The World At War

Growing up I had no interest in war, other than stories from family, it disgusted me.  I couldn’t understand how or why people would watch films or read books depicting human suffering.  I went so far as not feel pride at my own countries conquests, seeing them as just as bad as every other invader in history.  I am now 37 years old and every week I hear or see something making a reference to the war, usually the 2nd but not always.  I wondered how many young people know anything at all about war.   I decided it was time to face the truth, to find out what happened and to make some sort of peace with it.  The peace has not been found.

Wars throughout history appear to be started out of 3 reasons, greed (expansion, growth, whatever you want to call it, it is greed), politics and religion.  Greed, well, that is destroying the world as we know it, the main purpose of most in power is to have more power  and for those with money to have more money.  Wars rage now over greed under the guise of necessity.  Politicians will always find you a good reason for you to accept war, keep you nice and secure in your homes while the country we are at war with is ravaged and its people slaughtered.  Now for politics.  That needs a little more investigation.

World War 1 started due to clashes between the great powers of that time, Italy, France, Germany, UK, Austria/Hungary and Russia over european colonial issues.  Each power had its own interpretation be it militarism, alliances, imperialism or nationalism.  All these things played a part including the death of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand.  I recently watched a documentary on the war and how the British coped or dealt with it.  Whilst it occurs to me that defense was necessary it also occurs to me that it may not have been won had the population not been so easily manipulated.  We soldiered on in the name of our country while our men were endlessly sent to their deaths, I would go so far as to say needlessly, the constant over the top method clearly wasn’t working.  The spin doctors ensured that plenty of people would volunteer.  Giving women the promise of the vote (they had to wait for it even after upholding their end of the bargain) enabled them to create the ammunition needed on the front lines.  It’s not that it wasn’t needed, it was how it was attained that irks me.

I have more research to do on WWI but it became apparent quite quickly that little has changed.  We are still manipulated into feeling and thinking a certain way.  Please don’t misunderstand me, I have respect for all the men and women who acted, even in some cases for political decisions made, but my view that the PEOPLE suffer, the PEOPLE die and the PEOPLE win the wars not the politicians stands.  And while we were hounding Germans living in our streets the Germans were also dying at war.  You see people forget that war is horrific for both sides and it’s often the soldiers who come back with their hearts heavy at the killing of their fellow man.  If a soldier can see it, why can’t the general public?  Remember in celebrations of wars won that you celebrate the death of thousands sometimes millions.

World War II is something I have avoided for a long time.  I feel VERY strongly about human rights and the true Nazi’s did not believe that any non national deserved any.  While they were plotting over there, we were plotting over here and decisions we made killed innocent people.  You see after much reading, watching documentaries and research I find myself angry at all the other countries of the world as much as I am angry with Germany.  (When I express this, my anger is felt towards those involved, those around, not the people who reside now).  Mainly because when I view our history in the UK I see pride at our conquests.  I see political parties with nationalist undertones.  We seem to expect Germany to be forever cowed and humble for WWII, for the atrocities of the Nazi state.  Yet Britain has been at war for 93 of the last 100 years.  We have been accused of war crimes, of having concentration camps, of brutality.  Yet do we feel shame?  Do you feel shame?  No, it’s glory, it’s for the benefit of the commonwealth or the British Empire.  No, you see WE are just as bad as EVERYONE else.  WE are as guilty as everyone else.  WE could have taken some Jews from Germany during the 1938 conference in Evian, but WE did not.  Neither did anyone else (There were countries who helped prior and during, initially France, Denmark, Hungary ( although thanks to the British arresting one of their officials Joel Brand for well for nothing, 1 million died who were not supposed to) and Japan).

It was such that the Germans mocked the rest of the world who pointed their fingers at Germany for the treatment of the Jews whilst standing back and doing nothing, in fact worse than that, refusing to help when asked.  Do you still believe that Germany should feel shame and we should not?

My whole point in this blog is in relation to guilt on all sides, to there always being political undertones that few ordinary men will know of or understand.  That innocent people ALWAYS die, no matter what the press or politicians may tell you.  I also sadly believe that our behavior during wartime has enabled us to be controlled in an easier manner.  Create fear, give hope, give instruction, control the masses.  Not to mention how easily we give in.

Nationalism has been one of the worst causes for war we have seen, the persecution of a race, the acceptance by the people and the eventual near extermination of a race.   Do people really see that though?  That Nationalism is how it starts, that the people in power get elected, that the powers could not have achieved their goals without the support of the general population?

People don’t see it now, the politicians tell you it’s the poor, it’s the immigrants, it’s those on welfare it’s all their fault, it’s almost like seeing history repeat itself, follow on now little lambs, follow on to persecute your fellow man because someone who is misrepresenting figures to you tells you to do so.

What all you nationalists seem to be missing is science and evolution, NONE of us originates from our country of birth if you go back far enough.  Underneath the 3 layers of skin we are biologically the same, different colour skin and different bone structure separates us from the rest of humanity.  You could accept a transplant from any person who is a match, any colour, any creed.  So what is nationalism if not a laughable joke?  If you truly believe it is only the nationals who support your country you need to educate yourself better.  While you are at it have a think about your own ancestry, how far back do the nationalists want to go?  Many of the Jews slaughtered were nationals.  Of course I speak of the Jews as their numbers were greater, but nationalism isn’t against one religion, one colour, but all.  Gypsies, freemasons, homosexuals, law breakers, sympathisers and anyone considered either not national or not on the side of the Nazis.  Many Aryans were sent to their deaths in concentration camps.   Let’s also not forget it was not just the Germans, Vichy France were also strongly nationalist, Austria took to the slaughter with fervor and even rescue from Slovakians was terror for the Jews.  During World War I it was nationalism that riled up the public to fight the war, attacking any German business in Britain due to propaganda, told they could be spies when only 11 were ever found and prosecuted.  I understand that fear plays its part, but how easy was that?  A few newspaper articles and there was rioting in the streets, how different was that from what happened in Germany in the first place and what happened later in WWII?  Tell me the difference and I will listen even if I don’t agree.  While we are at it, how is it we can’t do that to protect our human rights or to protest against poverty?  Are we that hateful?

To give an idea and add clarity to my previous point, that the PEOPLE are the ones who suffer, here are some figures from WWII.    China in 1939 had an estimated population of 51,568,000, 3 to 4, 000, 000 military died, 7,000,000 to 11,000,000 died due to military acts, 5,000,000 died due to famine and disease.  Lets look at the UK, an estimated population of 47, 760, 000, 383,000 military died,  67, 000 due to military activity.  Germany, an estimated population of 69, 850, 000, 4, 300, 000 to 5, 500, 000 military died, 400, 000 to 2, 400, 000 due to military action and 400, 000 to 2, 400, 000 as a result of famine, disease and famine.  The total death count for the whole world was 60, 000, 000 to 85, 000, 000 Men, women and children.  Soldiers and civilians alike.  All because Hitler wanted Germany for Germans and felt that Germany should be a lot bigger.

The way I see it, either we all close our borders and let no one in, no deals, no back handers, no special treatment, or we open our borders and share the world.  This constant manipulation of the population to incite hatred will only end in death.  There is no glory in war, the soldiers suffer on all sides, they die, they hurt, they fight with duty and honor, they do their duty for their country, yet so many are so poorly treated when they come home.  They come home to ravaged countries and disheartened people.  Our countries only have armies while there are people prepared to do that.  Sadly there is always that same old greed, and while there is someone who will hold a gun for money, there will be war.  I’m not saying our soldiers are greedy, they earn a living, but if they were to stop, someone would take their place.

I believe that we need to stop hating each other.  Stop reading the propaganda designed to turn you into a nation of haters.  If you read it, stop believing it, unless YOU have proof.   Stop judging entire races of people on the actions of the few!  You don’t like being judged, stop doing it to others.  We live in a world where very few people are educated on the Wars of the World, even so, if you want an unbiased view you have to look on both sides of that war and both accounts, it’s not easy to be impartial, but we are all guilty, every country of the world and only the people of the world can stop that, by changing how they think and react, by not falling into the same traps.  By even entertaining the idea of nationalism we are open to the exact same horrors.  Will you stand by if your neighbour is dragged from their house, piled into a van and driven away?  Will you let it happen?  With guns pointed at you and your family?  Probably, yes?  Your family comes first right?  Well why not stop it before it happens, don’t allow it to get that far.  Every person in every country IS the power behind that country.  Wars can only be fought with your CONSENT.

My final war starting point was religion, it could be argued religion started the second, or at least the hatred of one religion.  Religions and wars, whilst trying to remain respectful to every humans right to have religion or faith I do question your faith.  How is it, God in any religion is wise, strong and benevolent yet people who follow those religions feel that war is acceptable?  That the persecution of another man is acceptable because they have a different faith?  It seems to me, if this God, any God exists he would look at us with shame, to see what we have done to our beautiful planet and its creatures and how we have hacked away at humanity for Greed, Politics or Religion.  He would be shamed, yet we feel none.

So, I have rambled enough and it isn’t as educational as I would have liked.  But I shall leave you with some figures from our world and its wars.  I hope that reading this has encouraged you to do some more research for yourselves and maybe turned you off war.  Sadly as long as there is one country prepared to go in, the rest will follow.

In the 20th Century there have been approximately 40 wars, some lasting months and some years.  A rough amount of people who have died is 160 million people.  I warn you, if you do research your own country or anyone elses, you may find that you learn things you do not like, I know I have.  I draw the conclusion that each country has committed atrocities, every government has lied to its people, every war has undertones and the people always die, the people always suffer while those making the decisions remain mostly safe.

We stand on our soap boxes and high horses looking down on the world, passing judgement and pointing fingers, yet our guilt is that of the next man, the next country.  For even at our most righteous we act for our own gain.  During the documentary by the BBC covering the life of Auschwitz many points were omitted, but the main one was how much emphasis they put on only 800 Nazis being brought to trial, as such a terrible thing, yet it doesn’t say why, doesn’t tell you that the very country making the documentary would have helped Nazis escape prosecution due to their value, as did many others.  We are a world of haters and hypocrites, unless YOU want to change that.

References:

BBC Documentary Auschwitz

BBC Documentary Britains Great War

http://necrometrics.com/20c5m.htm

http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/massacre.html

wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties#endnote_Burma

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Brand

http://www.ushmm.org/outreach/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007698

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mikl%C3%B3s_Nyiszli

Michel Thomas – A Test of Courage – Christopher Robbins

Miklós Nyiszli – Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account

All Quiet on The Western Front

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II

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Michel Thomas

I would find it difficult to define what I am about to write, be it a review of the biography or of Michel himself.  I am starting it now as I feel it will be long. I shall start where I learned who Michel Thomas was.  On growing to love a German band I found myself wanting to understand and to speak the language.  Knowing someone who was also learning they recommended his CD series to me.

