Journals on trial
WE are about to learn. via Hamburg's criminal Court, whether Stern magazine's infamous Hitler diaries really fell off the back of an aircraft. The Germans. you remember sold them to the Sunday Times for £250,000. Then came the row about their authenticity.
The trial begins in a fortnight and promises to be one of the most heated spectacles of the summer. Over 300 journalists from all over the world will report the case which is expected to last for at least six months.
The two men in the dock, former Stern employee Gerd Heidemann and businessman Konrad Kujau, have been languishing in prison awaiting trial for a year.
They claimed the diaries had been rescued from an aeroplane crash and had been hidden away ever since.
Kujau is accused of forgery and Heidemann of taking money from the magazine to pay himself and his partner knowing full well the documents were a lie.
"It has not yet been proven that the diaries are fakes but everyone over here knows they are. There is no question they are true" Hamburg's public prosecutor Herr Klein told me emphatically. "If the pair are found guilty they could receive a maximum sentence of 10 years."
Conspicuously absent from the 60 or so witnesses are any Sunday Times representatives and Lord Dacre (formerly Hugh Trevor-Roper who vouched for their authenticity won't be there either.
He denounced the diaries right from the start and will be the only Englishman to give evidence.
London, August 21, 1984
'DIARIES' TRIAL OPENS
By KENNETH CLARKE in Hamburg
GERD HEIDEMANN, 54, a Stern magazine writer, and Konrad Kujau, 46, the alleged forger of the Hitler "Diaries," stand trial today for fraud following one of the biggest journalistic hoaxes ever attempted.
Heidemann is accused of selling the so-called diaries to the publishers of Stern in April last year, knowing them to be false, and of having kept much of the £2,460,000 that the magazine paid for 60 bogus volumes.
Kujau, a Stuttgart dealer in military and Nazi memorabilia, is alleged to have forged the diaries with intent to defraud, and Edith Lieblang, 44, his girl-friend, is charged with complicity.
Two major disclosures in the "Diaries" were that Adolf Hitler deliberately let the British Expeditionary Force escape from Dunkirk in 1940 and the following year encouraged Rudolph Hess, his deputy, to fly to Britain on his solo peace mission.
The documents were allegedly salvaged from a crashed aircraft in East Germany which was carrying material from Hitler's personal archives to safety towards the end of the 1939-45 war.
Lord Dacre, better known as Sir Hugh Trevor-Roper, at first thought the Diaries were genuine, but then he changed his mind.
Lord Dacre is not listed among more than 60 witnesses in the case, but Mr David Irving is expected to be called by the prosecution as an expert on German history.
© Focal Point 1998 write to David Irving