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1983: 'Hitler diaries' published

The German magazine, Stern, has published the first instalment of the controversial "Hitler Diaries" - an account of World War II allegedly written by the Führer himself.

But the magazine's news conference in Hamburg erupted in extraordinary scenes as Lord Dacre, the eminent British historian who authenticated the diaries only days ago, said he was having second thoughts.

There has been fierce debate over the diaries since their discovery was first reported last week.

At today's news conference, the Stern journalist who is said to have found the diaries in East Germany, Gerd Heidemann, told the story of his scoop.

Hayloft discovery

He said he traced the diaries to a hayloft in East Germany, where they had lain since an East German general rescued them from a crashed plane in 1945.

Then Stern brought in the diaries themselves to show journalists - the first time they have been exposed to general public scrutiny.

The magazine is said to have paid nearly nine million marks ($5 million) for them. A further deal has been done with the Sunday Times newspaper, which paid $400,000 for the English serialisation rights.

Lord Dacre, a world-class expert on Hitler, is the only historian to have closely examined the diaries.

He wrote an article in the Times two days ago saying he was convinced they were genuine.

Second thoughts

But today, to the horror of the Stern executives sitting by his side, he told the news conference he had been unable to establish a proper link between the crashed plane and the alleged diaries.

He said there could be no final judgement until the papers had been properly investigated.

"I must say I regret that the normal methods of historical verification have been sacrificed to the requirements of the journalistic scoop," he continued.

Lord Dacre is a director of Times Newspapers Ltd, and has been closely involved with plans to publish the diaries in the Sunday Times newspaper in three weeks' time.

A spokesman for the Times Newspaper group said further investigations would now be carried out to investigate whether the diaries were genuine.

The alleged diaries cover a period from 1932 until shortly before Hitler's death in Berlin in 1945.

They are said to disclose, among other things, that Hitler allowed the British Army to escape from Dunkirk in the hope of concluding a peace settlement.

In Context
A few days later, the diaries were released for testing by chemical expert Dr Julius Grant.

He proved that the paper in the diaries was not in use until after World War II. The glue and ink were also modern.

The text of the "diaries" was also found to be full of historical inaccuracies and anachronisms.

The Sunday Times abandoned its serialisation and issued an apology.

Later, the Stern journalist, Gerd Heidemann, revealed he had in fact obtained them from a Stuttgart dealer in military relics, Konrad Kujau.

The two men were found guilty of fraud and forgery in 1985 and sentenced to jail terms of four and a half years each.

Kujau later made a career of his notoriety, selling his acknowledged forgeries of famous paintings until his death in September 2000.

Gerd Heidemann was revealed in 2002 to have worked for the East German secret police. His Stasi file indicated he was still active in 1983, while the forgeries were taking place.

Lord Dacre died in January 2003, his reputation badly tarnished and inextricably linked to the forged Hitler Diaries.


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