5. The Myth of Hitler’s Diary
For years after WWII, a persistent myth circulated to the effect that Hitler had kept a diary and that it had survived his demise in 1945. Many quested for that diary like it was the Holy Grail. Then in April of 1983 Stern magazine, a popular German current affairs weekly, held a press conference to make an important announcement. Their star reporter Gerd Heidemann had managed to get his hands on the Fuhrer’s diaries. They had been recovered in 1945 from the wreckage of a plane crash, and languished in obscurity until Heidemann tracked them down. The documents abounded with juicy tidbits that ranged from Hitler’s sensitivity about his bad breath to his remarkable ignorance about what was done to the Jews.
Stern’s jubilant editors declared that their scoop, which shed light on the Nazi dictator’s innermost thoughts, would lead to a major rewrite of the war’s history. The magazine, which had paid $6 million for the documents, sent them to three handwriting experts, all of whom declared the diary authentic. Hugh-Trevor Roper, a prominent British historian reviewed the diary on behalf of the Sunday Times, Stern’s publication partner, and concurred. However, because Stern’s editors feared a leak, they refused to allow any German WWII experts to examine the diary. As seen below, that turned out to be a huge mistake.