Episode 66: The Hitler Diaries Forgery Scam

The story of how some Nazi-obsessed jerks played each other, themselves, and several major publications.

Guest host Chris Curran joins us again to talk about one of the major publishing scams of the late 70s and early 80s.

Content Warnings

  • Nazis, including neo-Nazis who carried on their worship after they lost the war
  • Holocaust deniers and revisionist historians
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Strong language (we’ve got words for Nazis and also for right-wing publications and their overlords who mislead the public)

The scene is Germany, April 21, 1945, in the last days of the Third Reich. Two planes leave Berlin at dawn, one of them carrying Hitler’s valet, Wilhelm Arndt, who is escorting Hitler’s private documents. By evening, Hitler’s chief pilot Hans Baur reported that one of the planes had crashed in a small village outside Dresden—the one that held Arndt and the documents.

Hitler shouted, “In that plane were all my private archives, what I had intended as a testimony for posterity! It is a catastrophe!”

The collection consisted of a previously unpublished sequel to Mein Kampf, an opera that the Fuehrer had written with one of his childhood friends, and a large collection of his private diaries. Year later, the documents—not destroyed after all!—were discovered. (Yada, yada, yada…) In 1983, the Stern news magazine in Western Germany, after selling serial rights to publications across the Western world, announced the discovery.

Within a few days, Stern was totally discredited, the diaries were exposed as forgeries, and two Hitler-loving dumbasses were arrested.

We’re going to talk about what kind of dumbasses and dumbassery led up to the diaries being taken for genuine articles and shown to the world as such, exploring what mistakes publishers and reporters made to let something like this happen. And, of course, we will unveil how the scam was brought to an end!

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