One principle of handwriting comparisons is handwriting is unique to each person. Because of the individualizing features of each writer, evidence of forgeries is normally present for a document examiner to use to uncover such fabrications. Keep reading to learn the story behind five famous document forgeries.
Comparing the known to the unknown
There is no question some of the most famous document forgeries in history are the result of talented crafting. Attention to detail may initially prevent an expert from discovering the fabrication. However, Forensic
Document Examiners know many of the techniques used for forgeries and utilize their training and laboratory instruments during an analysis of questioned documents.
Famous document forgeries
The following document forgeries have one significant thing in common: they all initially deceived people with the accuracy and attention to detail of the fabrications. Eventually, the fact that the documents were frauds was established.
#1: Hitler Diaries
The Hitler Diaries represent one of the most famous modern-era document frauds. The story began in 1983 when a German paper declared it had possession of diaries written by Adolph Hitler, of which there was no previous record. The journals contained numerous entries presenting the dictator in a much gentler light.
Stern, the German paper that published the diaries, claimed the journals had gone down in a 1945 plane crash. The documents, according to the story, were discovered after the accident and hidden by a local farmer. Decades later, the diaries were made public.
Unfortunately for the publisher of Stern, document experts at the German Federal Archives examined the Hitler Diaries and identified them as forgeries. The real author was Konrad Kujau. Kujau ended up in prison, and the magazine suffered the consequences of a severely damaged
#2: Mormon Forgeries
During the early 1980s, Mark Hofmann, a master forger, approached leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints multiple times with documents that appeared to rewrite the Mormon history. Church officials believed the papers were authentic and paid Hofmann for
Eventually, Hofmann’s deception became known, and he murdered two people in an attempt to hide his crime. The legal web began to encompass Hofmann when forensic document examiners (William Flynn and George Throckmorton), determined the Mormon documents were the product of forgery. He received a judicial sentence of life in prison.
#3: Lincoln Love Letters
One of the more romantic of the famous document forgeries involves Abraham Lincoln and Anne Rutledge. According to stories that began to circulate in the years after Lincoln’s death, Anne Rutledge was Lincoln’s true love, and her death spurred him to a political career. The Lincoln Love Letters forgery began in 1928 when a young woman named Wilma Minor, told the Atlantic Monthly that she owned multiple letters from Lincoln and Rutledge. She claimed the letters proved their romantic relationship.
Editors at the Atlantic Monthly fell victim to the fraud and paid Wilma Minor for the letters. They ran a selection of the messages in three issues of the magazine in 1929. Critics immediately charged the letters were fraudulent. Eventually, the Atlantic Monthly brought in a Forensic Document Examiner who quickly determined the letters were forgeries.
#4: Shakespeare Forgery
Sometimes forgers do not create false documents for money. William-Henry Ireland is an example of such a forger, in that he merely desired to get his father’s attention. He received that attention when, in 1795, he claimed to find a stack of letters and plays written by William Shakespeare.
Perhaps the fact that Ireland’s father had a reputation as an avid collector led people to believe the documents were authentic. Soon, Shakespeare fans agreed that the letters and plays came from Shakespeare himself.
People first became suspicious about the documents after their publication. Once people had the opportunity to scrutinize the writings, it became apparent they were frauds. William-Henry Ireland soon confessed to the forgeries.
#5: Adolfo Kaminsky
Not all forgeries are negative. Adolfo Kaminsky, a teenager trapped in Nazi-occupied France, used his understanding of dry-cleaning chemicals to forge documents that saved thousands of Jews during World War II.
Kaminsky’s family was Jewish and spent time in a concentration camp near Paris after the German occupation of France. Fortunately, the authorities released the family because they possessed citizenship in Argentina.
Adolfo went to work with the French Resistance immediately after leaving the concentration camp. His experience working in a dry-cleaning shop, and knowledge of chemicals, gave him the skills necessary to alter and
reproduce such crucial documents as identification, birth certificates, marriage licenses, and food ration cards. In all, he helped to save thousands of Jews from certain death.
In closing, the above notable document forgeries reveal the capability of talented individuals to craft fraudulent documents. Fortunately, expert Forensic Document Examiners are a valuable resource to establish document fraud.
James A. Green, a Forensic Document Examiner, has years of professional experience determining the authenticity of documents for private individuals, corporations, and governmental organizations. Contact his office for assistance with your case.