Talk:Michel Thomas/Archive 2
|This is an archive of past discussions. Do not edit the contents of this page. If you wish to start a new discussion or revive an old one, please do so on the current talk page.|
- 1 NOTICE: THIS ARTICLE IS DISPUTED
- 2 A WORD FROM THE LOYAL OPPOSITION
- 3 POV Check
- 4 The Myth of Michel Thomas
- 5 Roy Rivenburg and Michel Thomas
- 6 ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW
- 7 The Dachau Deception
- 8 Worldwide Conspiracy to Discredit Thomas??
- 9 A smoking gun Thomas is afraid to let you see
- 10 Response from Friends of Michel Thomas
- 11 Smoking gun No. 2 on Thomas
- 12 Final Round?
- 13 Still Dodging the Issues
- 14 Bawk?
- 15 More Dodging
- 16 Battling the Hydra
- 17 Thomas' Army status
- 18 Time for Little Chat?
- 19 Reply to 'Little Chat'
- 20 Questions for the reporter
- 21 Answers from the reporter
- 22 NPOV flag etc
- 23 Defendant in defamation suit allowed to write a Wikipedia entry about the plaintiff?
- 24 Reply to 'Defendant in defamation suit...'
- 25 A Journalist Trained to Present All Views?
- 26 Reply to 'A Journalist Trained to...'
- 27 Feldgrau.net
- 28 Reply to 'Feldgrau'
- 29 Telling
- 30 Reply to 'Telling'
- 31 Reply to Reply to 'Telling'
- 32 Reply to 'Telling's' reply
- 33 An Analogy
- 34 Michel Thomas's life should be described in the proper perspective
- 35 New Year, New Leaf?
- 36 Michel Thomas Apologizes
- 37 Removal of Michel Thomas Method Section
- 38 I'll shut up
- 39 Michel Thomas
- 40 The Michel Thomas Method
- 41 The Michel Thomas Method
- 42 The Michel Thomas Method
- 43 Shorten?
- 44 Reedit
- 45 Undid reedit
- 46 New description of the Thomas method
- 47 New description of the Thomas method
- 48 Undos of "by Roy Rivenburg" byline
- 49 Fact vs. Opinion
- 50 Selective Highlighting of Facts to Shape Opinion
- 51 Reply to "Selective Highlighting..."
- 52 Original Research and Neutrality Tags
- 53 WikiProject class rating
- 54 Inclusion of Silver Star Citation Language
- 55 Removal of Newsday quote re: private investigator
- 56 Reply to 'Removal of Newsday...'
- 57 This is absurd
- 58 Reply to 'This is absurd'
- 59 Time to Whack Another Hydra Head
- 60 Reply to 'Whack another hydra'
- 61 There You Go Again
- 62 Reply to 'There you go again'
- 63 Removal of Feldgrau link
- 64 Disjointed Article
- 65 Comment
NOTICE: THIS ARTICLE IS DISPUTED
Readers of this article should be aware that much of it has been drafted by a man who was sued by Michel Thomas for defamation, Los Angeles Times staff writer Roy Rivenburg, who has made numerous comments below. Mr. Rivenburg has repeatedly altered edits to the article so that it conforms to his view of Mr. Thomas's life. The neutrality of the article has accordingly been put in dispute status by Wikpedia, and the article should not be relied upon as an accurate description of Mr. Thomas's life that meets Wikipedia's standards. For more information about the defamation suit against Mr. Rivenburg and the Los Angeles Times, please see http://www.michelthomas.org, or simply use a search engine with appropriate terms.
The Friends of Michel Thomas
A WORD FROM THE LOYAL OPPOSITION
The original Wikipedia entry on Michel Thomas, written by his supporters, was declared "non-neutral" by Wikipedia editors (see "POV Check" below). Among other things, it failed to mention that Mr. Thomas' claims have been disputed by numerous sources, including the U.S. Justice Department's former chief Nazi hunter, an Oscar-winning documentary, the Los Angeles Times, Le Monde, Newsday, the prosecutor at Klaus Barbie's trial, military records and more. Of course, Thomas also has supporters -- and a truly neutral Wikipedia entry should include evidence from both. As for Mr. Thomas' libel lawsuit against the Los Angeles Times and me, his case was thrown out of court by four federal judges. Afterward, Times editor John Carroll said, "I'm very proud of that story. We haven't retracted a word of it, and we don't intend to because it was true." Readers can visit Thomas' website and mine, offkilter.org/thomas.html, and judge for themselves what to believe.
-- Roy Rivenburg
I got a message from another editor on this article and within about 20 seconds I have to say it was clear to me this article is in need of a serious NPOV edit. The first line alone says it all:
- Michel Thomas (3 February 1914–8 January 2005) a renowned linguist and language teacher, was a figure of legendary WWII courage who lived one of the most colorful and adventurous lives of his era.
The adjectives and superlatives just jump out at you as inherently non-neutral, editorial, and without serious concern for what is encyclopedic. Take, as a counter-example the lead for Gandhi:
- Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (2 October 1869–30 January 1948) (Devanagari, Hindi: मोहनदास करमचन्द गांधी,Gujarati:મોહનદાસ કરમચંદ ગાંધી) was the spiritual and political leader of India who led the struggle for India's independence from the British Empire, empowered by tens of millions of Indians.
Here you have someone of far greater notoriety and respect and his lead isn't overflowing with the superlatives, the closest it comes is "empowered by tens of millions of Indians" which is a fact.
So, I feel this article needs an experienced hand to go through it, if I have the time it may even be me. This article is also entirely unsourced and needs healthy dose of sourcing.
--Wgfinley 00:40, 28 December 2005 (UTC)
The Myth of Michel Thomas
Doubts about the honesty of Michel Thomas have cropped up repeatedly over the years. In 2001, my editors at the Los Angeles Times asked me to investigate some of his hard-to-believe World War II tales. I soon discovered we weren't the first to question his truthfulness. Eighteen years earlier, the U.S. Department of Justice's chief Nazi investigator called a press conference to denounce Thomas' Klaus Barbie stories. "I find it pretty hard to put any credibility in what Thomas says," the DOJ investigator told reporters. Nobody paid much heed, but four years later, after Thomas testified at Barbie's trial in France, prosecutor Pierre Truche reached the same conclusion, telling the jury that "with the exception of Mr. Thomas, all the witnesses are of good faith." Other skeptics included an Oscar-winning documentary ("Hotel Terminus"), Le Monde and Histoire, France's version of the History Channel. (Thomas had also been sued numerous times for failure to pay taxes, rents and other debts.)
