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Friday, 13 December 2013

The Angel of Auschwitz

Gisella Perl was born into a Jewish family in Hungary in 1907. At 16 years old, Gisella Perl graduated first in her secondary-school class, the only woman and the only Jew. She asked her father to send her to medical school, but he refused at first, saying "I do not want my daughter to lose her faith and break away from Judaism.'' Several months later, she approached him again, this time with a prayer book he had given her, and said, ''I swear on this book that wherever life will take me, under whatever circumstances, I shall always remain a good, true Jew.'' Maurice Perl now changed his mind and she was able to enroll in medical school.

She married a surgeon and was working as a gynecologist in Máramarossziget when the German Army invaded the country in 1944. Gisella and the rest of her family, were deported to extermination camps. Anne S. Reamey has pointed out: "As with many Jews across Hungary, Dr. Perl and her family were forced into a ghetto before being transported to Auschwitz in March 1944. After eight excruciating days packed tightly into cattle cars with almost no food or water, Dr. Perl's transport arrived at the gates of Auschwitz. As they entered into what, for many, would be their final resting place, families were separated into two lines: those going to the right were subjected to forced labor (about 3,000 people) while those going to the left were exterminated immediately in the gas chambers (7,000-9,000 people)."

For the rest of the article see:

Friday, 22 November 2013

Adolf Hitler and Women

If you study the murder of Geli Raubal in the classroom, a follow up lesson could look at Hitler's relationship with other women. This is always taken into account when examing the death of Geli Raubal. Hitler's first significant relationship took place in 1927. Hitler, then aged 37, became involved with the sixteen-year-old Maria Reiter. Hitler appears to have been strongly attracted to teenagers. He later explained: "A girl of eighteen to twenty is as malleable as wax. It should be possible for a man, whoever the chosen woman may be, to stamp his own imprint on her. That's all the woman asks for." Maria later explained: "We went out into the night.... Hitler was about to put his arm around my shoulders and pull me toward him when the two dogs suddenly attacked each other.... Hitler suddenly intervened, like a maniac he hit his dog with his riding whip... and shook him violently by the collar. He was very excited.... I did not expect that he could hit his dog so brutally and ruthlessly, the dog which he had said he could not live without. Yet he beat up his most loyal companion." Maria asked him "How can you be so brutal and beat your dog like that?" He replied "It was necessary." 

Ian Kershaw has argued Hitler 1889-1936 (1998): "He (Hitler) was thirty-seven years of age; she was sixteen. Like his father, he preferred women much younger than himself - girls he could dominate, who would be obedient playthings but not get in the way. The two women with whom he would become most intimately associated, Geli Raubal (nineteen years younger than he was) and Eva Braun (twenty-three years younger), fitted the same model - until, that is, Geli became rebellious and wanted a level of freedom which Hitler was unwilling to permit." Ronald Hayman has pointed out that there was a regular patten to Hitler's relationships: "Though he found it easy during his twenties and early thirties to make friends with children and with women in their forties and fifties, he was nervous of being rebuffed or humiliated by women of his own age. But at thirty-seven he was old enough to treat a teenage girl as if she were a child. With Maria, once they were sufficiently relaxed in each other's company, there was nothing to stop them from making love."

For the rest of the article see:

Monday, 11 November 2013

Murder Cases in the Classroom

I first started teaching in 1977. The school was using some new Schools Council Project materials called "What is History?" It included the "Mystery of Mark Pullen". The lesson went really well until the end when the students were told that Mark Pullen was not a real person. They felt cheated that they had spent time investigating what they considered a murder case that was not true. My response to this was to create a lesson on a real mystery. I had recently read a book on the Mary Celeste. I therefore decided to create a lesson on a real-life mystery. The students loved it and a couple of years later the material became the first publication of Tressell, the teacher-run cooperative based in Brighton. For many years it was our best selling booklet. Children (and teachers) love mysteries. They especially love murder mysteries. Another best selling booklet was the "Assassination of John F. Kennedy".

One of the reasons that students are attracted to such issues is that it gives them a role in the learning process. Their opinion becomes important and they become active learners. It is also a marvellous exercise for inspecting the evidence. It gives them the chance to be a detective (or more importantly, an historian). The problem is finding enough time in the curriculum to spend on "mysteries". I recently came across a case which might indeed be worth spending a lesson on. 

The case involves the death of Hitler's young niece, Geli Raubal. Officially, Geli killed herself on 18th September, 1931. She was aged 23 and had been having a sexual relationship with her uncle for over two years. The anti-Nazi press published stories suggesting that Adolf Hitler was romantically involved with Geli and that he had murdered her because she was expecting a child by a Jewish music teacher. Hitler issued a statement denying any involvement in her death but the left-wing newspapers continued to carry these stories. Rudolf Hess claimed that Hitler became suicidal because of the rumours that he had shot Geli. "He was so fearfully vilified by this new campaign of lies that he wanted to make an end of everything. He could no longer look at a newspaper because this frightful filth was killing him. He wanted to give up politics and never again appear in public."

The rest of the article can be found here:

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Major Truman Smith and the Funding of Adolf Hitler

I was reading Hitler: The Missing Years (1957) recently. The book is by Ernst Hanfstaengel, one of Hitler's first financial backers. Hanfstaengel became one of Hitler's inner circle. He was one of his earliest financial supporters and in March, 1923, provided $1,000 to ensure the daily publication of Volkische Beobachter. The newspaper, an anti-Semitic gossip sheet had previously appeared twice a week. With Hanfstaengel's money it was published every day. This was a real breakthrough as it enabled Hitler to build up both membership and funds. Hanfstaengel claims that he was encouraged to meet Hitler by Major Truman Smith, as assistant military attaché at the American embassy in Berlin. This might seem surprising but it reflects the role of intelligence agencies soon after the First World War. We now know that the head of MI6 in America, William Wiseman, was funding anti-Bolshevik groups in Russia since 1917. Was Truman Smith arranging funds for anti-socialist groups in Germany? 

I decided to do some research on Truman Smith. I found his papers are lodged at the the Hoover Institution Archives. In a biographical note it said he was involved with Charles A. Lindbergh in the 1930s. I have a copy of Lindbergh's Autobiography of Values (1976) and A. Scott Berg's biography Lindbergh (1998). These sources reveal that that Truman Smith was definitely working for military intelligence in the early 1920s. He completed a course at the Command and General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth. He then became an instructor at the U.S. Infantry School until 1932 when he attended the Army War College. He then served with the 27th infantry regiment in Hawaii. 

In 1935 Truman Smith was appointed as military attaché in Berlin. He was told that his chief responsibility was "to report to Washington about the growth of the German army, including the development of new weapons and new battle tactics." In 1936 he arranged for Charles A. Lindbergh to visit the country. Lindbergh wrote to his mother about the proposed trip: "Comparatively little is known about the present status of Aviation in Germany, so I am looking forward, with great interest, to going there. Even under the difficulties she has encountered since the war, Germany has taken a leading part in a number of aviation developments, including metal construction, low-wing designs, dirigibles, and Diesel engines. If it had not been for the war she would probably have produced a great deal more. On the other hand, if it had not been for the war it is doubtful whether aviation would be as far advanced as it is today."

For the rest of the article see:

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Unity Mitford and Adolf Hitler

In June 1933 Unity Mitford and Diana Mitford, joined the British Union of Fascists, the extreme right-wing group founded by Oswald Mosley the previous year. Mosley described her as "young, ingenuous, full of enthusiasm, in a way stage-struck by the glamour and panoply of the national socialist movement and the mass admiration of Hitler" She was active in the women's section headed by Esther Makgill, the daughter of John Makgill: "I created the women's section of the BUF... Unity Mitford didn't mean anything to me in those days. She was swept in by her sister." Her friend, Mary Ormsby-Gore, said that she sold The Blackshirt on the streets of London: "She began to go to the East End, and I went to one meeting with her... One day she took me to Selfridges saying, let's make a record, and she spoke into it, The Yids, The Yids, We've gotta get rid of the Yids." 

