10 Famous Fake Antiques and the Suckers Who Bought Them

Hitler's Diaries
The last known copy of the fake Hitler diaries was sold at auction in 2004 to an anonymous bidder for 6,500 euros. © MICHAEL URBAN/AFP/Getty Images

In April 1983, Gerd Heidemann, the London correspondent for Stern, a weekly German news magazine, got his hands on Adolf Hitler's diaries. The diaries, allegedly written between 1932 and 1945, were found in East Germany, apparently in the wreckage of a plane crash where they had been hidden since that time.

Stern paid an estimated $6 million for the diaries, and the plan was to publish them in partnership with The Sunday Times of London [source: Levy]. The Times (along with Newsweek) brought in experts to confirm the document's authenticity -- to historian Hugh Trevor-Roper the diaries appeared genuine, at least the handwriting. But as Stern began to share the documents, it became clear they were not authentic -- in fact, they were a modern forgery containing historical mistakes, written in tea-stained composition books -- and as it turns out, Trevor-Roper, who reviewed the documents for their authenticity, couldn't read German. While the documents had come from Germany, they had not come from Hitler; Heidemann had bought the faked diaries from an art dealer (and forger) named Konrad Kajau.