Our research found additional dubious stories:
1. Thomas claimed he was an officer in the U.S. Army. In fact, he was a civilian employee, and the Los Angeles Times has National Archives military documents from 1946 bearing Thomas' signature over the words "civilian assistant." Rather than admit exaggerating, Thomas sued the paper for questioning his military status. (The lawsuit was thrown out of court by a federal judge and Thomas' appeal was rejected by the 9th Circuit Court and the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also ordered to pay the Times $98,000 for legal fees). In July 2004, his private investigator finally conceded to Newsday that Thomas was never inducted.
2. In his 1999 biography, "Test of Courage," Thomas said he was born in Poland. However, for 38 years, he told reporters he was born in France -- and different parts of France at that. A minor detail, perhaps, but one that again reflects on his credibility.
3. In the book, Thomas said he accompanied the first battalion of U.S. troops when it entered the Dachau concentration camp on the morning of April 29, 1945. After the L.A. Times proved otherwise (to the point that even his biographer acknowledged the story was wrong), Thomas tried to backtrack by claiming he never said he was with the first battalion, only that he arrived at Dachau sometime later that day. Unfortunately for Thomas, he had repeated his original tale in a sworn declaration filed with his libel lawsuit ("On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops"). Only after his private investigator interviewed the commander of that battalion, Felix Sparks, and realized Thomas' story didn't hold up, did Thomas begin insisting he never said he was with the 3rd battalion. Another hole in Thomas' story involved the photos he said he took at Dachau on April 29. They were marked "May 1945."
4. Thomas said he single-handedly discovered and rescued millions of Nazi Party ID cards from destruction at a paper mill near Munich in May 1945. But his version of events is flatly contradicted by 1945 articles in the New York Times and London Express. It's no accident these detailed articles were never mentioned in Thomas' libel lawsuit or on his website attacking our investigation. Their very existence blows apart several linchpins in his story. Thomas' version of events can be broken down into three separate claims -- that he found the ID cards on his own, that he engineered press coverage of the discovery in May 1945, and that the media spotlight forced his 7th Army superiors to swiftly remove all the documents from the mill for safekeeping. Two of those claims are false beyond any doubt. The third is also questionable, especially considering Thomas' indisputable fabrications on the rest of the story. Here's what really happened: In May 1945, paper mill owner Hans Huber went to 7th Army officials and told them about the ID cards. In response, according to military records, Counter Intelligence Corps agent Francesco Quaranta visited the mill, and returned with some samples. It's conceivable that Thomas accompanied Quaranta (which might explain how he reportedly came to possess several documents from the mill), but that's a radically different scenario from Thomas' tale of learning about the ID cards from his scout and making a solo rescue of them. There's also no truth to Thomas' claim that he leaked word of the discovery to the press, thereby goading his 7th Army superiors into removing the files from the mill in May. In reality, there was no press coverage until October of that year -- and it's clear from reading the stories that Thomas played no role in causing it. More importantly, military records state that the 7th Army "abandoned" the Nazi ID cards after Quaranta's visit to the mill. It moved on to another part of Germany and left the cards at the paper mill. If not for the persistence of mill owner Huber and the arrival of the 3rd Army months later, the documents might never have been saved. The NY Times and London Express make it clear that the real hero was Huber, a German who defied the Nazis. Army journalist Stefan Heym's 1945 account agrees, and his lengthy history of the cards dovetails with the press stories. In other words, all the sources from that era -- newspapers, Heym and military records -- unanimously contradict key details of Thomas' story and give full credit to Huber. Moreover, when Thomas was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times, he couldn't name the town where the mill was located, couldn't describe the building and even claimed the ID cards specifically mentioned the Nazi Party, which they don't.
5. Elsewhere in the biography, Thomas portrayed himself as a real-life Hogan's Heroes, able to escape concentration and slave labor camps repeatedly at will. In one story, after learning his girlfriend secured his release by granting a romantic favor to a diplomat, Thomas claimed he voluntarily returned to imprisonment because he didn't want to be freed under such circumstances. Another prison-break tale featured him crawling under a bed when some guards unexpectedly came into the room where he was hiding on his way out of camp. In a scene that is curiously reminiscent of several movie scripts, the guards got drunk and one passed out on the bed, pinning Thomas underneath all night. Another story depicts Thomas hiding in a well, telepathically ordering a dog to stop barking and go away, lest Thomas be discovered by Nazi pursuers.
Thomas claimed other Holocaust victims could have escaped too, if only they hadn't given up hope and surrendered to their fate. After The Times published that comment, Thomas tried to say he was misquoted. But it's spelled out in detail in his biography. See "hope, loss of" in the index. A truly NPOV article on Michel Thomas should recognize that there is debate over his World War II claims and incorporate the above information in a balanced fashion.
-- Roy Rivenburg
L.A. Times Editor John Carroll's 2004 statement about Michel Thomas:
"We published a story awhile back, by a very good and clever reporter named Roy Rivenburg, about a man who published his autobiography. And, if you read the [book], you'd be amazed you'd never heard of this man, because he pretty much single-handedly won World War II for us. It was a preposterous book, and our review of it was an investigative review. It debunked many of the claims in the book and had some fun doing it, had a few laughs at the author's expense. When you put yourself out in public and make claims that are preposterous, and publish a book on it, you're likely to get a reviewer who will look into that and set the record straight. I'm very proud of that story. We haven't retracted a word of it; we don't intend to because it was true."
Roy Rivenburg and Michel Thomas
Mr. Rivenburg and his employer the L.A. Times were sued by Michel Thomas for defamation in 2001, after Mr. Rivenburg's profile of Thomas, headlined "Larger Than Life" was published in April of that year. Mr. Thomas was then 87 years old. His biography, Test of Courage, had been published the year before, and had been favorably reviewed by the L.A. Times.
