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on 29 December 2011
I first bought the paperback edition of this book in 1991. I've re-read it so many times over the years the book is now battered. So I've bought a new copy. Despite inflation etc it's cost me £4.50p here on Amazon - only 51p more than it did in 1991! It's not been updated in any way, but I'm prepared to live with that as it's a classic. It's also been printed in a larger format with a bigger typeface so it's easier to read.

No Less a person than Sir Richard Evans - Regius Professor of History at Cambridge University - described this book as 'excellent' in his book "In defence of History". I've just re-read Robert Harris's extraordinary account of the ultimate publishing fraud and the book is as fresh, fast-moving, funny and informative as when I first read it. It's a complex story moving backwards and forwards in time, with numerous characters and locations. But Robert Harris handles the complexities effortlessly so you always know where you are. Indeed, he builds in a tension so this book reads like a thriller. What, you wonder, is going to happen next? It's great entertainment, a real page-turner.

But the book contains a serious message - an awful warning to people who write about Hitler - get your facts right. If you fail the roof will fall in. In the case of the Hitler diaries fiasco the whole house collapsed burying large numbers of people in the rubble.

Since then - 1983 - more and more Hitler books have poured off the presses. The controversial historian, David Irving, wrote at the time that 'Adolf Hitler is still big box office'. That's true 30 years later. It's one reason why authors want to write about the Nazi dictator. He sells books. But the perils are many, as Robert Harris demonstrates, and only the foolhardy would ignore them. If you do you're courting trouble - big trouble!

Having praised this book can I make a plea for an updated edition? The text can stay the same, but perhaps Robert Harris could add a couple of chapters telling us about other Hitler publishing misadventures that have happened since. An historian said to me there are two markets for Hitler books - those for people with a serious interest in history and those that appeal to fantasists and conspiracy theorists.

Sadly, innocent people are still being fooled. Hard to believe? Then take a look at a book published in 2011 called "Grey Wolf - the escape of Adolf Hitler." The authors argue Hitler never died in the bunker in Berlin in 1945. Instead they claim he escaped to Argentina with Eva Braun, two daughters, Martin Bormann and Hitler's favourite dog Blondi. There the world's most wanted man lived in luxury undiscovered by anyone! The book has become a best seller despite critical reviews by me and other people. Just look at the number gullible customers who have written comments praising it to the skies. Perhaps Robert Harris might like to include some comments on this latest example of publishing stupidity in an updated edition of "Selling Hitler." Bizarre things have been going on - enough to delight any author with an eye for the absurd.

Many people will have a good laugh at the Hitler diaries saga. Some may ask if it really matters? I think it does. Truth matters. Polluting the wells of knowledge matters. In an angry editorial the "New York Times" argued it was important to know what drove one of the century's most diabolical tryrannies. It mattered that Hitler should be seen in the light of truth and not reincarnated and redefined by forgeries. Modern authors should bear that in mind before publishing books that trample over people's feelings.

Leaving aside Hitler for a moment ... I think anyone interested in history - whatever period - should read this book - especially if they're a student. For the book demonstrates dramatically how important it is to evaluate evidence. You need to be on guard all the time, particularly when people make extravagant claims.
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on 21 September 2012
If you have ever wondered how so many people in the banking industry got it wrong and triggered the banking crisis, then this book may help you to understand. It has nothing to do with banking, but everything to do with how supposedly competent people become convinced that everyone else knows what they are doing, when in fact no one knows what's actually going on. At its heart is a single decision by a single executive, based entirely on the word of one journalist. From that the disaster grew and grew. Its the true story of how Stern magazine was sold fake Hitler diaries back in the 1980s, by a conman and forger posing as a seller of nazi memorabilia. It starts with a journalist that's too eager to believe in what he's being told, and ends with senior executives spending close to 9 million Dmarks (about £2.5 million)to buy the forgeries. Those that tried to raise warning flags are dismissed pretty much as party poopers. I won't tell you who gets the sack at the end, as you won't beleive it, but read it for yourself.

Robert Harris tells the story in much the same way as he writes his fictional books. My one criticism is that there are no references to source documents or testimony which would allow the reader to confirm for himself what Harris recounts as fact. This is a normal feature of non fiction writing and would help to add to the authenticity.
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on 3 March 2014
How stupid can you get? Robert Harris here tells the remarkable true story of the most outrageous hoax of the 20th century. The diaries, supposedly the thoughts of the Fuhrer between 1933 and 1945, were no hi-tech, sophisticated fraud. The forger, Conrad Kujau, aged the paper in the notebooks by pouring tea over them! Furthermore, much of the Hitler material was copied verbatim from a published source (its factual errors included). And yet reputable periodicals and networks all over the globe forked out thousands.

