Saturday, 25 April 2009

Looking Back - Hitler Diaries Published

On this day in 1983 the German magazine, Stern, published the first instalment of the controversial 'Hitler Diaries' - an account of World War II allegedly written by the fuhrer himself. From the outset there had been considerable doubt about the authenticity of the material. A news conference held by the magazine in Hamburg erupted in extraordinary scenes as Lord Dacre, the eminent British historian who authenticated the diaries a few days before, announced he was having second thoughts. At the news conference a Stern journalist Gerd Heidemann, told the story of his scoop. He maintained he had traced the diaries to a hayloft in East Germany. He explained that an East German general had rescued them from a crashed plane in 1945 and they had lain in the hayloft since that time. The diaries were produced by Stern at the news conference - the first time they had been seen by members of the general public. The magazine was said to have paid $5m for the diaries. In turn the Sunday Times had paid $400,000 for the English serialisation rights. Lord Dacre, a world class expert on Hitler was the only historian to have closely examined the diaries. Having claimed a few days earlier the diaries were genuine, he announced, in front of horrified Stern executives, that he now had doubts due to not being able to establish a link between the crashed plane and the diaries. The alleged diaries covered the period from 1932 to 1945. A spokesman for the Times newspaper group said further investigations would be carried out to establish the validity of the diaries. Shortly afterwards Dr Julius Grant, a chemicals expert, proved that the paper in the diaries was not in use until after World War II and that the glue and ink were modern. Later, Gerd Heidemann admitted he had obtained them from a dealer in Stuttgart. Both men were found guilty of fraud and forgery in 1985 and sentenced to four and a half years in jail. Lord Dacre died in 2003, his reputation badly tarnished and inextricably linked to the forged Hitler Diaries.