- - Mr. Rivenburg's profile portrayed Thomas as a fraud who had lied about or exaggerated his WWII service. In May 2001, a few weeks after the article ran, the Times published half a dozen letters in response to the article, the gist of them was that the article was the essence of "cheap shot journalism" as one letter-writer characterized it. -
- One of the published letters was from Dr. Theodore Kraus, a former U.S. Army Counter Intelligence Corps Agent who had served with Mr. Thomas in the CIC in Germany in 1946-47. He had been interviewed by Mr. Rivenburg, and fully supported Mr. Thomas' accounts of his work for the CIC, yet for some reason Dr. Kraus and his statements backing up Mr. Thomas were never mentioned in the article. He strongly disagreed with the article's take on Mr. Thomas's life, and asked in his letter why his own statements backing up Mr. Thomas's wartime CIC service were never mentioned in the article. -
- In June 2001, Mr. Thomas and his attorney hired me to do research that would establish the truth of Mr. Thomas's WWII service, to be used in the defamation case. I had never heard of the man and knew nothing about his past. -
- From my first meeting with him, it was clear to me that something was wrong. Among other things, the article had portrayed Mr. Thomas as a phony Dachau liberator. But Mr. Thomas showed me a briefcase full of original documents, including photos he took at the liberation of Dachau, for which he had the negatives. He also had signed original statements, in German, of the crematorium workers whom he had interrogated. Had the reporter simply ignored all this documentation? Had he researched its authenticity? Had he tried to locate persons who had served with Mr. Thomas during WWII? - - Unlike any real fraud, who would have avoided delving into details, Mr. Thomas gave me his full cooperation. He was never evasive, and during the course of the lawsuit he paid me to research his past. (Later on I donated my time pro bono.) -
- Over the course of the next couple of years, working with others, we found documentation in the U.S. National Archives and in Europe that completely corroborated Mr. Thomas's accounts of his wartime service. I met with noted French Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld in his office in Paris and obtained from him the original files establishing Mr. Thomas's bona fides as a recognized "ancien combattant" who had been imprisoned repeatedly in Vichy French concentration camps, tortured by the French version of the Gestapo -- the Milice -- and had been officially cited for his bravery fighting with the French Resistance. -
- We contacted Ms. Barbara Distel, who for decades has been the curator of the Dachau Memorial Museum, and sent her prints of twenty-three of the photos Mr. Thomas took at Dachau. She replied by letter that she and her staff had verified the authenticity of the photos, stating that “20 of the photos are unknown until now and seem to have been taken by Mr. Thomas," who still had the negatives for many of the photos. -
- At the National Archives, we found a list of the members of the 45th Division CIC unit in which Mr. Thomas had served. I tracked down every member of that unit and found a lone survivor, Mr. Walter Wimer, who lives today in Michigan. He had had no contact with Mr. Thomas since the war but was outraged at the Times' portrayal of Mr. Thomas, whom he remembered well for his extraordinary bravery and language skills. Mr. Wimer, himself an emigre of Hitler's Germany, happily provided a Declaration in the lawsuit in which, among other things, he stated that "Mr. Thomas was sent out on missions by our commanding officers, in the same capacity and with the same duties and powers as the other Agents of our unit." -
- In August 2002, I accompanied Mr. Thomas and Dr. Kraus to the reunion of the 45th Infantry Division in Oklahoma City. I witnessed first-hand Mr. Thomas' reunion with Henry Teichmann, who had written the orders releasing Mr. Thomas from the 180th Regiment of the 45th, in 1944. The two had not seen each other in nearly 60 years, but had a warm and emotional reunion that I videotaped.
- - Dr. Kraus spoke to the membership of the 180th that weekend, and they responded in force: more than 130 members sent signed cards to the L.A. Times, respectfully asking the paper to re-report the true facts of Mr. Thomas' life. I kept copies of these cards before shipping them to the L.A. Times via special delivery from Paris, after my meeting with Serge Klarsfeld. -
- No one at the Times ever responded to any of these, or more than 380 additional letters the paper received about their article. -
- After the reunion, another wartime comrade surfaced. Bedford Groves had served not only in the CIC with Mr. Thomas, but also knew him when Mr. Thomas served in the combat intelligence unit of the 180th Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. He sent a card recalling Mr. Thomas and when I contacted him he told me that Mr. Thomas "did the work of three Agents" in the CIC. -
- Witness testimony is the gold-standard of evidence for evaluating inflated claims of wartime heroism. Of the four surviving persons we located who had served with Mr. Thomas, every one of them fully supported his 'stories' of extraordinary wartime service. -
- In the meantime, the documentation from our research was piling ever higher. Mr. Thomas had been nominated for a Silver Star in 1944 for his bravery fighting with the 180th in France. He never knew what became of the nomination, and never pursued it, because he was honored enough to have served with the U.S. Army in the fight against the Nazis. -
- I found the widow of the man who wrote the original nomination letter, Capt. Martin Schroeder, and she verified his signature on the letter, and further stated that her husband would never have nominated someone for such a high decoration "unless he really deserved it." -
- At the National Archives, we found documentation of the Battle of Autrey France, which was described in Captain Schroeder's letter. -
- - What the Sources Said -
- I also interviewed people whom Mr. Rivenburg quoted in the article to discredit Mr. Thomas. Felix Sparks, who led the first troops into Dachau, was quoted in the article thus: "[Sparks] says he would certainly recall if Thomas had accompanied the 200-member force: 'He's got the right battalion, that's correct, but there were no CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] with us.'" -
- But when I interviewed Sparks, he told me, "this reporter called me and said, 'this guy Thomas says he went into Dachau with you as a CIC Agent.' I told him I never heard of the guy and I had no idea what any of those CIC guys did, and never knew any of them." I informed Sparks that, with all due respect, Mr. Thomas had never heard his name until he read the L.A. Times article, and had certainly never told the reporter he had 'gone in' with Lt. Col. Felix Sparks. Mr. Thomas did say, as his biographer made clear to Mr. Rivenburg in emails prior to the publication of his profile, that he had gone into Dachau on the day of liberation as a CIC Agent, who did not need to be "attached" to any infantry unit such as Mr. Sparks'. -
- Mr. Sparks signed a letter in May 2002 stating that, had he known this had been Mr. Thomas's claim, "I would have told Mr. Rivenburg that it was perfectly possible that Thomas was at the camp that day, and I would not necessarily have been aware of this." -
- Mr. Rivenburg's profile also quoted retired Lt. Col. Hugh F. Foster III, an expert on the liberation of Dachau: "Regarding Thomas' mention of tanks, Foster says there were no tanks because the bridges between the town of Dachau and the military camp across the river had been blown up. Thomas doesn't recall a river. Thomas says he entered the camp through the front gate, after the Germans waved white flags and opened fire on his group. But Foster and Sparks say the battalion deliberately avoided the front gate and circled around to another side of the sprawling camp." -
- I believe the implication of this is clear: Mr. Thomas was lying, was not at the liberation, and cannot recall things that a genuine liberator would recall. -
- When I interviewed Foster, I showed him the independent documentation we had found, along with some of the documents and photos Rivenburg had been shown, but did not mention or show to Foster when he interviewed him. Foster wrote a detailed statement, outlining the evidence he had seen, and concluded, "Based on my review of these documents and photos, I believe that Michel Thomas most likely was present at Dachau concentration camp on April 29, 1945." He added, "I do not know to what extent Mr. Roy Rivenburg was aware of the above information during his contacts with me. I do know that the essence of his correspondence with me was that Mr. Thomas had made the fraudulent claim that he accompanied the first troops to enter the concentration camp at Dachau. I am now aware that Mr. Thomas made no such claim; rather he claimed only to have been at the camp on liberation day, and I believe the evidence I have seen supports that claim." -