Unity told Armida Macindoe that she was determined to meet Hitler: "She used to go to the Osteria Bavaria restaurant and sit waiting for Hitler. She'd sit there all day long with her book and read. She'd say, I don't want to make a fool of myself being alone there, and so she'd ask me to go along to keep her company, to have lunch or a coffee. Often Hitler was there. People came and went. She would place herself so that he invariably had to walk by her, she was drawing attention to herself, not obnoxiously but enough to make one slightly embarrassed. But the whole point was to attract his attention. She'd talk more loudly or drop a book. And it paid off."

The rest of the Blog can be seen here:

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Claud Cockburn and his fight against Appeasement.

Claud Cockburn worked for The Times during the Great Depression. In the summer of 1932 Cockburn decided to resign from the newspaper for political reasons. The editor, Geoffrey Dawson, replied: "It was foolish to give up working for The Times simply on account of one's political views... The Times was a vehicle which could be used by people of the most varied opinions... For myself, I have always regarded The Times as something of an organ of the Left... Though never, I hope, of the extreme Left... It does seem rather bad luck that you of all people should go red on us." 

Cockburn now returned to London where he intended to start up his own business. He had originally got the idea while working in New York City where he saw for the first time a mimeograph machine. He later recalled: "A mimeograph machine is one of the few remaining weapons which still gives small and comparatively poor organizations a sporting chance in a scrap with large and wealthy ones." 

This impression was reinforced in Germany where he had seen supporters of Kurt von Schleicher using mimeograph machines to produce political propaganda. Cockburn had also been inspired by inspired by the French satirical paper Le Canard Enchainé. He considered it "the best-informed publication in France" and although some of it was "in execrable taste" it carried no advertisements, received no subsidies, and still broke "a little better than even". Cockburn was also attracted to the way it exposed government corruption. Something that Cockburn was keen on doing in Britain. 

Claud Cockburn had decided to call his newsletter, The Week. As Richard Ingrams has explained: "Started on a capital of £50 provided by his Oxford friend Benvenuto Sheard, the paper, which was all his own work, was produced in a one-room office at 34 Victoria Street, and was obtainable only by subscription. Although he relied on information supplied by a number of foreign correspondents including Negley Farson (Chicago Daily News) and Paul Scheffer (Berliner Tageblatt), it was his own journalistic flair which gave the paper its unique influence. Cockburn was not an orthodox journalist. He pooh-poohed the notion of facts as if they were nuggets of gold waiting to be unearthed. It was, he believed, the inspiration of the journalist which supplied the story. Speculation, rumour, even guesswork, were all part of the process and an inspired phrase was worth reams of cautious analysis."

The first issue of the newsletter appeared on Wednesday, 29th March 1933. As Norman Rose has pointed out: "It was preceded by scenes of great editorial confusion. The actual production of the paper was left until Wednesday morning in order, Claud argued, to pre-empt the existing weeklies with as much hot ness as possible. Claud wrote the entire issue - a modest three pages of foolscap - and cut the stencils, touching up the material as he progressed, a routine that excluded any prospect of efficiency... The Week finally emerged in what would become its distinctive format, smudgy in appearance, lively in content." The first edition had as its lead story "Black-Brown-Fascist Plan". It told of how Benito Mussolini had sponsored a four-power arrangement to regulate the affairs of Europe. It revealed that a definite proposal had been forwarded to London and Warsaw that envisaged granting concessions to Germany in the Polish Corridor while compensating Poland with a slice of Russian Ukraine." 

The rest of the article can be found here:

Monday, 21 October 2013

Secret Negotiations with the Nazis in 1940

On the outbreak of the Second World War, a former senior figure in MI6, Sir William Wiseman approached Lord Lothian (British ambassador in the United States) and Lord Halifax (British foreign secretary), and promised that for £100,000 he could set up "the best possible intelligence service in the United States" for the British. Lothian and Halifax, both strong members of the pro-appeasement group, now approached Stewart Menzies, the head of MI6, with the offer. Menzies told a Foreign Office meeting that Wiseman was regarded with considerable suspicion by the US Embassy in London and that "both his predecessors (Mansfield Cumming and Hugh Sinclair) had very strong views about Sir William Wiseman and had recommended that he should on no account be employed by His Majesty's Government." 

Wiseman now returned to the United States where he was a partner in the Wall Street banking firm Kuhn, Loeb & Company. However, he was back in London on 6th June, 1940, where he had lunch with Lord Halifax, who was still foreign secretary despite the fact that Winston Churchill had replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister. According to Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stephanie Von Hohenlohe (2011): "Halifax briefed Wiseman to assist Lothian and help him to find some way to starting peace negotiations that would be effective. Before the outbreak of war a substantial number of the British Establishment (prime movers in political, aristocratic and financial circles) many egged on by the princess' activities, were totally opposed to the coming conflict. When, despite their efforts, war broke out, these people continued to believe that it should be resolved as quickly as possible through a negotiated peace." Interestingly, Joseph Goebbels was that month recording in his diary that Adolf Hitler had told him that he had been approached by the British about peace negotiations. Hitler had told them he was willing to negotiate but only with Lord Halifax. 

Scott Newton, the author of Profits of Peace: The Political Economy of Anglo-German Appeasement (1997) has argued that Wiseman represented a group that included Lord Halifax, Lord Rothermere, Hugh Grosvenor, 2nd Duke of Westminster, Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket, Charles Vane-Tempest-Stewart, 7th Marquess of Londonderry, Walter Montagu Douglas Scott, 8th Duke of Buccleuch, Charles McLaren, 3rd Baron Aberconway and Henry Betterton, 1st Baron Rushcliffe. "All its members shared a profound fear that the domestic and international order which had sustained liberal-imperialist Britain was about to be irrevocably changed... With some justification it was believed that total war meant the socialization of Britain and a ruinous conflict in the heart of Europe from which only the Soviet Union could benefit."

For the rest of the article see:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Robert Vansittart's Spy Network

At the age of only forty-eight, Robert Vansittart was appointed permanent under-secretary at the Foreign Office. When Adolf Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Vansittart became his leading opponent in the Foreign Office. He wrote on 6th May: "The present regime in Germany will, on past and present form, loose off another European war just so soon as it feels strong enough … we are considering very crude people, who have very few ideas in their noddles but brute force and militarism." Norman Rose, the author of Vansittart: Study of a Diplomat (1978) has argued: "But how would he combat the German menace? First, by redefining the aims of British strategy, by isolating Germany as Britain's most immediate danger, and then by boosting the British defence programme to meet this changed order of priorities. Well out of the public eye as a member of high-powered government committees, Vansittart laboured ceaselessly to realize these aims." 

Robert Vansittart worked very closely with Admiral Hugh Sinclair, the head of MI6, and Vernon Kell, the head of MI5. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of The Defence of the Realm: The Authorized History of MI5 (2009): "Robert Vansittart, permanent under secretary at the Foreign Office, was much more interested in intelligence than his political masters were... He dined regularly with Sinclair, was also in (less frequent) touch with Kell, and built up what became known as his own private detective agency collecting German intelligence. More than any other Whitehall mandarin, Vansittart stood for rearmament and opposition to appeasement."

Vansittart recruited Wolfgang zu Putlitz, First Secretary at the German Embassy and Jona von Ustinov, a journalist to work for MI5. Putlitz later recalled: "I would unburden myself of all the dirty schemes and secrets which I encountered as part of my daily routine at the Embassy. By this means I was able to lighten my conscience by the feeling that I was really helping to damage the Nazi cause for I knew Ustinov was in touch with Vansittart, who could use these facts to influence British policy." Putlitz insisted that the only way to deal with Adolf Hitler was to stand firm. 

Charles Higham argues that Vansittart received information from the Russian secret agent Anatoly Baykalov, that Wallis Simpson was was a Nazi collaborator. Baykalov had obtained this information, while posing as a White Russian, in the group that included Anna Wolkoff (she was Wallis's dressmaker). Vansittart had two reliable plants in the German embassy who could inform him when any material arrived for transmission to Germany in the diplomatic bags.

