Konrad Kujau in 1992
|Born||Konrad Paul Kujau
27 June 1938
|Died||12 September 2000
|Known for||Forging the "Hitler Diaries"|
Konrad Paul Kujau (27 June 1938 – 12 September 2000) was an illustrator and forger who became famous in 1983 as the creator of the so-called Hitler Diaries, for which he received DM 2.5 million from a person who in turn sold it for DM 9.3 million to the magazine Stern.
"Konny" Kujau was one of five children of Richard Kujau, a cobbler, who died in 1944. Kujau's early life was of unremitting poverty and his mother was obliged to send her children into orphanages for periods of time. Konrad did well at school, but was obliged to leave at 16 and was apprenticed to a locksmith. After a year he quit and took a succession of casual jobs. In 1957, a warrant was issued for his arrest over the theft of a microphone from the Löbau Youth Club, where he was then working. Kujau left East Germany and fled to West Berlin to stay with his uncle.
Kujau eventually settled in Stuttgart where he drifted into a life of casual work and petty crime. In 1961, after several arrests and two short jail terms for theft, Kujau met and settled down with Edith Lieblang. They opened a bar, but the next year he was arrested for forging luncheon vouchers under the name "Peter Fischer" and spent five days in prison. Kujau and Leibling then started an office cleaning business which eventually prospered. Incidentally, a "Dr. Fischer" was originally named as the source of the Hitler Diaries.
In the early 1970s, Kujau began to illegally import Nazi militaria from East Germany. In order to increase their value, Kujau began to forge documents to give them false provenance. He also began to forge paintings—something that had been a mere hobby until then—signing them "Adolf Hitler". Kujau became more ambitious as he realised the potential market for Nazi memorabilia. He copied out Hitler's published Mein Kampf and sold it as "the original manuscript". To an old pistol he attached a label claiming that it was the gun with which Hitler committed suicide. He was aided by the fact that most collectors of Nazi items were highly secretive, since the trading of these items is illegal under German law.
In 1978, Kujau sold his first "Hitler Diary" to a collector. In 1980, he was contacted by the journalist Gerd Heidemann who had learned of the diary. Kujau told Heidemann that the diaries were in the possession of his brother, who was a general in the East German Army. Heidemann made a deal with Kujau for "the rest" of the diaries.
However, on their publication in 1983 the diaries were soon proved to be fakes and Heidemann and Kujau were arrested. In August 1984 Kujau was sentenced to four and a half years for forgery and Lieblang to one year as an accomplice. Heidemann was convicted of fraud and also received a four-and-half year prison sentence the following year.
On his release from prison after three years Kujau became something of a minor celebrity appearing on TV as a "forgery expert", and set up a business selling "genuine Kujau fakes" in the style of various major artists. He stood for election as Mayor of Stuttgart in 1996, receiving 901 votes. Kujau died of cancer in 2000.
In 2006, someone claiming to be his grandniece Petra Kujau was charged with selling "fake forgeries", cheap Asian-made copies of famous paintings with forged signatures of Konrad Kujau.
He was portrayed in the 1991 miniseries Selling Hitler by Liverpool-born actor Alexei Sayle. The series also featured Jonathan Pryce as Gerd Heidemann, and Tom Baker as Stern executive Manfred Fischer. He was also portrayed in the German film "Schtonk!" (1991) by Uwe Ochsenknecht.
- Harris, Robert (1986). Selling Hitler. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-14726-7.
- Section 86a of the Strafgesetzbuch ("Penal Code") makes anyone who "produces, stocks, imports or exports objects which depict or contain such [Nazi] symbols for distribution or use domestically or abroad", liable to up to three years in prison or a fine.
- "1983: 'Hitler diaries' published". BBC News (London: BBC). Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Konrad Kujau". kujau-archiv.de. 2010. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Obituary: Konrad Kujau". The Economist. 21 September 2000. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- Connolly, Kate (10 September 2010). "Art dealer convicted of forging forger's forgeries". The Guardian (London: GMG). ISSN 0261-3077. OCLC 60623878. Retrieved 10 September 2012.
- "Selling Hitler (TV mini-series 1991)". imdb.com. 2012. Retrieved 10 September 2012.