- I also interviewed Conrad McCormick, a CIC veteran and archivist at the U.S. Army Intelligence Museum in Fort Huachuca, Arizona, who was quoted in the article about Mr. Thomas's CIC ID card. During the interview, Mr. McCormick mentioned that he had been working for years on an index of the thirty-volume unpublished history of the CIC, compiled between 1950 and 1959 at the Army Intelligence School in Fort Holabird, Maryland. I asked him if he had looked up the name Michel Thomas in his index in response to Mr. Rivenburg's query. He said he had not, but did so while I looked on. -
- McCormick found an entry at p. 2862, of Vol. XX, concerning the small CIC unit in which Michel Thomas had been an Agent: -
- "Agents Thomas and White, on their way to pick up an automatic arrestee, were informed at Hersbruck that the town for which they were heading was in German hands. They collected tactical information about the situation ahead and forwarded it to Target Force Headquarters, along with a report of initial security measures they had instigated in Hersbruck. In addition to the normal arms collection, curfew, travel restrictions, and communications disconnection, the two Agents arrested an official of the Organization Todt and indicated the existence of a war crimes' situation in the town. Agent Schiff was performing all interrogations as the day ended. Most of this work had been performed in suburban areas." -
- (Later, I interviewed Ian Sayer, co-author of a book about the CIC, at his spacious home outside London. Sayer too, was quoted in the profile of Mr. Thomas, indicating his skepticism. Sayer maintains an extensive library of WWII documentation and memorabilia at his home. To my astonishment, Sayer produced the same page from the CIC history, and showed me the fax of it he had sent to Rivenburg in March 2001 after Rivenburg contacted him to research his story. However, no mention was made in the article of this entry documenting "Agent Thomas's" work in the official CIC history. ) -
- I informed Mr. McCormick that Mr. Thomas had photos of himself with Agent Frederick White, in their CIC Agent uniforms. I later contacted Frederick White’s widow and she supplied additional photos of her husband and Michel in their CIC uniforms in a car together, along with photos taken at the liberation of Dachau that matched those taken by Michel Thomas, for which he kept the negatives. -
- After the publication of Rivenburg’s article, the Los Angeles Times published a Letter-to-the-Editor indicating approval of his article by Mr. McCormick. It was the only letter of any substance published in support of the article. I showed Mr. McCormick that letter, published on 7th May 2001. He reacted with some indignance, and stated he had never written any such Letter-to-the Editor, and that it was not his practice ever to write such letters. He said he recognized some of the words in the letter from email correspondence and telephone calls between himself and Rivenburg. -
- In a sworn statement filed with the Court, McCormick declared: “I did not write any letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times. I recognise some of the contents of the letter published with my name, as text from email correspondence that I exchanged with Mr Rivenburg in the course of our contact regarding his enquiries for the article. However, whatever words of mine appeared in the alleged Letter to the Editor were not written to Mr Rivenburg or the Los Angeles Times with the intent that they would be published.”
- - So, where are we now? Four out of four of Mr. Thomas's surviving comrades are outraged at Mr. Rivenburg's portrayal and happily sign letters or sworn statements backing up Mr. Thomas. Two sources quoted in his article effectively recant their statements quoted in the article, and a third finds evidence that his quoted statement suggesting Thomas was not a bona fide CIC Agent was misleading or incorrect. And, finally, there is evidence of a planted Letter-to-the-Editor, amidst the many letters of outrage received.
- - - The Defamation Suit -
- Mr. Thomas did not prevail in his defamation suit, because the trial judge ruled that the article was not defamatory on its face. This was a curious ruling, insofar as she did agree that the article implied Thomas had lied about his past. So, apparently, one can be portrayed as a liar and a judge will nevertheless find that this is not prima facie evidence one has been defamed. -
- As a result of the ruling, Mr. Thomas was never allowed to put before a judge or jury any of the mountain of evidence supporting his 'claims.' Because of the peculiar provisions of California's anti-SLAPP legislation, which makes it nearly impossible for plaintiffs to prevail in defamation cases in California, Mr. Thomas was then forced to pay all of the L.A. Times' legal fees, amounting to nearly $100,000, but not before the judge reprimanded the Times' lawyers for 'rampant over-billing' and ordered them to cut their bill nearly in half.
- - With the L.A. Times stonewalling all of the letters of protest they'd received, and ignoring all of the evidence they'd been shown after the article was published, indicating they got the story wrong, the loss of the defamation case was devastating to Mr. Thomas. His biographer and several friends decided to put together all the evidence that we could not present in court, and post it on a web site. http://www.michelthomas.org was posted in July 2002. There you will find downloadable copies of scores of historical documents, along with a detailed rebuttal of Mr. Rivenburg's profile. -
- - Silver Star Awarded -
- The final coda to this story came in May 2004. In 2003, I had petitioned Senator John McCain and Mr. Thomas's member of Congress in New York, Carolyn Maloney, to submit to the U.S. Army the letters and documentation I had gathered concerning the Silver Star nomination. They did so, and the Army reviewed the documentation, conducted their own research, and awarded Mr. Thomas the Silver Star, sixty years after he'd been nominated for it.
- - Former Senator Bob Dole, a decorated and wounded WWII vet who had spearheaded the building of the new WWII Memorial on the Mall in Washington, DC, learned of the award and readily agreed to present the medal to Mr. Thomas. He invited his colleague Senator John Warner, also a wounded WWII vet, and on May 25th, the two pinned the medal on Mr. Thomas in a moving ceremony in the shadow of the Atlantic Wall of the Memorial. This ceremony took place just days before the official dedication of the Memorial, as over a million aging WWII vets gathered in Washington. In addition to Mr. Thomas's family and friends, two of his former WWII comrades made the trip to be at the ceremony: Dr. Kraus and Bedford Groves, the latter in a wheelchair because of his war wounds. The Ambassador of France also attended, and saluted Mr. Thomas for his heroism in the French Resistance. Press coverage of the event included these articles in the Army News Service and on CNN's Wolf Blitzer program: http://www.defendamerica.mil/profiles/may2004/pr052804b.html
- - The Los Angeles Times, which three years before had deemed Mr. Thomas sufficiently newsworthy to devote the front page of its Southern California Living section to a 3800-word profile of him, declined to cover this new development in his life, though they were informed in advance of it, and it directly touched upon areas of 'controversy' generated by their own reporter. -
- Letters of congratulation streamed in. Former Senator Max Cleland wrote to Mr. Thomas, "you are a genuine hero." -
- Two days later, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum paid a special tribute to Mr. Thomas, honoring him before a large crowd as a Dachau liberator, at the Museum's "Salute to Liberators" event. -
- - Posthumous Conduct -
- After all of this, rather than give any nod of credit to Mr. Thomas, Rivenburg, an ostensibly disinterested reporter, pounced when Thomas died in January 2005, publishing, "The Myth of Michel Thomas" on his personal web site at http://www.offkilter.org/thomas.html. He has repeated a good deal of that in the discussion above. The article includes links to other blogs, such as one by a Les Jones, http://www.lesjones.com/posts/001778.shtml, with the subhead "that lying old fraud Michel Thomas has died." -
- Mr. Rivenburg has engaged in an 'edit war' here on Wikipedia, with those, including myself, who have tried to correct the misleading impressions he gives in his allegedly objective account of Mr. Thomas's life. He continues to gin up fresh issues to give credence to the phony 'controversies' he has so tenaciously tried to generate.