See the rest of the article here:

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

British Newspaper Reporting of Appeasement and Nazi Germany

Appeasement provides an interesting way to look at how the subject was reported in British newspapers. The two major press barons, Lord Rothermere (The Daily Mail, The Sunday Dispatch and The Evening News) and Lord Waldorf Astor (The Times and The Observer) were both strong supporters of appeasement and so the public had a very distorted picture of the negotiations. Rothermere and Astor both used their newspapers to provide a positive image of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. So much so that their activities were being monitored by MI5. In doing so, they discovered that both men were seen on a regular basis in the company of Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a Nazi spy who had been under observation as a German agent since receiving information from French Intelligence in 1928.

One of the most important journalist in this campaign was George Ward Price. There is virtually nothing available on the web on the activities of Ward Price. I have therefore produced a very detailed page on his reporting. He was the Daily Mail's foreign correspondent. During the 1930s he developed a close relationship with Adolf Hitler. According to the German historian, Hans-Adolf Jacobsen: "The famous special correspondent of the London Daily Mail, Ward Price, was welcomed to interviews in the Reich Chancellery in a more privileged way than all other foreign journalists, particularly when foreign countries had once more been brusqued by a decision of German foreign policy. His paper supported Hitler more strongly and more constantly than any other newspaper outside Germany."

For the rest of the article see:

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Paul Dacre, The Daily Mail and Fascism

In today's Guardian Paul Dacre made an attempt to defend Geoffrey's Levy's attack on Ralph Miliband. "Surely, we reasoned, the public had the right to know what influence the Labour leader's Marxist father, to whom he constantly referred in his speeches, had on his thinking. So it was that Levy's article examined the views held by Miliband senior over his lifetime, not just as a 17-year-old youth as has been alleged by our critics. The picture that emerged was of a man who gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s, who loathed the market economy, was in favour of a workers' revolution, denigrated British traditions and institutions such as the royal family, the church and the army and was overtly dismissive of western democracy. Levy's article argued that the Marxism that inspired Ralph Miliband had provided the philosophical underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes – a regime, incidentally, that totally crushed freedom of expression."

Of course it is completely untrue that Ralph Miliband "gave unqualified support to Russian totalitarianism until the mid-50s." Miliband was in fact one of the leading Marxist critics of the Soviet government during this period. As his biographer, Michael Newman, has pointed out: "Miliband was... politically homeless in post-war Britain. He regarded himself as a Marxist, but was increasingly critical of the Soviet Union and Communist Party allegiance to it. He had several friends in the Labour Party, but there is little to suggest that he had any great enthusiasm for it and, in any case, the Labour Left seemed extremely weak." In 1968 he wrote to his great friend, Marcel Liebman: "The invasion of Czechoslovakia show very well that this oppressive and authoritarian Russian socialism has nothing in common with the socialism that we demand, and we must state this very loudly, even at the risk of seeming to be anti-soviet and to echo bourgeois propaganda."

Dacre's claims that "the Marxism that inspired Ralph Miliband had provided the philosophical underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes – a regime, incidentally, that totally crushed freedom of expression" is of course ridiculous. But what about the owner of the Daily Mail who championed Adolf Hitler in the 1930s? Was he not "underpinning of one of history's most appalling regimes"?

The liberal press has made the point several times over the last couple of weeks about the articles published by Lord Rothermere in the lead up to the Second World War. However, no references have been made to the treasonous letters he sent to Hitler during this period. These were released by MI5 in 2005. However, it was several years earlier that the FBI made their files available on Lord Rothermere. Surprisingly, the national press don't seem very interested in this story. However, it is one of the most interesting of the Second World War. 

The story begins in 1927. At that time Rotheremere's personal wealth was around £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere spent three months of the year gambling in Monte Carlo. It was here he met Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe in 1927. According to a FBI file, Stephanie had targeted Rothermere. It said that "she was reputedly immoral, and capable of resorting to any means, even bribery, to get her ends." They both enjoyed gambling and she described Rothermere as "a fabulous plunger at the casino tables". 

Princess Stephanie persuaded Rothermere that the defeated nations had been badly treated by the Treaty of Versailles. Rothermere was impressed by her arguments and her understanding of the problem. Rothermere agreed to write an editorial on the subject. On 21st June, 1927, The Daily Mail argued: "Eastern Europe is strewn with Alsace-Lorraines. By severing from France the twin provinces of that name the Treaty of Frankfurt in 1871 made another European war inevitable. The same blunder has been committed on a larger scale in the peace treaties which divided up the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. They have been created dissatisfied minorities in half a dozen parts of Central Europe, any one of which may be the starting point of another conflagration." 

In 1931 Princess Stephanie now moved to London where she took an apartment on the sixth floor of the Dorchester Hotel. An American banker, Donald Malcolm, spent a great deal of time with Stephanie and advised her to negotiate a contract with Rothermere. According to Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stefanie Von Hohenlohe (2011): "Clinching the contract was not difficult to achieve. She reminded Rothermere of the success of her intervention over Hungary, and persuaded the press baron to appoint her as his emissary in Europe. She argued - and this was undoubtedly true - that she had the contacts to gain admittance to many of Europe's most powerful people, and that she could open doors to almost every exclusive social circle on the Continent." It was later revealed that Rothermere paid the Princess Stephanie £5,000 a year (equal to £200,000 in 2013) to act as his emissary in Europe.

In November, 1933, Lord Rothermere gave Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe the task of establishing personal contact with Adolf Hitler. Princess Stephanie later recalled: "Rothermere came from a family that had experienced the novel possibility of influencing international politics through newspapers and was determined to sound out Hitler." Stephanie went to Berlin and began a sexual relationship with Captain Fritz Wiedemann, Hitler's personal adjutant. Wiedemann reported back to Hitler that Stephanie was the mistress of Lord Rothermere. Hitler decided that she could be of future use to the government and gave Wiedemann 20,000 Reichsmarks as a maintenance allowance to ensure that she had her hotel, restaurant bills, telephone bills and taxi and travel fares paid. Wiedemann was also allowed to buy her expensive clothes and gifts.

For the rest of the article see:

Friday, 11 October 2013

Wallis Simpson and Nazi Germany

While in Shanghai in 1925 Wallis Spencer had an affair with the handsome fascist, Count Galeazzo Ciano, who was later to become the son-in-law of Benito Mussolini. The affair resulted in a pregnancy, and a carelessly carried out abortion had left Wallis unable to have any more children. Wallis eventually divorced her husband in 1927. 

Wallis then met the divorced businessman, Ernest Simpson. The couple married in 1928 and moved to London. They became friends with Lady Thelma Furness, a mistress of the Prince of Wales. On the 10th January, 1931, Furness invited them to her country house at Melton Mowbray where they met the heir to the throne. Prince Edward was fascinated by Wallis and it was not long before he was having an affair with her. 

Colin Matthew has pointed out: "By 1934 the prince had cast aside both Lady Furness and Freda Dudley Ward (the latter cut off without, apparently, any personal farewell). The prince saw Mrs Simpson as his natural companion in life, both sexually and intellectually.... A man accustomed to get his way, when he knew what it was that he wanted, the prince of Wales seems to have thought from 1934 onwards that matters would turn out as he wished. Though he appears from an early stage to have wanted Wallis as his queen, he made no effort to test or prepare the ground, even with those whose support would be vital. Nor do those around him seem to have sounded him as to his intentions (and as his accession was clearly imminent they could not have been blamed if they had done so). Neither the prince's father nor mother seems to have raised with him either the affair or its likely result. Thus the prince of Wales's affair with Mrs Simpson, pursued with a passion evident to all who observed it, occurred in a political and constitutional limbo."

