-This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (3,070) on Friday, November 17, 2023.
We are in the middle of the month of November, which in many ways, to my mind at least, is the best month of the year. November is the calm before the storm of excitement and activities of the Christmas season. It is the month where we can take a breath, look back over the year, and assess where we are.
The main reason I like November, however, is that I consider it the month of Thanksgiving. Toward the end of this month, we will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, which is by far my favorite holiday. I like it because in our modern life, gratitude — mixed with true humility — always seems to be in short supply.
So during this month, let’s celebrate what we have and for the moment, if only just a moment, forget about what we do not have or what we may want.
Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.
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The Hitler diaries hoax: the scoop that turned to dust (part 2)
When the editors of Stern magazine in Germany acquired what they believed were the diaries of Adolph Hitler in 1982, they had a treasure. They also had a problem.
They had paid a lot of money for the diaries, but they could not claim to own them. In fact, making any kind of a public claim about the diaries before they were ready to publish them would endanger their value. Another publication could beat them to the punch. Stern had paid millions of dollars for the diaries, and they wanted to preserve their value at all costs.
It also meant forgoing any kind of a thorough authentication of the words and pages they had.
So, the few editors who knew about them kept quiet, and they continued to pay. The money went through one of their reporters, Gerd Heidemann, and on to Konrad Kujau, who was supposedly smuggling them from East Germany. In truth, he was sitting in his basement, writing them as fast as he could. The more he produced, the more money he would receive.
By the end of 1982, the magazine had acquired 35 volumes of the diaries and had invested millions of dollars into the project. The editors began planning for a publication date and wanted the maximum exposure for what they had. They sent a syndication prospectus to several media organizations including The Sunday Times in London and Newsweek in New York. Rupert Murdoch owned the London publications and saw the potential of the diaries for increasing their circulation.
Murdoch demanded that someone from his side of the table authenticate the diaries, and he chose Hugh Trevor-Roper, a highly respected British historian and an independent director of The Sunday Times newspaper. Trevor-Roper had served in the British secret service during the war and had researched Hitler enough to produce The Last Days of Hitler, a title that had secured his place in the top ranks of British historians.
While Trevor-Roper seemed like a good choice because of his reputation, the fact was that he had no expertise in document authentication and his ability to read German was limited. In addition, he had been told that the documents had to be subjected to chemical testing, which was a lie. When he saw the diaries for himself, his initial doubts were overcome. He later wrote, “ . . . who, I asked myself, would forge sixty volumes when six would have served his purpose?”
It was a naive question.
Although he still harbored some doubts, Trevor-Roper gave Murdoch his opinion that the diaries were genuine. Murdoch entered into a complicated series of negotiations that resulted in an agreement that Stern and The Sunday Times would publish the diaries at the end of April of 1983. Several other publications in Europe joined in the deal.
Just before the publication, Trevor-Roper changed his mind about the authenticity of the diaries and told The Sunday Times editors of his doubts. He had already written a long article for the paper attesting to the genuineness of the documents. Murdoch, when told about Trevor-Roper’s doubts, told the editors to publish them anyway.
Once the diaries were made public, there was no reason not to put them into the hands of experts who could verify them. Stern handed the diaries over to forensic experts, and it took only a few days for them to conclude that the diaries were fakes.
Next week: Part 3: Forgeries exposed
The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries. https://theprolificreader.com/mystery”
Group giveaways for November
Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.
Ray Bradbury on libraries
“Libraries raised me. I don’t believe in colleges and universities. I believe in libraries because most students don’t have any money. When I graduated from high school, it was during the Depression and we had no money. I couldn’t go to college, so I went to the library three days a week for 10 years,” he said. “I read everything in the library. I read everything. I took out 10 books a week so I had a couple of hundred books a year I read, on literature, poetry, plays, and I read all the great short stories, hundreds of them. I graduated from the library when I was 28 years old. That library educated me, not the college.”
