Sunday, February 19, 2012

Nazi forged bank notes hit sterling confidence, MI5 files showBy Sanchia Berg

Nazi counterfeiting "destroyed" confidence in the British currency in Europe by the end of World War II, according to newly released MI5 files.

A 1945 report in the National Archives suggests Germany began production of the fake notes five years earlier in a bid to undermine sterling.

Notes began to enter neutral countries by D-Day and the Bank of England issued the first of two recalls.

The Nazis produced counterfeit sterling with a face value of £134m in total.

That was the equivalent of 10% of all sterling in circulation.

The newly released files include a report on currency, written by banker Sir Edward Reid of MI5's section B1B in August 1945.

He said a captured SS Officer revealed that the Germans had started to make fake notes in 1940, planning to scatter them from the air during the invasion of Britain, creating confusion, damaging confidence.

Although the invasion was postponed, the work continued, and the quality of counterfeits improved.

He noted the fraud became so skilful that "it is impossible for anyone other than a specially trained expert to detect the difference between them and genuine notes".

Black market

Although MI5 did not realise it at the time, the notes were being made at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp by prisoners, many of whom were Jewish.

I met one, Adolph Burger, in 2007. He proudly showed me one of his £5 notes.

On watermarked paper, with elegant copperplate script, and engraving of Britannia, it was a perfect counterfeit.

He knew, because there was a pinhole in the Britannia, that it was a Sachsenhausen product.

The prisoners had marked these notes.

Not all the notes were used, but as early as 1943 the Bank of England were concerned.

According to John Keyworth, the Bank's historian, that was when all notes with a face value of £10 or more were recalled.

MI5 knew that German agents arriving in Britain were supplied with fake notes, and that counterfeits with a face value of thousands were being used in neutral countries.

The fake notes circulated in neutral Portugal and Spain, partly with the objective of raising money for the Nazi cause, and later turned up in Egypt.

After D-Day in June 1944, large numbers of these notes started to appear in Britain.

According to MI5, Allied soldiers - mostly Polish and American - had been selling army stores on the black market for French francs and then trading these for discounted sterling notes.

When these were brought to British banks, they were found to be forgeries.

Charlie Chaplin files

Although this trade had been falling off in August 1945, according to Sir Edward the only way to restore confidence in the currency would be for the Bank of England to recall all notes with a face value of £5 or more, and print new ones.

That is what happened.

The bank issued new notes with an added security feature - a metal strip.

"In general it can be said that the German object of destroying confidence abroad in Bank of England notes has been achieved," Sir Edward wrote.

The MI5 files released also include one on the British actor Charlie Chaplin, begun in 1952.

That was when the FBI decided to revoke his US re-entry permit, partly because they believed he was a Communist.

MI5 investigated, and decided he was not a security risk.

However, they could not find his birth certificate which led them to speculate he might not have been born in south London in 1889, as he had always claimed.

Chaplin's official biographer, David Robinson, has dismissed that, saying not every birth was registered at that time.

He has found plenty of evidence that Chaplin's family were in London then, in and out of the workhouse.

Darwin, 1942: Remembering Australia's 'Pearl Harbor'By Duncan Kennedy

Darwin, 1942: Remembering Australia's 'Pearl Harbor'By Duncan Kennedy

BBC News, Darwin

It's 70 years since Japanese bombers swooped on Darwin, in northern Australia, sinking Allied ships in the harbour and killing hundreds of people. For years the attack was rarely mentioned, but now the story is finally being told.

If 7 December 1941 is "a date that will live in infamy" for the United States, then 19 February 1942 is surely one that will join it in the annals of shame for Australia.

That was the day, just 10 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when the same carrier-based Japanese force turned its attention to the small northern town of Darwin, with equally calamitous results.

But the world remembers one and barely recalls the other.

The seven-volume Official History of the Australian Army in World War II devotes only two pages to the attack on Darwin.

Yet in truth, Darwin was Australia's Pearl Harbor - a morning attack carried out on an unsuspecting population that ended with the deaths of hundreds of people and the sinking of numerous Allied ships.

Continue reading the main story

Start Quote
We could see the red dots on the side of the aircraft, they were so low”
End Quote
Margaret Herron


But it's only now that the story of Darwin has been given the same kind of historical attention that's long been focused on the attack on Hawaii.