Wallis Simpson left her husband and went to live in an apartment in Bryanston Court. Also living in the building was Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a Nazi spy being monitored by British intelligence. The two women soon became close friends. This was unfortunate for Simpson because of a tip off from French Intelligence, MI6 was intercepting Princess Stephanie's correspondence and tracking her movements in and out of the country since early in 1928. 

For the rest of the article see:

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Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Political Activities of MI5

The new head of MI5, Sir Andrew Parker, launched a robust defence of the techniques used by Britain's intelligence agencies in his first speech since taking the job and warned they would not be able to sustain current levels of counter-terrorism work without the help of surveillance from GCHQ. "We are facing an international threat and GCHQ provides many of the intelligence leads upon which we rely. It causes enormous damage to make public the reach and limits of GCHQ techniques. Such information hands the advantage to the terrorists. It is the gift they need to evade us and strike at will. Unfashionable as it might seem, that is why we must keep secrets secret, and why not doing so causes such harm."

Today it is terrorists, but when it was established in 1907 it had a responsibility for investigating espionage, sabotage and subversion within and outside Britain. Its idea of subversion was the growth in support of the Labour Party and the emerging trade union movement. By 1914 Vernon Kell had a staff of four officers, one barrister, two investigators and seven clerks. On the outbreak of the First World War MI5 officers arrested 22 German agents. Over the next year another seven spies were caught. 

By the end of the war MI5 had a staff of 5,000 people whose main job was inspecting foreign mail. Kell's main concern involved the spread of socialism after the Russian Revolution. MI5 had files on 137,500 individuals. This included trade unionists, members of the Independent Labour Party and those who had campaigned for peace negotiations during the war.

In September 1924 MI5 intercepted a letter signed by Grigory Zinoviev, chairman of the Comintern in the Soviet Union, and Arthur McManus, the British representative on the committee. In the letter British communists were urged to promote revolution through acts of sedition. Hugh Sinclair, head of MI6, provided "five very good reasons" why he believed the letter was genuine. However, one of these reasons, that the letter came "direct from an agent in Moscow for a long time in our service, and of proved reliability" was incorrect. After consulting Basil Thomson at Special Branch, Kell showed the letter to Ramsay MacDonald, the Labour Prime Minister. Kell told MacDonald that MI5 and the Special Branch were convinced the letter was genuine.

The rest of this article can be found here:

Monday, 7 October 2013

Rare photograph of Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, George Ward Price and Stephanie von Hohenlohe

I have just posted a very rare photograph of Lord Rothermere with Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, George Ward Price (the man Rothermere got to write his pro-Hitler articles in the Daily Mail), and Stephanie von Hohenlohe (the Nazi spy who Rothermere paid a retainer of £5,000 per year - £200,000 in today's money). Please feel free to share the photograph with your friends on the web.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Why were details of the Conservative Party involvement with spying for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis up until 1940 kept secret until 1989?

While writing about the political activities of Lord Rothermere I was reminded of the activities of the Right Club. It was founded by Archibald Ramsay, the Tory MP for Peebles and Southern Midlothian, in May, 1939. This secret society was an attempt to unify all the different right-wing groups in Britain. Or in the leader's words of "co-ordinating the work of all the patriotic societies". In his autobiography, The Nameless War, Ramsay argued: "The main object of the Right Club was to oppose and expose the activities of Organized Jewry, in the light of the evidence which came into my possession in 1938. Our first objective was to clear the Conservative Party of Jewish influence, and the character of our membership and meetings were strictly in keeping with this objective."

Members of the Right Club included William Joyce, Anna Wolkoff, Norah Dacre Fox, A. K. Chesterton, Francis Yeats-Brown, E. H. Cole, Lord Redesdale, 5th Duke of Wellington, Duke of Westminster, Aubrey Lees, John Stourton, Thomas Hunter, Samuel Chapman, Ernest Bennett, Charles Kerr, John MacKie, James Edmondson, Mavis Tate, Marquess of Graham, Margaret Bothamley, Lord Sempill, Earl of Galloway, H. T. Mills, Richard Findlay and Serrocold Skeels.

Unknown to Ramsay, MI5 agents had infiltrated the Right Club. This included three women, Joan Miller, Marjorie Amor and Helem de Munck. The British government was therefore kept fully informed about the activities of Ramsay and his right-wing friends. Soon after the outbreak of the Second World War the government passed a Defence Regulation Order. This legislation gave the Home Secretary the right to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm" On 22nd September, 1939, Oliver C. Gilbert and Victor Rowe, became the first members of the Right Club to be arrested. In the House of Commons Ramsay attacked this legislation and on 14th December, 1939, asked: "Is this not the first time for a very long time in British history, that British born subjects have been denied every facility for justice?"

On 20th March, 1940, Archibald Ramsay asked the Minister of Information a question about the New British Broadcasting Service, a radio station broadcasting German propaganda. In doing so he gave full details of the wavelength and the time in the day when it provided programmes. His critics claimed he was trying to give the radio station publicity. Two Labour Party MPs, Ellen Wilkinson and Emanuel Shinwell, made speeches in the House of Commons suggesting that Ramsay was a member of a right-wing secret society. However, unlike MI5, they did not know he was the leader of the Right Club.

By this time Ramsay was being helped in his work by Anna Wolkoff, the daughter of Admiral Nikolai Wolkoff, the former aide-to-camp to the Nicholas II in London. Wolkoff ran the Russian Tea Room in South Kensington and this eventually became the main meeting place for members of the Right Club. In the 1930s Wolkoff had meetings with Hans Frank and Rudolf Hess. In 1935 her actions began to be monitored by MI5. Agents warned that Wolkoff had developed a close relationship with Wallis Simpson (the future wife of Edward VIII) and that the two women might be involved in passing state secrets to the German government.

Read the rest of the article at:

Friday, 4 October 2013

What did Paul Dacre's father do in the war?

Paul Dacre, the editor in chief of The Daily Mail, questioned the patriotism of Ed Miliband, because of the Marxism of his father, Ralph Miliband. In the original article, Geoffrey Levy claimed that: “Quickly learning English, he (Miliband) got a place at the London School of Economics (LSE), which had then moved temporarily to Cambridge to avoid the bombing, and there he was taught politics by Harold Laski, a giant of Labour's Left, whom some Tories considered to be a dangerous Marxist revolutionary. Laski was Miliband's mentor, his inspiration, the figure who encouraged his growing interest in Karl Marx.”

Clearly Levy knows nothing about the teachings of Laski as he was a left-wing opponent of Marxism. Laski was indeed a great influence on Miliband and most of his students. Miliband later recalled: "We did not feel overwhelmed by his knowledge and learning, and we did not feel so because he did not know the meaning of condescension. We never felt compelled to agree with him, because it was so obvious that he loved a good fight and did not hide behind his years and experience."

Miliband was deeply influenced by Laski but the two men often clashed about politics. Miliband went to see Laski in December, 1942: "He was very friendly with me.... As soon as I came in he started to talk to me about the need to judge things for myself and not only through the eyes of Karl Marx etc." He then added: "Sorry to talk like this, but I am talking like a father; at least that's how I feel towards you."

Ralph Miliband clearly enjoyed studying under Laski but he was very keen to join the struggle against fascism. Unlike, the owner of the Daily Mail who had been sending letters of praise to Hitler concerning his foreign policy as late as 1939, just a few weeks before the outbreak of the war.

Miliband was volunteered to be parachuted into Belgium to work with the resistance. In January 1942 he passed his medical examination, but was told that he could not "voluntarily join until authorisation was sought from the Polish authorities (as he was not yet a Belgian national)." Miliband now asked Harold Laski for help in joining the armed forces. "A few days later, I had a letter from A.V. Alexander, the First Lord of the Admiralty, telling me that he was pleased to hear from Laski about my wish to join the Navy and advising me to go and see a vice-admiral at the Admiralty, who would fix it up. Which he did."

Now we know what Ed Miliband’s father did in the war, what about Paul Dacre’s father’s war record. Peter Dacre was eligible for conscription by his birthday on 8th June 1943. Did he serve alongside Miliband in June 1944 when he was involved in the D-Day landings in Normandy?  Miliband  wrote that this was "the biggest operation in history" and he "would not miss it for anything".  No, Peter Dacre was too busy working as a show business reporter for the Sunday Express? 

