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Selling Hitler

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  504 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
The con job of the century--the faking of the Hitler "diaries". How could some of the most distinguished historians of the Hitler era, and some of the most aggresssive and street-smart publishers in the business have been taken in by these documents? This lively, witty account conveys a sobering picture of the ease with which those who profess to purvey the truth can convi ...more
Paperback, 402 pages
Published May 5th 1987 by Penguin Books (first published 1986)
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The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. LewisPride and Prejudice by Jane AustenWinnie-the-Pooh by A.A. MilneA Tale of Two Cities by Charles DickensA Room with a View by E.M. Forster
Cambridge University
154th out of 233 books — 40 voters
Enigma by Robert   HarrisFatherland by Robert   HarrisArchangel by Robert   HarrisPompeii by Robert   HarrisThe Ghost by Robert   Harris
Best of Robert Harris
14th out of 19 books — 1 voter

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,182)
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Nov 04, 2014 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Judy Baar Topinka

This is one of those books you have to read to believe - no Wikipedia entry can do the topic justice. The levels of stupidity, greed, gullibility, and incompetence involved are astonishing.

The story begins with the convergence of two people in the late 1970s: Konrad Kujau, a small-time but highly industrious crook who had established a cottage industry in the fabrication of Nazi documents and Hitler paintings, and Gerd Heidemann, an unscrupulous, Nazi-obsessed (not in the good way) writer at Ste
Gerald Sinstadt
Dec 04, 2013 Gerald Sinstadt rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the author, who knows how to spin a good yarn, is the only one whose reputation is enhanced by Selling Hitler. Otherwise, on the one hand are the con men who market the faked Nazi memorabilia; on the other are those who fell for it all to the extent that they needed to make it true even after they began to suspect it wasn't. As a parable to illustrate the foibles of human nature the book is a classic.

The catalysts are a German journalist obsessed with collecting Nazi souvenirs, and a sma
Dec 24, 2015 Wayne marked it as to-be-reviewed  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: You enjoy a Good Read ???
Recommended to Wayne by: The Observer and Times Lit. Supp.

"Impossible to stop reading" Observer.

"A very funny story...very well told" Norman Stone, Times Literary Supplement.

These exact and tantalising front and backcover reviews
read in the book section of our local "Second-Hand Rose" type shop
had me decide to purchase it,THE book,immediately.
To read about Mr. Hitler at one remove would also be a pleasure
rather than a trauma.

And so it all has proved:

VERY amusing; UNputdownable; photos of the leading players;
and brilliant portraits of Human Nature at
Claire Webster
Dec 04, 2013 Claire Webster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was the first non-fiction Robert Harris book I had read, but I found it as instantly gripping and readable as any of his fiction. Actually, of course, it is truth of the 'stranger than fiction' kind -- a jaw-dropping tale of bold forgery, hero-worship and self-delusion -- which perfectly suits his style. The cast of fantasists, fanatics, the greedy, the lazy and the egotistical could come straight from a thriller and the twists, turns and near misses of the 'plot' keep the reader enthralled ...more
Andrew Garvey
Nov 16, 2015 Andrew Garvey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
In the epilogue to this detailed, fascinating and at times, very funny, examination of the 1983 Hitler Diaries fiasco, best-selling novelist Robert Harris describes them as "shabby forgeries, for the most part full of worthless banalities."

Written on post-war notebooks, littered with errors and, as Harris makes clear, just part of the huge collection of forgeries created by charlatan, fantasist and petty criminal Konrad Kujau, they still fooled German magazine Stern, the Sunday Times and America
Mar 18, 2014 nicdavdi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Harris's last non fiction book before he went on to be a massively successful novelist, is an account of the Hitler Diaries forgery in the early 1980's. It's a sharp and often very funny story of how individuals and corporations can be fooled by a combination of greed, hubris and fantasy. This was not the first time that diaries have been found after many years and then found to be forgeries. Diaries apparently written by Benito Mussolini were discovered in 1957 and then found to be forge ...more
Mar 28, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
From BBC radio 4 Extra:
True story of the most sensational publishing fraud in history - the forging of Adolf Hitler's diaries.
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Dec 29, 2011 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it liked it
Recommended to Susanna - Censored by GoodReads by: Bettie☯
What a weird, weird forger. Very entertaining to read about, though.

Probably about three and a half stars.
The story of the forged Hitler Diaries is an interesting one, as Harris displays the levels to which so many people became entrapped in an increasingly complex and ridiculous tale of greed. The book, however, is far too long for its own good. The level of detailed provided by Harris about the people involved is overwhelming, and it reaches the point in which it seems that Harris is putting down every scrap of information that he has encountered during his writing of the book. The whole thing wou ...more
Jul 17, 2015 Fips rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In Selling Hitler Robert Harris has provided an enthralling, blow-by-blow account of one of the most infamous hoaxes in history, the alleged discovery of the Hitler diaries. A potentially convoluted plot with many actors, Harris has done a remarkable job in organising the story in a comprehensible manner, and in so doing has simultaneously written a turn-paging piece of investigative journalism, full of interesting nuggets and occasional humourous asides.

History is always a work in progress. Sew
Roger Boyle
Sep 05, 2015 Roger Boyle rated it it was amazing
As the blurb says, can't put this on down, and the merit of truth passim. Gripping to the final page.

Great insight into large scale self-delusion and greed - all the more satisfying to see some big suits humiliated beyond your wildest dream - Murdoch included.

Some sympathy, I guess, for Heidemann, but he did nick a lot of money.