I started to listen, finding I liked the tone of this man, his manor, his explanations, yet skeptical and before realising it, I was understanding German.  On mentioning this to another friend they remarked that he was a very interesting man, a holocaust survivor.

Now, my family on my mothers side originated from Austria and were in fact Jewish, I am trying to trace them, but it is a long, arduous process and there is much red tape considering the times in which they may have left.  So, my interest was peaked, not through morbid fascination but through a sense of duty.  I may not have suffered like my ancestors but I feel I owe it to them to know what it is they endured.  To remember it and to try to stop it ever happening again.

So after a cursory glance at what the internet had to offer I first sought out the BBC documentary – The Language Master.  It depicts rather well the genius of Michels teaching and the results but also a sadness that what he wanted to achieve was proving difficult.  Education for all.  A basic request.  This then lead me to the biography, from looking up Michel I was already aware he had passed away and this saddened me for him to have not seen the educational reform he sought.  I wonder still if he ever felt that it was enough, what he had achieved, for him to be happy.  My heart breaks a little to think that people have not yet seen how truly brilliant a teacher he was and how truly brilliant a man.

20% into the book and so far it has been a rather rough journey.  Emotionally saddening and sickening at the same time.  I am a big believer in not judging a race on the actions of few and the Second World War has left many with a prejudice they cannot get passed.  When I read this book, I understand in part, how some can hold such anger towards another, but I could never condone it.  So when I speak here of atrocities committed by any person or country, know that my disbelief and anger is aimed at those responsible, not at those who reside there now.  The past is the past, even if there is merit in knowing it, there is no merit in reliving it.

The book begins with Michel as a child, as it would and the events that were the catalyst for the remarkable way in which he thought.  The breaking down of context and regurgitation into understandable pieces.  How he trained himself to remember events, people and situations.  How he learned from each of those to become a formidable character.

My first shock came in the form of the knowledge that a conference was held in Evian in 1938, where 32 countries attended to try and resolve the issue of the Jews (as many do, I say Jews, but in fact Hitler was a nationalist, so it was anyone who was not German including any Freemasons) who were required to leave Germany.  None of them were prepared to allow any of the Jews into their countries, for varying reasons, usually around immigration laws.  I felt a great deal of anger on reading this and happened to post on a social media site.  One person came back with a valid point that it is possible that the leaders of that time were not fully aware of the consequences.  This is, of course, true, it is possible.  However, many of the Jews were born into the countries they were eradicated from, so it begs the question of nationalism and how far back do you go?  The likelihood of your ancestors as far back as Neanderthal man actually having been where you live is very, very low, so in effect Nationalism is laughable.

Should nationality be a choice or a birthright?  We all choose to live where we live, we contribute to the economies of the places within which we live and become involved with communities.  How far do you go?  I hear the arguments all the time, from people that I know, that the immigrants should not be here, they take our jobs, they should just go home.  But would they have left if home was so wonderful?  And what of the Jews, those born in Germany, their nationality would state they were German, and yet they should go home?  To where?  The prejudices seen in the holocaust are around us every day, but people don’t associate themselves with that time, they don’t see it in the same light.  With this knowledge, that Hitler would have let the Jews go had ANY country said yes, can anyone still say they are blameless?

People neglect to realise that Hitler was voted into a position of power and that it took years for the Nazi ideology to truly take hold.  As they do now, the politicians of the time used their spin doctors to manipulate peoples thoughts into the same as what we see now.  Envy, distrust, racial prejudice and hype about Germany for Germans.  You may notice that some political parties in the UK will use similar statements and unless you consent to be a part of that you need to read between the lines.

I was pleased to hear that France initially tried to help, until the influx of people became too great a strain, so that when Germany invaded, following The Battle of France, most laid down their weapons and accepted the occupation, signing the armistice on June 22nd 1940.  It saddened me to learn that later it was the Vichy government that had the children sent to their deaths where previously the Germans were contented with them being in orphanages (by no means a good life, but life none the less).  The Vichy defending this decision to say it was more humane to allow the families to be together…in concentration camps…to be put to death.  The Vichy government was formed by the appointment of Marshal Philippe Pétain. In 1940.  Many argue that the Vichy were made up of mostly Germans and controlled by the Germans, however I would argue that many accounts are contradictory and that essentially it really doesn’t matter which nation carries the most blame.  Michel himself spent a lot of time trying to set these points straight to no avail. Under Pétain all undesirables (including homosexuals, gypsies and anyone considered anti France were due to be “dealt with”).  So sadly it was not only the Nazis in Germany who were a threat but also many of the people in France.   Pétain and many of the Vichy were eventually tried and charged with treason where as many others fled.  Although while there were terrible things happening in France the resistance existed and many good men and women were a part of it, eventually Michel himself, following what I believe to be 3 terms within various camps.

I had read that Michel was involved in the trials of Klaus Barbie.  I did not know who Klaus Barbie was, I have now read a little about the man he was and I would rather have not known.  To torture a child in front of its parents is beyond brutality.

So 30% of the way through the book and I have cried, felt anger, felt despair and awe.  Awe at Michel, a man whose principals were held steadfast at a time when many of us would have thrown our principals out of the window and done anything to survive.  I ask myself on every page, could I have done what he did?  Taken the terrible risks and faced the dangers to protect others and to hold onto those principals of his.  Could I have suffered the way he suffered and not buckled?  I do not know.  I come from a family of fighters, Austrian Jews on one side (clearly they lived or I wouldn’t be here) and a Grandfather who was a POW in Taiwan for 3 years on the other.  I was always raised with a sense of respect for what our family members had endured.  I would hope my blood runs with their courage, but sincerely hope that I never have to test that courage.

The book has raised to me, issues which I have always held close.  That of prejudice and racism.  I have never agreed with either.  Now, I feel compelled to try to stop it.  I see majorities being judges by the actions of minorities and it saddens me.  To live in a world where the colour of your skin or your birthplace defines how people feel about you is really quite ridiculous.

The fact that Klaus Barbie was German or the Vichy Government were French means nothing to me.  Klaus Barbie does not represent all Germans, he was a twisted little man who could obviously feel no empathy for others.  Was incapable of putting himself in the shoes of another and understanding how it might feel.  To torture and sexually abuse captives was not unheard of.  Said to be responsible for over 14,000 deaths, Klaus Barbie, in my opinion was an evil, despicable man.  An, evil and despicable MAN, not German.  His nationality is of no consequence and that is the point I am trying to make.

Persecution for this reason is senseless and shameful.  I notice in the UK that the Second World War is not forgotten, to the point you would think it was us who suffered the most.  The people did suffer, but they did not have to witness what the Jews witnessed, or suffer what the Jews suffered.

If you must judge another human, judge them based on their actions, on how they treat you, not on their original location.

I have come to realise that there was guilt on all sides and that what we are taught, I suspect is biased based on the country that we live in.  I feel angry that the truth is constantly kept from the people with fear of reprisal.  I understand that this recollection of events could be equally biased but I’m afraid I am inclined to believe Michels account.  If he was one thing it is honourable.

In one respect having gotten through the part of the book relating to the war I now have some hope.  Not in the authorities saving the day, the book highlights incompetency and avarice on a scale that I already suspected.  I have hope in the rest of mankind.  Michel recounts, what he says was the only time he tortured a Nazi, again I am inclined to agree with him.  You see for some, the torturing was easy, they did not see those being tortured as victims or even as the same species.  Michel however did see the person as a human despite his crimes.  Despite the catastrophic events, horrific treatment and heart breaking circumstances he was still not consumed by hate.

I wonder when I listen to people talk of how the immigrants should go home, whether those people truly understand that it is that attitude that started the holocaust.  It also amazes me how they are unable to see that even those with high class and money were not exempt.  How easily it can be taken away.  I find this lack of empathy towards fellow human beings both shocking and saddening.  I pity them for their minds being so narrow and their judgement so harsh and I hope for their sake that they never experience this for I don’t believe they would survive it.

I would like to say that reaching the end of the war in the book was a relief, but there were more horrors to come.  The aftermath, the horrors yet to be seen, the despicable way in which the US government took the complaints of captured SS soldiers about their living conditions in one of the camps previously used to hold interned non nationals and promptly moved them to better quarters and moved the homeless Jews back in!  How so many countries including the UK, US and Russia carefully protected the identities of Nazi scientists so that they could benefit from their knowledge ensuring that those people would never be held accountable.  Although the latter does not surprise me as I see it daily, governments of the world making decisions that end lives without ever standing trial.  The power is skewed in our society and always has been.  For now though I want to look at the positive side of Michel.

I think I see how he came to bring this amazing method to the world, his observations of human behaviour and his understanding of that behaviour, plus having a talent for language himself, having spoken Polish, German, French and English from a young age (I’m sure this list will increase over time as he starts to develop his method).  Necessity is the mother of all needs and in the life threatening situation that was Michels life for some time, this would have been a driving force for survival.  His dream of education for all isn’t an unreasonable one.

When riots broke out in the UK a few years ago, despite them being tame compared to what other countries experience, they were mostly angry teenagers from impoverished areas.  One response I heard was that do it because they don’t like the rich.  Could it be that the rich rub it in the faces of the poor, that won’t stop, but we can educate those teens so that they have choices on how they live, so that they know it’s not all rich that are like that, but how to tell an ethical rich person from an unethical one, how not to breed hatred regardless of who you hate.  Many of the young don’t feel they are not recognised, listened to or even have a future, in many countries now the divide is not by race but by class, the persecution is just as real.  If we could give those children, who let’s face it, are the future of this world and all who are on it, an education so that they could choose their futures wouldn’t the world be a better place?

Michels teaching is amazing, I have never experienced any lesson where all I do is listen to the teacher and I “know” the subject.  I tested myself, thinking that maybe when on later CD’s I might have forgotten those previous only to find I had not.  I further saddens me though to find that the academic institutions can not and will not accept Michels method, which amazes me as I always thought the role of an educator was to educate regardless of method.  This appears to be wrong and in fact, like everything else it is based on a stoic outdated system.

Seeing that Michel did not achieve his goals, after experiencing the racism that set his mind on its path of memory and analysis, the horror of being interned, almost starving to death, recalling the conditions and the agony of seeing others in the same position, knowing of the multitudes sent to their death, fighting for the US, providing vital information, later feeling the disconnection with others due to having been through so much and others being so unaffected, after all this, after developing a language method that is remarkable, there was still no one who could take it to the mainstream.

So I am coming to an end of my blog as I came to the end of the book with something that causes me great distress.  On Sunday April 15th 2001 the Los Angeles Times published an article by Roy Rivenburg suggesting the Michels account was not entirely true.  Under my belief that the newspaper printed a biased article I signed up on the website supporting Michel Thomas.  Roy Rivenburg wrote back and we have had some lengthy discussions.  I still feel the tone of the article was biased and that some of the points have never been proven truly wrong while others aren’t relevant to Michel Thomas’s war record.  I would still allow him bravado considering he has done many good things and survived an ordeal few of us can imagine.

