German Woman Sentenced for Selling Fakes of Fakes
Updated: 22 hours 35 minutes ago
Theunis Bates Contributor
(Sept. 9) — So you’ve spent $3,000 on what you thought was an authentic forgery by a master forger, only to find out that the forgery you bought was itself a forgery. What do you do next? You take the forgery forger to court, of course.
Dresden, Germany, resident Petra Kujau, 51, was fined $380,000 this week and given a two-year suspended sentence for selling 300 copies of masterpieces by artists like Vincent van Gogh, Franz Marc and Claude Monet. However, she never claimed that her paintings were originals by these great masters. Her crime was to wrongfully market them as copies made by her (supposed) great-uncle: counterfeiter extraordinaire Konrad Kujau, the man behind the Hitler Diaries, arguably the greatest fake of the modern age.
Norbert Millauer, AP
Petra Kujau, 51, of Dresden, Germany, was fined $380,000 and given a two-year suspended sentence for selling 300 copies of masterpieces by artists like Vincent van Gogh, Franz Marc and Claude Monet.
Konrad Kujau’s name adds a premium to any picture. The talented painter and antiques dealer — who died in 2000 — sprang to fame in 1983 when he duped German magazine Stern, as well as Britain’s Times and Sunday Times, into serializing his fraudulent Hitler Diaries. Stern coughed up $6 million for the 62-volume diaries — which had supposedly been smuggled out of East Germany — and claimed that revelations contained in the memoirs would result in history being rewritten. (The diaries were mostly filled with absurdly trivial details, such as this 1936 entry purportedly penned before the Berlin Olympics: “Hope my stomach cramps don’t return during the Games.”)
Two weeks after Stern and other newspapers published the first extracts, though, scientific tests exposed the diaries as fakes, revealing that they were written on paper that was produced after World War II. Konrad Kujau was sent to jail for three years. But he became a celebrity soon after his release, appearing on TV chat shows and selling his copies of other artists’ paintings for up to $4,500 each. However, he never forgot to add his signature in the corner, to avoid being sent back to the slammer for counterfeiting.
The pictures sold by Petra for up to $3,800 each, though, weren’t even genuine Kujaus. They were generic, low-quality fakes of famous paintings imported from Asia — costing about $10 a work — which were then daubed with Kujau’s name. “What has happened is hard fraud,” the presiding judge said, according to German tabloid Bild. “Art forgeries are common. The fact that the forger is forged again is somewhat unusual.”
And German weekly Der Spiegel noted that prosecutors believe Petra may have committed one more act of fakery. While they’re fairly sure she worked for Konrad Kujau in the 1990s, they doubt that her real last name is Kujau.