Gerd Heidemann, a journalist, explained to other reporters that – via Martin Bormann – he had found Hitler’s personal diaries, lost since 1945. In April, 1982, the editors-in-chief at Stern magazine learned that far more than twenty-seven diaries existed. The result was an opera written by a fake: the deepest fake.
Now, said Heidemann, Germans could free themselves of their childhoods. The diaries gave new insight, he said; buying them was an investment, the end of national guilt. Today, if you can buy them, Nazi memorabilia are an investment. Goering’s yacht was bought by Heidemann, where he socialized with former S.S.; there was a fascination with this time period among many Germans, not just Heidemann, and in this, Adolf Hitler played the key role in all their fixation.
While officials of the Federal Ministry of the Interior hesitated – a technical check raised doubt about the character of the entirely handwritten volumes – some historians told a surprised public that the diaries enhanced recent German history of the Third Reich. They soon said they were in a position to demonstrate that the diaries were beyond any serious doubt. However, as one doubt after another surfaced, Stern were convinced of the authenticity of the diaries, and inexcusably claimed that they were genuine, syndicating the papers as each one was sent by courier to them.
The handwritten volumes included everything from descriptions of the Third Reich to the Pope being accused of scandal. What is fascinating, not least, is how a somewhat remote forgery, and one that causes discomfort, can be the butt of a kind of collective insanity among the public and within contemporary history. Stern’s money was soon going on people in their publishing house. Heidemann was pocketing some of the 2,500,000 marks which Stern magazine paid in total, including 7,400 in cash through a Hamburg travel agency.
It takes a lot of time for an average magazine such as Stern to prepare carefully to acquire such Hitler “papers”. This was in order to ensure that the material would have contented its public with crucial facts. But we now know as a result of research in archives that the volumes were quickly written by Konrad Kujau, a small-time crook and prolific forger. Each diary earned him a cool fifty pounds per word.
Experts took some time to establish that it was a forgery. Four volumes were quickly sent to the Federal Minister of the Interior, Dr. Friedrich Zimmermann, who decided that the Federal Archives should enlist support of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, located in Wiesbaden, to authenticate them. It was not until the weekend of 30 April 1985 that the Federal Minister for the Economy agreed that the information was incredibly poor. The tests on the diaries took so long because the experts had to wait for Kujau to forge each of the notebooks!
The Hitler forgeries did not provide a publication. The diaries were turned over to the Federal Archives. A Swiss expert had come to the conclusion that the evidence from the tests was not sufficient. It all leaves a question: would a man as busy as Hitler, in any case, have wasted his time with a diary?