In this blog I exercise my right to freedom of speech and my opinion just as The Los Angeles Times and Roy Rivenburg did, should any legal proceeding be taken against me then I think that would be just cause for Michels case to be reopened and the judgement overruled.

If on reading this blog you would like to tell the newspaper that you feel the article should be retracted or an apology printed please do so by following this link and completing the relevant sections, thank you.

I received a response from Roy Rivenburg regarding my objections to his article.

Emma:
Happy New Year. I’m glad you wrote because it gives me the chance to set the record straight about Mr. Thomas:

In 2001, my editors at the Los Angeles Times asked me to investigate some of Thomas’ World War II claims. I soon discovered we weren’t the first to question his honesty. In 1983, the U.S. Department of Justice’s chief Nazi investigator called a press conference to denounce Thomas’ Klaus Barbie stories. “I find it pretty hard to put any credibility in what Thomas says,” the investigator told reporters. Other skeptics include an Oscar-winning documentary (“Hotel Terminus”), Newsday, Le Monde and Histoire, France’s version of the History Channel.


Here’s a summary of what we found, followed by more detailed information:

1) After Thomas testified at the 1987 trial of Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, the prosecutor asked jurors to disregard Thomas’ words, explaining: “With the exception of Mr. Thomas, all the witnesses are of good faith.” (Chicago Tribune: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-07-01/news/8702180263_1_pierre-truche-barbie-jacques-verges)
2) Thomas has repeatedly changed his Dachau liberation story. The version he told in a sworn legal affidavit was labeled erroneous by his own biographer—and by the battalion commander whose unit Thomas claimed to have accompanied into the camp.
 
3) Thomas lied about his military status, claiming he was a U.S. Army officer instead of a civilian employee, even though the L.A. Times uncovered 1946 military records with Thomas’ signature next to the words “civilian assistant.”
4) His tale about rescuing a stash of Nazi Party ID cards is flatly refuted by military records and 1945 articles in the New York Times and London Express. Every wartime source credits a German civilian, Hans Huber, with saving the ID cards and reporting their existence to Allied forces.
 
5) From the 1970s into the 1990s, Thomas was repeatedly sued for unpaid bills, rents and taxes—and he stiffed some of his language school employees.
 
Perhaps the most galling claim Thomas made was that positive thinking could have saved Holocaust victims from execution. He said if concentration camp prisoners hadn’t given up hope and surrendered to the “Siren Song” of death, they could have followed his example of (allegedly) escaping multiple camps. In his biography, Thomas describes fellow inmates slowly “succumbing to their fate. They were gone, as surely as a prisoner on death row is gone long before he reaches the electric chair. Nature seems to provide the condemned man with … a natural anesthetic that floods the conscious mind with an almost euphoric invitation to surrender. … Anyone who accepts the invitation is beyond help. … Death becomes a welcome relief.” Thomas, of course, was the only prisoner with enough character to ward off this “insidious phenomenon” and escape not one, not two, but three different concentration/slave labor camps.
 
The sad thing about Michel Thomas is he didn’t need to make all this stuff up. The real facts of his life (yes, some of his stories did check out) include a number of praiseworthy accomplishments, fascinating anecdotes and genuine wartime heroism. 
 
More details:


1. Thomas falsely claimed he was an officer in the U.S. Army. In fact, he was a civilian employee, and the Los Angeles Times has National Archives military documents from 1946 bearing Thomas’ signature next to the words “civilian assistant” (http://michelthomasfacts.blogspot.com/2007/08/false-claims_9205.html). Rather than admit exaggerating, Thomas sued the paper for questioning his military status. (The lawsuit was thrown out of court by a federal judge and Thomas’ appeal was rejected by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He was ordered to pay the Times $98,000 for legal fees). In July 2004, his private investigator finally conceded to Newsday that Thomas was never inducted.
2. In his 1999 biography, “Test of Courage,” Thomas said he was born in Poland. However, for 38 years, he told reporters he was born in France — and different parts of France at that. A minor detail, perhaps, but one that again reflects on his credibility.
3. Thomas repeatedly changed his Dachau liberation story. In his biography, Thomas said he accompanied the first battalion of U.S. troops when it entered the Dachau concentration camp on the morning of April 29, 1945. After the L.A. Times proved otherwise (to the point that even his biographer acknowledged the story was wrong), Thomas tried to backtrack by claiming he never said he was with the first battalion, only that he arrived at Dachau sometime later that day. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had repeated his original tale in a sworn affidavit filed with his libel lawsuit: “On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops.” Only after his private investigator interviewed the commander of that battalion, Felix Sparks, and realized Thomas’ claim was bogus, did Thomas begin insisting he never said he was with the 3rd battalion. It’s also worth noting that the Dachau photos that Thomas submitted as evidence with his libel lawsuit were marked “May 1945” (the camp was liberated April 29).
4. Thomas said he single-handedly discovered and rescued millions of Nazi Party ID cards from destruction at a paper mill near Munich in May 1945. But his version of events is flatly contradicted by 1945 articles in the New York Times and London Express. It’s no accident these detailed articles were never mentioned in Thomas’ libel lawsuit or on his website attacking the L.A. Times investigation. Their very existence blows apart several linchpins in his story. Thomas’ version of events can be broken down into three separate claims — that he found the ID cards on his own, that he engineered press coverage of the discovery in May 1945, and that the media spotlight forced his 7th Army superiors to swiftly remove all the documents from the mill for safekeeping. Two of those claims are false beyond any doubt. The third is also questionable, especially considering Thomas’ indisputable fabrications on the rest of the story. Here’s what really happened: In May 1945, paper mill owner Hans Huber went to 7th Army officials and told them about the ID cards. In response, according to military records, Counter Intelligence Corps agent Francesco Quaranta visited the mill, and returned with some samples. It’s conceivable that Thomas accompanied Quaranta (which might explain how he reportedly came to possess several documents from the mill), but that’s a radically different scenario from Thomas’ tale of learning about the ID cards from his scout and making a solo rescue. There’s also no truth to Thomas’ claim that he leaked word of the discovery to the press, thereby goading his 7th Army superiors into removing the files from the mill in May. In reality, there was no press coverage until October of that year — and it’s clear from reading the stories that Thomas played no role in causing it. More importantly, military records state that the 7th Army “abandoned” the Nazi ID cards after Quaranta’s visit to the mill. It moved on to anot her part of Germany and left the cards at the paper mill. If not for the persistence of mill owner Huber and the arrival of the 3rd Army months later, the documents might never have been saved. The NY Times and London Express make clear that the real hero was Huber, a German who defied the Nazis. Army journalist Stefan Heym’s 1945 account agrees, and his lengthy history of the cards dovetails with the press stories. In other words, all the sources from that era — newspapers, Heym and military records — unanimously contradict key details of Thomas’ story and give full credit to Huber. Moreover, when Thomas was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, he couldn’t name the town where the mill was located, couldn’t describe the building and even claimed the ID cards specifically mentioned the Nazi Party, which they don’t.
5. Elsewhere in the biography, Thomas portrayed himself as a real-life Hogan’s Heroes, able to escape concentration and slave labor camps repeatedly at will. In one story, after learning his girlfriend secured his release by granting a romantic favor to a diplomat, Thomas claimed he voluntarily returned to imprisonment because he didn’t want to be freed under such circumstances. Another prison-break tale featured him crawling under a bed when some guards unexpectedly came into the room where he was hiding on his way out of camp. In a scene that is suspiciously reminiscent of several movie scripts, the guards got drunk and one passed out on the bed, pinning Thomas underneath all night. Another tale depicts Thomas hiding in a well, telepathically ordering a dog to stop barking and go away, lest Thomas be discovered by Nazi pursuers..
 
L.A. Times Editor John Carroll’s 2004 statement about Michel Thomas:
“We published a story awhile back, by a very good and clever reporter named Roy Rivenburg, about [Michel Thomas]. And, if you read the [book], you’d be amazed you’d never heard of this man, because he pretty much single-handedly won World War II for us. It was a preposterous book, and our review of it was an investigative review. It debunked many of the claims in the book and had some fun doing it … When you put yourself out in public and make claims that are preposterous, and publish a book on it, you’re likely to get a reviewer who will look into that and set the record straight. I’m very proud of that story. We haven’t retracted a word of it; we don’t intend to because it was true.”
Roy Rivenburg’s statement about claims that he misled two of his Dachau sources about Thomas:
Supporters of Thomas have produced letters from Felix Sparks and Hugh Foster saying I misrepresented what Thomas said about the camp’s liberation. Not true. When I interviewed Sparks and Foster in 2001, I simply read them the Dachau portion of Thomas’ biography, in which Thomas claimed he accompanied Sparks’ unit (the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment) as it entered the concentration camp. Both men said there was no way Thomas was with Sparks’ battalion. Nevertheless, after our article came out, Thomas repeated the tale in a sworn affidvait: “On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops.” Months later, after Thomas’ legal team visited Sparks, Thomas changed his story. According to Thomas’ own website, “Michel’s investigator interviewed Sparks at his home in May 2002. He explained that Michel had never claimed to have ‘gone in with the 157th.’ “
After hearing that, Sparks and Foster said they’d been misled. Yes, they were — by Thomas.
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.
Naturally I responded:

Dear Roy,

You repeat several points in your email, many of which could be and has been disputed by his friends and colleagues. His case may well have been thrown out as you put it with a ruling that the newspaper has a right to express opinion. You state that Michel was the only one who escaped but this is far from the truth and I am currently reading an eye witness account of another escapee.

You also make the assumptions that all records are correct during a time of turmoil and I am sure an element of subversion.  Michels testimony over Klaus Barbie is irrelevant, Klaus Barbie was a mass murderer by any stretch of the imagination.

When you wrote your article on Michel Thomas you disregarded evidence and chose to print an biased version in the negative. Thus providing an opinion not fact and not even an impartial opinion.

Whatever your personal objections to a man who survived the holocaust by whatever means, lost family and friends, witnessed horrors of countless number your job holds a moral responsibility and you chose to devalue and degrade his life instead of commend him for his survival and skills as a teacher.

Regardless of any debt (I assume you write articles about all the countless corporations who evade tax without accountability as well?) his vision was to provide education.

Having used his CD’s I can tell you he is no fraud.  I thank you for your reply but I am afraid I find you a very judgemental man and some of the “evidence” you provided me shows a lot of anger.  You defend the Jews in what Michel said about their docility but in that statement he is merely expressing an opinion as you have done. You may be interested to know he was not alone in that view and some psychologists drew the same conclusion. Only later with new analysis Do we understand the cloying fear of totalitarian imprisonment.