- - In his entry above, for example, he makes much of the issue of what time of day Mr. Thomas arrived at Dachau, and which troops he accompanied. This is entirely typical of Mr. Rivenburg's M.O. from the time he first interviewed Mr. Thomas: nitpick myopically at small, alleged 'discrepancies,' refuse to accept anything Mr. Thomas said as true, overlook the preponderance of corroborating evidence, and then imply Mr. Thomas is a liar because he did not meet Mr. Rivenburg's insistently skeptical standard of proof.
- - Mr. Rivenburg's article strongly implied Mr. Thomas was a phony Dachau liberator. He has since been presented with so much evidence that he got that wrong that he now has moved the goalpost and insists the issue is that Mr. Thomas could not prove -- to Mr. Rivenburg's satisfaction -- what time of day, and with what troops, he entered the camp. -
- Mr. Thomas insisted to his dying breath that he was with the first troops to arrive at the camp, and I have no doubt that he did. But our purpose as researchers was to find corroborating evidence that he was a Dachau liberator, not to nail down what time of day he arrived -- as if that were of any importance.
- - Now, with Mr. Thomas dead and gone, Mr. Rivenburg writes that Mr. Thomas "tried to backtrack by claiming he never said he was with the first battalion, only that he arrived at Dachau sometime later that day." But this is not true. Mr. Thomas's statements were always consistent: as a CIC Agent, he had freedom of movement, and need not have been attached to any infantry regiment to enter the camp.
- - The historical record shows that it was troops of the 157th that entered the camp first. When Mr. Thomas learned at the time his biography was being written that this was the first regiment to enter the camp, he had no reason to think this was untrue, but the identity of the regiment was not important to him, and so this statement of fact made its way into his biography. Mr. Thomas's biographer Christopher Robbins informed Mr. Rivenburg in emails prior to publication of his profile that he had erred in assuming Mr. Thomas was attached to the 157th. -
- But Mr. Thomas never said he was a member of the 157th regiment, and he took pains to make it clear he was not, and had no need to be, 'attached' to this or any other infantry battalion or regiment, in order to enter the camp as a CIC Agent. -
- In addition to the photos and other documentation Mr. Thomas showed to Mr. Rivenburg, we found additional evidence at the National Archives establishing that Mr. Thomas arrested Emil Mahl, the 'hangman of Dachau' two days after the camp was liberated. Mr. Thomas showed Mr. Rivenburg a letter Mahl had written to him from Landsberg prison in 1949 -- after his execution sentence was reduced to a ten-year term -- complaining about details of his May 1945 arrest by Mr. Thomas. If Mr. Rivenburg assumed the letter was a fake, how does he argue away the correspondence log we found deep in the bowels of the National Archives, proving that Mahl sent a letter to Thomas on the very date shown on Mahl's letter? And what of the additional documentation we found in which Mahl attested, with witnesses, that the date of his arrest by Mr. Thomas was May 1st, 1945?
- - As Hugh Foster told me, even if you assume all of the documents and photos in Thomas's possession were fakes, or genuine items he obtained from others, this evidence of Mr. Thomas's arrest of Mahl is, alone, nearly conclusive evidence Mr. Thomas was a Dachau liberator, for how would Thomas have known who Mahl was, much less where to find him in the vicinity of Dachau two days after liberation, had Mr. Thomas not been there himself?
- - I could go on, but I doubt if even the most diligent and interested reader has the patience for details at this level. For the full story, go to http://www.michelthomas.org, and you will see the overwhelming evidence put forth there attesting to the truth of Mr. Thomas's 'claims' regarding his wartime service. He was a CIC Agent, he was a Dachau liberator, and he did rescue from destruction the Nazi Party's worldwide membership card file in the first week of May 1945. -
- Mr. Rivenburg has written a large body of articles for the L.A. Times in the many years he has been a staff reporter there. Some of them show a talent for humor-writing. On this story, about a serious subject, he did real harm to someone who spent the last years of his life, and much of his savings, fighting to correct the damage to his reputation. -
- That's not funny at all. - - I think the above facts speak for themselves and hope that some day Mr. Rivenburg will find the wisdom to abandon his campaign to discredit a man whose entire family was murdered by the Nazis, who fought against them with great courage and effectiveness, and who was recognized for his wartime heroism in the final year of a long and extraordinary life. Surely there are more worthy subjects for a crusading journalist intent on debunking the real frauds among us.
ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW
I have read Mr. Rivenburg's article about Michel Thomas--several times. To anyone with a basic understanding of the First Amendment and defamation law, there was nothing defamatory about the article and, in my view, Mr. Thomas was foolish to have brought the lawsuit. Not only did a federal district court rule against him, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that judgment, 3-0. There really was no room for any reasonable disagreement--from a legal standpoint.
Mr. Rivenburg raised questions about some of Mr. Thomas's claims. So what? That's what reporters do. I understand that Mr. Thomas and his supporters felt as though Mr. Rivenburg ignored certain sources that would have supported Mr. Thomas, while using others that did not. Again, that happens. Mr. Thomas's supporters, in seeking to defend him, have said repeatedly that the L.A. Times called Mr. Thomas a fraud. The article does not say that, not even close. One supporter said to me: "Every word in the article is a lie." I suppose that includes the glowing testimonials about Mr. Thomas's language school.
Some time ago, I put some very straightforward questions about Mr. Thomas to one of his supporters: (1) Did prosecutor Pierre Truche ever make the statement attributed to him calling into question Mr. Thomas's credibility at the Klaus Barbie trial? (2) Did Mr. Thomas ever say or suggest that he was inducted into the U.S. Army? (3) Did Mr. Thomas ever tell reporters he was born in France? (4) Did Mr. Thomas ever say that he accompanied the first battalion of U.S. troops as it entered Dachau? (5) Did Mr. Thomas ever claim that the Nazi ID cards he said he had rescued specifically mentioned the Nazi party? (6) Did Mr. Thomas ever suggest in any context that other Holocaust victims could have escaped, as he did, had they not given up hope and surrendered to their fate?
These questions were not answered. And unless they can be answered with a categorical and definite "no," this leaves room for questioning. My guess is that these are not simple "yes" or "no" questions and, if I am correct, then Mr. Rivenburg had every right to raise questions about Mr. Thomas's credibility and claims. Mr. Thomas's life is not a series of simple and irrefutable "facts." No one's life is. There is always room for disagreement about events, their meaning and how they should be interpreted. That is not defamation.
One last thought. I am a bit amazed that this debate rages on. And I wonder about the fragile legacy of this man if one article by one reporter has assumed such importance. If Michel Thomas was a hero--and his supporters say he was--then Mr. Rivenburg cannot undo that.
