A prize-winning journalist who claims he covered 13 military conflicts for Stern, 76-year-old Gerd Heidemann now spends his days as a ‘hobby historian’, working amid files stacked to the ceiling of his home office – his bedroom – from 7:30 am to late at night.
“I am a pensioner and get €350 ($558) a month from the social welfare office,” Heidemann told Bild. “They also pay my rent, healthcare and long-term care insurance.”
As a reporter he was known for his lavish lifestyle, including a yacht, the Carin II, which once belonged to Nazi air marshal Herman Göring. He was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison in 1985 for skimming about 2 million German marks from the 9.3 million German marks Stern paid forger Konrad Kujau for the fake Hitler diaries.
Heidemann said he still owes about €700,000 ($1.1 million) and – his pension garnished by his creditors – is living on public assistance. Heidemann said his debts include €425,000 ($677,000) in back taxes and €35,000 ($55,760) in lawyers’ fees.
He denied skimming money from the Stern payments to Kujau, who was also sentenced to more than four years in prison and died in 2000.
“Kujau said, for example, that I got him paper and ink and prompted him to forge the diaries. It’s all lies!” Heidemann said in the interview, adding that “nearly everyone who wanted to do me in is dead now. But I’m still alive.”