10 Crazy Hoaxes That Duped the World

Hitler's Diaries
Hitler may have penned secret diaries, but the ones unearthed in 1945 were fakes. Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

And you thought Anne Frank's diary was a big deal. In 1983, Der Stern, a German newsweekly publication, proclaimed one of its investigative reporters, Gerd Heidemann, had stumbled upon a set of secret diaries penned by none other than Adolf Hitler. The precious manuscripts had apparently been stashed away for decades by a "Dr. Fischer" after they were discovered near a Dresden-area plane crash in 1945 [source: Levy].

Before Der Stern published this bombshell, it did subject the diaries to three separate handwriting tests for authentication, and the tests had come back positive. But the magazine didn't conduct any other tests, probably because they were so anxious to publish such a major scoop -- and profit from it by selling reprint rights to other publications [source: UnMuseum].

When the news broke, German World War II experts (and skeptics) pored over the diaries. West Germany's Federal Archives also ran scientific tests on them. Der Stern had been tricked. The researchers found numerous historical inaccuracies in the documents, while the Federal Archive tests proved they were created with modern-day paper and ink [source: UnMuseum].

Konrad Kujau, an infamous Stuttgart forger, was revealed as the hoaxer. Heidemann was somehow in on it, too, although no one knows the exact arrangement between the two. But both profited from the estimated $4 to $6 million Der Stern had forked over for the diaries. Kujau, his wife and Heidemann ended up in the clink for forgery and embezzlement [sources: Levy, UnMuseum].

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