Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Konrad Kujau's Hitler Diaries

Authenticating the Diaries

To prevent the diaries legitimacy from being unnecessarily questioned, Stern employed several experts to test the authenticity of the documents. Among some of the handwriting specialists initially in charge of determining the genuineness of the documents were Swiss expert Dr. Max Frei-Sulzer and American expert Ordway Hilton. The men were given several photocopied pages of the diaries and were asked to compare them with other samples of Hitlers handwriting retrieved from the German Federal Archives.  

Forging History
Forging History

Based on the samples provided, the men determined that the handwriting was a match. According to Kenneth W. Rendells book, Forging History: The Detection of Fake Letters and Documents, executives of Stern treated the authentification reports with great enthusiasm and immediately set about selling the publication rights to Newsweek and other bidders who wanted a piece of the sensational story.

It wasnt any surprise that the publishers in on the bid treated the news with equal interest. After all, the diaries directly challenged the prevailing views concerning Hitlers character and actions. In fact, contradictory to historical accounts, the diaries presented Hitler as more amiable than what had been documented.

This apparently unknown side of Hitler shocked and even horrified those who knew or experienced firsthand the atrocities brought about by the notorious leader. Thus, it was no surprise that many strongly doubted the authenticity of the documents, despite the fact that they were deemed genuine by experts. The news sparked a sensational public response that, as Hamilton stated, pitted historian against historian, publisher against publisher and expert against expert and had confused half the worlds populace because historical accounts conflicted with the accounts in the diaries.

Adolph Hitler
Adolph Hitler
 

In an effort to set history straight, it was decided that the diaries would undergo more rigorous testing by scientists and scholars. It didnt take long for them to determine that the diaries were, in fact, elaborate forgeries and by no means the work of Hitler. Moreover, it was discovered that during the initial analysis by handwriting experts, the purported original documents that the diaries were compared against were also forgeries concocted by the same individual. Eventually, the world learned the identity of the mastermind behind the elaborate hoax, a petty criminal and Hitler enthusiast named Konrad Kujau. He later earned the reputation as one of the centurys most notorious forgers, who successfully fooled millions with his reinvented account of history.

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