Now, as far as I know, show business reporters were not considered to be important enough in the war effort that it was a “reserved” occupation. Probably more important was his relationship with Lord Beaverbrook, the owner of Express Newspapers. Beaverbrook, another newspaper baron who urged appeasement of Hitler in the 1930s, was a member of the war cabinet. Did Beaverbrook use his influence to keep Peter Dacre out of the armed forces?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Ralph Miliband and Lord Rothermere

I am afraid that I am partly responsible for The Daily Mail’s outrageous attack on Ralph Miliband on Saturday. The only evidence it provided for its headline: “The man who hated Britain” comes from my webpage on Miliband.

In the article Geoffrey Levy quotes from a diary entry that the 16 year old Ralph Miliband wrote in 1940: "The Englishman is a rabid nationalist. They are perhaps the most nationalist people in the world ... When you hear the English talk of this war you sometimes almost want them to lose it to show them how things are.”

Levy probably got this information from my webpage on Ralph Miliband. (The information originally came Michael Newman's book, Ralph Miliband and the Politics of the New Left). On Saturday, if you typed in “Ralph Miliband” into Google my site came second after the Wikipedia entry. The Wikipedia page did not have this information on Miliband then (it does now but at least it references my web page). The page is no longer second because the first three pages of search-results for “Ralph Miliband” at Google are now full-up of news stories about the man.  

What Levy does not mention is the reason for the diary entry. The Miliband family were Jews living in Belgium who had arrived in May 1940 after fleeing persecution from the Nazis who had recently taken over western Europe. Ralph was shocked by the level of anti-Semitism that existed in England at the time. Ironically, much of this anti-Semitism and dislike of Europeans had come from the propaganda campaign that had taken place in the 1930s. The man behind this campaign was Lord Rothermere, the great-grandfather of the current Lord Rothermere, the owner of The Daily Mail. The current owner of the Daily Mail has an estimated wealth of £1.02 billion but pays no tax in the UK although he seems that his newspaper is very concerned about all those who are taking too much from the “benefit system”.

The original Lord Rothermere was only Harold Harmsworth until 1919 when he was offered the title in return for his newspapers supporting the Conservative Party. The bribe soon paid dividends and in 1924 the Daily Mail published the Zinoviev Letter a few days before the election took place. This resulted in the fall of the first Labour government. According to Christopher Andrew, the author of Secret Service: The Making of the British Intelligence Community (1985), three MI5 officers with links to the Conservative Party, Sidney Reilly, Arthur Maundy Gregory and George Joseph Ball, had forged the letter.

Lord Rotheremere's newspapers continued to increase their circulation. By 1926 the daily sales of the Daily Mail had reached 2,000,000. Rothermere personal wealth was now £25 million and he was estimated to be the third richest man in Britain. Rothermere became increasingly nationalistic in his political views and in 1929 joined with Lord Beaverbrook to form the United Empire Party. Rothermere urged the Conservative Party to remove its leader, Stanley Baldwin, and replace him with Beaverbrook. He also argued for a reform of the House of Lords to make it possible for peers to be elected to the House of Commons. This dispute divided conservative voters and this helped the Labour Party to win the 1929 General Election.

In the General Election in Germany that took place in September 1930, the Nazi Party increased its number of representatives in parliament from 14 to 107. Adolf Hitler was now the leader of the second largest party in Germany. James Pool, the author of Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler's Rise to Power (1979) points out: "Soon after Adolf Hitler Shortly after the Nazis' sweeping victory in the election of September 14, 1930, Rothermere went to Munich to have a long talk with Hitler, and ten days after the election wrote an article discussing the significance of the National Socialists' triumph. The article drew attention throughout England and the Continent because it urged acceptance of the Nazis as a bulwark against Communism... Rothermere continued to say that if it were not for the Nazis, the Communists might have gained the majority in the Reichstag." According to Louis P. Lochner, Tycoons and Tyrant: German Industry from Hitler to Adenauer (1954) it was rumoured that Rothermere provided funds to Hitler via Ernst Hanfstaengel.

When Hitler became Chancellor on 30th January 1933, Rothermere produced a series of articles acclaiming the new leader of Germany. The most famous of these was on the 10th July when he told readers that he "confidently expected" great things of the Nazi regime. He also criticised other newspapers for "its obsession with Nazi violence and racialism", and assured his readers that any such deeds would be "submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing on Germany."

Rothermere now began a campaign in favour of the Nazi Party. The Daily Mail criticized "the old women of both sexes" who filled British newspapers with rabid reports of Nazi "excesses." Instead, the newspaper claimed, Hitler had saved Germany from "Israelites of international attachments" and the "minor misdeeds of individual Nazis will be submerged by the immense benefits that the new regime is already bestowing upon Germany."

Rothermere also had several meetings with Adolf Hitler and argued that the Nazi leader desired peace. In one article written in March, 1934 he called for Hitler to be given back land in Africa that had been taken as a result of the Versailles Treaty. Hitler acknowledged this help by writing to Rothermere: "I should like to express the appreciation of countless Germans, who regard me as their spokesman, for the wise and beneficial public support which you have given to a policy that we all hope will contribute to the enduring pacification of Europe. Just as we are fanatically determined to defend ourselves against attack, so do we reject the idea of taking the initiative in bringing about a war. I am convinced that no one who fought in the front trenches during the world war, no matter in what European country, desires another conflict."

As Richard Griffiths, the author of Fellow Travellers of the Right (1979) has pointed out: "Rothermere visited Hitler on a number of occasions, and corresponded with him. As we have seen, Hitler's first major dinner party for foreigners, on 19th December 1934, had as its guests of honour Rothermere, his son Esmond Harmsworth, and Ward Price, together with Ernest Tennant. Rothermere's subsequent article in the Daily Mail was violently enthusiastic about what Hitler had done for Germany. Hitler wrote a number of important letters to Rothermere in 1933 and 1934, but the most interesting of them, because of its subsequent fate, was the one written on 3 May 1935 in which he advocated Anglo-German understanding as a firm combination for peace. Rothermere circulated this to many politicians, convinced that his personal contact with Hitler had produced a real breakthrough."

Lord Rothermere also gave full support to Oswald Mosley and the National Union of Fascists. He wrote an article, Hurrah for the Blackshirts, on 22nd January, 1934, in which he praised Mosley for his "sound, commonsense, Conservative doctrine". Rothermere added: "Timid alarmists all this week have been whimpering that the rapid growth in numbers of the British Blackshirts is preparing the way for a system of rulership by means of steel whips and concentration camps. Very few of these panic-mongers have any personal knowledge of the countries that are already under Blackshirt government. The notion that a permanent reign of terror exists there has been evolved entirely from their own morbid imaginations, fed by sensational propaganda from opponents of the party now in power. As a purely British organization, the Blackshirts will respect those principles of tolerance which are traditional in British politics. They have no prejudice either of class or race. Their recruits are drawn from all social grades and every political party. Young men may join the British Union of Fascists by writing to the Headquarters, King's Road, Chelsea, London, S.W."

The Daily Mail continued to give its support to the fascists. George Ward Price wrote about anti-fascist demonstrators at a meeting of the National Union of Fascists on 8th June, 1934: "If the Blackshirts movement had any need of justification, the Red Hooligans who savagely and systematically tried to wreck Sir Oswald Mosley's huge and magnificently successful meeting at Olympia last night would have supplied it. They got what they deserved. Olympia has been the scene of many assemblies and many great fights, but never had it offered the spectacle of so many fights mixed up with a meeting."

