When we think of famous figures, we have a tendency to boil them down to their most defining traits. In our heads, Teddy Roosevelt becomes badass distilled, and Albert Einstein is a brain with a severe comb allergy. This is all by design -- famous figures and their biographers both have an image they're trying to promote.
But secrets don't stay buried forever, and occasionally lost documents will turn up that change everything. For example ...
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If you ask a random person to name a saint, they'll almost certainly reply, "What, like Mother Theresa?" If you're looking for a modern figure who embodies the virtues of Christianity, you can't do much better -- her name is synonymous with selfless servitude.
As an Albanian nun, she relocated to an Indian monastery, noticed the plight of the local populace, and decided she had had enough of poverty's shit. Theresa then took to the streets and started tirelessly helping anyone who needed her aid. Over time, she became the protector of the poor, a spiritual anchor for millions, and generally the kind of ecclesiastical presence that can make even the hardiest of cardinals let out a Keanu-style "whoa."
Mother Theresa, seen here with entourage of divine light and a heavenly chorus.
But how could this Nobel Peace Prize-winning, three-quarters canonized woman manage to keep her faith while waddling elbow deep in the hellish conditions of Indian poverty? It turns out she didn't.
Shortly after Mother Theresa's death, her Vatican caretakers found dozens of letters written by her, along with a note that said they should all be burned without reading. Naturally, such instructions can only lead to one thing: The letters were immediately and gleefully ripped open to see what she had to hide.
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"Dear Penthouse ..."
Here's what they found:
What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there is no soul, then, Jesus, you also are not true.
Ouch. She must have been going through a pretty rough patch when she wrote that, right? Wait, it gets worse. Here she offers some spiritual support to a man of the cloth:
Jesus has a very special love for you. As for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.
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"Jesus has always been a sexist prick like that."
Shit, that's some dark stuff right there. Surely, there must be at least some rays of light in her existence ...
No faith, no love, no zeal. [Saving] souls holds no attraction, heaven means nothing ... it has been like this more or less from the time I started "the work."
... yeah, nope. She's so far down the "Screw you, God" line that she's even putting quotes around the whole working with the poor thing, which you may recognize as pretty much her entire shtick.
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Kind of like how the Three Stooges performed "the slapstick."
The letters are chock-full of musings like these, because Mother Theresa had almost completely lost her faith over two decades before her death. In fact, she stopped praying as early as the late 1970s. The life she led among the poorest of the poor dealt her a heaping helping of human suffering, and it looks like she just flat out became jaded in the process.
Yet, without an ounce of faith to aid her in her impossible mission, she still found the strength to soldier on: Mother Theresa kept up appearances for over 20 years, because people still depended on her. Let that sink in for a moment: 20 years, with nothing to rely on, just going through the motions in a pit of despair because she didn't want to let people down. Holy crap, the woman really was a saint.
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A.A. Milne, acclaimed children's author and creator of Winnie the Pooh, was known to view his billion-dollar bear with the frothing dislike of a thousand exploding bile factories. This is actually pretty impressive, considering some of the other stuff he penned.
Recently found documents reveal that, during World War I, the famously pacifist Milne worked for MI7b, a top secret British military intelligence unit that specialized in maintaining morale via misinformation. The group consisted of 20 or so top British writers of the time, and their sole purpose was to create newspaper articles and treatises that were so skillfully crafted, they could not be recognized as propaganda.
As the MI7b unit disbanded after the war, the military ordered all evidence of it to be destroyed. However, a captain who worked alongside Milne managed to rescue over 150 articles documenting their work. Among these files was a book of sarcastic poetry by Milne himself, describing the lies they routinely created with a self-deprecating wit:
Who loves to lie with me
And Hun Corpse Factories.
Come hither, come hither, come hither,
Here shall he see
But sit all day and blather.
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"Triumph, the things I've seen ... the things I've done ..."
Yes, that's the pacifist father of Winnie the Pooh, rhyme-riffing on "corpse factories." Said factories, known as Kadaververwertungsanstalt, are one of the best known horror tales in the history of war. From 1917 onward, numerous sources suddenly started claiming that World War I-era Germany habitually collected corpses and processed them into soap, tools, and other items. These stories about an entire country Tyler Durdening their dead into supplies were backed up by literally zero evidence, but that didn't stop them from routinely popping up in the newspapers of the era. And fucking A.A. Milne just poetically owned up to writing them with his posse.
At least he didn't seem happy about it. The same probably can't be said for this next guy ...
AP Photo via Washington Post
It's no secret that Henry Ford had a certain amount of Nazi sympathy, mainly due to Ford's belief that anyone who hated the Jews that much must have been an awesome guy. And those views are kind of hard to hide when you openly praise Hitler's ideas and receive Nazi medals for your dealings with them.
Seen here, covered in swastikas, just in case you were confused about where it came from.
Still, it's not like Ford was alone among prominent Americans who praised Hitler before the war. And although he was privately an anti-Semitic cocksheath for life, Ford had the sense to end his Reich romance by the time he realized what murderous dicks the Nazis actually were.
A little known 1998 lawsuit by a Russian slave laborer (more on that later) delved a little deeper into the whole Ford/Hitler thing, and what it uncovered was fucking terrifying. According to its papers, Ford and the Nazis were extremely tight, to the point that Ford started throwing money at the ascending Reich. Ford didn't agree to stop dealing with Hitler until late 1942 ... eight months after the U.S. had entered the war.
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"Hey, Henry? Bud? Would you mind not selling stuff to our sworn-"
"IN A MINUTE!"
And whether he really severed ties with Germany at that point is open to speculation. Ford-Werke -- the German subsidiary of Ford's empire -- remained operational throughout the war, happily manufacturing gear for the German military machine and using POWs as forced labor. The company insists that Ford-Werke was confiscated by Nazis in 1941 and they lost all contact, and that whatever happened in their plant after that wasn't Ford's fault ... despite the fact that the company had used POWs as slave labor before that.
Oh, and here's a pretty poem from Ford-Werke's internal magazine that came out in 1940 -- when Henry Ford still unquestionably held the reins:
We have sworn to you once,
But now we make our allegiance permanent.
Like currents in a torrent lost,
We all flow into you.
Even when we cannot understand you,
We will go with you.
One day we may comprehend,
How you can see our future.
Hearts like bronze shields,
We have placed around you,
And it seems to us, that only
You can reveal God's world to us.
That piece is called Fuhrer, because of course it is.
All of this would probably have stayed under wraps indeterminately, if one brave ex-slave laborer hadn't sued the company for obvious reasons. Ford managed to get the charges dropped, not because the judge found them to be innocent, but because "redressing the tragedies of that period has been -- and should continue to be -- a nation-to-nation, government-to-government concern." After all, once you start holding corporations responsible for funding Hitler, where does it end?
Hey, speaking of Hitler ...