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Posted Sunday, July 3, 2005

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London, Sunday, July 3, 2005

[Files on Himmler 'murder' exposed as fake] [some of the forensic tests: pdf]

Historian in Himmler dispute was in earlier forgery furore

By David Leppard

A BRITISH historian whose new book on Heinrich Himmler appears to be based on forged documents was involved in a earlier forgery row over a book he published five years ago. The National Archives has launched an investigation after it emerged that apparently forged papers used for the book on Hitler's henchman by Martin Allen may have been planted among genuine documents at its office in Kew, southwest London. Allen denies any knowledge of the forgery.

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David Irving comments:

THE newspapers appear to be circling round the unfortunate and already bleeding author Martin Allen, like the sharks who just got that youngster a few hundred yards from where I am currently sitting in Panama City and another girl further down the coast.
   I have only these comments, given the precarious legal situation. First the Duke of Windsor letter: I don't recall The Sunday Times making anything of this at the time, and I am not unduly impressed by this allegation of an earlier forgery: I have seen many messages from the Duke to Hitler in German files, so this one as quoted was nothing unusual. The last telegram that I saw was dated August 2, 1941, with the Duke asking Berlin if it was time to return yet!
   This is in German FO files, sent through an intermediary. General Dwight D Eisenhower's files in Abilene, Ks., show that Churchill attached grave importance to SHAEF's seizing all such incriminating Duke of Windsor items in 1945. Some slipped through the net.
   The Sunday Times has been notoriously careful with documents ever since Harold Evans bought the "Benito Mussolini Diaries" for half a million pounds, and chemical forensic tests established they were written post-war, i.e. post-lynching (in fact by two Italian nuns who scarpered with the loot).
   When I offered Andrew Neil, Evans's successor, the missing Goebbels diaries in May 1992, we all went to extraordinary lengths to verify them, including my smuggling one microfiche unofficially out of the KGB archives, for forensic testing -- the glass by Pilkingtons, and the photographic emulsion by Kodak laboratories. The much-travelled plate was of course restored to its original location, its value greatly enhanced.
  But all of this is just vaporing on my part, as I have not seen any of the originals currently being debated, have not read Allen's book, and do not know him personally or the others in this debate.

IF the Himmler documents do turn out to be forgeries the culprit (or his agent) must have physically accessed each of the PRO files concerned, which narrows the search dramatically.
   What can we predict about the culprit? I was impressed -- and no doubt this was not the The Daily Telegraph's intention -- by the evidence in the newspaper stories that the documents' author(s) knew (or know) a great deal about 1945 events, and certainly more than I do: I for one did not know of the wartime role of Richard Ingrams's father, nor that of Sir John Wheeler-Bennett, whom I knew of only as the Royal biographer ("King George VI").
   Most forgeries I have run across are clumsy and ignorant; these documents, if again they are forgeries, seem to have been crafted by a singularly well-informed forger.
   A search of the eventual suspect's home will have to yield evidence of the several typewriters used, and ribbons of the correct vintage, and perhaps a stock of wartime paper, too. Depends how good the faking was; a look at the forensic file (pdf) suggests it was a skilful job, with paper-aging and other refinements used. Always assuming, once again, that the items are not genuine.

The Observer appears to be displaying greater caution. I trust the PRO more than I trust the gutter press, and I am glad to see the PRO is conducting its own forensic tests; I hope these will include proper and relatively cheap tests on the paper, ink, and other materials, and not just subjective visual examinations, however magnified.
   Frankly, I thought Dr Audrey Giles's tests, as published, were rather primitive, and a disingenuous attempt to blind outsiders with science: for instance, the 500x magnification of the edge of a printed letterhead (the Bracken letter) which she claims was produced on a Xerox-type laser printer, would have been more impressive if she had shown a genuine Bracken letterhead of that period, and a text which she had produced on a laser printer for comparison.
   We cannot just take her word for it that this is what the dry toner used in laser printing, when magnified, looks like. (A chemical analysis of the "toner" would settle that once and for all). And to be honest I could not "see" the pencil tracing she claims to have found beneath the signatures. May be I am just stubborn, but we all know whom we are dealing with here, if the suspect documents were in fact genuine.
   They will now be plucked out of the files, I assume, and vanish. If they were forged, the culprit has presumably contravened the Public Records Act and he (or she) can forget ever accessing the PRO and other archives around the world, in my view.

The documents in Allen's book, Himmler's Secret War, published in May, claimed that British intelligence agents murdered Himmler. It contradicted accepted accounts that Himmler killed himself. Audrey Giles, a prominent forensic specialist, said yesterday that letterheads on correspondence [see pdf file] supposedly written in 1945 were created on a high-resolution laser printer, technology not developed until at least 50 years later.

Signatures purporting to be those of Brendan Bracken, the head of the Political Warfare Executive, were found to be written over pencil tracings.

It has now emerged that Allen was involved in an earlier forgery row over a book he published in May 2000 about the purported role of the Duke of Windsor in helping Nazi war plans. The book, Hidden Agenda: How the Duke of Windsor Betrayed the Allies, accused the duke of treason. It said he had passed secrets of French defences to Hitler, easing the way for the invasion of France in May 1940.

The book was partly based on what appeared to be an incriminating handwritten letter from the former Edward VIII to Hitler in November 1939. Written in German, it makes veiled references to a tour of the French front line that the duke had just made.

The duke asks Hitler to pay close attention to information that an intermediary bringing the letter to the dictator has memorised. The letter appeared to suggest that the duke, who abdicated as king in 1936 because he wanted to marry an American divorcée, was willing to resume the British throne once Britain had been bullied into a peace settlement.

However, as with the Himmler documents, some scientific experts cast doubt on the letter's authenticity. Allen had been advised that there was no reason to doubt the genuine nature of the document but Robert Radley and Leslie Dick, both chemists and forensic document examiners, conducted their own checks for The Sunday Times.

Radley found "many discrepancies" between known samples of the duke's handwriting and the handwriting in the letter that made him "highly suspicious". Dick concluded that the letter was "most probably the result of a skilled attempt at forgery". Radley found at least 50 unnatural "pen lifts" - a sign, in his view, of an individual attempting to copy another person's handwriting.

A third expert, Peter Bower, studied the paper used for the letter. He found that it appeared to have been "baked" to make it look older than it was. "This document should be viewed with grave suspicion," he said. Challenged at the time about the doubts over the Duke of Windsor letter, Allen said he was "shocked" to learn that it could be forged.

He said he had found the letter among papers belonging to his late father, also a second world war historian. He said his father had told him that he had got it from Albert Speer, Hitler's architect and munitions minister at the end of the war. Yesterday Allen said he was shocked when told that his latest book might also be based on faked documents. "I think I have been set up. But I do not even know by whom. I am devastated," he said. He denied having anything to do with the creation of the document.

© Copyright Times Newspapers Limited 2005.

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