There are many reasons for this. Chief among them are that:

it happened just three months after Pearl Harbor and was overshadowed by it
communications out of Darwin were poor and it took time for the news to filter out
the Australian authorities played it down, for fear of provoking national panic
On the day itself, the first wave of Japanese bombers was spotted over an island north of Darwin half an hour before the attack, but they were mistaken for American Kittyhawks.

It wasn't until a few seconds before they dropped their bombs that the first siren in Darwin was sounded, and this delay added to the casualty toll.

Over the next 40 minutes or so, some 188 Japanese aircraft strafed the docks, ships and surrounding town.

"We could see the red dots on the side of the aircraft, they were so low," says Margaret Herron, an 11-year-old girl at the time.

"We thought they were dropping silver bells, until we realised they were bombs. I was terrified and ran to shelter in a quarry."

Another deadly wave then followed.
By the time the Japanese left, eight ships had been sunk - including the American destroyer, the USS Peary - 22 aircraft destroyed, dozens of buildings crushed and more than 240 people killed.

It was the worst wartime loss of life on Australian soil in the country's history.

More than 60 other aerial bombardments would follow, up until November 1943, but none as destructive as the first.

"It was a disaster," says Dr Tom Lewis, a historian and director of the new $12m (£7.6m) Darwin Military Museum.

"Australians had been fighting in Europe and the Far East, but now the war had come to us. We had never experienced anything like it."

What followed next helped account for the raid's absence in the Australian consciousness for decades to come.

First, Darwin had no telephones. This frontier town, of about 4,000 people at the extremities of a vast continent, had to rely on the telegraph to make contact with the outside world, so news of the attack was fragmented and inconsistent.

Second, there was a panicky response by the population and by some in the military, with an unseemly scramble to get away, for fear of a Japanese invasion.

Third, there was a shocking lack of leadership among the civilian administration and the military, which compounded the sense of chaos and incompetence.

It was a somewhat ignoble record - one that not everyone wanted to see in the history books.

A sense of partial anarchy prevailed in the hours and days immediately after the raid.
For example, the station commander of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) ordered his men to rendezvous in the bush, but as the instruction was passed around by word of mouth, its message became confused.

Four days after the bombing, nearly 300 RAAF personnel were still missing, leading to claims some had deserted. One man turned up in Melbourne, 13 days later.

The Northern Territories administrator, Aubrey Abbott, appeared to compound the problems by his ineptitude.

In an acclaimed book on the Darwin bombing, An Awkward Truth, Peter Grose writes that Abbott tried to enlist the help of military police to restore order, but that they ended up drunk and took part in the looting that followed the attacks.

Abbott himself spent his time securing his drinks cellar and making sure the bank's money was sent away for safe keeping - a strange set of priorities for a man whose town was in ruins.

However, unlike many, he did, a least, stay at his post, remaining for another 12 days after the assault.

One of the few other laudable responses to the raid had come from the gunners who'd tried to repel the Japanese onslaught, though their meagre munitions made them no match for their aerial opponents.

The federal government in Canberra was stunned by the attack, and withheld the number of fatalities for some time.

Author and blogger Lisa Hill says: "This was partly because of the confusion and partly because of misguided censorship. There were fears about public alarm and concern about awkward questions being raised about the adequacy of Australia's defences."

It didn't help that Prime Minister John Curtin was being treated in hospital for exhaustion, or that the cabinet was squabbling over where to send Australian troops in the aftermath of the fall of Singapore, which had taken place four days earlier.

So, with all the dithering, failure of leadership and generally embarrassing response to what was clearly a pre-existing Japanese threat to the strategically important harbour at Darwin in the weeks following Pearl Harbor, it's perhaps not surprising that history has been unkind to its suffering and loss.

Today, though, that is changing.

As well as the new museum, a memorial stone has been built by the quayside, bearing the names of some of the dead and recording the heroic deeds of some of the living, all of which helps bring the more illustrious side of the story back to life.

On his visit to Darwin last November, US President Barack Obama reaffirmed the importance of the raid he referred to as Australia's Pearl Harbor.
Against overwhelming odds, our forces [US and Australian] fought back, with honour and with courage," he said. "The days after Darwin were tough. Some thought Australia might fall. But we dusted ourselves off. We picked ourselves up. We rebuilt."

To emphasise Darwin's renewed relevance, he announced that hundreds of US marines are to be stationed there, implicitly underlining the current American concern with China.

The aftermath of the Darwin attack might not have covered Australians in glory and dignity.

But that's no reason not to remember the day itself, when, like Pearl Harbor, Darwin's skies were darkened by the menacing presence of an unforgiving enemy.

