Gerd Heidemann, an investigative reporter for the German magazine Der Stern, thought he had hit on the story of the century. He was visiting to the home of Fritz Stiefel, a collector of Nazi memorabilia and noticed among the letters and paintings a small book. Hitler’s own diary, the collector explained, obtained from another, obscure, collector. Heidermann tracked down down this collector and took steps to verify the story: he found out they came from the crash a plane carrying Hitler’s persona affects, and that indeed a box or two of them were never found. Everything seemed to check out. Heidemann persuaded Der Stern to pay 9.9 million German marks, nearly $4 million for an entire 62-volume set.
On this day, May 6, 1983, the German Ministry of Archives concluded definitively the diaries were a hoax. If only Heidermann would have bothered to check several more Nazi experts before the purchase, they would have told him Hitler did not like to write, and was never known, to keep a diary, and more damning still, his handwriting did not match.
The mysterious collector that provided the diaries turned out to be a petty criminal named Konrad Kujau, who specialized in forging Nazi memorabilia to drive up their price. The diaries were his stab at creating an entire collection from scratch. Chemical analysis by the Ministry revealed the ink to have been added to paper very recently, and for the glue binding of the diary to be of a post-WW II design. Heidemann was fired, Kujau received four years of prison, and the judge scolded Der Stern for being incredibly naive to buy the diaries sight-unseen.