Reports in the newspapers and on televison now indicate the diaries of Hitler , the Nazi dictator in World War II, are a fake. These diaries were supposed to have been discovered recently in a hayloft. Some newspapers and magazines were prepared to pay vast sums of money to publish them.
The forgery was clever enough to fool even well-known historians who claimed to know a good deal about Hitler.
One of the reasons the diaries were not found to be genuine is that some of Hitler's sayings were not in use at the time he was in power, which was in the l 930's and l940's. Police laboratory experts also examined the paper, the glue, and the bindings. In some cases the paper used was not available until years after his death.
Some fakes and forgeries are so well done that unsuspecting people can spend millions of dollars on what they think is an original painting or antique only to find it is a copy and therefore has considerably less value.
Fortunately, modern-day methods have made it easier to detect forgery, especially of paintings and sculptures. Generally forgeries are exposed through chemical analysis, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and other forms of scientific examination. These tests will show what materials were used. Thus a copy of a Rembrandt painting will reveal under scientific examination that the paint was too recent to be genuine or that substitute materials were used.
To fake a Rembrandt is particularly difficult because Rembrandt did so many portraits or faces and most experts agree that one of the hardest things to fake is a face.
This is why you will find most bank notes in the world carry the face of some great leader. The US $1 bill bears the face of George Washington, the $5 bill the face of Abraham Lincoln, and the $20 the face of Andrew Jackson. In Britain, the pound carries the picture of Queen Elizabeth II. These portraits on a genuine bill stand out very clearly. The hairlines in particular are sharp and distinct. A counterfeit by comparison will often appear dull and flat looking and the shading lines under close inspection are broken or missing.
Counterfeit money is usually made with equipment and materials used to make other products. As a result, counterfeit bills are not printed on paper that has the distinctive red and blue fibers of the genuine bill.
Counterfeiting is a serious crime. To make or pass on a counterfeit bill would make a person liable to a fine of up to $5,000. Or a prison sentence as high as 15 years. In the Soviet Union and China capital punishment is the penalty.
Today there is much less counterfeit money in circulation than there used to be. During the American Civil War, which was fought between 1861 and 1865, about one-third of all paper money that was in circulation was said to be counterfeit.
It got so bad that the US Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865, to stop the widespread counterfeiting of federal money. Today it is believed that of about $45 billion of currency in circulation only between $1 million and $1.5 million is actually counterfeit.