The Dachau Deception
Did L.A. Times reporter Roy Rivenburg really mislead his Dachau sources about Michel Thomas? Supporters of Thomas have produced letters from Felix Sparks and Hugh Foster saying I misrepresented what Thomas said about the camp's liberation. It sounds pretty incriminating, but appearances can be deceiving:
When I interviewed Sparks and Foster in 2001, I read them the Dachau portion of Thomas' biography, in which Thomas claimed he accompanied Sparks' unit (the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment) as it entered the concentration camp. Both men said there was no way Thomas was with Sparks' battalion. Nevertheless, after our article came out, Thomas repeated the tale in a sworn declaration: "On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment liberated the Dachau concentration camp. I accompanied these troops." Months later, after Thomas' legal team visited Sparks, Thomas changed his story. According to Thomas' own website, "Michel's investigator interviewed Sparks at his home in May 2002. He explained that Michel had never claimed to have 'gone in with the 157th.' "
After hearing that, Sparks and Foster said they'd been misled. Yes, they were -- by Thomas.
Finally, for the record, here's what The Times actually wrote about Thomas and Dachau:
- On the day Dachau fell, Thomas says, he was a U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps officer who temporarily joined two columns of tanks and infantry rolling through the German town to the camp.
- He says he didn't have orders assigning him to the 157th Regiment: "I just went there. I could choose wherever I wanted to go."
- Did anyone from the 157th know he was along for the ride?
- "They all knew I was there."
- However, the commander of the battalion, Lt. Col. Felix Sparks, now a retired brigadier general and former justice of the Colorado Supreme Court, says he would certainly recall if Thomas had accompanied the 200-member force: "He's got the right battalion, that's correct, but there were no CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] with us." Ian Sayer, co-author of "America's Secret Army," a history of the CIC, says his records don't specify when the first CIC agents arrived at Dachau, but they do show their unit. It isn't Thomas'.
- Thomas' version of how the camp was liberated differs from eyewitness accounts and National Archives records, says retired Lt. Col. Hugh F. Foster III, who has been researching the liberation for five years. Regarding Thomas' mention of tanks, Foster says there were no tanks because the bridges between the town of Dachau and the military camp across the river had been blown up. Thomas doesn't recall a river.
- Thomas says he entered the camp through the front gate, after the Germans waved white flags and opened fire on his group. But Foster and Sparks say the battalion deliberately avoided the front gate and circled around to another side of the sprawling camp. The white flag incident did happen--but not to the 157th. As Sparks and his men inched through the camp, a handful of journalists and troops from the 42nd Division approached the main entrance.
- Did Thomas simply confuse the two units and actually enter with the 42nd? No, he insists: "The 42nd was late." But Robbins, responding to written queries submitted later, says: "It is quite possible he arrived later than the 157th and that the troops he joined were indeed from the 42nd." In the course of writing the book, Robbins says, "research showed that it was the 157th that was involved, so it was I who assumed these were the troops he joined."
- When Thomas is asked about other conflicts between his story and the one relayed by Foster, he concedes: "I was not with the front combat troops." He says he was at the camp that day but cannot say when.
Just in case you're wondering, Thomas didn't enter Dachau with the 42nd either. The arrival of that extremely small group is extensively chronicled in photographs and other records. No sign of Michel Thomas.
-- Roy Rivenburg
Worldwide Conspiracy to Discredit Thomas??
Notice how Thomas supporters never actually address any of the facts and issues outlined above in "The Myth of Michel Thomas," such as:
1. National Archives records proving Thomas was a civilian assistant to the Counter Intelligence Corps instead of a true agent.
2. The believability of his concentration camp escape stories, especially his voluntary return to a slave-labor camp and his Dr. Dolittle animal telepathy skills.
3. Thomas' ever-changing birthplace: France vs. Poland.
4. Thomas' sworn court declaration that he accompanied the 157th Regiment into Dachau, a boast his supporters cannot explain away. (See "The Dachau Deception" above).
Thomas' supporters also ignore the questions posed by the writer of "Another Point of View." Instead, his apologists try to shift the issue to me (L.A. Times writer Roy Rivenburg), presumably to divert attention from the fact that his tales have been challenged for decades -- by Nazi hunters, an Oscar-winning documentary, other journalists and Counter Intelligence Corps veterans as far back as the 1950s. Either there's a giant conspiracy to discredit Thomas or maybe -- although he presumably did some commendable work during World War II -- he exaggerated and fibbed about his record. As the old saying goes, where there's smoke, there's usually fire.
-- Roy Rivenburg
A smoking gun Thomas is afraid to let you see
Long before the L.A. Times article was published, Mr. Thomas threatened to sue the newspaper, so we made sure every fact was triple-checked, and we gave Thomas every chance to back up his claims. He couldn't. We sent a series of e-mails to his biographer and publicist outlining our findings and asking for documentation or other support for Thomas' stories. Those e-mails and his biographer's replies to our questions have never been printed by Thomas supporters. Why? Because they would show that Thomas misrepresented how the Times article was reported -- and they would make clear that Thomas changed the details of his wartime claims after our story came out, especially about Dachau, the Nazi Party ID card discovery and Thomas' military status. If the e-mails backed up Thomas' version of events or proved the L.A. Times ignored evidence, you can bet they'd be posted in full on his website and would have been submitted to the court with his libel lawsuit. Instead, they prove just the opposite, which is why you'll never see them at Thomas' website. (You also can no longer find my answers to a series of questions his website asked about the Times article, even though his supporters promised to post my replies uncensored. My comments, which were put up after Thomas could no longer file another frivolous lawsuit, have mysteriously vanished from his site.)
Another important point: The e-mails sent between me and Thomas' biographer, Christopher Robbins, were cc'ed to my editors and, since a lawsuit had been threatened, the newspaper's attorney. Likewise, Robbins was cc'ing the e-mails to their lawyers. Thus, if you believe Thomas' claim that I was ignoring evidence and violating journalistic standards in the pursuit of some alleged vendetta against him, my editors and the paper's lawyer clearly knew about it and didn't care. How likely is it the Times would risk its reputation (not to mention a lawsuit that would cost well over $100,000 to defeat) to run a story that wasn't thoroughly documented and ignored reasonable evidence presented by Thomas' side? Answer: not likely at all. Obviously, if what Thomas says about me is true, these e-mails would prove it. Yet, they're curiously absent from the voluminous "evidence" he submitted to the courts and posted on his website. When I've asked why, Thomas' investigator says they're irrelevant. How could they be? They spell out our research methods and findings about Dachau, the Barbie trial, Thomas' military status and the Nazi ID cards -- and they contain the written reactions of Thomas' side. To date, his website has printed nothing more than a couple of out-of-context snippets from Robbins' letters. Surely my e-mail replies to even those snippets would be telling, right? What's in those e-mails that Thomas' side was afraid to let the courts and public see? Answer: proof that he changed his claims after the article came out.
