Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Konrad Kujau's Hitler Diaries

The Players and the Stakes

On August 21, 1984, hundreds of journalists gathered at Hamburgs Civil Court Number 11 to witness the beginning of Heidemann and Konrads trial. The two men faced a prison sentence of up to nine years for their involvement in the Hitler diaries fraud. However, the men were not the only ones to have been indicted. Edith Leiblang, Konrads common-law wife, was also on trial as an accomplice and faced a jail sentence of approximately five years. The man who was chosen to preside over the trial and determine their fate was Chief Judge Hans-Ulrich Schroeder.

District Attorney Dietrich Klein was the prosecuting attorney overseeing the case. Klein lined up several dozen witnesses who he believed would reveal potentially damaging testimony that would help further his case. He was determined to pull out all of his guns to make sure that those convicted would bear the full brunt of the law. He had, after all, Konrads confession of guilt working in his favor.

Acting in Konrads defense was Attorney Kurt Groenewold, whose sole purpose was to ensure that Konrad received the lightest possible sentence for forging the diaries. According to Hamilton, his strategy was to place a majority of the blame on Stern and Gruner & Jahr, whom he believed facilitated the fraud by using the diaries to, create an image of Adolf Hitler as a good guy. He also planned to reveal how the publishing house bypassed the assistance of experts more knowledgeable in the field, to better further their aim of authenticating the falsified material, thus maximizing their potential profit.

Heidemanns defense attorneys included Reinhard Daum and Holger K. Schroeder, whose strategy was to not only put the blame on Stern for using their client as a scapegoat, but to also blame Konrad for defrauding Heidemann in the first place. Concerning the money that he was suspected of embezzling, Heidemanns attorneys claimed that he dutifully paid over the entire amount of 9 million German marks in exchange for the diaries. Moreover, they suggested that Konrad was the sole mastermind behind the entire hoax, not their client.

The goal of Ediths lawyers, Pieter Koenig and Walter Roesler, was to prove that their client was innocent of any wrongdoing in relation to the forgery. Their goal was to depict Edith as a dutiful and honest wife who merely supported her husband as a spouse, yet not in his illegal activities. Of all the defendants, she had the highest chance of escaping the tougher sentences that would likely be handed down if found guilty.

Kujau at trial
Kujau at trial