I can not say categorically that all Michel says is true as I have not seen the documents first hand but I can say that your article and subsequent persistence in repeating the same material over again shows you see no fault in your work and justification in passing judgement on a mans account of his life.  It is typical press driven ego and my views on a remarkable man stay steadfast for even if what you say is true he still lived through one of the most horrific periods of our history and managed to give something back.

Emma

A further response from myself addressing each point:

Dear Roy,

I have pondered on your email since my last response so I have decided to go into some further detail.  I have done this by paragraph of your letter.

In 2001, my editors at the Los Angeles Times asked me to investigate some of Thomas’ World War II claims. I soon discovered we weren’t the first to question his honesty. In 1983, the U.S. Department of Justice’s chief Nazi investigator called a press conference to denounce Thomas’ Klaus Barbie stories. “I find it pretty hard to put any credibility in what Thomas says,” the investigator told reporters. Other skeptics include an Oscar-winning documentary (“Hotel Terminus”), Newsday, Le Monde and Histoire, France’s version of the History Channel.

The scepticism of a documentary made in France isn’t categorical proof of a mans innocence or guilt it is again merely an opinion.  Maybe the stories were embellished but that does not change the fact that Klaus Barbie was instrumental in over 14,000 deaths whilst in Lyon.  Hardly surprising the documentary was French as the trial brought the Vichy government into repute and it’s a standard conception among those present and the Jewish community that the trial was not fair and they were under as much suspicion and persecution as Klaus Barbie himself.  I have also viewed various transcripts and reports on the case and I have been unable to find any reference to your quotes.

Here’s a summary of what we found, followed by more detailed information:

1) After Thomas testified at the 1987 trial of Gestapo chief Klaus Barbie, the prosecutor asked jurors to disregard Thomas’ words, explaining: “With the exception of Mr. Thomas, all the witnesses are of good faith.” (Chicago Tribune:http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1987-07-01/news/8702180263_1_pierre-truche-barbie-jacques-verges)

This statement does not appear to be documented anywhere other than the link to the newspaper article you have produced a link for, this does not warrant fact as the case against the Los Angeles Times and your article proves.  The court did not rule that your article was fact but ruled that the newspaper has the constitutional right to express an “opinion”.  I would also suggest that it is possible that Michels account was “not in good faith” but I suspect you again devalue his experiences and I feel he is entitled to some anger.  Certainly more than you are.

2) Thomas has repeatedly changed his Dachau liberation story. The version he told in a sworn legal affidavit was labeled erroneous by his own biographer—and by the battalion commander whose unit Thomas claimed to have accompanied into the camp.

There are numerous pages of evidence regarding Dachau in support of Michels claims including photographs determined to have been taken by him.  Did you ever consider that his memory may have failed or that he was entitled to an element of bravado considering?  Clearly not, on the web I have located 15 pieces of evidence that suggest he was present at Dachau no matter who he entered with.

3) Thomas lied about his military status, claiming he was a U.S. Army officer instead of a civilian employee, even though the L.A. Times uncovered 1946 military records with Thomas’ signature next to the words “civilian assistant.”

Again on the web I have seen numerous letters and commendations (Including one stating he was an “Officer”) suggesting that Michel was in the employ of the US government and whether it were civilian or as an officer is really of very little consequence as he clearly fought in the war that had already scarred him on the side of the US, what did you do during the war exactly?   Did you get any commendations for medals or awards because evidence suggests that whichever capacity he was employed in that he was commended for his actions.

4) His tale about rescuing a stash of Nazi Party ID cards is flatly refuted by military records and 1945 articles in the New York Times and London Express. Every wartime source credits a German civilian, Hans Huber, with saving the ID cards and reporting their existence to Allied forces.

This confuses me slightly, considering that the UK, Russians and US were providing known Nazi scientists with ID what makes you think that they would admit to the existence of such an item?  You don’t strike me as naive but this is a rather naive comment.  Regarding Hans Huber, you refer to newspaper articles again suggesting they are fact.  Another newspaper article from 1978 states Huber tried to get the US to take the documentation and they refused until a further US troop arrived, could this have been one including Michel?

Von Braun was a member of the Nazi party taken to the US to work, could it be the entire situation was covered up to protect those removing Nazi members from potential prosecution?

5) From the 1970s into the 1990s, Thomas was repeatedly sued for unpaid bills, rents and taxes—and he stiffed some of his language school employees.

I can find no evidence on this but what relevance does it have to his war record other than to bring his character into disrepute?
Perhaps the most galling claim Thomas made was that positive thinking could have saved Holocaust victims from execution. He said if concentration camp prisoners hadn’t given up hope and surrendered to the “Siren Song” of death, they could have followed his example of (allegedly) escaping multiple camps. In his biography, Thomas describes fellow inmates slowly “succumbing to their fate. They were gone, as surely as a prisoner on death row is gone long before he reaches the electric chair. Nature seems to provide the condemned man with … a natural anesthetic that floods the conscious mind with an almost euphoric invitation to surrender. … Anyone who accepts the invitation is beyond help. … Death becomes a welcome relief.” Thomas, of course, was the only prisoner with enough character to ward off this “insidious phenomenon” and escape not one, not two, but three different concentration/slave labor camps.

Perhaps you should read the account by Miklós Nyiszli, in it he suggests the same thing at one point, only correcting himself later as the realisation of what is happening sinks in, as does a psychologist of that time.  Has it not occurred to you that this could have been a genuine belief from someone who was trying to fight against it?  Are you actually suggesting he wasn’t interned at all or that he doesn’t have a right to his opinion?  In that case are you still entitled to your “opinon”.
The sad thing about Michel Thomas is he didn’t need to make all this stuff up. The real facts of his life (yes, some of his stories did check out) include a number of praiseworthy accomplishments, fascinating anecdotes and genuine wartime heroism.

The first time you have acknowledged that he may well have conducted much greater truths than your alleged lies and yet you couldn’t have steered your article towards the positive.  Your responses are not the responses of a man doing his duty but it comes across as petty and personal.

More details:

1. Thomas falsely claimed he was an officer in the U.S. Army. In fact, he was a civilian employee, and the Los Angeles Times has National Archives military documents from 1946 bearing Thomas’ signature next to the words “civilian assistant” (http://michelthomasfacts.blogspot.com/2007/08/false-claims_9205.html). Rather than admit exaggerating, Thomas sued the paper for questioning his military status. (The lawsuit was thrown out of court by a federal judge and Thomas’ appeal was rejected by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He was ordered to pay the Times $98,000 for legal fees). In July 2004, his private investigator finally conceded to Newsday that Thomas was never inducted.

I think you will find the case was not against the suggestions that he lied about his military career but that the whole article was defamatory.  The court ruled the newspaper had the right under the first amendment.  “the First Amendment guarantees authors ‘the interpretive license that is necessary when relying upon ambiguous sources.’  Where the newspapers lawyers stated the following:

Defendants make three arguments in favor of their Motion to Strike: (1) that Thomas cannot prevail on a defamation by implication claim because he is a public figure; (2) that the article cannot reasonably be interpreted as giving rise to any of the defamatory implications identified in the Complaint; and (3) that the article is constitutionally protected.  You appear to believe that the ruling gives more credence to your article when it fact all it does is affirm your article is that of creative license and opinion.  In fact the court stated the following:  “The Court recognizes that the historical record can be inherently ambiguous. Additionally, the alleged implications are the types of statements that courts have repeatedly found not to be provably false.”  So while yes you did win and yes you were awarded a sum of money but not the one you mention here, was the newspaper not advised to recalculate that sum as it was considered unfair?

2. In his 1999 biography, “Test of Courage,” Thomas said he was born in Poland. However, for 38 years, he told reporters he was born in France — and different parts of France at that. A minor detail, perhaps, but one that again reflects on his credibility.

Ah yes, of course, a man who has been fleeing for his life for the duration of the war and did in fact lie to protect himself could easily have continued through fear, is this not a possibility?  Is it particularly relevant?

3. Thomas repeatedly changed his Dachau liberation story. In his biography, Thomas said he accompanied the first battalion of U.S. troops when it entered the Dachau concentration camp on the morning of April 29, 1945. After the L.A. Times proved otherwise (to the point that even his biographer acknowledged the story was wrong), Thomas tried to backtrack by claiming he never said he was with the first battalion, only that he arrived at Dachau sometime later that day. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had repeated his original tale in a sworn affidavit filed with his libel lawsuit: “On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops.” Only after his private investigator interviewed the commander of that battalion, Felix Sparks, and realized Thomas’ claim was bogus, did Thomas begin insisting he never said he was with the 3rd battalion. It’s also worth noting that the Dachau photos that Thomas submitted as evidence with his libel lawsuit were marked “May 1945” (the camp was liberated April 29).

I have already addressed this previously.  Again, your memory is perfect and you’ve never told a lie, is that correct?  It’s not possible for a person to make a mistake or even to want to appear in a better light?

4. Thomas said he single-handedly discovered and rescued millions of Nazi Party ID cards from destruction at a paper mill near Munich in May 1945. But his version of events is flatly contradicted by 1945 articles in the New York Times and London Express. It’s no accident these detailed articles were never mentioned in Thomas’ libel lawsuit or on his website attacking the L.A. Times investigation. Their very existence blows apart several linchpins in his story. Thomas’ version of events can be broken down into three separate claims — that he found the ID cards on his own, that he engineered press coverage of the discovery in May 1945, and that the media spotlight forced his 7th Army superiors to swiftly remove all the documents from the mill for safekeeping. Two of those claims are false beyond any doubt. The third is also questionable, especially considering Thomas’ indisputable fabrications on the rest of the story. Here’s what really happened: In May 1945, paper mill owner Hans Huber went to 7th Army officials and told them about the ID cards. In response, according to military records, Counter Intelligence Corps agent Francesco Quaranta visited the mill, and returned with some samples. It’s conceivable that Thomas accompanied Quaranta (which might explain how he reportedly came to possess several documents from the mill), but that’s a radically different scenario from Thomas’ tale of learning about the ID cards from his scout and making a solo rescue. There’s also no truth to Thomas’ claim that he leaked word of the discovery to the press, thereby goading his 7th Army superiors into removing the files from the mill in May. In reality, there was no press coverage until October of that year — and it’s clear from reading the stories that Thomas played no role in causing it. More importantly, military records state that the 7th Army “abandoned” the Nazi ID cards after Quaranta’s visit to the mill. It moved on to anot her part of Germany and left the cards at the paper mill. If not for the persistence of mill owner Huber and the arrival of the 3rd Army months later, the documents might never have been saved. The NY Times and London Express make clear that the real hero was Huber, a German who defied the Nazis. Army journalist Stefan Heym’s 1945 account agrees, and his lengthy history of the cards dovetails with the press stories. In other words, all the sources from that era — newspapers, Heym and military records — unanimously contradict key details of Thomas’ story and give full credit to Huber. Moreover, when Thomas was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, he couldn’t name the town where the mill was located, couldn’t describe the building and even claimed the ID cards specifically mentioned the Nazi Party, which they don’t.