There are some dull passages where the author gets bogged down in the minutiae of the case. But on the whole it's a truly fascinating read. At its best 'Selling Hitler' reads like a novel with some LOL moments. I really like the way Harris sets the tale within the context of Cold War politics. Harris captures western paranoia surrounding East Germany, for instance - it comes across as a dark and unchartered Tolkeinian wilderness where monsters dwell. Above all, the case of the Hitler Diaries reveals just what a hold on our collective conscious Adolf continues to have.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 6 April 2012
Why did Times Newspapers and Newsweek offer nearly £3m for a total forgery, and why did Stern, a reputable German magazine, ultimately waste over £5m in acquiring the faked Hitler diaries and in dealing with the consequences of the forgery being revealed? Robert Harris answers these questions and many others beautifully here, creating a non fiction work which reads with the pace and page turning compulsion of his best novels.

The capacity of individuals, often in positions of the highest authority, to be blinded by the prospect of wealth and fame, as well as their own small place in history is laid bare. The characters are fascinating - Fischer aka Kujau, the small time forger of luncheon vouchers who created nearly 60 volumes of dairies and other faked Hitler memorabilia, who ultimately felt betrayed by the Stern journalist, Heidemann, who filched over 50% of the money paid by Sten to acquire the diaries, and Rupert Murdoch who was personally involved in acquiring the diaries for his media empire, and who saw the Sunday Times gain, and retain, circulation as a result, whilst getting all their money back...

Nearly everyone involved trusted that someone else knew what they were talking about when they said the diaries were genuine, and convinced themselves that further checks were unnecessary. This was not helped by the 'experts' - one of whom said the diaries were genuine, then changed his mind, whilst another, almost simultaneously, said they were fake then claimed they were genuine.

What a mess - beautifully explained in this excellent book.
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on 5 June 2015
Probably one of the strangest and silliest frauds ever perpetrated anywhere. 9 million German marks about 2.5 million dollars spent on forgeries and not one invoice or receipt to show for it. The obsessed reporter, the greedy publishers and easily duped finance officers all hoped to make a mint. Gerd heideman was convinced of the authenticity of the diaries even after being shown the irrefutable evidence of forgery. About half of the money that changed hands went into his own pockets. This book turns dry dull history into a fast paced crime thriller that has you on the edge of your seat wondering when the hammer will fall.
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on 29 April 2018
A classically investigated and meticulously recounted history of the Stern’s fake Hitler Diaries disaster. Perhaps most intriguing is the corporate behaviour demonstrated within the world of testosterone filled journalistic leadership.

My only criticism is that it was too long and contained too much detail in some places during the early stages. The latter stages, however, reflected the theatrical events superbly.
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on 25 February 2015
Intrigueing. I remember when the news originally broke about these diaries and as a man who grew up being fascinated by Nazi Germany and how it had been allowed to happen, I rubbed my hands in glee. Then it turned out the diaries were fakes! This good actually guides you through the decades and happily I also learned even more about those final days in Berlin at the end of the war. Robert Harris is a writer I aspire to be as he weaves everything in so well that even parts that worry you will be too dry, Harris keeps you transfixed. Fantastic book.

Oh and by the way, Harris is also the author of another well worth reading book: FATHERLAND, enjoy ;-)
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on 24 February 2016
First class storytelling like 'An officer and a Spy'. More gripping than the fictional 'thrillers' I have been reading. I loved the scene when one of the Sunday Times editors slid slowly down the wall when the awful truth was revealed. One or two typos in my kindle edition like 'Zam in the morning' but who cares? I read it in two sittings. Like reviewer above, I couldn't stop because there were so many astounding revelations one after another in every chapter.
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on 31 March 2015
I have read a few of Robert Harris books mainly non fiction and loved them. I selected this book as I remember all the commotion of the Hitler diaries in the 80s and thought it would be great to read all about it.
A mistake, the book managed to be so very boring, I found myself skimming through the pages trying to find where the story carries on with some sort of pace.
Unfortunately I found the book disappointing.
.So I will stick to RH s non fiction novels in future.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 17 October 2011
I was riveted from start to finish by this extraordinary story. I had vague recollections of the initial excitement that Hitler's diaries had been found, swiftly followed by the revelations that they were forgeries, but had no idea what an amazing fraud had been perpetrated and how gullible the newspapers had been in accepting their veracity on very flimsy evidence. Robert Harris has done a superb job of collating all the details into an exciting page-turner of a book.
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