-- Roy Rivenburg
Response from Friends of Michel Thomas
Mr. Rivenburg's responses to the bulletin board at http://www.michelthomas.org remained posted there, unedited, for many months. Recently, the bulletin board was hacked. If Mr. Rivenburg would like to contribute to the organization, to pay the cost of restoring the bulletin board, we would be happy to re-post his responses.
- - As to the business about our hiding Mr. Rivenburg's email correspondence with Christopher Robbins, it is simply untrue. Relevant sections of that correspondence are quoted in Mr. Robbins' Declaration, which is posted on the web site and can be downloaded by anyone.
- As to other issues Mr. Rivenburg raises, we have not seen any of the evidence he alleges, e.g. a transcript from the 1987 Klaus Barbie trial of Pierre Truche's alleged statements -- or any contemporary commentary from M. Truche about Mr. Thomas; nor have we seen any of the articles in which Mr. Thomas allegedly stated he was "born in France," nor any document signed by Mr. Thomas as a civilian assistant in the CIC, nor the transcript of any statement by any Justice Department Nazi-hunter. -
- If Mr. Rivenburg would like to provide these materials to us, we would be happy to respond. Privately. We believe that the public's interest in this sort of minutiae -- including readers of this Wikipedia commentary -- is very limited.
- - For the average reader, this story is fairly simple: an 87 year-old victim of Nazi and Vichy French persecution, with a distinguished WWII military record fighting with the French Resistance and U.S. military, was the subject of a well-researched biography written by a British author. The author had done extensive reading and research on WWII and had published two previous books about war-related subjects. A Los Angeles Times reporter, known primarily for his discontinued humor column "Off-Kilter" and with no published expertise in WWII history or military matters, undertook to discredit the man in a long profile questioning several areas of his WWII record, quoting persons who had little or no knowledge of the man being profiled. The lone WWII comrade who was interviewed was never mentioned in the article and immediately wrote a letter-to-the-editor objecting to the article and asking why his comments were ignored. Not a single person who had known the man during WWII was quoted in the article. The article sparked outrage and prompted a vigorous defense from his surviving WWII comrades, who -- to a man -- rallied around him and unequivocally stated that he had served with distinction and had not lied or exaggerated anything about his WWII record. The reporter has yet to locate anyone who actually knew the man during WWII who will say anything negative about him. The U.S. Army reviewed evidence of the man's WWII heroism submitted by Senator John McCain and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, conducted their own research, and awarded the man the Silver Star, sixty years after he was nominated for it -- a rare event indeed. Two of the U.S. Senate's WWII veterans then volunteered to present the medal at the WWII Memorial on the eve of its dedication, and the Ambassador of France also paid his respects at the same ceremony. -
- The following year, after the man died, the reporter resumed his efforts to discredit him. His efforts continue to this day, more than a year and a half after the man's death. -
- All the available evidence indicates the audience for these efforts is quite limited. -
- For reasons we still can only speculate on, Mr. Rivenburg took his best shot at destroying Mr. Thomas's reputation in his published profile of April 2001. An extensive investigation of the assertions and implications of the article was made in the following years, primarily in preparation for the defamation case against Mr. Rivenburg and the Los Angeles Times. The results of that investigation are posted at http://www.michelthomas.org, and are briefly summarized above. -
- Any reader who is interested in further information can contact us at email@example.com.
- - If Mr. Rivenburg would like to debate these issues further, the lead researcher for Mr. Thomas's legal team has politely offered many times to meet with him at a place and time convenient to Mr. Rivenburg, including his office at the L.A. Times, but has always been rebuffed. -
- The offer stands. NV Researcher 22:11, 13 December 2006 (UTC)
Smoking gun No. 2 on Thomas
The previous post is amusing. Thomas supporters say they won't publicly debate the documents cited in "The Myth of Michel Thomas" because such issues are "minutiae"? That's odd. After all, Thomas sued the Los Angeles Times for "implying" he was a civilian employee of the U.S. Army, calling such a suggestion "an insult." So, how can a National Archives military record from 1946 with Thomas' own signature above the words "civilian assistant" be minutiae? It's actually a smoking gun, especially in conjunction with Thomas' lack of discharge papers or military ID number. There are also 1946 documents signed by his superiors that refer to him as a "civilian assistant." Incidentally, I've sent copies of the National Archives documents to Thomas supporters, so they HAVE seen them.
The reason Thomas' defenders won't publicly debate such documents is because they can't. Other examples: Their website posts newspaper articles about Thomas dating back to 1949, all of which say he was French-born, as do the articles we uncovered. Thomas kept a briefcase full of such clippings, so if his supporters could produce a pre-1987 article saying he was born in Poland, they would. Likewise, if there were a court transcript in which Gestapo chieftain Klaus Barbie's prosecutor didn't slam Thomas' credibility, they'd produce that too. For those who doubt whether the prosecutor rebuffed Thomas' honesty at trial, rent the Oscar-winning documentary "Hotel Terminus," in which the prosecutor makes even more critical comments about Thomas. His public statements speak for themselves and have never been retracted.
Because Thomas supporters can't debate such facts, they try to make me the central issue, even going so far as to falsely accuse me (on blogs and in a phone call to Times attorneys) of anti-Semitism or being a Holocaust denier -- never mind the fact that my editor was Jewish. This helps them avoid the uncomfortable task of trying to explain why so many credible sources have debunked Thomas since the 1950s. And, for the record, it's untrue that we found nobody who knew Thomas and doubted his tales. Unfortunately, those sources would only comment off the record, possibly because they knew about his history of suing anyone who contradicted his version of reality.
If Wikipedia readers have questions about any of this, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Again, we reiterate that we don't think Wikipedia is a proper forum for debating details at this level. We reiterate our invitation to Mr. Rivenburg to contact us privately.
As briefly as possible then:
1) We've never seen the National Archives document. Please send it to the email address above. We'd like to see it. Nevertheless, even if it exists, it's hardly a 'smoking gun.' As has been explained ad nauseam, including in the biography, Mr. Thomas had a very unusual status as a CIC Agent. As attested by the three surviving CIC Agents with whom he served, he was given the full powers and duties of an Agent, and wore the uniform of an Agent, as pictured numerous times in his biography, for more than two years, in spite of the fact that he was not yet a U.S. citizen. He was mentioned as an Agent in the official history of the CIC, as noted by Conrad McCormick and Ian Sayer.
2) As to M. Truche's comments, again, this has been covered extensively. Mr. Rivenburg's article depended upon newspaper characterizations of M. Truche's statements. Upon further scrutiny, those characterizations were either inaccurate translations or simply misleading reports. The burden is upon Mr. Rivenburg to dig up the original French transcript or to contact M. Truche, if he is still alive. He failed to do so in his original article, perhaps because what he would have found would not have served his purpose.