I have already commented on this.  However you downplay the situation quite considerably, would your memory be perfect if you had been captured, watched countless horrors and been on the run for many years?  You must be a truly brilliant man to be so certain of yourself.  I still wonder if the “other” unit that Hans Huber spoke of could have been one containing Michel, the article I read clearly stated that he tried several times to get the cards picked up to no avail, should I take that as fact?  You appear to think that articles are facts so perhaps I should accept that one?

5. Elsewhere in the biography, Thomas portrayed himself as a real-life Hogan’s Heroes, able to escape concentration and slave labor camps repeatedly at will. In one story, after learning his girlfriend secured his release by granting a romantic favor to a diplomat, Thomas claimed he voluntarily returned to imprisonment because he didn’t want to be freed under such circumstances. Another prison-break tale featured him crawling under a bed when some guards unexpectedly came into the room where he was hiding on his way out of camp. In a scene that is suspiciously reminiscent of several movie scripts, the guards got drunk and one passed out on the bed, pinning Thomas underneath all night. Another tale depicts Thomas hiding in a well, telepathically ordering a dog to stop barking and go away, lest Thomas be discovered by Nazi pursuers..

Did it never occur to you that war films are based on true events?  Maybe he used a little bravado, is he not deserving of such?  You show far more bravado for having done so much less.

L.A. Times Editor John Carroll’s 2004 statement about Michel Thomas:
“We published a story awhile back, by a very good and clever reporter named Roy Rivenburg, about [Michel Thomas]. And, if you read the [book], you’d be amazed you’d never heard of this man, because he pretty much single-handedly won World War II for us. It was a preposterous book, and our review of it was an investigative review. It debunked many of the claims in the book and had some fun doing it … When you put yourself out in public and make claims that are preposterous, and publish a book on it, you’re likely to get a reviewer who will look into that and set the record straight. I’m very proud of that story. We haven’t retracted a word of it; we don’t intend to because it was true.”

Roy Rivenburg’s statement about claims that he misled two of his Dachau sources about Thomas:
Supporters of Thomas have produced letters from Felix Sparks and Hugh Foster saying I misrepresented what Thomas said about the camp’s liberation. Not true. When I interviewed Sparks and Foster in 2001, I simply read them the Dachau portion of Thomas’ biography, in which Thomas claimed he accompanied Sparks’ unit (the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment) as it entered the concentration camp. Both men said there was no way Thomas was with Sparks’ battalion. Nevertheless, after our article came out, Thomas repeated the tale in a sworn affidvait: “On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops.” Months later, after Thomas’ legal team visited Sparks, Thomas changed his story. According to Thomas’ own website, “Michel’s investigator interviewed Sparks at his home in May 2002. He explained that Michel had never claimed to have ‘gone in with the 157th.’ ”
After hearing that, Sparks and Foster said they’d been misled. Yes, they were — by Thomas.

I can see why you like this article, it makes you look like some kind of literary god with so many nice compliments about you, still just another “opinion” and a very biased one at that written by the editor of the newspaper taken to court.

If you were to tally up the amount of truths verses your alleged lies which list would be greater?

I again repeat that your degradation and devaluation of a mans life who lived through more than you could possibly imagine only degrades and devalues you as a writer.
If you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

I can’t imagine any question that I would ask you being answered impartially so the act would be futile.

Further Response from Roy:

ear Emma,
Thanks for your reply. I’m wondering if you ever read the original article in the L.A. Times (http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/15/news/cl-52105) because some of your assumptions and statements about its content are incorrect. For example, the article quotes a number of people complimenting Mr. Thomas’ language classes, so I’m not sure why you think we criticized them. We also pointed out a number of his stories that did check out. However, some of his tales were indisputably false. In those cases, we gave Mr. Thomas every chance to document his claims, but he couldn’t do so.
For example, Thomas claimed he was a full-fledged officer in the U.S. Army. When the Army told us it had no record of his service, we asked Mr. Thomas for discharge papers, VA records or anything else that would support his claim. He couldn’t produce any documentation. In the end, 1946 military documents from the National Archives proved he was a civilian assistant to the CIC. You can see those records here: http://michelthomasfacts.blogspot.com/2007/08/false-claims_9205.html
You also seem to think I had “personal objections” to Mr. Thomas and let those influence the article. Let me give you some background on that. First, I actually enjoyed talking with Mr. Thomas and felt bad that we were going to dismantle some of his claims to fame. But the article I was assigned to write was a review of his biography and I simply presented the evidence we found vs. what Thomas and his supporters said (he always was given the last word, by the way). Second, even if I hadn’t liked Thomas personally, I’m professionally obligated to be objective and present both sides, which I did. Last but not least, before the article went to press, Mr. Thomas threatened to sue the L.A. Times — and his biographer sent numerous emails to my editor — so the article went through a battery of editors and a lawyer to make sure it was fair and that everything held up. After the story ran and Thomas did sue, the process was repeated, even more vigorously. The paper’s editors and lawyers reviewed all the evidence Mr. Thomas and his attorneys presented. If ANYTHING in the article had proved to be incorrect, the paper would have run a retraction and I likely would have been fired, which is what the L.A. Times does when reporters or photographers falsify information in their work.
As for Klaus Barbie, you’re of course correct he was a mass murderer. We never said otherwise. The reason the prosecutor asked the jury to disregard Thomas’ testimony in the trial was because it was so obviously fictionalized that leaving it in could possibly have jeopardized the prosecution’s case. Also, I never said Thomas was the only one to escape Barbie. Thomas made that claim.
As I said in my previous email, it’s too bad Thomas felt the need to exaggerate and lie about his past, because he did do some genuinely heroic and interesting things. But that doesn’t give him a pass on claiming other people’s heroism as his own.
My response:
Dear Roy,

