Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Konrad Kujau's Hitler Diaries

"The Best Laid Plans"

As the diaries began to roll in, Stern made preparations for the documents to be published around the world. Much to Sterns delight, the number of diaries began to exceed initial expectations. Heidemanns secret source allegedly managed to locate many more volumes that were supposedly being smuggled out of East Germany. With each newly discovered volume, the financial reward increased for both Kujau and Heidemann. The editors of Stern also stood to profit a great deal. The more diaries they had, the more valuable their story was to potential buyers.

However, before Stern made the decision to sell anything, they wanted the documents to be properly examined, especially after having invested several million dollars in the project. Yet, in the process of trying to verify their authenticity, Stern made several critical errors that prevented the diaries from being exposed as fraudulent.

Several years earlier a German historian named Eberhard Jäckel used some of the poems from the diary that was at the time in Steifels possession in a book he published on Hitlers writings. Once published, the poems immediately came under fire when it was revealed that they were actually written by another Nazi poet and not Hitler. During a check into the diaries, Stern discovered that the same person who had penned the poems used by Jäckel also penned the diaries.

Eberhard Jäckel
Eberhard Jäckel

When a research expert at Stern named Thomas Walde noticed the potentially disastrous implications, he urged Heidemann to investigate the diaries more rigorously. Rendell stated that, instead of calling Jäckel, Heidemann called Kujau who assured him that they could not have come from him, and the matter was eventually dropped. Had Heidemann conducted a more thorough investigation it would have been discovered that the diaries were indeed written by the same person and were fraudulent.

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