Forged Hitler diaries to become accessible to the German public

AFP-JIJI

Thirty years after publishing what it believed were the diaries of Adolf Hitler, a German news magazine said April 23 it would hand over what it still owns of the forgeries to the country’s state archive, making them accessible to the public.

Stern magazine unveiled on April 25, 1983, excerpts from more than 60 notebooks purportedly written by the Nazi leader in a supposed world exclusive, but a few days later the diaries were found to be forgeries.

“The forged diaries are a part of the history of Stern. We don’t want to get rid of them but deal with them appropriately and, above all, objectively,” Stern chief editor Dominik Wichmann said in a written statement.

It was the federal archive in Koblenz in western Germany as well as federal criminal police who detected the forgery three decades ago, according to Stern.

The incident became one of the biggest German postwar media scandals.

Stern reporter Gerd Heidemann presented 62 notebooks supposedly written by Hitler between 1932 and 1945, for which the magazine had paid 9.3 million deutschmarks (around €4.7 million or ¥609 million today).

But they turned out to have been the work of forger Konrad Kujau, and he and Heidemann were prosecuted for fraud and sentenced to around four years in prison.

“We’re rendering all the diaries that are still in the safekeeping of the publishing company,” Stern spokeswoman Franziska Kipper said.

Other parts of the forged diaries held by other institutions, such as the Cartier Foundation in Paris or the House of History in Bonn, will stay where they are and are unaffected by Stern’s decision.

The magazine wants to respect a 30-year deadline after which state documents normally become accessible for public scrutiny, it said.

“The forged Hitler diaries are documents of contemporary history. They are safest in the federal archive,” the archive’s head Michael Hollmann was quoted as saying in the Stern statement.