Once again you have sent me a long email defending your points and once again you miss the point.  Whether Michel is guilty of what you accuse or not is not really the point, he did a lot of good and some people choose to see in the good in people not the bad.
As you suggest a couple of times that I have not read your article I can tell you I have and what I think of it as you are so persistent.  Your article is negative and condescending from the offset.  The tone of the language used only ever suggests falsehood on MIchels part.  The few commendable things you mention are just that, few.  From the title to the last word I detect sarcasm and again, a lot of anger.  On reading it I didn’t get the impression I was being presented with facts in order to make up my own mind but the opinion of someone else who had already made up his.  I did not see it as a review of the book but a review of the validity of the content.  I do not recall any discussion on how the book was written, it’s style or the skill of the writer merely comments on the subject matter and the validity of such.
Now I could spend my time trawling evidence to provide you with a response to your email but people have been trying to get you to admit that you wrote an article in the negative without really having just cause for years and you haven’t done anything of the sort.
There were men who completely fabricated stories of the war and they were exposed and that I can understand, the points you make are almost childish in their attack.  Tell me Roy, why is it you feel so strongly as to discredit Michel Thomas on 6 points, 1 of which isn’t even relevant to his war history?  Is it truly because you believe people shouldn’t be lied to?  If so then you must be very busy as we are lied to every day by people more important and much higher profile than Michel Thomas ever was.
I stand by my belief that Michel was a marvelous man and I continue to learn languages with his courses.  I have never had much respect for the press who pry into lives and sensationalise stories and your article is just another example as far as I am concerned.
You ask a lot of questions on belief but I ask you, would Michel have spent all that money and gone through lets face it, what would have heartache on his recollection if he had not believed what he said?  Maybe it was to cover up a slip or even a falsehood but it doesn’t devalue the rest of his actions, life or work.
I can’t even imagine if every politician in the world was held accountable for every alleged lie they told, that would certainly be a world to see.  Yet you didn’t go for all the politicians or corporations you went went after a war veteran.  Congratulations, you must be so proud, although it seems that despite your rather long article with it’s negative undertones you still did not succeed.  The level of skepticism is far less than the level of support.
I feel that any further correspondence with you is in fact completely futile, you made up your mind about Michel Thomas based on your “findings” long ago and it seems regardless of evidence or opinion you will hold fast to that. It really is sad that in this so called civilisation we live in that the holocaust happened at all or that any person was a part of it.  That he was made to feel his whole life was a lie based on 6 points from his book is sadder still.  I hope he found peace before he died.  You see I can forgive someone a lie, a mistake or even bravado, you clearly cannot.
Good luck in your writing Roy, I shan’t be reading any of your articles as personally I don’t like your tone and find your humour a little basic for my taste but I’m not a person who bares grudges so all the best with your future exposing all the bad people in the world.  You will certainly have plenty to write about.
Emma
Further Response from Roy:
Gosh, Emma, if I’d known you weren’t interested in facts and truth (unless the subject is a corporation or politician), I wouldn’t have gone into such detail. But I am happy to see your latest note essentially concedes Thomas was less than truthful about various aspects of his military record. Because the evidence for that is really beyond dispute. And, as I’ve mentioned, the L.A. Times wasn’t the first or last to point out holes in Thomas’ tales. If you don’t care or think it’s important to debunk someone who publicly claims the heroic acts of others as his own, you’re certainly entitled to your opinion. But plenty of other people take serious issue with those who lie about their military status (see, e.g., the book “Stolen Valor”) or wartime actions. Again, that’s not to dismiss the good things Thomas did, but that doesn’t make it OK for him to rewrite history.
Was the Times article skeptical? Did it poke some fun? Yep. And deservedly so. As the then-editor of the paper, John Carroll (one of the most respected editors in America, by the way), later noted: “When you put yourself out in public and make claims that are preposterous, and publish a book on it, you’re likely to get a reviewer who will look into that and set the record straight. I’m very proud of that story. We haven’t retracted a word of it [and] we don’t intend to because it was true.”
It was also fair, always giving Thomas’ side the last word. I even heard from readers who thought I believed Thomas’ war stories. That’s actually fairly typical. People read into stories what they want, which I think you’ve done too. For the record, we uncovered much more than “6 points,” and not all of it war-related.
Also for the record, I would note I’ve also written about the lies and screw-ups of politicians, cops, government agencies, school officials, hospitals and other book authors, among others.
Cheers,
Roy
My further response:
Roy you are very good at seeing what you want to. The only reason I decided that writing to you was a pointless endeavour is that you ignore counter facts as you did before you wrote your article. I still think it was unfair and biased and I barely conceded on one point only because I have only seen a small amount of evidence, a letter, stating he was an officer of the CIC.  The real truth is the only person who truly knows is now dead.  I do not have the trust you appear to have in officials either, they lie for their own ends all the time. You see I read your emails and I viewed the counter evidence and both have credence. I have been in contact with people who have been in touch with you before and they said it is pointless to try to reason with you, that they presented evidence you ignored. I asked a few colleagues to review your articles and emails to me and they all drew the same conclusion, that your confidence in yourself will never allow you to admit bias and that you have a very large ego. That was the polite version.  Though I am sure those opinions will not phase you at all. In one respect at least you stand by what you believe whether others believe you or not whether I find this a reason to commend you or feel contempt for you I am unsure as I feel strongly about Michel Thomas and all the people who fought,  struggled or escaped. My own family is lost to me, with little access to Austrian records reading accounts of others helps me to learn and understand and discourage the prejudice and racism rife in our world.
Another email from Roy:
If I were an average person stumbling across Thomas’ website, I too would probably suspect the L.A. Times did a hatchet job. Even a few journalists who were led to the site by Thomas’ legal team made inquiries to the paper. However, once they saw just a little bit of the evidence compiled by the Times, they dropped it. A case of circling the wagons? Hardly. Journalists are only too happy to take down other writers — from Jack Kelley to Stephen Glass. But anyone who objectively looks at the evidence in this case, which is what journalists are paid to do, reaches the same conclusion as the L.A. Times, Newsday, Le Monde, the Justice Department’s chief Nazi hunter, Klaus Barbie’s prosecutor and many others: Thomas is a fabricator.
Even his website’s depiction of how the Times assembled the article is a crock, starting with the claim that I initiated the story by contacting Thomas. In reality, Thomas’ publicist came to me. Out of the hundreds of reporters at the L.A. Times, he singled me out because he said he’d been reading my profiles and feature articles for a decade and thought I was the best person to cover Thomas. I even have the original story pitch email. Why does this matter? Exactly! If the story we wrote was truly a hatchet job, the facts would speak for themselves and it wouldn’t matter how the story originated. But since the facts don’t support Thomas, the website diverts attention by falsely portraying me as a fundamentalist religious fanatic and “former humor columnist” who was trying to land an investigative reporting job at Thomas’ expense. In fact, I already had a track record of investigative reporting and awards and no need to “prove my investigative chops.”
You probably won’t believe this, but I had no dog in this fight when I began the story. Yes, I was skeptical of Thomas’ biography (e.g., who would voluntarily return to a concentration camp after being released, let alone manage to escape multiple times?) and told him as much at the first interview. “Any one of your stories alone is hard to believe, but all of them together?” He said he understood the skepticism and advised me not to take his word for it, but to check everything out. So we did.
(By the way, Thomas’ website conveniently doesn’t publish the lengthy email exchanges I had with biographer Christopher Robbins before the article ran, because publishing them would contradict Thomas’ claims about how the story was reported.)
Like you, I at one point wondered if Thomas’ involvement with the CIC, which after all was an intelligence agency, meant some of his work might be covered up. But it soon became apparent he was simply a phony. The clearest example is his claim about being an Army officer in the CIC. Setting aside the fact that getting into the CIC required an extensive background check (which would have been impossible for a foreign national who had changed his name multiple times and didn’t even have a birth certificate), anyone who was a bona fide member of the U.S. Army would have a military service ID number and discharge papers. Thomas had neither. Now, you’re welcome to argue his military status isn’t important, but you cannot make a case that he told the truth about it. He indisputably was a civilian assistant to the Army CIC. If he had a smoking gun, it would have been submitted to the courts. No military ID number, no discharge papers? Case closed.
The book’s Dachau story is another example. Forgive me, but the best way to explain this is by quoting from the Times article:
On the day Dachau fell, Thomas says, he was a U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps officer who temporarily joined two columns of tanks and infantry rolling through the German town to the camp.
He says he didn’t have orders assigning him to the 157th Regiment: “I just went there. I could choose wherever I wanted to go.”
Did anyone from the 157th know he was along for the ride?
“They all knew I was there.”
However, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, now a retired brigadier general and former justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, says he would certainly recall if Thomas had accompanied the 200-member force: “He’s got the right battalion, that’s correct, but there were no CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] with us.” …
Thomas’ version of how the camp was liberated differs from eyewitness accounts and National Archives records, says retired Lt. Col. Hugh F. Foster III, who has been researching the liberation for five years.
Regarding Thomas’ mention of tanks, Foster says there were no tanks because the bridges between the town of Dachau and the military camp across the river had been blown up. Thomas doesn’t recall a river.
Thomas says he entered the camp through the front gate, after the Germans waved white flags and opened fire on his group. But Foster and Sparks say the battalion deliberately avoided the front gate and circled around to another side of the sprawling camp.
The white flag incident did happen–but not to the 157th. As Sparks and his men inched through the camp, a handful of journalists and troops from the 42nd Division approached the main entrance.
Did Thomas simply confuse the two units and actually enter with the 42nd? No, he insists: “The 42nd was late.” But Robbins, responding to written queries submitted later, says: “It is quite possible he arrived later than the 157th and that the troops he joined were indeed from the 42nd.” In the course of writing the book, Robbins says, “research showed that it was the 157th that was involved, so it was I who assumed these were the troops he joined.”
When Thomas is asked about other conflicts between his story and the one relayed by Foster, he concedes: “I was not with the front combat troops.” He says he was at the camp that day but cannot say when.
Emma, I did extensive research on Dachau and was open to any evidence placing Thomas on the scene with the first Allied troops. But, as his own biographer finally (grudgingly) conceded, the description of events in the book was wrong. Thomas wasn’t with the 157th. Nor was he with the 42nd (see my previous emails). When I interviewed Thomas, it was clear he had no recollection of Dachau’s liberation. One could attribute that to fading memory and age, except that Thomas claimed to have a photographic memory enabling him to relive important events like liberating a death camp. And let’s not forget that Thomas finally told me, “I was not with the front combat troops.” Since then, he and his legal team have repeatedly flip-flopped, alternately claiming he never said he was with the 157th or (as in Thomas’ sworn court affidavit) insisting he WAS with that unit. I presume you’ll continue believing he somehow was one of the first people in the camp, so I’d be curious to hear your explanation of why his biography has no Thomas photos of camp prisoners, surrendering Germans, the pile of bodies he claimed to see or the liberating troops in action. After all, he said he went there to document all that. Was Thomas at Dachau?
I could go on, but it would be rehashing. I will say this: I’m not standing up for what I “believe.” I’m standing up for thoroughly and objectively researched facts and setting the historical record straight. That is my job and moral obligation as a journalist. I have never hesitated to make corrections when I’ve gotten something wrong in an article, even when it’s tangential to the story. So I would be the first to ask for a correction if anything in the Thomas story didn’t hold up. But even if I weren’t willing to do that — even if I were the egotistical, unable-to-admit-mistakes S.O.B. you suggest — the newspaper itself (not to mention outside journalists) would intervene. It bears repeating: When Thomas threatened to sue the Times before publication, everything in the story was triple-checked by me, my editors and the paper’s attorney. When Thomas later demanded a retraction and then sued, the process repeated each time and I was grilled by a team of lawyers and had to document everything in the story and show why the “counterfacts” were wrong. If you think the L.A. Times would risk its reputation (and money) defending a story (and reporter) it found problematic in any fashion, then you don’t know how the paper works. John Carroll, the same top editor who defended the Thomas article, didn’t hesitate to fire one of my colleagues for “substandard reporting” when one of that writer’s stories was publicly questioned. Nor did he hesitate to can a photographer who altered a photo from Iraq.
I know you want to believe only the best about Thomas, which makes it hard to entertain the possibility that, while he may have been a charismatic personality, effective language teacher, good dad and valiant war participant, he nevertheless fabricated many of his stories. Believe what you want, but facts are facts.
Best,
Roy
I have not responded and am unsure if I will, just as he accuses me of not viewing the facts, I am not sure he does either, I emailed to advise I had posted these emails.  It can be argued both ways forever without a conclusion.  I still believe that even if Michel Thomas did fabricate SOME of his story that he certainly earned the right in my eyes, we are lied to every day by people with more power and influence than he had.

http://michelthomas.org/default2.asp?section=support

References:

The Test of Courage – Michel Thomas – Christopher Robbins

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89vian_Conference

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_bombing_during_World_War_II

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_Administration_in_France_(Nazi_Germany)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klaus_Barbie

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armistice_with_France_(Second_Compi%C3%A8gne)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vichy_France

http://michelthomas.org/default.asp

Weekly Writing Challenge: Dialogue. “For The Greater Good”

My entry for the weekly writing challenge: Dialogue, the challenge can be found here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/category/writing-challenges/

“It’s for the best.”  He said, calmly as if it was the most simple thing in the world.

“Yes, but this?  Is THIS really necessary?”  I looked back at him with what I should imagine was an incredulous look on my face.

“Marie, this man…” he reaches across the table to put his hand over mine.  “is going to be the cause of millions of deaths, maybe billions, you know this.”

I look at him, it’s all I can do for now, I mean I know what he says is true.  I keep going back to how I got into this in the first place.  It’s like my mind won’t let it go.  Maybe it’s trying to teach me something.  I needed help, some time ago now, the type of help that not many people offer.  I had nothing to give in return so this was my payment.  It had always crossed my mind that my payment would involve something that I didn’t want to do, but I had always hoped it would not come to this.  He gestured to me as I had been quiet for some time, sifting through the thoughts in my head.  I cannot renege on this deal.  I say

“I know I have to do this, but I don’t have to like it.”

He smiles, he actually smiles, I don’t feel like smiling and instead of it being reassuring it reminds me of the smiling monster luring its prey into its trap.

“You know we don’t have much time.”

I nod and get up from the table.  No, WE don’t have much time, that means I don’t have much time.

It’s true, the man I am about to kill is about to be the cause of death to millions of the population.  It’s true that this is for the greater good.  However, I would ask any of you, if it were you who were to deliver the fatal strike, you who have to watch the death that you have causes, you who has to see the news reports, you who has to remain silent and in fear of being found out, you who has to sleep at night, do you think it would feel like the greater good?  Governments fight wars and excuse the deaths of innocents as the greater good, if the risk to a greater population exists and I never felt that good about that.

By now I’ve reached the door that will take me to the upper level of the building, to the ladies bathroom.  Each stall has tall windows set behind the toilet, with a section that opens at the top, I know because I’ve been here before.  The organisation who has me under their control may be using a complete amateur but they didn’t take any chances with training.  I’ve conducted this operation twice in this bar and 5 times in a practice situation.  I know the timing, the steps, every movement, I know exactly what i need to do.