It was not a good look'
It is not hard to make the case that when war came to our shores with the bombing of Darwin on February 19, 1942... Australians behaved abominably.

There was panic, looting, cowardice, desertion and a stampede south to get out of harm's way.

Yet we could ask ourselves today: If you were under attack from waves of Japanese aircraft dropping more bombs than fell on Pearl Harbor, were unprepared, had not received any training drills, had no warning, had no leadership and feared imminent invasion, might you have behaved in the same way?

It took many years for the awkward truth to emerge about the panic and abject failure of leadership following the bombing. By any analysis, it was not a good look. Yet the negative truth masked other, equally true, stories of courage and heroism among soldiers, sailors and civilians alike.

Mark Day in The Australian, 11 February 2012

Pain and redemption of WWII interned Japanese-AmericansComments (131) By Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Pain and redemption of WWII interned Japanese-AmericansComments (131) By Cordelia Hebblethwaite

BBC World Service

Seventy years ago, in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attacks, the US West Coast was cleared of Japanese-Americans. More than 110,000 people were put into internment camps, in what was the largest official forced relocation in US history. For many who lived through it, the story remains a painful one.

Now aged 87, Mary Matsuda Gruenewald cuts an elegant and strong figure. She speaks vividly and with almost photographic detail as she recalls the time she and her family spent in internment camps during World War II.

But it wasn't always so - it was only many years after she left the camp that she felt able to tell the story, even to her own children.

"I was afraid that if I started talking about it, I would cry.

"And I didn't want to cry in front of my children, so I kept it all in."

Mary was 16 years old at the time of the Pearl Harbor attacks, and had been living an idyllic life on Vashon, a small rural island just off the coast of Seattle.

Looking Like The Enemy

Her parents ran a strawberry farm, and were regarded as upstanding members of the community - good, hard-working and church-going.
Mary and her brother Yoneichi were born in the US, and considered themselves both American and Japanese. So they were just as shocked as the rest of the nation when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941, killing more than 2,400 Americans.

The nation was now at war and, because of their Japanese connections, they overnight came to be seen as the enemy.

"We were not white and so we stood out - there was no way for us to hide."

"The propaganda in the newspapers, on the radio, in the magazines, the caricatures - all this was overwhelming, and it just kept coming and coming," she recalls.

"We knew that something really bad would happen to us - we just weren't sure what it would be."

Leaving home

On 19 February 1942 - just over two months after Pearl Harbor - President Franklin D Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066. It allowed the military to designate "exclusion zones" and cleared the way for the removal into internment camps of more than 110,000 Japanese-Americans.

The government feared Japan's next move might be an attack on the US West Coast, and that the large community of Japanese-Americans living there might act as spies or collaborators.

The public was right behind the measures.

"There was very little dissent at the time," says Prof Greg Robinson, a historian at the University of Quebec at Montreal, and author of A Tragedy of Democracy: Japanese Confinement in North America, and By Order of the President.

"On the West Coast the political class was for it. In the rest of the country, people really didn't know or care - they just thought if the government was moving people, they knew what they were doing."

In May 1942 that order became a reality for Mary. Her family were given eight days to leave their homes.

"We didn't know how long we would be going for, or where we would be going," remembers Mary.

She packed enough socks and underwear for one week, together with one coat and one pair of shoes.

Each family had a number assigned to them and were given tags to wear.

After arrival in Seattle, Mary and her family were walked past a large crowd of the city's residents.

"A few men swore at us, and shook their fists, and some spat on us.
The Minidoka Internment Camp in Idaho, one of the camps that housed Mary
"But the majority were silent as they watched us walk from the ferry dock to the waiting train."

The windows on the train were obscured and no-one knew where they were headed.

After three days, the train stopped at Pinedale, near Fresno in California, and an Assembly Centre where Mary and her family spent the first two months before being moved to the Lake Tule camp, and then a further two camps over the years.

Life inside

Mary's family stayed in a bare room approximately 20ft x 24ft (6m x 7m) with one small window and a bare light-bulb. They were each given a woollen blanket and an army cot for a bed.

Like many of those who were interned, her family referred to their accommodation as their "apartment". It was however, she says, a euphemism.

"It was a prison indeed… There was barbed wire along the top [of the fence] and because the solders in the guard towers had machine guns, one would be foolish to try to escape.

"There were these big searchlights that rotated all night long and they would flash through our window."

There were schools in the camps, but - as with the living quarters - the facilities were basic.

