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

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4 thoughts on “Michel Thomas

  1. To: WelshAlterEgo:

    This is extraordinary. You have truly immersed yourself in the record. If you’d like to make contact with me directly, I would welcome that. My email is . Below is a reply just posted to your amazon.com.uk comment:

    Ms. Anderson: thanks for your detailed response on your blog. Here is some addtional information:

    Former Los Angeles Times reporter Roy Rivenburg now works for an outfit called Patch.com in the Orange County region, doing neighborhood-level local stories. He renewed his efforts to discredit Mr. Thomas immediately after Mr. Thomas’s death, in 2005, including a lengthy campaign of edits to the Wikipedia article about Mr. Thomas.

    Eventually, Rivenburg was banned and blocked from editing the article by senior editors in the Wikipedia community, on the basis that his edits “appear to be a vendetta against a now-deceased individual, to the detriment of the article.”

    Rivenburg also wrote reviews and comments about the new edition on Amazon.com, , to which I finally posted this “scorecard” response:

    The Tribune Company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, declared bankruptcy in 2008.

    In 2007, British author Christopher Robbins re-issued Michel’s biography, with the new title “Courage Beyond Words,” in which he described Michel’s battle with the Los Angeles Times after the publication of their profile in 2001.

    • Thank you Alex, I feel very strongly that regardless of Mr Rivenburgs objections Michel Thomas should be remembered with favour. Your links were deleted by WordPress possibly automatically so I am unable to view them. The review he made was not a review of the book but the subject. I was glad to see many comments in support of Michel Thomas and hope it continues.

      • I can send you the links if you contact me directly via email.

        WordPress deletes my email address if I try to post it here in the comments, but perhaps you can detect it by clicking on my name, since I had to enter it to post here.

        It is — without the dashes: e-a-k (at) prodigy (dot) net.

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