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Rumors, Forgeries and Lies

Scandals prove that even in diaries, you can't believe everything you read

By Sarah Phelan

GO ONLINE and you'll find numerous references to diaries, including those of Elvis, which like the King himself are supposed to be out there, except no one knows quite where. Elvis, so the rumor goes, kept a journal since he was in elementary school, but as far as anyone knows, this is a just another hoax like the infamous Hitler diaries that were palmed off on the German magazine Stern in 1983.

Konrad Kujau, the man behind the hoax, even had a handwritten letter--forged, of course--hanging on his wall, authorizing him to "compile Adolf's diary after the Führer's death." And compile Kujau did, churning out the diaries himself in the backroom of his shop in Stuttgart, where he sold Nazi memorabilia.

Writing Hitler's daily thoughts in the pages of a black notebook, Kujau poured tea onto them to give an aged appearance, and he might have remained unknown had it not been for reporter Gerd Heidemann, who took Kujau's "find" to Stern, where executives fell for the story that Adolf's diaries had been rescued in 1945 from a burning German aircraft.

Stern's publishers paid Kujau to "secure" the remaining diaries from East German officials, but in reality Kujau was forging entries using reference books, newspapers and medical records.

Fake Führer Does Big Business

Sold to Newsweek and Britain's Sunday Times, the Hitler diaries fooled the world at first glance, prompting some to pronounce that the history of the Third Reich needed to be rewritten, since the diaries suggested Hitler didn't know about the Final Solution.

Skeptics soon made themselves heard, and when basic tests proved that the scoop of the century was really one big hoax, the entries were suddenly seen to be banal:

    Meet all the leaders of the Storm troopers in Bavaria, give them medals.

    Must not forget tickets for the Olympic games for Eva.

    Because of the new pills I have violent flatulence, and --says Eva--bad breath.

This banality got Kujau four years in prison, but Stern's money was never recovered, and after Kujau was released early with cancer, he ran for mayor of Stuttgart--and got 900 votes.

Says local diary authority Ray Zager, "Hitler's diaries were easily proven to be fake because the ink was too new, the handwriting not perfect," not to mention Kujau got his Gothic lettering mixed up and signed them F.H., instead of A.H.

Has Zager ever been conned?

"Yes, but not by a forgery," he says. "Sometimes things are written in diary format, but are in fact fiction, such as Dracula," says Zager, adding that though the Spandau diaries, written by Hitler's second-in-command Albert Speer, aren't forgeries, they do contain lies.

"He claimed he did not know about the concentration camps," says Zager. "He was a model prisoner and everyone wanted to let him out early, but the Russians would have none of it, having lost 27 million men in World War II."

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From the June 12-19, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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