5 Lost Documents That Shatter Your Image of Famous People

#2. Gertrude Stein Supported the Nazi Movement

Carl Van Vechten/William Thomas Cain/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Gertrude Stein, the famous Paris-based American novelist, was a hallmark of open-mindedness and experimentation. A key figure in modernist literature and an openly gay woman in a time when that sort of thing was generally frowned upon, she wrestled the world into accepting her open ideals about freedom, beauty, love, and all that other bohemian jazz. Also, she was a great big fan of fascism.

STF/AFP/GETTY IMAGES via NY Daily News
Almost as much as she liked taking portraits of herself with portraits of herself.

Archives reveal that Stein was a big fan of both Hitler's Germany and the Vichy government (the French extension of the Reich), to the point where she actively worked for them. After fascism rolled over France, Stein gleefully signed to the goose-stepping team as a propagandist, translating pro-Nazi speeches from French to English and even attempting to get them published in America. (The publisher's comment: "Over my dead body.") The hate-dripping content apparently didn't bother her at all, despite the fact that much of it revealed the Nazi persecution of the Jewish population, which she was a part of.

If that was the only thing she did, an argument could be made that Stein mainly took the gig to save her own butt -- the Vichy government wasn't exactly averse to sending its Jewish population to concentration camps. However, she had an enduring love affair with the entire concept of fascism: Stein greatly admired the cruel Spanish dictator Francisco Franco and once went on record suggesting that Hitler should totally be given a Nobel Peace Prize.

Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"I mean, World War II led to peace, right? And Hitler started World War II? Just sayin'..."

OK, that seems kind of bad, but it could still theoretically be just a wacky series of misunderstandings. It wasn't like she was throwing Nazi salutes at Hitler's bunker in 1945 or anything.

Wait, she did that exact thing? Never mind.

#1. Osama bin Laden's Management Style Was Straight from The Office

Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images

For over 20 years, Osama bin Laden ordered and organized al-Qaida attacks on the United States, Great Britain, Spain, and a whole slew of other countries, because nothing draws attention to the monstrosity of your Western adversaries like pointlessly killing thousands of innocent people. He has since moved on to other things.

Getty Images/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Sharks, mainly.

For a long time, bin Laden seemed like the ultimate supervillain, an unbeatable mastermind who skillfully led his organization while running circles around the coalition forces, occasionally busting out his $40 camcorder to make a gloating video. However, recently recovered al-Qaida documents show bin Laden in a very different light. Instead of being a ruthless Bond villain slash evil genius, bin Laden's management tactics made him a lot closer to The Office's Michael Scott.

We've talked before about how bin Laden wanted to change al-Qaida's name because he felt people had a negative view of the brand. Well, it turns out that's the sort of "writing memos just to have something to do" task that bin Laden was all about. Seized letters show that a huge chunk of bin Laden's time was wasted on useless micromanaging usually reserved for managers with way too many buzzword seminars under their belt -- by the end, bin Laden was even forcing his top terrorists to turn in a freaking job resume so that he could pore over them and decide who to promote and demote.

Al-Jazeera/AP/File via Christian Science Monitor
"Where do you see yourself in five yea- ... three ... one month?"

This is when you realize how much of al-Qaida's war was apparently fought via documents that were mailed back and forth, to be revised and updated. One of bin Laden's final letters includes paragraphs like this:

Enclosed is a statement to the nation in regard to the revolutions. Please review it and if there are remarks on parts of it by the brothers then there is no problem in revising it. Then send it to al-Jazeera Network, noting that I have enclosed a copy of it in a new [memory] card with nothing else on it.

Google Drive

And:

Enclosed is a file titled "Suggestions Toward Resolving Crises in Yemen," if you could rearrange the ideas in it and reshape them and publish it under your name, or if you do not see that as appropriate, put my son Khalid's name on it and direct the article to the scholars and dignitaries of Yemen.

Letters from other al-Qaida members included endless revisions to speeches and press releases, including one addressing an al-Qaida statement that mistakenly referred to Ben Franklin as an ex-president, adding the disclaimer:

... plenty of the Americans may also think that (Franklin) a president, because of his picture on the currency that usually carries the photos of the presidents.

Sipa Press/Rex Features via The Telegraph
It's the sort of dedicated, behind-the-scenes work that goes into terrorism that most people just don't understand.

That same letter also referred to an apparent debate about whether bin Laden's future video releases should be in HD, or artificially made to look grainy:

Accordingly, a high quality speech (HD) may receive some interest by some channels in the 10th anniversary. If the quality of the new [bin Laden] speech is high, relative to the two previous speeches, you may think to compress it or take some measures to decrease the quality, to be similar to the previous ones, and I am talking seriously.

Yeah, it was pretty much just another office job.

Colin Walton/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images
"DAMMIT, JIM!"

What is strangest about all of this is that it's not actually clear to experts if bin Laden was even in charge of al-Qaida at that point or if he just thought he was, drafting his endless memos and letters while his underlings rolled their eyes and humored him. Yeah, we're starting to think that bosses are the same everywhere.


Matthew is a freelance writer and takes payment in the form of hugs. His Twitter can be found here. Evan V. Symon is a moderator in the Cracked Workshop. He can be found on Facebook, and be sure to bookshelf and vote for his new book, The End of the Line.

We all have our shameful pleasures. But moreover we all have those shameful pleasures we'll defend to the death. In our latest podcast, Daniel O'Brien hosts Cracked Columnist Soren Bowie and Riot's Liana Maeby to discuss their terrible tastes in pop culture. You can download it here and subscribe to it on iTunes here.



Related Reading: And if you think THESE lost documents change everything, wait until you read about The Gospel According to Jesus. Oh, and the Gospel of Eve might have also changed a few things. If you're more interested in the opposite of lost documents, why not read about these secrets that were leaked in incredibly dumb ways.

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