Despite that knowledge my heart beats so hard I feel sure someone close could hear it, I’m sweating, all over, I can’t stop thinking that this cannot come to any good.  The man in question is a researcher, he’s days away from finding a virus that will kill at least 60% of the population, the organisantion knows this because it already has it, they have kept it a secret for decades, knowing that it cannot be given to those who want to use it.  They have a branch that deals with research and development, only it’s employees are actually other firms employees, who work alongside other scientists waiting to see what they might discover.  In this case, the virus and the man who needs to die to keep it from being fully “discovered”.  I’m in the ladies.  It’s too late now, I can’t go back.  I make for the 3rd on the left, ready to open my bag and assemble the contents.

Standing on the toilet with the gun in my hands, the window open, watching my watch, nearly time.  I go over gain, my disputes that we could just talk to him, there has to be another way.  They were useless then and they are useless now.

It’s time.

I raise the gun, as I have been shown, and viewed my target through the sight.  A medium height man, with receding hairline, handsome though, if I don’t succeed at this moment, the repercussions could be beyond what I could imagine.

I pull the trigger.

Exposed

This is my story for the weekly challenge to write a story with the ending at the beginning.  I haven’t written for a few years so I am sure there will be plenty to say about it and I welcome your feedback ,  Here is a link to the challenge.  

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/09/writing-challenge-backward/

1

I survey the carnage before me.  Smoke rises in thick, black plumes into the cloudless blue sky.  The building before me burns, the flames seeking out their next victim, be it wood or brick.  I watch as they engulf the rest of the structure, laying to waste the horrors I experienced there.  Although I wonder, will those horrors leave my mind so easily as they leave physical existence?  I know I should leave, and soon, but I feel the grass beneath me, where I sit, watching.  I let my fingers play with the soft, smooth blades, careful to only touch and not to destroy.  There were times whilst in that fortress I was unsure if I would ever feel grass again, or see the sky, I appreciate now, as I breathe in the outside air, that sometimes life and beauty is most appreciated after a time of woe and strife.  Satisfied that the raging inferno will become nothing but soot and ashes I stand up, shakily and walk away.  Ready to appreciate life, ready to grasp it with both hands, ready to really live for the first time in my 30 years, only this time I will be someone else. 

2

3 weeks ago I was sitting in my flat, a floor of a lovely town house, pondering my existence, as one does from time to time.  As a freelance political journalist I generally annoyed people, usually those with power for writing about the truth, usually.  Sometimes I actually managed to annoy the public too, after all they are not free of blame for the state of things in society today.  My main love is exposure.  I like to expose the people, the situations and the truth.

 My family and friends laughed and joked about me becoming a journalist.  After all I decided quite late in life that a career change was needed.  Determined to be ethical, moral and honest.  It’s not an easy industry to be any of those things, but I have one thing on my side, I cannot be bought.  They say everyone has a price, but I don’t.  I was left a lovely house by my parents, who were tragically killed in a car accident, but it has given me an income which is steady (I rent it out, I can’t live there, I find it too painful).  So my rent is paid with enough left over to see some of the bills paid, I have a comfortable existence and have never found money to be my driving force.  I don’t really care for designer labels, fancy food or a house I’d have to clean and care for and I don’t drive so have no need for a car.  I have what I need, so the various offers that have been made to silence me have fallen on deaf ears. 

All these things were on my mind as I sat and watched the world go by outside my window.  I hear the phone so reach over and answer it.  The voice on the other end is not one I recognise. 

“I understand you intend to write an article about the Fallwell Incident?”  It’s a man, gruff voice, that’s all I can tell. 

“Correct, who is this?” I respond quite curtly.

“I strongly advise against this.” Gruff voice, but the words are spoken without malice.

“Why would I take advice from a person who has not introduced themselves?”  The line goes dead. 

I frown, it was an unusual phone call.  I have had anonymous tips before, even the occasional warning, but this was….odd.  The man did not sound threatening and his voice appeared of the gravelly kind, but not in a natural way.  Why he would think I would listen without even being aware of whom it is advising me I am even less sure.  No background noise.  I pick up the phone and try to recall the number but not surprisingly it is withheld.  Oh well, it’s not like I’m going to listen.  I pick up my notepad and read. 

Fallwell, Gerald Fallwell, was a member of cabinet who worked closely with the minister for economy.  It was spread across the journalistic grapevine that he was going to bow the whistle on our own government for atrocities committed both abroad and on our own soil with strong links to our economic degradation.  Fallwell disappeared.  No body, no clues, just nothing.  It seems fairly dubious that after the rumour being spread that he should disappear.  For a while many thought he had sought asylum, but no word from him in over a month. 

I have been planning an article around the whole incident (yes, he called it an incident, but to naturally use that terminology makes me even more sure there is something in this) and have been digging to try and find out what it possibly could be that he was due to expose.  An interview here and there and no real progress.  I wonder if I was this stubborn as a child.  My mind is buzzing so I decide to practice some yoga then do some aerobics.  I like to keep fit, I feel better when I eat well, exercise regularly and get a decent amount of sleep.  After this exertion I shower and decide to take a walk to a local cafe for lunch. 

I am about to step out the door when the phone rings again, I only keep a mobile so it’s already in my pocket, I answer it and the same voice as earlier greets me with:

“Will you continue with your story?” Mr No Name asks me.

“Yes.” I respond simply.  The line goes dead again. 

I continue to step through the doorway, depositing the phone back into my pocket, as I open the door the sunshine hits my face and makes me smile, I didn’t know then that it would be the last time for what seemed like a very long time, that I would see it. 

3

I start to stir from a deep slumber, faintly confused, I have been dreaming but as I start to rise from the haze of sleep I realise I do not feel as though I am in my bed, or any place that I recognise.  Despite the shock of this waking me completely, I open my eyes slowly, I sense danger.  I look between my lashes at where I am.  I’m on a bed of sorts, basic isn’t the word, from experience I see it very much as a bed from a cell, in fact, this does appear to be a kind of cell.  The room is small, bare, no window and no bars, only a thick heavy set door that appears to be made of metal.  I am alone, so I sit up and survey my surroundings.  Bare walls, some exposed pipes, the bed covers the back wall of the room, with either end touching the walls, the room is small, very small.  There is some sort of contraption to the right of the door, as I am looking at it.  I get up, feeling somewhat groggy, and inspect the contraption, it is a toilet that tucks into the wall, no wash basin.  The door does not appear to have any openings, no handle, there is a sensor to the side so it must be activated with a pass card of some kind.  The light in the room is dim and the light fixture has a cage around it, bolted to the ceiling.  The bed is likewise bolted to the floor, no blankets.  There is an air vent, also with a cage around it, bolted to the wall.  The temperature is warm, kind of humid, a little stale and I feel a bit like there isn’t enough of it.  My breath starts to quicken and my heart beats faster, the realisation of my situation risking the onset of panic, I must remain calm.

I take deep breaths in and then forcefully breathe out long and slow until I have calmed myself.  I can’t ascertain whether the door opens inwards or outwards.  This room is obviously designed so that the occupant is not getting out.  I have had the misfortune of being in a police cell before and although this has similarities it is much, much worse.  My clothing appears to be overalls, so someone has undressed me, my underwear is still on, thankfully and I don’t feel…violated, so that is at least, a good thing.

I go back to the toilet and release it from it’s snug fit into the wall, it’s solid, one piece, no protruding parts, nothing that I can…use.  I feel the panic starting to wash over me again and repeat my breathing.  The room is practically a square, room enough for some yoga poses to try and calm myself. 

Time seems to change when locked away from stimulus, like it stretches out, farther and farther.  Without anything to occupy you and no means of telling the time you tend to find that minutes feel like hours.  I complete a routine that would normally take me 30 minutes.  So I have a rough idea that time has passed.  I conduct another search of the room, I am looking for a means to defend myself.  I don’t know where I am, why I’m here and I can only assume I was rendered unconscious as I stepped out of my door.  My head doesn’t hurt even though when I awoke I felt groggy so I can assume I was drugged. 

I sit on the makeshift bed and listen.  A faint hum, air conditioning perhaps?  Nothing else.  Where the hell am I?  Good old panic tries to muscle it’s way into to my psyche but I push it away again, as before, panic will not help, panic will make you make mistakes, panic is not your friend.  I lie on the bed and stare up at the ceiling with its crisp paint.  So this room at least is newly decorated.  I check the walls, also appears newly painted.  Although not that new as it doesn’t smell like new paint, but it’s very, very clean.  I get up and inspect the cage around the vent and the light, both are solid.  The fixings are just as solid.  I put my ear to the door, still only the faint hum.  I knock gently on the walls, all solid, no stud partition or plasterboard here, these walls are made of stone.  I see panic now like a bully trying to force me into a state I don’t want to be in, continually picking away at my resolve.  I need to calm down, I feel tears begin to form and I cannot give in to that, I breathe deeply and try a meditation technique of counting while I do this, making each breath exact, clearing my mind of the thoughts in there that seem to support panic in its mission to foil me. 

I hear a beep and the door swings outwards, a man in a blue uniform stands before me, I look at him, he looks at me.  I raise my eyebrows as if to ask him what he wants.  His response chills me.

“You are to remain here until you are rehabilitated.  Until that time you will remain in your room, you will be brought food at 8am, 12pm and 6pm and once a day will be accompanied to the shower block at 9am, you will have no contact with anyone other than me.”  With that, before my stunned vocal cords can find the muster to protest, he closes the door, there’s a beep and he’s gone.

At first I feel stunned, I can hardly breath, panic is almost winning, then I think to myself, rehabilitated?  From what?  No trial, no jury, no nothing, one minute I’m on my front step, the next I’m locked up to be…rehabilitated.  How will that happen?  I’m not sure.  It could be anything, is this legal?  If it’s not, what do I do?  I have no contact with the outside world.  I think back to when the man visited my room, his uniform was unmarked, he was tall, stocky, he didn’t look unkind, short hair, possibly military, he stood very straight, very confident.  Behind him was a wall and there was no sound coming from the corridor.  I didn’t see where he had his key card.  At least now I know the door opens outwards.  It is another 3 hours before I learn what rehabilitation means. 

I have been lying on the bed, thinking, thinking of ways to get out, when I see the guard next I shall speak with him, out of nowhere and incredibly loud a voice projects into the room.  It asks me do I know who I am, what my purpose in life is, questions, lots of questions, all relating to who I am and my ideals and belief system.  Repeated over and over again in a tone that was uncomfortable to hear.  I try to block out the constant barrage of questions by covering my ears, but it’s too loud. 

I don’t know how long it has been running, the questions seem to become a blur, I try my best to remove myself mentally from the situation, but it’s so hard with the constant drone of, Do you know who you are?  Why do you do what you do?  Why do you hurt others with lies?  Why do you betray your people?  Why do you betray your country?  Why do you believe that you have the right to be judge, jury and executioner?  Are you who you say you are?  What is your name?  Where were you born?  What is your purpose?  You have no purpose. 

