FRANK GILES - 1919-2019 : As journalist fiascos go, it was one of the most sensational.

In 1983, The Sunday Times of London claimed to have Adolf Hitler's diaries., scribbled in the Fuhrer's own hand. A renowned historian had authenticated them.

What it actually had were forgeries. The newspaper's top editors discovered the truth at the last minute and tried to stop their publication.

But the paper's owner, Rupert Murdoch, dismissed their concerns and ordered that the presses roll, leaving The Sunday Times, one of the world's greatest news organizations, with serious egg on its face.

The editor of the paper, the mild-mannered urbane Frank Giles, took the fall and was fired, bringing a distinguished career to an abrupt and ignominious end.

He died on Oct 30 at 100, The Sunday Times reported.

Mr. Giles had been editor of the paper for just two years when the German magazine Der Stern said it was in possession of Hitler's diaries and offered the British serialization rights to The Sunday Times.

Mr. Giles called on Hugh Trevor Roper, the eminent British historian and one of the world's foremost experts on Hitler, to authenticate the volumes. After examining them in a vault in Zurich, he pronounced them legitimate.

Some at the paper were skeptical and urged further investigation; they remembered when The Sunday Times had been taken in years before by fake diaries purported to have been written by Mussolini.

But Mr. Giles put his faith in Mr, Trevor-Roper, and according to another editor, once Mr. Trevor-Roper had given his seal of approval, Mr. Murdoch ordered that the diaries be published without any further inquiry.

The world was bracing for block-buster revelations. Newsweek magazine, which had bought the American rights, boasted in advance advertisements, ''These controversial papers could rewrite the history of the Third Reich from Hitler's rise to power to his suicide from the ruins of Berlin.''

On Saturday, April 24, 1983, the presses at The Sunday Times began to roll. Unknown to the newspaper's editors, Mr. Trevor Roper had started to doubt the diaries' validity. He said later that he had ''misunderstood the nature of their procurement''.

But he did not alert Mr. Giles. Instead, he sent a word to Charles-Douglass-Home, the editor of The Times of London, the sister paper of The Sunday Times, Mr. Douglas-Home thought Mr. Trevor-Roper was probably mistaken and said nothing to Mr. Giles.

That night, Mr. Giles was in his office with other senior editors celebrating their scoop. They called Mr. Trevor-Roper to share their joy, unaware of his second thoughts.

What ensued was heart-stopping telephone conversation between Mr. Giles and Mr. Trevor-Roper. According to others in the room, Mr. Gile's said said of the conversation went like this:

''Well, naturally, Hugh, one has doubts. There are no certainties in this life. But those doubts aren't strong enough to make you do a complete 180-degree turn on that?

''Oh, I see. You're doing a 180-degree turn.''

The editors called Mr. Murdoch with the dire news., but he was said to have dismissed Mr. Trevor-Roper's concerns with a vulgarity and ordered publication to proceed.

The paper sold well. But the diaries unmasking was already in the works. On Monday, Mr. Trevor-Roper made his doubts public, and the whole enterprise quickly unraveled, proven to be a hoax perpetrated by a prolific German forger, Konrad Kujau.

Forensics showed that the paper, ink and bindings of the supposed diaries were of recent vintage.

But it didn't take a scientist to suspect fakery. Hitler would have had a hard time writing the later entries, when his writing arm had been injured. The entries were riddled with factual errors, and some seemed incongruously flip, given the gravity of the circumstances.

''That Goebbels, what a pain in the neck,'' read one. ''Must do something about the way Goring is throwing his weight around.

The Sunday Times, Der Stern and Newsweek became the butt of jokes. Some critics harassed them as Nazi Sympathizers., bent on whitewashing Hitler's atrocities.

Shortly thereafter, The Sunday Times apologized to its readers, though the apology itself also came in for ridicule.

The honor and serving of Hitler's Times and History, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Katharine Q. Seelye.


Post a Comment

Grace A Comment!