In July, 1934 Lord Rothermere suddenly withdrew his support for Oswald Mosley. The historian, James Pool, argues: "The rumour on Fleet Street was that the Daily Mail's Jewish advertisers had threatened to place their ads in a different paper if Rothermere continued the pro-fascist campaign." Pool points out that sometime after this, Rothermere met with Hitler at the Berghof and told how the "Jews cut off his complete revenue from advertising" and compelled him to "toe the line." Hitler later recalled Rothermere telling him that it was "quite impossible at short notice to take any effective countermeasures."

Lord Rothermere continued to support Hitler but tried to keep it secret from the general public. It later emerged that Rothermere was paying a retainer of £5,000 per year (£200,000 in today's money) to Princess Stephanie von Hohenlohe, a close confidante of Adolf Hitler, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Joachim von Ribbentrop. According to The Daily Telegraph: "In 1933, the year that Hitler gained power, MI6 circulated a report stating that the French secret service had discovered documents in the princess's flat in Paris ordering her to persuade Rothermere to campaign for the return to Germany of territory ceded to Poland at the end of First World War. She was to receive £300,000 – equal to £13 million today if she succeeded."

Jim Wilson, the author of Nazi Princess: Hitler, Lord Rothermere and Princess Stefanie Von Hohenlohe (2011) has argued: "After arriving in London in 1932, she moved in the most exclusive circles, arranging the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor to Nazi Germany in 1937, and being involved in diplomatic intrigue between Lord Halifax and the Nazis in 1938." By 1938 MI6, was becoming very concerned about her activities. A report said: "She is frequently summoned by the Fuhrer who appreciates her intelligence and good advice. She is perhaps the only woman who can exercise any influence on him."

Rothermere and his newspapers supported Neville Chamberlain and his policy of appeasement. When Hitler marched into Czechoslovakia in March 1938 he sent a telegram to Adolf Hitler saying: "My dear Fuhrer everyone in England is profoundly moved by the bloodless solution to the Czechoslovakian problem. People not so much concerned with territorial readjustment as with dread of another war with its accompanying bloodbath. Frederick the Great was a great popular figure. I salute your excellency's star which rises higher and higher."

MI6 continued to investigate Stephanie von Hohenlohe. In March 1939 the MI6 passport control officer at Victoria Station arrested her Hungarian lawyer, Erno Wittman. The arresting officer reported what he discovered that Wittman was carrying: "This was astonishing; it appeared to be copies of documents and letters which passed between Lord Rothermere, Lady Snowden, Princess Stephanie, Herr Hitler and others. In the main, the letters referred to the possible restoration of the throne in Hungary and shed a good deal of light on the character and activities of the princess." It was decided to pass on this information to MI5. Amongst the documents were several letters from Lord Rothermere to Adolf Hitler. This included a "a very indiscreet letter to the Fuhrer congratulating him on his walk into Prague". The letter urged Hitler to follow up his coup with the invasion of Romania.

On 24th September 1939 Lord Rothermere had his close colleague and "ghost", Collin Brooks, draft a letter to Neville Chamberlain urging the futility of trying to save Poland and warning that "whether victorious or not, Britain will emerge from such a conflict with her social and economic fabric destroyed", which could mean "a revolution of the Left in these islands, which might be more deadly than the war itself". According to Rothermere's biographer, D. George Boyce: "But the letter was never sent (despite Rothermere's fear that Britain was ‘finished’), because of the ‘national mood and temper’, a nice example of the would-be opinion leader and press baron being led by the public itself."

On the outbreak of the war, Stephanie von Hohenlohe, fearing that she would be arrested, fled to San Francisco. Tipped off by MI6, the FBI put her under surveillance. A memo to President Franklin D. Roosevelt described her as a spy "more dangerous than ten thousand men".

Lord Rothermere decided to move to Bermuda during the Blitz where he died on 26th November 1940.

Much of this information became available in 2005 when MI5 and MI6 released their files on Lord Rothermere. However, the press largely decided to ignore it. According to Alastair Campbell, journalists and politicians are frightened of upsetting the current Lord Rothermere in case he uses the Daily Mail against them. It is time we stood up to these vicious bullies.

I therefore ask you to pass on this message to friends. It would also help if you “liked” my page on Lord Rothermere and Ralph Miliband and shared that with your friends. Or you could retweet my tweets on the subject.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Clare Sheridan on Leon Trotsky

19th October, 1920: Trotsky's car came at 6.30. Nicholas Andrev had been having tea with me, and I offered to give him a lift, as he lives somewhere near the War Ministry. It was snowing hard and there was a driving wind, which lifted up the frozen snow and blew it about like white smoke. The car had a hood, but no sides. In the Red Square we punctured. For some time we sat patiently watching the passers-by falling down on the slippery pavement, and the horse-carts struggling up the hill. Winter has come very suddenly and one month too soon. The horses have not yet been shod for the slippery roads, consequently they can hardly stand up. This morning I counted four down all at the same moment. In London a fallen horse attracts a good deal of attention, and a crowd collects, but here no one even turns his head to look. I have been much laughed at because I stop to watch, but the method of getting the horse up amuses me. The driver (man or woman, as the case may be) gets behind and pushes the cart. The horse, so weak that he has no resisting power, impelled forward by the shafts, struggles to his feet in spite of himself. No unharnessing is necessary. This evening, when I became too cold to be interested any longer by the passers-by falling in the square, I asked the chauffeur if he had nearly finished. He answered 'Sichas' which literally translated is "immediately", but in practice means tomorrow, or next week! So I pulled up the fur collar of my inadequate cloth coat, put my feet up lengthways on the seat, and let Andrew sit on them to keep them warm. I arrived at Trotsky's at 7.30. He looked at me and then at the clock. I explained what had happened. "So that is the reason of your inexactitude," he said; an inexactitude which could not in the least inconvenience him as he did not have to wait for me. He kissed my frozen hand, and put two chairs for me by the fire, one for me and one for my feet. When I had melted and turned on all the lights of the crystal candelabra he said: "We will have an agreement, quite businesslike; I shall come and stand by the side of your work for five minutes every half hour." Of course the five minutes got very enlarged, and we talked and worked and lost all track of time. When the telephone rang he asked: "Have I your permission?" His manners are charming. I said to him: "I cannot get over it, how amiable and courteous you are. I understood you were a very disagreeable man. What am I to say to people in England when they ask me: What sort of a monster is Trotsky?" With a mischievous look he said: "Tell them in England, tell them" (but I cannot tell them!). I said to him: "You are not a bit like your sister." The shadow of a smile crossed his face, but he did not answer.

I showed him photographs of my work and he kept the ones of the "Victory". Among the portraits he liked "Asquith" best, and said that that one was worked with more feeling and care than any of the others. He took for granted that Asquith must like me, which is not necessarily the case, and said half-laughingly: "You have given me an idea - if Asquith comes back into office soon (there is a rumour that he might bring in a Coalition with Labour, and recognise Russia) I will hold you as a hostage until England makes peace with us." I laughed: `What you are saying humorously is what a British official told me seriously, only he said it a propos of Winston. As a matter of fact, I'd be proud if I could be of any use in the cause of peace. But if you said you would shoot me, Winston would only say "shoot"' - which is, to my mind, the right spirit, and exactly the spirit that prevails among the Bolsheviks. They would not hesitate to shoot me (some of them have told me so) if it were necessary, even if they liked me as a woman. Winston is the only man I know in England who is made of the stuff that Bolsheviks are made of. he has fight, force and fanaticism.

Clare Sheridan, Russian Portraits (1921)

Monday, 26 August 2013

Isaak Illich Rubin

B. I. Rubina, Memoir (undated) 

 This is what I learned from my brother. When he was arrested on December 23, 1930, he was charged with being a member of the "Union Bureau of Mensheviks." This accusation seemed so ridiculous that he immediately submitted a written exposition of his views, which he thought would prove the impossibility of such an accusation. When the investigator read this statement, he tore it up right there. A confrontation was arranged between my brother and Lakubovich, who had been arrested earlier and had confessed to being a member of the "Union Bureau." My brother did not even know Lakubovich. At the confrontation, when Lakubovich said to my brother, "Isaac ll'ich, we were together at a session of the Union Bureau," my brother immediately asked, "And where was this meeting held?" This question caused such a disruption in the examination that the investigator interrupted the examination right there, saying, "What are you, a lawyer, Isaac Il'ich?" 

