticated the documents were severely damaged. The obviousness of the fakery, with blatant disregard for copying Hitler’s handwriting, historical inaccuracies, and the use of modern inks and equipment should have been noticed immediately by any professional dealing with documents.
The story of the Hitler Diaries Hoax is told in the 1986 book, Selling Hitler: The Story of the Hitler Diaries, and in the 1991 British mini-series Selling Hitler (DVD 2010).
Rupert Murdoch, conservative media mogul (21st Century Fox, The Daily News, The Times), under interrogation in 2012 for improper and illegal journalistic practices, admitted that although the authenticity of the Hitler Diaries was already believed to be a hoax, he made the order to print them anyway. No wonder people do not believe what they read! Question for students (and subscribers): What is your favorite journalistic hoax? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Harris, Robert. Selling Hitler: The Extraordinary Story of the Con Job of the Century. Pantheon, 1986.