“Faking Hitler” recounts the worst shame of the German press

A look back at Germany’s biggest media scandal! In the spring of 1983, the most important West German magazine at the time, Stern, publishes excerpts and announces with great fanfare the discovery of 62 diaries of Adolf Hitler. While the magazine claims that experts have authenticated it, most historians are skeptical. To silence the critics, Stern subjects the notebooks to scientific analysis. The verdict of the ultraviolet examination by the Federal Archives Service (Bundesarchiv) is clear: the notebooks are fake. As Stern had sold the rights to the notebooks internationally, the affair made the headlines in the world press. In France, Paris Match devotes its cover to notebooks. Stern, which paid several million German marks for the notebooks, are firing two editors. After the satirical film Schtonk! released in 1992, the six-part miniseries Faking Hitler, the scam of the centuryproduced by UFA Fiction and broadcast this Thursday at 8:50 p.m. on Histoire TV, looks back on the most shameful affair in the history of the German press and delivers a tasty history lesson

If Tommy Wosch considers himself a “big fan of Schtonk! “, the showrunner of the series believes, in the columns of the German magazine Blickpunkt:Movie, that the “serial format allows us to go deeper and tell the story differently”. The satirical dimension of the feature film, nominated for an Oscar in the best foreign language film category in 1993, “also obscures aspects of the subject. important.

A reporter obsessed with Hitler

The choral miniseries created by Tommy Wosch and Tobi Baumann features Gerd Heideman (Lars Eidinger), a sleuth and journalist at the Stern for twenty-five years. The star reporter of the liberal left-wing daily nevertheless cultivates a strange obsession for Nazi relics to the point of buying the Carin II, Hermann Göring’s yacht, and sleeping with the daughter of the late Marshal of the Third Reich, Edda (Jeanette Hain) .

But the maintenance of such a boat costs an arm and Gerd Heideman is forced to resell the tub. Through a collector of Nazi objects, he discovers the existence of Adolf Hitler’s diary, notebooks held by an East German antique dealer, Konrad Fischer.

An antique dealer hiding a forger

Under the pseudonym of Dr. Konrad Fischer actually hides Konrad Kujau (Moritz Bleibtreu), a counterfeiter. The man began by selling real Nazi memorabilia gleaned on the black market in the GDR to wealthy old swastika fetishists. Faced with growing demand, Konrad Kujau began to manufacture the coveted Hitler bric-a-brac himself. Believing to hold the scoop of the century, the journalist decides to carry out the investigation, in secret from his hierarchy, tired of his fixation on the brown shirts.

The miniseries bears the same name as a podcast from the Stern, which re-analyzed the sound exchanges between Kujau and the journalist. “But that didn’t absolve us from consulting all the relevant books and devouring everything there is on the subject. Faking Hitler is inspired by the podcast. The latter has a documentary ambition, the series is a fictional artistic complement”, specifies the showrunner.

For the latter, fake hitler was conceived above all as a story of “seduction”: “Tantôt le Stern seduced the journalist Heidemann, sometimes Heidemann seduced the Sternthen Kujau seduced Heidemann and vice versa”, he explains.

The denazification mission

Beyond the case of the dictator’s notebooks, fake hitler wonders if denazification really worked in the two post-war Germanys? And how heavy was National Socialism in the GDR and FRG at the start of the 1980s? “At the time, in Bavaria, when I was 13 or 14 years old, society was not at all afraid of National Socialism or the Nazis. The names of Nazis were given to the military barracks, in the inns, there were photos of the SS. Underneath it read “Our Heroes”. (…) That’s how we grew up”, says Tommy Wosch.

In parallel with the mounting of the incredible scam set up by the forger and the journalist, fake hitler also follows the first steps Sternwithin a sexist and male-dominated editorial staff, of a young journalist, Elisabeth Stöckel (Sinje Irslinger).

The latter, while investigating the SS past of German actor Horst Tappert, the interpreter of the most famous of German cops, Derrick, will find herself confronted with her father’s Nazi past. In the 1980s, “we wondered what the grandparents had done during the war, what uniform the great-uncle was wearing in this old photo. We needed a character who could illustrate this aspect of our history”, underlines the showrunner.

Misinformation and Fascination

Elisabeth Stöckel embodies here “the moral compass” of an editorial staff, ready to do anything to get a scoop. fake hitler thus raises questions of journalistic ethics, questions the conditions under which fake news is produced. If one of the fake notebooks was sold at auction in 2004, the rest of the notebooks were offered in 2013 by the Stern to the German federal archives to serve, not for the history of the Third Reich, but for that of journalism.

A still topical question: “Journalistic control mechanisms are less important today than they were then. Precisely because of the pressure currently exerted by social networks, namely to be able to publish without control mechanisms and without a moment of respite. The economic necessity of the media that publish does the rest,” warns the showrunner.

The bizarre and often hilarious story of fake hitler implicitly recalls the cocktail that makes the bed of the far right, whose two main ingredients are fascination and misinformation. “The fact that a left-liberal magazine published historical revisionism ultimately suggests that right-wing extremism can occur always and everywhere,” he concludes.

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