Could it all happen again? Yes! Bring it on
Mary Warnement
Oct 18, 2014 Mary Warnement rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: subway, berlin
The TLS's back cover blurb on my pb declared this a "very funny story." That seemed to me very inappropriate. Who knew something besides a fake musical with Hitler in the title could be funny? The colossal hubris that allowed these forged diaries to receive the attention they did doesn't surprise me. Nor does the fact that the administrators who made the incompetent decisions not only escaped censure but had the balls to fire mid-range underlings who questioned their stupidity. Fire them AFTER t ...more
Jan 03, 2016 Lis rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
La parte iniziale è incredibilmente noiosa, come se Harris abbia dovuto "allungare il brodo" per riempire almeno un certo numero di pagine.
Solo nel finale diventa il racconto diventa un po' più interessante e spedito, ma resta comunque una mezza delusione.
Bill Lawrence
Aug 09, 2015 Bill Lawrence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: society
One of the most fascinating and interesting books I've read a while. Amazing story told in the way that Harris writes his best fiction. Even laugh out loud at times.
Feb 20, 2014 Paul rated it it was amazing
A truly exceptional book. Harris' narrative grips the read from start to finish. Perhaps, only in 'Schindler's Ark' have I felt the same inability to put a book down. Superb.
Wahid Nugroho
Sep 12, 2015 Wahid Nugroho rated it really liked it
Lagi baca buku ini dan sudah masuk ke bab 8. Menurutku buku ini lucu dan menghibur mengingat objek pembahasannya yang serius hehe..
May 16, 2016 Tania rated it liked it
Well this was an amusing book to read while studying corporate governance.
(aka sort out your internal controls people)
Martin Willoughby
Feb 26, 2016 Martin Willoughby rated it it was amazing
The perfect book to illustrate what greed can do. The cock-up theory of history in all its glory laid out before us. Superb account of one the publishing disasters of the 20th century.
Reading this book was a wee bit like having a conversation with my brother. Every conceivable bit of information is here, to the point of being overwhelmingly detailed such that you can lose the thread of what's going on. It seems to go on and on, sometimes repeating itself, while you struggle to catch your breath enough to keep up. And at the end, you are left with a feeling that it was all incredibly interesting, but how on earth could such a bizarre thing be true?
Aug 28, 2013 Camille rated it liked it
I love Robert Harris. So decided to stop being pathetic and try his non-fiction book.

I found out some interesting stuff and it was a great subject. BUT it was not the plot driven, page turning stuff I'm used to from Harris.

Of course non-fiction is different. However there was a real plot thread in this historic episode. I'm afraid there was a little too much of this kind of thing 'and then someone took the 11.31 train that cost 30 pence to cambridge' for my liking.
Jane Rocks
Jan 27, 2016 Jane Rocks rated it did not like it
Found this book incredibly repetitive and it couldn't hold my interest. It's extremely rare that I don't finish a book especially one written by one of my favourite authors.
Julian Walker
Dec 04, 2014 Julian Walker rated it really liked it
Written like a thriller, this is in incredible true tale which is so unbelievable that you can see why this many people were taken in.

The sheer audacity of the fraud (no spoiler alert needed as this tale is well documented) and the willingness of all those caught up in its whirlwind to believe in its truth makes this story even more gripping.

Brilliantly written, precisely observed and a joy to read. A slice of history served up hot and delicious.
Mar 29, 2012 Chrissie marked it as not-for-me
Shelves: history, germany, bbc
Now available at BBC:

Again, thank you Laura.

I find the BBC rendition kind of boring. Maybe the book is better? Or maybe it is not might type of book. When I have to choose what to listen to at lunch I pick the audio of Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness instead.
This was a fantastic insight into the most ridiculous scam I think I've ever heard of. So ridiculous in fact that at times it is laugh out loud funny. How could so many people and companies independent of one another have been taken in by such a poor forgery. A very easy read and surprised me as a bit of a page turner. I would definitely recommend this to others.

Not just for the history buffs (in fact quite the opposite)!
Feb 24, 2012 David rated it it was amazing
As a fan of Robert Harris I have to say that this is far better than his fictional stories. A true thriller of fraud, greed and foolishness that has only one criticism, if it were fiction it would be too far-fetched.

This is a great read and well recommended for those how enjoy a good yarn. Read this and be amazed at how people can be fooled and perhaps want to be fooled.
Jonathan Lack
Sep 07, 2012 Jonathan Lack rated it really liked it
This was a really insightful and interesting read. It reads more like a thriller than a documentary book. As a fan of his fictional work, I really enjoyed it. Gave me a good insight into neo-Nazis and the press. Would have given it 5 stars, but felt it a little repetitive with some of the facts. Give it a go though, it's riveting stuff.
Dec 31, 2012 Ian rated it it was amazing
If someone were to write this as fiction it would never find a publisher as it is far too unbelievable. An incredible, highly entertaining tale of one of the greatest swindles in history, the Hitler Diaries. As the frontpiece states, this book is literally un-put-down-able. I wonder why it has not been made into a film as yet?
Apr 17, 2016 Conor rated it really liked it
Fascinating retelling of one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th Century, the finding of Hitler's "diaries." A tale of people wanting to believe so badly that something was true that they blew past all the warning signs that they were dealing with forgeries.
Jul 24, 2013 Iain rated it liked it
Starts off very well, gets a little bigged down in the middle, gets going again towards the end.

An unbelievable piece of fiction had it been written as such. Which makes the fact that it's all true all the more incredible and entertaining!
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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more
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