Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Konrad Kujau's Hitler Diaries

The Trial

Konrad after testimony
Konrad after testimony

The first to take the stand in the trial was Konrad. During his testimony, he made no attempt to hide his guilt of forging the notorious Hitler documents. Yet, he suggested repeatedly that he was not alone in the hoax. Konrad stated that Heidemann was fully aware from early on that the diaries were not genuine. Yet, he alleged that the journalist disregarded their authenticity and purchased the journals anyways for approximately 1 million marks. Moreover, Konrad further claimed to have had no knowledge that the journals were to be handed over to Stern, or of the 5 million marks unaccounted for that was allegedly offered by the publishing house in exchange for the diaries. Konrads testimony lasted a total of six days before he was free to step down and make way for the next witness, Gerd Heidemann.

During Heidemanns testimony, he claimed to have had no knowledge that the diaries were forgeries, although he did confess to having recognized some historical inconsistencies in the writings. However, he suggested that the discrepancies did not daunt him much and he believed with Hitler everything was a possibility. Over all, Heidemanns testimony turned out to be damaging to his case because many of his statements were vague, lacking credence and simply unpersuasive, unlike Konrads testimony.

After Heidemanns unconvincing performance, several more witnesses took to the stand, including Hitler expert Eberhart Jäckel:, Heidemanns boss Thomas Walde, the chairman and managing director of Stern magazine Gerd Schulte-Hillen and the founder of Stern Henri Nannen. When giving testimony, the judge was disconcerted when he learned that Jäckel knew that at least one of the diarys genuineness was doubtful, yet he never bothered to alert the authorities. He was even more frustrated when Walde failed to remember pertinent information in relation to the case. Yet, the judge became outraged when Schulte-Hillen and Nannen took the stand because he believed that Stern was responsible for instigating and assisting in the fraud. In fact, their testimony shifted the tide of the trial in favor of the defendants.

Following the testimony of some 37 witnesses the jury was left to deliberate over the evidence. Finally, the jury came to their conclusion and found all three defendants, guilty of the charges brought against them. On July 8, 1985, the judge handed down the sentences. He sentenced Konrad and Heidemann to a little more than four and a half years in prison and Edith to eight months probation. The sentence was certainly not as severe than what they could have received. It was likely that the judges irritation with Stern was highly influential when making his decision concerning the fate of the three defendants. According to Hamilton, the judge stated that the publishing company acted with such naiveté and negligence that it was virtually an accomplice in the fraud.

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