Mary recalls how - in the absence of typewriters - typing classes involved tapping their fingers on an imaginary keyboard.

Many of the teachers were from inside the camps, but some came from the outside.
There were schools in the camps, but the facilities were basic
To the young students - confined, rejected and cut off from the wider world - they were a source of both curiosity and of comfort.

"We saw these teachers and we thought, 'Oh my goodness, this is a white person, in here, to teach us, why are they here?

"They were trying to act as a counterbalance to what the rest of the nation was doing, and we truly appreciated it," says Mary.


One day they were given a questionnaire to fill in, asking whether they would be willing to serve in the US Army, and if they would pledge allegiance to the US and renounce loyalty to the Emperor of Japan.

Though they did not know it at the time, those who answered yes to both questions - as Mary's family did - would be classified as "loyals" and would be allowed to leave.
The young men, such as Mary's brother, were drafted into the US Army.

"As my brother got on the bus, drove through the gate and left, my mother and I wept, and wondered when it would be our turn to leave."

Her turn came soon afterwards, in August 1944, when she was sent to Chicago as part of the US Cadet Nurse Corps. She relished her new-found freedom and embraced it wholeheartedly.

"It was incredible - the sense that I could walk anywhere I wanted to, and enjoy the flowers, the grass, the trees and hear the birds - it was like being in heaven."

Two older nurses took her under their wing, treated her as an equal.

"I learnt a lot about what it means to feel despised, to be hated, to feel ashamed of who I was [during the internment].

So to be treated as a responsible, respectful person, I can't tell you the relief and the awe that I felt."

Just over a year later, in September 1945, her parents left the internment camp too.

But, for many, the life they returned to was very different to the one they left behind.

"The best estimate that I have heard is that 75% of people [who] moved, ended up losing their land," says Prof Robinson.

"Everybody lost something and many people lost everything."

For years, many Japanese-Americans stayed silent about what had happened.

"The shame that came from this whole period permeated our people, and nobody talked about it," says Mary.

In the 1980s, the US government issued a report stating that the internment had been "unjust and motivated by racism rather than real military necessity".

President Ronald Reagan took steps to try to redress what had happened, which culminated in 1992 with an apology from President George HW Bush and $20,000 (£12,600) paid out to each surviving member of the camps.

Mary treasures the letter of apology she received from President Bush and only regrets that her parents and her brother died before it came.

"I took that as evidence that - in spite of the things the government did - this is a country that was big enough to say, 'We were wrong, we're sorry.'"

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Mrs Lincolm I presume


Published: February 11, 2012

For 32 years, a portrait of a serene Mary Todd Lincoln hung in the governor’s mansion in Springfield, Ill., signed by Francis Bicknell Carpenter, a celebrated painter who lived at the White House for six months in 1864.

The story behind the picture was compelling: Mrs. Lincoln had Mr. Carpenter secretly paint her portrait as a surprise for the president, but he was assassinated before she had a chance to present it to him.

Now it turns out that both the portrait and the touching tale accompanying it are false.

The canvas, which was purchased by Abraham Lincoln’s descendants before being donated to the state’s historical library in the 1970s, was discovered to be a hoax when it was sent to a conservator for cleaning, said James M. Cornelius, the curator of the Lincoln library and museum in Springfield. The museum is planning to present its findings at a lecture on April 26.

“It was a scam to defraud the Lincoln family,” Mr. Cornelius said.

The Lincolns were not the only ones fooled. Ever since The New York Times announced the portrait’s discovery in 1929, on Feb. 12, Lincoln’s birthday, historians and the public have assumed it depicted Mary Todd Lincoln. It was reproduced in The Chicago Tribune and National Geographic, and versions of it still illustrate at least two biographies, including the latest paperback edition of Carl Sandburg’s 1932 “Mary Lincoln: Wife and Widow.”

In reality, the painting depicts an unknown woman and was created by an anonymous 19th-century artist, said Barry Bauman, the independent conservator who uncovered the fraud. The con, however, dates to the late 1920s, when the portrait was recast as that of Mrs. Lincoln, he said.

Mr. Bauman identifies the culprit behind the scam as Ludwig Pflum, who rechristened himself Lew Bloom and was given to the kind of self-invention that America became famous for during the industrial era. He worked as a jockey, circus clown, boxer and vaudevillian before settling on art collecting.

When he died less than a year after the painting’s public unveiling, an obituary in a Reading, Pa., newspaper noted that he “dabbled in oil paintings.” Apparently he dabbled more than anyone at the time realized.