 My brother in fact was a lawyer, had worked in that field for many years. After that confrontation, the charge that Rubin was a member of the "Union Bureau" was dropped. Soon after, my brother was transferred to Suzdal. The circumstances of that transfer were so unusual that they were bound to inspire alarm and fear. On the station platform there was not a single person; in an empty railroad car he was met by an important GPU official, Gai. To all of Gai's attempts at persuasion, my brother replied with what was really true: that he had no connections with the Mensheviks. Then Gai declared that he would give him forty-eight hours to think it over. Rubin replied that he didn't need forty-eight minutes.... 

The examination at Suzdal also failed to give the investigators the results they wanted. Then they put Rubin for days in the kartser, the punishment cell. My brother at forty-five was a man with a diseased heart and diseased joints. The kartser was a stone hole the size of a man; you couldn't move in it, you could only stand or sit on the stone floor. But my brother endured this torture too, and left the kartser with a feeling of inner confidence in himself, in his moral strength.... Then he was put in the kartser for a second time, which also produced no results. At that time Rubin was sharing a cell with lakubovich and Slier. When he came back from the kartser his cellmates received him with great concern and attention; right there they made tea for him, gave him sugar and other things, and tried in every way to show him their sympathy. Telling about this, Rubin said that lie was so amazed: these same people told lies about him, and at the same time treated him so warmly. 

 Soon Rubin was put into solitary confinement; in those circumstances he was subjected to every kind of tormenting humiliation. He was deprived of all the personal things he had brought with him, even handkerchiefs. At that time he had the flu, and walked about with a swollen nose, with ulcers, filthy. The prison authorities often inspected his cell, and as soon as they found any violation of the rule for maintaining the cell they sent him to clean the latrines. Everything was done to break his will.... They told him his wife was very sick, to which he replied: "I can't help her in any way, I can't even help myself." At times the investigators would turn friendly, and say: "Isaac ll'ich, this is necessary for the Party." At the same time they gave him nighttime interrogations, at which a man is not allowed to fall asleep for a minute. They would wake him up, wear him out with all sorts of interrogations, jeer at his spiritual strength, call him the "Menshevik Jesus." 

 This went on until January 28, 1931. On the night of January 28-29, they took him down to a cellar, where there were various prison officials and a prisoner, someone named Vasil'evskii.... to whom they said, in the presence of my brother: "We are going to shoot you now, if Rubin does not confess." Vasil'evskii on his knees begged my brother: "Isaac Il'ich, what does it cost you to confess?" But my brother remained firm and calm, even when they shot Vasil'evskii right there. His feeling of inner rightness was so strong that it helped him to endure that frightful ordeal. The next night, January 29-30, they took my brother to the cellar again. This time a young man who looked like a student was there. My brother didn't know him. When they turned to the student with the words, "You will be shot because Rubin will not confess," the student tore open his shirt at the breast and said, "Fascists, gendarmes, shoot!" They shot him right there; the name of this student was Dorodnov. 

 The shooting of Dorodnov made a shattering impression on my brother. Returning to his cell, he began to think. What's to be done? My brother decided to start negotiations with the investigator; these negotiations lasted from February 2 to 21, 1931. The charge that Rubin belonged to the "Union Bureau" had already been dropped in Moscow, after the confrontation with Lakubovich. Now they agreed that my brother would consent to confess himself a member of a program commission connected with the "Union Bureau," and that he, Rubin, had kept documents of the Menshevik Center in his office at the Institute, and when he was fired from the Institute, he had handed them over in a sealed envelope to Riazanov, as materials on the history of the Social Democratic movement. Rubin had supposedly asked Riazanov to keep these documents for a short time. In these negotiations every word, every formulation was fought over. Repeatedly the "confession" written by Rubin was crossed out and corrected by the investigator. When Rubin went to trial on March 1, 1931, in the side pocket of his jacket was his "confession," corrected with the investigator's red ink.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Alexander Ulyanov

Despite this repression, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, there were attempts by the People's Will to kill Tsar Alexander III. One plot was led by Alexander Ulyanov, who was a student at St. Petersburg University. The secret police soon discovered Ulyanov’s plot and he was caught and executed on 20th May, 1887. When he heard the news, his brother, Vladimir Illich Ulyanov (better known as Lenin), is reported as saying: "I'll make them pay for this! I swear it."

Victor Serge and Jules Bonnot

In 1910 Victor Serge moved to Paris and wrote for the leading anarchist journal, l'Anarchie. Serge became involved with a group of militant anarchists who became known as the illegalists. Their views were expressed in an article that appeared in l'Anarchie: "The anarchist is in a state of legitimate defence against society. Hardly is he born than the latter crushes him under a weight of laws, which are not of his doing, having been made before him, without him, against him. Capital imposes on him two attitudes: to be a slave or to be a rebel; and when, after reflection, he chooses rebellion, preferring to die proudly, facing the enemy, instead of dying slowly of tuberculosis, deprivation and poverty, do you dare to repudiate him? If the workers have, logically, the right to take back, even by force, the wealth that is stolen from them, and to defend, even by crime, the life that some want to tear away from them, then the isolated individual must have the same rights." This group of illegalists established what became known as the Jules Bonnot gang. On 21st December, 1911 the gang robbed a messenger of the Société Générale Bank of 5,126 francs in broad daylight and then fled in a stolen Delaunay-Belleville car. It is claimed that they were the first to use a car to flee the scene of a crime. As Peter Sedgwick pointed out: "This was an astounding innovation when policemen were on foot or bicycle. Able to hide, thanks to the sympathies and traditional hospitality of other anarchists, they held off regiments of police, terrorized Paris, and grabbed headlines for half a year."

Catechism of a Revolutionist

In 1869 Mikhail Bakunin and Sergi Nechayev, two of Russia’s most important anarchists, published Catechism of a Revolutionist. It included the famous passage: "The Revolutionist is a doomed man. He has no private interests, no affairs, sentiments, ties, property nor even a name of his own. His entire being is devoured by one purpose, one thought, one passion - the revolution. Heart and soul, not merely by word but by deed, he has severed every link with the social order and with the entire civilized world; with the laws, good manners, conventions, and morality of that world. He is its merciless enemy and continues to inhabit it with only one purpose - to destroy it."

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Why Donald Ogden Stewart was Blacklisted.

In 1942 Donald Ogden Stewart began working with I. A. R. Wylie, who had just published a novel entitled, Keeper of the Flame, that had been inspired by the activities of Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee. Stewart later recalled: "The Keeper of the Flame was perfectly made for my desire to contribute to an understanding of democracy's war by exposing the danger of un-Americanism within our own gates. The story begins with the five-star funeral in a small town of one of America's favorite sons, someone like, say, General MacArthur. Spencer Tracy is a New York reporter who has been sent to cover the event and attempts in vain to obtain an interview with the widow (played by Katharine Hepburn). Accidently they meet, and he becomes increasingly suspicious that the lady is not telling the true story about her husband's death. Finally he becomes convinced that in some way she was responsible (for the death of her husband)." Eventually she confesses that she had not saved her husband from the accident because "Her husband, the great national hero, had become the spearhead of a plot to overthrow the Roosevelt-like government and substitute a Mussolini-type dictatorship... The backers of this coup were a group in the extension of the power of the people a dangerous challenge to their own type of Free World. The plot had in those days strikingly believable parallels, including Hitler's successful takeover of his country with the backing of Krupp, Thiessen and other powerful Germans."