A new and much-needed biography of the great war correspondent and journalist Marguerite Higgins has recently been published,
Perhaps due to her untimely death from cancer in her mid-40s, Higgins is not the household name she might have dreamed. What is frustrating is that her gender remained a stunt, a curiosity, even a joke, rather than a lens through which she might have seen the world differently, challenging rather than aping the macho heroics and emotional distance of her peers. New York Times review
And here is what has appeared previously in this newsletter about Higgins:
When Communist forces crossed the border into South Korea in 1950, Marguerite Higgins got on a plane in Tokyo, where she was head of the New York Herald Tribune bureau, along with three other reporters, all of them male. One of them told her not to go.
At the last moment, G– tried to dissuade me from going along, insisting that Korea was no place for a woman. But, for me, getting to Korea was more than just a story. It was a personal crusade. I felt that my position as a correspondent was at stake. Here I represented one of the world’s most noted newspapers as its correspondent in that area. I could not let the fact that I was a woman jeopardize my newspaper’s coverage of the war. Failure to get to the front would undermine all my arguments that I was entitled to the same assignment breaks as any man. It would prove that a woman as a correspondent was a handicap to the New York Herald Tribune. (Marguerite Higgins, War in Korea: The Report of a Woman Combat Correspondent)
Higgins got on the plane and survived a series of adventures that netted eventually a Pulitzer Prize for her team of Herald Tribune reporters and a best-selling book, War in Korea.
Higgins was no ingénue reporter when she boarded the plane in Tokyo. Born in Hong Kong in 1920, she grew up in California and graduated from Berkeley in 1941 where she had been on the staff of the Daily Californian. She then moved to New York to attend Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. She landed a spot in the newsroom of the New York Herald Tribune, and after working there for two years, she persuaded the editors to send her to Europe to cover the war.
There she witnessed the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp and the surrender of Germany. Afterward, she remained in Europe to cover the Nuremberg war trials and the Soviet blockade of Berlin in 1948.
In 1950 she was sent to Tokyo by the Herald Tribune, just in time to cover the increasing tensions between East and West that finally exploded in the Korean War. Time and again, she had been told that a war zone was “no place for a woman,” and Korea was no different. General Walton Walker ordered her to leave the country, but she appealed to General Douglas MacArthur, whom she had known in Tokyo. MacArthur rescinded Walker’s order, and she was allowed to stay.
After Korea, Higgins continued to cover foreign affairs and in 1955 established the Herald Tribune’s bureau in Moscow. In 1963 she joined the staff of Newsday and was sent to Vietnam. She went out into the villages and talked with hundreds of people, eventually producing a book titled Our Vietnam Nightmare.
Sadly, Higgins did not survive Vietnam. While there, she contracted leishmaniasis, a disease that led to her death in January 1965. She was 45 years old.
Higgins’ book on Korea is available online at the Internet Archive. It is a well-written, easily readable account of Higgins’ many experiences during that difficult and frustrating war.
Jennifer S.: What a delight to see a portrait of Julian of Norwich at the end of this week’s newsletter. I first encountered her, substantively, in graduate school. I remain fascinated by her as a person and inspired and moved by her writing. She is one of the people I quote most frequently, and one of the historical people I would most love to meet. I use one of her lines frequently as a mantra (or perhaps as an affirmation): “All shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.” May it be so!
Finally . . .
This week’s watercolor: Pennsylvania covered bridge
Best quote of the week:
The same people who can deny others everything are famous for refusing themselves nothing. Leigh Hunt, poet and essayist (1784-1859)
Grace for All: A daily devotional podcast
One of the great privileges I have had over the last few months is working with a dedicated group of folks to produce a daily devotional podcast series for 1st United Methodist Church in Maryville, Tennessee.
Our first season (15 episodes, plus maybe a bonus one or two) is up and running now and can be heard at https://1stchurch.org/podcast or wherever you get your podcasts (Apple, Spotify, Google, etc.). The episodes are about five minutes and are meant to enlighten and inspire.
The episodes are also on YouTube, if that is your preferred way of receiving these things.
If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try pray-as-you-go.org. The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.
Helping those in need
Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.
It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).
When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR.org) is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.
Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.
His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.
Last week’s newsletter: The Hitler diaries hoax, a Saul Bellow stamp, and the rules for writing detective stories, :newsletter, November 10, 2023
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