Mr. Bauman, who offers his services pro bono to museums and nonprofit groups, said he believed that Mr. Bloom altered the subject’s facial features; painted over some accessories, including a necklace with a cross; and added a brooch with the president’s picture.

Mr. Bloom concocted a story to accompany his handiwork, saying that Mrs. Lincoln surreptitiously approached Mr. Carpenter while he was at the White House working on his 15-by-9-foot painting, “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” which hangs in the Capitol. She had planned a party, he said, where she would give the portrait as a surprise to her husband.

But, as the story went, after John Wilkes Booth shot the president at Ford’s Theater on April 14, 1865, the distraught and impoverished first lady asked Mr. Carpenter to dispose of it. Mr. Carpenter, Mr. Bloom claimed, sold it to a wealthy Philadelphia family, the Neafies, who in turn gave it to Mr. Bloom’s sister Susan, in thanks for her nursing a relative through a long illness.

Mr. Bloom attached a notarized affidavit attesting to this fabricated history on the back of the painting before exhibiting it as a “never-before-seen-portrait” in 1929 at Milch Galleries in Manhattan. “Bloom knew he could get away with it, for all of the individuals mentioned in the affidavit were dead,” Mr. Bauman said. “The smoking gun,” he explained, was that Mr. Bloom’s sister had been only 5 when the Neafie relative died.

Mr. Cornelius explained that the Lincoln family was an easy mark at the time. The president’s only surviving son, Robert Todd Lincoln, had died in 1926. Robert’s widow, Mary Harlan Lincoln, was still trying to stifle negative publicity about the Lincolns and even paid to squelch a series of articles about Robert’s institutionalizing his mentally unstable mother against her will in 1875. So Mr. Bloom most likely assumed that something that presented Mrs. Lincoln in a sympathetic light would appeal to the family, Mr. Cornelius said. Robert’s daughter, Jessie, bought the painting for $2,000 to $3,000.

It remained in the family’s hands until 1976, when Lincoln’s last living descendant, his great-grandson, Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith, gave the portrait to the Illinois State Historical Library (since renamed the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum).

The portrait was then sent to the Art Institute of Chicago, where conservators quickly realized that significant parts of the canvas had been retouched.

The underlying portrait, they found, was of a different, plainer woman and painted in a different style. She was wearing a cross, which would have been a bit odd for Mary, a Protestant. They also recognized that a brooch featuring the president’s picture that Mrs. Lincoln wore in the retouched painting had been added later.

Harold Holzer, a Lincoln scholar, said that Mrs. Lincoln always hated the 1857 photograph on which the brooch’s likeness of the president was based, complaining about “the disordered condition of his hair.”

“If Frank Carpenter had ever produced a picture with that image, Mary would have broken it over his head,” Mr. Holzer said.

But if the Art Institute conservators suspected fraud, there is nothing in their correspondence to indicate it, Mr. Cornelius said. In letters from 1977 and 1978, they suggest that the changes were the result of “heavy-handed” restorers who had preceded them. As for the lack of resemblance to Mrs. Lincoln, a conservator wrote that “many an artist idealizes their sitter.”

The state historian at the time, William Alderfer, instructed the conservators to leave in both the Lincoln brooch and the cross, and the reworked painting was then hung in the governor’s mansion.

As it turns out, Mr. Bauman remembers the painting’s being worked on when he was an assistant curator at the Art Institute in 1977 and 1978. Although there is no mention of the artist’s signature in the letters, he said his predecessors must have noticed that “F. B. Carpenter” had been added later, because it clearly had been placed atop the original varnish.

Musing on why they did not delve deeper into the inconsistencies, Mr. Bauman said that conservators often considered the objects they worked on like foster children. “We didn’t create them, but somehow they become part of our lives, and we want to see them succeed,” he said.

Last May Mr. Cornelius visited Mr. Bauman’s studio, and the two men discussed what Mr. Bauman had found. They stared at the portrait for a long while, Mr. Bauman recalled; then Mr. Cornelius declared, “It’s not Mary Lincoln.”

Mr. Bauman replied, “Not only is it not Mary Lincoln, it’s not Francis Carpenter.”

The restored portrait will not be returned to the governor’s mansion, Mr. Cornelius said. The original painting of the now unknown woman may be hung in the Lincoln library. It has lost most of its value (it is insured for $400,000), he said, but it still comes with an intriguing story.

And this one has the benefit of being true.