That last one is new.  For as long as I’ve been paying attention it’s just been questions.  Ironically questions I find it difficult to think about with the tirade of further questions.  If this is meant to encourage me to question what I do for a living I’m not sure it’s having the right effect.  The more those questions are fired at me from whatever recording they have, the more I want to expose this site, the more I want to get out and the less likely I am to be following their orders. 

An undetermined amount of time later and the questions stop, the door opens, two pieces of bread and a plastic cup of water are placed on a tray on the floor in front of the door and it’s closed before I even have a chance to register what has happened.  So this is their idea of feeding me then.  I should make the most of it, eat it slowly, I sit with my bread and water thinking.  The plastic cup is flimsy, the bread is on a paper plate and the tray is a thin plastic, that I can use, that I can…

The door opens, the guard strides in and snatches up the items, I try to protest and stop him but he points a taser at me, I sit on the bed and glare at him, it appears there is a time limit for eating and drinking and that was it, so I don’t know what meal that was and I ate a quarter of a slice of bread and drank 3 mouthfuls of water.  Time passes and I’m still glaring at the space where the guard had been.  I need to think and act fast.  Oh no!  It’s started again, the recording of the questions, over and over again in a level that’s just too loud!  I roll onto my side, turn my back to the door and stare at the wall, panic enters my mind with a question.  At which point am I rehabilitated? 

Some time later the lights go out.  My stomach rumbles as I realise that was supposed to be supper.  At this point I start to breath, mediation style to try and clear my mind to sleep, I must have succeeded because when the recording starts again in the pitch black, I am woken with a fright and my heart beats hard and fast and my body trembles.  I can’t help it this time, panic wins,  I’m tired, I’m scared, I’m hungry and within seconds I’m also crying. 

4

This continues through the night, I estimate that they allow me to sleep for an hour and listen to their drivel for 2, the result is broken sleep, disorientation and panic seems to be fighting with despair for dominance.  I have always been strong willed and coping with the death of my beloved parents at only 19 taught me something in the way of resilience.  By the time the same guard arrives with breakfast, I’m tired and very, very angry, no sooner does the door beep am I shouting a few questions of my own, he opens the door, regards me with a quizzical (yes, quizzical, it strikes me as a little odd, doesn’t he realise I am kept there against my will or knowledge) leaves the bread and water and leaves again.  I eat the bread, drink the water and try again when I next hear the beep.  Again, nothing, not a word.   So that’s breakfast, I know I have an hour before shower time and maybe I will see something that will help me when outside this room. 

So it’s time for my shower.  My hands are cuffed behind me and I am lead into the corridor, I try to survey as much as possible in the short space of time.  There are other doors like mine, 10 in total, the corridor is as you would expect, door, wall, door, wall, door etc, no discernible features, nothing that stands out, a swipe point for the access card to the right of each door and a handle on the outside, before I really have time to take it in I am led into another room, identical in size and shape only tiled with a caged shower head coming down from the ceiling and a towel folded on the floor.  The door is locked behind me.  I don’t see a switch or pull cord to turn it on, so I undress and stand under it thinking it may have a sensor, after about 30 seconds it comes on, luke warm, almost cold, it runs for a few minutes and switches off, no soap.  I dry and dress and am led back to my room.  The shower room is on the end on the right of the corridor so that’s 9 more potential occupants.  I don’t hear anything from any of the rooms and begin to wonder if they are sound proof. 

It is all very efficient, very formal and very suspect.  It dawns on me that this is a very well run operation designed to brainwash the occupants into compliance.  It screams Nineteen Eighty Four.  So by proxy it dawns on me that our own government, those sworn to protect us, supposed “civil SERVANTS” must have sanctioned this, may even be running the facility.  So far I’ve only seen one guard and can only assume the other occupants, if there are any, are suffering the same fate. 

Days pass in fits of hunger, exhaustion and the barrage of questions being played into my room on a regular basis.  I start to feel my resolve slipping away and I know that I must act.  I must act soon, before I am “rehabilitated”.  There is a reason why brainwashing techniques can be so effective.  The lack of sleep alone is enough to ruin your clarity of thought, the constant questions, lack of food, they leave me weak.  I know this, which is why I know if I don’t act soon I will have no strength at all.  I have taken to trying to practice yoga and meditation simultaneously to try and drown out the noise.  To an extent I think I am achieving my goal of finding some kind of peace within it all but it is as fragile as the wing of an insect with not nearly as much power.  I won’t last long.  I’m strong, stubborn and sure of myself but even I know that this will break me eventually.  I have no idea how many days have passed.  It could have been weeks or even months, the banality of the routine mixed with the sleep and food deprivation make it all meld into one long nightmare.  I must act now. 

I decide my time will be when the food is delivered, this is the only time other than showering that I leave the room or he enters, I know that being cuffed is not a good way to start.  As if on cue there is a beep, the door opens and the food is placed on the floor.  I pick it up and eat it, he has gone for now, but he will be back, when he does I will be as ready as I can be. 

My body has become accustomed somewhat to the lack of food, it draws energy from the bread quite quickly but it never lasts long.  I drink the water and then smack the tray on the bed until it snaps and shatters, I get a good shard, one that could be a knife in another life.  I need to be ready.  When he enters, he always does it the same way, he must hold the keycard and taser in his right hand, the tray is always in the left.  I assume he deposits the keycard somewhere and then reaches for the handle to open the door, he must do this with the taser in his hand, or no, wait, I think it may be attached to his wrist by a cord, so always at hand, so that when he has opened the door to place the tray inside he has time to put the taser into his hand.  I need to surprise him, stab him and get the hell out.  My adrenalin is pumping now, I’m shaking slightly.  The door opens outwards, if I let him open it, he’ll see that here is no tray (I’ve hidden the remains under the bed) that might alarm him.  I look up at the cage covering the light and I know what I have to do.

It happens in a heartbeat, he opens the door, I’m already hanging from the light cage, I swing so that my feet make contact with the door as it’s opening, the door makes contact with him, the surprise knocks him off balance a little and I’m on my feet, I plunge my plastic shard of a knife into his neck, roughly where I know there to be an artery, but he already has the taser, he fires it and I’m reduced to a pain filled wreck on the floor and quickly I lose consciousness. 

5

I come to and I’m aware that nothing has changed around me, except the tape has started again, the guard is dead not far from me, surrounded by his own congealing blood, the look of surprise still in his unblinking eyes.  I get to my feet and keep the shard with me, on searching the guard I find the key card, the taser and nothing else, not a thing.  I take his shoes and socks, they are too big but they’ll do.  I also take the jacket.  I have never handled a dead body before, least of all killed someone but there’s a steady calm that has washed over me, almost like I am numb to the act.  Time to get out.

I walk out of my room to the right, there only appears to be an exit on the right.  I stop at the door next to me, wondering who is inside, should I let them out?  I decide that I should, after all, I want to escape, there is no doubt if someone else got out I’d want them to let me out too.  I use the keycard and the door swings open. 

I am not sure what it was I expected, but I didn’t expect what I found.  No one.  It was empty, as was the next room and the next.  It wasn’t until I got to the last door left other than mine, the shower room and the exit that I found another person.  It was Fallwell.  I say was, because he certainly wasn’t an is.  He had the same idea it seems, that the tray could be broken and used, only he hadn’t decided to use it on the guard, he had used it on himself.  Well that was one mystery over. 

I leave via the exit, it is pointless to stay, up some stairs and into an office.  There is no one else there, CCTV cameras show the outside, but none for the inside.  The outside is clear, it appears to be in the middle of nowhere.  There is a desk, a computer, a chest of drawers, a bed and a room leading off, on investigation I find this is a toilet, basin and shower room.  There isn’t any evidence of anyone else being there.  It strikes me as odd, but then if our government created this facility, maybe they don’t want anyone to know about it. 

Stupidly the computer is activated by the keycard, they would have been more prudent to have a password, I read the emails and any documentation I can find, this is indeed what appears to be a “Rehabilitation Facility” it seemed, for severe cases only, where the risk to the government and to the monarchy was that great that disappearance forever wasn’t an option.  They needed the occupants to return at some point.  So Fallwell must have been about to blow the whistle on something extreme, with myself in the firing line for investigating. 

It appears the guard had no real idea of who was there or what was happening.  He had orders to never enter the rooms except at the allotted times for the allotted tasks.  He didn’t appear to control the recordings or anything else for that matter, it was almost all automated.  I searched the office, for any clue and found nothing of interest. 

I sit and stare at the blank computer screen for a while, I understand the need to silence us both, I even to an extent understand why the need for brainwashing is necessary.  I don’t however understand what it was that they hoped to achieve.  Fallwell is dead, he won’t be returning to society to say he didn’t mean it and doesn’t have a thing on anyone.  How long should the guard (his name was Davey Pratt) keep us there?  No instructions, no communications just us in the cells and him up here.  I found the bread in a freezer with some other food, all of it basic, I noted one of the loaves was on a worktop, defrosting, we must have finished the last one. 

I am not bad with computers, I probably could have gotten into the computer without the card, it’s a hobby of mine, I look into protection on the web, hardware and software and have learned a few tricks on the way.  I check for any deleted items.  I know I should leave, but I’m quite confident it was just old Davey boy and a quick glance at the CCTV confirms I am still on my own. 

I hit the jackpot eventually, I find a file relating to the nature of the facility, the intentions are clear and really what I had previously deduced.  However, alongside the brainwashing each captive is subliminally planted with a code word.  On contacting the individual and giving them the code word they will shut down.  Like a switch, the code word is spoken and nothing more is said, a means of control in case the subjects forget their brainwashing.  It states that once used it will render the person unable to speak or communicate in any way.  Basically with one word they can turn me into a vegetable.  I have no idea what the word is or even if it has worked.  I do some more snooping around the computer.  This is when I found the self destruct command, put in place in case a captive escapes or the facility is found.  I take one last look around the office deciding it really is the only way to go, they will never know who got out, if anyone, the cells are underground and this seems so far from anywhere that I doubt anyone will come for some time.  It’s fairly simple, I type in the detonation code into the command prompt and hit enter. 

My last hope as I hurry out of the door and into the clean, fresh air outside is that they will never know that I am alive.  Maybe their brainwashing worked because I have no desire to expose this truth.  I think now that I underestimated the actions of our government, that there are no lengths that they will not go to in order to achieve their goals.  I spent the last 11 years working most of the time to try and give people a glimpse at the truth behind the lies.  I realise now as I walk away from a building that is about to explode that I never really lived in all that time and that most people just don’t care or believe what the truth is. So why do I keep trying to tell them?  Because I want to know the truth?  Not anymore, now I just want to live the rest of my days in peace, it won’t be easy, I can’t go home, can’t withdraw from my bank, I can’t be seen, I’ll have to start again without anything, but maybe that’s a good place to start.   On some level it occurs to me that who I was is gone, that in some part the facility worked, but for the most part, I’m just happy to be alive.