5 Lost Documents That Shatter Your Image of Famous People
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 ...
Mother Theresa Lost Her Faith Decades Before She Died
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.
"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.
"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.
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.
The Creator of Winnie the Pooh Wrote the Nastiest Propaganda in World War I
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.
"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 ...
Henry Ford's Nazi Connections Were Way Deeper Than Anyone Thought
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.
"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 ...
Gertrude Stein Supported the Nazi Movement
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.
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.
"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.
Osama bin Laden's Management Style Was Straight from The Office
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.