Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Konrad Kujau's Hitler Diaries

The Deal

He went to the village of Boernersdorf to research the story about the plane and learned that there was indeed a crash in April 1945. He also learned of a mysterious chest full of papers, which he believed might have been the one in which the diaries were found. Moreover, to his surprise, Heidemann learned that there were perhaps up to 27 or more volumes in the possession of a man named Konrad Fischer. Unbeknownst to Heidemann, Fischer was actually one of the pseudonyms used by Konrad Kujau.

Based on the information he was able to obtain, Heidemann made a proposal to Stern hoping they would finance the purchase of the diaries. To his delight, his employers offered approximately 2 million marks in exchange for the 27 diaries. Heidemann immediately sought out Konrad, yet was initially unable to locate him because he was living under another name.

Konrad was aware of Heidemanns intense interest in the diaries. However, he was extremely hesitant in striking any deals with the journalist because he feared publicity would expose the diaries as a hoax. He also worried that he would lose his profitable business if he were exposed. Heidemann was aware that Konrad was playing hard to get, although he was unaware of his reasons. Thus, he decided to make the offer to Konrad through the collectors acquaintances, instead of dealing with him directly.

Because of the large sums of money involved, the two men eventually met up to negotiate an agreement. The financial offer was just too tempting for them to let it slip by. Konrad arranged with Heidemann to have his identity kept a secret. He hoped that it would protect his interests, in case the volumes were discovered to be fake. With that problem out of the way he was able to focus on the bigger issue at hand, producing relatively quickly 27 diaries in Hitlers handwriting.

Konrad worked night and day on the long series of volumes that would make him a wealthy man. Finally in January 1981, one of the diaries was presented to the eager Heidemann. The diary was then turned over to Sterns parent company Gruner & Jahr, who had helped in financing the deal.

The book was greeted with awe and excitement. After all, few people get the chance to hold such an important historical artifact in their hands, especially one written by the Fuehrer himself. Unfortunately, the excitement skewed the judgment of those involved, because no one had bothered as of yet to authenticate the document. Miraculously, it was received as a genuine artifact with no verification other than the story of the downed SS plane, the rumor of the mysterious chest and the excitement of collectors who believed it to be authentic. It was one of the biggest mistakes in journalistic history.

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