The film, Keeper of the Flame, directed by George Cukor, was screened for the Office of War Information's Bureau of Motion Pictures on 2nd December, 1942. The Bureau's chief, Lowell Mellett, was unhappy with the picture and disapproved of its anti-capitalist message. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer head Louis B. Mayer, also hated the movie, as he felt it equated wealth with fascism. Stewart claimed that Meyer "walked out in a fury" of the New York City premiere "when he discovered, apparently for the first time, when the picture was really about". Republican Party members of Congress complained about the film's left-wing message and demanded that Will H. Hays, President of the Motion Picture Production Code, establish guidelines regarding propagandization for the motion picture industry.

Stewart regarded Keeper of the Flame as "the most radical film of his that Hollywood could accept. The authors of Radical Hollywood: The Untold Story Behind America's Favorite Movies (2002) have pointed out: "Keeper of the Flame is a brilliant and badly underrated film, not only because Tracy draws out Hepburn step by step, raising her confidence in herself rather than breaking her down, but also because the familiar idea of rich and ruthless totalitarians attains here as high a statement ever made in a major film." Martha Nochimson, has argued in Screen Couple Chemistry (2002) that the film is a "truly provocative in that it was one of Hollywood's few forays into imagining the possibility of homegrown American Fascism and the crucial damage which can be done to individual rights when inhumane and tyrannical ideas sweep a society through a charismatic leader."

After the war the the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began investigating the entertainment industry. Attention was drawn towards Keeper of the Flame and by 1950 David Ogden Stewart was blacklisted. Unable to work in Hollywood he moved to London. As a result his passport was taken away and was unable to return to the United States. He died in London on 2nd August, 1980.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Journalists and the JFK assassination: A Historical Comparison

The official belief that Lee Harvey Oswald was the assassin of John F. Kennedy has been the most significant cases of miscarriages of justice since the war. However, you would not know this by the way that the country’s most significant journalists have treated the case. For example, Walter Lippmann, later admitted he thought that Kennedy had been killed as part of a conspiracy but was unwilling to write about it in his newspaper column.

I thought it might be interesting to compare the way journalists dealt with the most important miscarriage of justice before the war. This was the conviction of Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco in 1920. The men were accused of killing Frederick Parmenter and Alessandro Berardelli during a robbery. Both men were foreign-born anarchists and this was the time of the Red Scare (a response to the Russian Revolution). In 1920 thousands of immigrants with left-wing views were deported from America. Vanzetti and Sacco had alibis and investigative journalists had even discovered who had really killed Parmenter and Berardelli.

The nation’s leading journalists behaved honourably in this case and demanded their release. This included Heywood Broun, Walter Lippmann (in his liberal period), John Dos Passos, Upton Sinclair, Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Eugene Lyons, Freda Kirchway, Floyd Dell, etc. Significant figures in Europe also became involved including Bertrand Russell, John Galsworthy, Arnold Bennett, George Bernard Shaw, H. G. Wells and Anatole France.

Over the next few years there were several appeals but Vanzetti and Sacco remained on death-row. In 1927 Governor Alvan T. Fuller appointed a three-member panel of Harvard President Abbott Lawrence Lowell, the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Samuel W. Stratton, and the novelist, Robert Grant to conduct a complete review of the case and determine if the trials were fair. This was a sort of Warren Commission.

The committee reported that no new trial was called for and based on that assessment Governor Fuller refused to delay their executions or grant clemency. Walter Lippmann, who had been one of the main campaigners for Sacco and Vanzetti, argued that Governor Fuller had "sought with every conscious effort to learn the truth" and that it was time to let the matter drop and allow the men to be executed.

Heywood Broun, the most popular columnist in America at the time, refused to let the matter drop. Broun is an interesting case. He held left-wing opinions that were not shared by any of the newspaper owners who ran his syndicated column. However, he was so popular with the public they could not afford not to include his articles.

Broun was employed by the New York World (at $30,000 a year the highest paid journalist in America). On 5th August he wrote in his column: "Alvan T. Fuller never had any intention in all his investigation but to put a new and higher polish upon the proceedings. The justice of the business was not his concern. He hoped to make it respectable. He called old men from high places to stand behind his chair so that he might seem to speak with all the authority of a high priest or a Pilate. What more can these immigrants from Italy expect? It is not every prisoner who has a President of Harvard University throw on the switch for him. And Robert Grant is not only a former Judge but one of the most popular dinner guests in Boston. If this is a lynching, at least the fish peddler and his friend the factory hand may take unction to their souls that they will die at the hands of men in dinner coats or academic gowns, according to the conventionalities required by the hour of execution."

The following day Broun returned to the attack. He argued that Governor Alvan T. Fuller had vindicated Judge Webster Thayer "of prejudice wholly upon the testimony of the record". Broun had pointed out that Fuller had "overlooked entirely the large amount of testimony from reliable witnesses that the Judge spoke bitterly of the prisoners while the trial was on." Broun added: "It is just as important to consider Thayer's mood during the proceedings as to look over the words which he uttered. Since the denial of the last appeal, Thayer has been most reticent, and has declared that it is his practice never to make public statements concerning any judicial matters which come before him. Possibly he never did make public statements, but certainly there is a mass of testimony from unimpeachable persons that he was not so careful in locker rooms and trains and club lounges."

However, it was his comments on Abbott Lawrence Lowell that caused the most controversy: "From now on, I want to know, will the institution of learning in Cambridge which once we called Harvard be known as Hangman's House?" The New York Times complained in an editorial that Broun's "educated sneer at the President of Harvard for having undertaken a great civic duty shows better than an explosion the wild and irresponsible spirit which is abroad".

Ralph Pulitzer, the owner of the New York World, decided to stop Broun writing about the case after a board meeting on 11th August. As Richard O'Connor, the author of Heywood Broun: A Biography (1975) has pointed out: "The editorial board's decision certainly was defensible if one takes into account the climate of the twenties... The country was acutely aware of what some newspapers termed the Red Menace, now that all hope that the Bolshevik dictatorship in Moscow might crumble or be overthrown had vanished."

On 12th August 1927 Pulitzer published a statement in the newspaper: "The New York World has always believed in allowing the fullest possible expression of individual opinion to those of its special writers who write under their own names. Straining its interpretation of this privilege, the New York World allowed Mr. Heywood Brown to write two articles on the Sacco-Vanzetti case, in which he expressed his personal opinion with the utmost extravagance. The New York World then instructed him, now that he had made his own position clear, to select other subjects for his next articles. Mr. Broun, however, continued to write on the Sacco-Vanzetti case. The New York World, thereupon, exercising its right of final decision as to what it will publish in its columns, has omitted all articles submitted by Mr. Broun."

Broun now went on strike and after sales of the New York World fell by over 50,000, it was agreed that he could write whatever he wanted. However, by this time, Vanzetti and Sacco, had been executed.

On 23rd August, 1977, Michael Dukakis, the Governor of Massachusetts, issued a proclamation, effectively absolving the two men of the crime. "Today is the Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti Memorial Day. The atmosphere of their trial and appeals were permeated by prejudice against foreigners and hostility toward unorthodox political views. The conduct of many of the officials involved in the case shed serious doubt on their willingness and ability to conduct the prosecution and trial fairly and impartially. Simple decency and compassion, as well as respect for truth and an enduring commitment to our nation's highest ideals, require that the fate of Sacco and Vanzetti be pondered by all who cherish tolerance, justice and human understanding."

We do not know what Heywood Broun would have said about the JFK assassination because he died of pneumonia on 18th December, 1939. However, it is highly unlikely that a newspaper would have been willing to run his column at the time.

On 22nd August, 1938, Heywood Broun was called before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). He had been accused of being a communist and a member of communist-front pressure groups such as the National Committee to Aid the Victims of German Fascism, the National Committee for Defense of Political Prisoners, the National Tom Mooney Council of Action and the National Scottsboro Committee of Action. Broun denied being a member of the American Communist Party but agreed that he had joined groups campaigning against the conviction of Tom Mooney and the Scottsboro Boys and the imprisonment of the political opponents of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany.

The following year he was sacked by Roy W. Howard, the owner of the New York World-Telegram, because of his support for President Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. As Broun had warned many years previously, once newspapers were owned by a few wealthy individuals, dissent opinion would be squashed.