he London Sunday Times strongly indicated tonight that it would not publish material said to be Adolf Hitler's diaries until "further investigation" by historians and other specialists verified that the diaries are genuine.
Following today's press conference in Hamburg at which British historian Hugh Trevor-Roper revised his previously expressed confidence in the diaries' authenticity, the Times management released a carefully worded statement which also seemed to reflect new uncertainty about the material. Journalists on the newspaper said that once its proprietor Rupert Murdoch had signed the deal for the diaries, no time had been allowed for independent examination beyond that by Trevor-Roper.
In urging caution last week, at least one memo was sent to editors recalling that a decade ago the newspaper had bought and nearly published diaries attributed to the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini which turned out to be forgeries, sources said. In that case, several experts vouched for the material before Italian police found it had been fabricated by two women.
Tonight's statement attributed only to a "spokesman" implied that partial payment to West Germany's Stern magazine might be withheld until investigation of the diaries is satisfactorily completed. It said that the News Corporation, parent company of the Sunday Times, had promised to pay $400,000 for British and Commonwealth rights to the material "over this year and next."
Times officials refused to expand on the statement, which followed consultations with the newspaper's lawyers. But news executives said they were certain that "every effort would now be made to check the authenticity" of the material in the three weeks before extracts of it are next scheduled to appear. The clear implication--although it is not stated directly--is that nothing further will appear while doubts remain.
Moreover, the newspaper will now insist that Stern permit it substantial access to the documents, which had been denied previously, sources said.
On Sunday, the Sunday Times published a selection of quotes from the diaries and a lengthy account of how the material was supposed to have been located and authenticated. All of this information was supplied by Stern. The newspaper's publicly based its confidence in the material on the assurances of Trevor-Roper who had written that he was "satisfied that the diaries are authentic." News executives also fully believed that Stern itself was "completely convinced" the diaries are genuine and said they believed that the material was so vast and elaborate that a forgery was unlikely.
"If Trevor-Roper had expressed any of the doubts he did today, we would have handled the matter completely differently," one senior journalist said.
But Trevor-Roper, now Lord Dacre, who is a director of Times Newspapers Ltd., had apparently spent only one afternoon examining the material before making his judgement. Tonight's statement said: "If Lord Dacre and other historians feel they need time for further investigation, everything possible within the powers of the Sunday Times will be done to provide them with these facilities."
The deal for the diaries was negotiated secretly by Murdoch and other senior officials of the News Corporation. Frank Giles, editor of the Sunday Times, had initially rebuffed the approach from Stern, but it was brought to the attention of Murdoch by Charles Douglas-Home, editor of the Sunday Times' sister newspaper, The Times. Douglas-Home flew to Zurich to confirm that the material existed, sources said.
Last week, with initial publication suddenly scheduled for Sunday, a deputy editor of the Sunday Times and a German-speaking reporter were sent to Hamburg to coordinate with Stern.
In London, several journalists on the newspaper expressed concern that the demand for secrecy and the speed of publication involved a substantial risk, but they were evidently in the minority.