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Posted Monday, June 21, 2005

For some reason those letters never made it into the official volumes of Churchill Roosevelt correspondence -- an omission I have rectified in 'Churchill's War.' Now that's Real History. Spreads like Butter.

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June 19, 2005 (Sunday)
Key West (Florida)

AN email from a David Lock in Australia, a schoolboy. I had responded to his earlier query by directing him to similar letters from other pupils in the past. He now writes: "I was wondering if you could just briefly describe what you believe to be 'revisionist history'."

I reply: "Real History, as I call it, is history that is written directly from the archive documents and the true descriptions of the participants who were 'there.' Without political or academic interference or input or prejudice. Just real history. It spreads like butter, because it IS butter."


A RATHER pleasant message from the Imperial War Museum in Manchester [England], asking me to deliver a talk on the sixtieth anniversary of Hiroshima. I happen to be quite an expert on that, and have collected a dossier on that very topic. I reply:

I . . . will prepare a solid talk based on the documents which I shall also be using in my third volume of my Churchill biography, "Churchill's War", vol. iii: "The Sundered Dream". ...


I BEGIN reading a monograph which the National Security Agency has today sent me, Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939--1945.

I do not know if the author Robert J Hanyock is Jewish -- he is the usual Holocaust scholar, and his mention of the "scholarly" IHR is tinged with both admiration and scorn. I read the Introduction, then briefly skim the index for references to Heinrich Himmler.

The very first one shocks me -- though less because of the content of the intercepted signal, from a Nazi police unit in Russia reporting a My-Lai type reprisal operation, than for its most unscholarly translation.

The German original reads: An Rf SS und Chef Orpo. An Strasse Bobruisk-Mogilew, Partisanenkampf: 16 Mann von Pol.batl. 51 gefallen. Das Dorf Borki, in dem Waffen und Munition gefunden wurden, wurde dem Erdboden gleichgemacht. Die Einwohnerschaft liquidiert. Von Höherer SS und Pol.führer Russland Mitte.

As any German scholar knows, this translates as:

To Reichsführer-SS and Chief of Police [Himmler]. Fight with Partisans on Bobruisk to Mogilev road. Sixteen men of Police Battalion 51 killed in action. The village of Borki in which weapons and ammunition were found was razed to the ground. The inhabitants liquidated. From Senior SS- and Police Chief, Russia Center,

-- i.e. the very charming SS Obergruppenführer Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski, who later became a key witness for the Americans at Nuremberg.

Bad enough, but no doubt similar to how American forces have more recently operated in Falluja, Panama, Grenada, and previously in countless other America-popularizing initiatives around the world.

What shocks me is the NSA's translation of the central sentence ending, "... dem Erdboden gleichgemacht." It reads:

In the town [sic] of Borki weapons and ammunition were discovered buried in the ground in the usual manner.

Now, let's see: the NSA has the job of intercepting foreign messages and translating them into English, for national security. That's their name. That's their job. But on this showing, if Mohammad Atta had been overheard saying in Arabic, "we're going to raze those Twin Towers to the ground", the NSA guys would have reported that he was going to be "burying those two towels in the ground in the usual manner" and passed on to more urgent matters.

Billions of tax dollars for the NSA, and this is the best their scholars can do?

IT reminds me of "Skunky" Evans at the High Court, Professor Lipstadt's highly paid (fee: over a quarter of a million dollars) chief expert on German documents and history (of whom we have heard distressingly little of late). My cross examination of Professor Richard Evans brought out his dazzling ignorance of German, on Day 21 of the Lipstadt Trial.

Dr Joseph Goebbels had been quoted in a 1939 document as blustering that in coming days thousands of Jews would have to be bumped off, werden daran glauben müssen (not that it was done, of course); but Evans ponderously, literally, and meaninglessly translated that German slang phrase in his expert statement [page 261, paragraph 11] as "Thousands of Jews would have to believe in it in the coming days."

There was loud and incredulous laughter from the German journalists, like Eva Menasse of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, crowding the press box. Skunky's face clouded with anger in cross-examination as I told him that there was a colloquial meaning to that baffling German phrase, one every schoolchild knows. Bumped off. Terminated. Offed. Whacked.

His never very good humor finally "went for a Burton," as we say in English. His reputation as a German scholar was dem Erdboden gleichgemacht.


June 21, 2005 (Tuesday)
Key West (Florida)

B. PHONES; the doctor has now given her a box to wear on one wrist to monitor her muscle action. . . Mentions that Jessica has been chosen to represent her school at a math competition at Mill Hill school. How proud I am of that little mite.

I see that a Churchill painting has sold at Christie's for a record price, £344,000. The Times reported it on June 11, 2005:

Churchill Record -- A painting by Sir Winston Churchill of a scene in northern France in 1921 set an auction record for his work at Christie's in London. On the Rance, near St Malo, signed with his initials, was sold by the family for £344,000 -- more than four times the estimate -- to an American biding on the telephone.

I do hope for the buyer's sake it is a genuine Winston Churchill and not a Konrad Kujau, a fake. Churchill of course is no stranger to counterfeit art: in dire financial straits in the 1930s he took to faking the paintings of the deceased French impressionist Charles Maurin because Maurin's signature sold somewhat better in the Left Bank boutiques in those days than did his own.

President Franklin D Roosevelt spotted the little deception, and wrote him a joshing letter about it in February 1942. For some reason those letters never made it into the official volumes of Churchill Roosevelt correspondence -- an omission I have rectified in "Churchill's War", vol. ii: "Triumph in Adversity". Now that's Real History. Spreads like Butter. 

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