M. Truche met with Mr. Thomas at his office in Paris after the trial, and explained that he did not offer Mr. Thomas's testimony to the jury, not because he doubted its veracity, but because Mr. Thomas's account was more complicated than that of the other witnesses. As described on page 313 of "Test of Courage" Truche told Mr. Thomas that as he listened to the evidence he was reminded of the line by the 17th century poet Nicolas Boileau: "Le vrai peut quelquefois n'etre pas vraisemblable", "The truth can sometimes not be likely."
3) Finally, Mr. Rivenburg has just presented fresh allegations that "we" -- by which he presumably refers to a number of friends of Mr. Thomas who publicly supported his efforts to repudiate the insinuations in Mr. Rivenburg's article -- have accused him of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. This is untrue.
Mr. Thomas's attorneys were never given the opportunity to depose Mr. Rivenburg and so never learned anything from him about his beliefs or attitudes toward Jews or the Holocaust.
His article about Mr. Thomas is his only published item touching on these subjects that we could find.
Still Dodging the Issues
Thomas & Co. spent four years distorting what the L.A. Times article said and lying about how it was reported, knowing full well that if I replied publicly, Thomas could file another frivolous libel lawsuit. Now that the legal threat is gone and I've been able to respond to their claims and they're hearing (as we are) from people who've changed their mind about Thomas' truthfulness, they suddenly want the debate to be done "privately." Hmm. Could it be they're afraid of how their case will stack up? Why else would they refuse to post the full e-mail exchange between me and Thomas' biographer, dodge discussions of Thomas' changing birthplace, renege on their promise to display my answers to their questions on Thomas' website, ignore the simple questions posed by "Another Point of View," not address Thomas' Dachau deposition, and fail to explain why -- short of a worldwide conspiracy against Thomas by journalists and Nazi hunters -- so many impeccable sources questioned Thomas' tales long before the L.A. Times did?
A footnote on Thomas' status with the Army: The issue isn't whether he was "treated like" a CIC agent. If that were his only claim, we wouldn't be having this argument. The controversy is over his insistence that he was inducted into the U.S. military. His biography claims he was an officer in the U.S. Army. Since a civilian can't be an officer, the central question is whether Thomas was inducted. Supporters point to photos of Thomas in a CIC uniform. However, lots of foreign-born civilian assistants wore CIC outfits. His defenders also cite a CIC history document that refers to Thomas as an "agent." But they ignore this same CIC document when it names someone other than Thomas as the person who discovered the big cache of Nazi Party ID cards.
Ultimately, the only definitive source on whether someone was in the Army is the Army itself. And it has no record of Thomas' service. Thomas also had no discharge papers or military service ID number. The final nail in the coffin is the 1946 military document with Thomas' own John Hancock over the words "civilian assistant." In response, Thomas supporters have said we myopically focused on a minor detail. If it's so minor, then why did Thomas sue the L.A. Times over it? It bears repeating that the issue wasn't whether Thomas performed admirable work for the Army. We never said or implied otherwise. The issue is whether he fibbed about being an inducted, non-civilian Army officer. If Thomas' supporters were honest enough to print the aforementioned e-mail exchange between me and Thomas' biographer (in which they adamantly insisted he wasn't a civilian), that's one of many issues they'd have to eat crow on.
-- Roy Rivenburg
We weren't able to find this word in the dictionary, but Mr. Rivenburg's last post is illustrative of his conduct since he first contacted Mr. Thomas's biographer in 2001. No matter how much evidence he is shown, he ignores it, or raises some new issue for which no amount of explanation will ever satisfy him. Substantive replies, based on careful research, which address the specifics of his allegations, are summarily dismissed, and his tone becomes one of mocking ridicule.
We have asked that he move the debate about the fine points he raises to another forum, not because we won't address the issues, but because the hair-splitting has reached the point where the general reader will be lost, or understandably uninterested. If it can be demonstrated that there is a substantial number of Wikipedia readers who are interested in these fine points, we will be happy to address them in greater detail than we already have.
Because of his position at the Los Angeles Times, and the leeway given to him by his editors, in 2001 Mr. Rivenburg set himself up as judge, jury and executioner of Mr. Thomas's reputation, provoking the response that's been described above. No other media outlet followed up on his reporting, other than to cast doubt upon his skeptical portrayal of Mr. Thomas, see, e.g., the 2004 coverage of Mr. Thomas by the Army News Service, CNN's Wolf Blitzer, and even Fox's Bill O'Reilley. The transcript of the segment filmed in 2004 for Tom Brokaw's NBC Nightly News also makes for interesting reading -- none of it flattering to Mr. Rivenburg.
Mr. Thomas is long deceased. We are happy to let the record speak for itself, and don't feel any further obligation to 'explain' Mr. Thomas's life to the satisfaction of Mr. Rivenburg. If he would like to pursue the additional issues he has raised, we suggest he find a neutral forum for such a debate, where we would be happy to discuss whether his reporting on Mr. Thomas meets generally accepted standards journalistic standards of fairness, balance, and accuracy.
Unfortunately, when a similar proposition was last made to him, and he and the lawyers for the L.A. Times were invited to defend his reporting at a mock trial of the defamation case hosted by the schools of law and journalism at the University of California at Berkeley in April 2003, Mr. Rivenburg claimed he never received an invitation. But the invitation was transmitted to him, weeks in advance, by five letters sent via Federal Express, one to Mr. Rivenburg directly, and the others to his editors and the Times' management -- every one of these was confirmed as received. There were also numerous faxes and emails sent, and similar communications were sent to the attorneys for the L.A. Times.
Somehow all of these were ignored, and when contacted by reporters to ask why he was not participating in the mock trial, Mr. Rivenburg told them he was never invited.
We could accuse Mr. Rivenburg of lying -- as he has here accused us of lying in some unspecified way -- but if we bend over backward to give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps Mr. Rivenburg did not lie to those reporters. Perhaps he just ignored all those communications, in what could be described as a pattern of purposeful avoidance.
This is a resonant phrase with respect to Mr. Rivenburg. At the mock trial, one of the Boalt law professors who acted as a judge of the evidence presented said that Mr. Thomas "was unfairly treated by the Times " and indicated he felt there had been a pattern of "purposeful avoidance of the truth" in the reporter's article.
In our opinion, that pattern continues to this day, but I don't believe we should clutter Wikipedia with any more of it -- or any further responses to it.
Notice once again how Thomas' people resort to mudslinging and red herrings instead of actually tackling the straightforward issues raised by me and the unknown writer of "Another Point of View"?
As to the bit about other media casting doubt on Times coverage of Thomas, it should be noted that those outlets never spoke with us and in most cases never even tried. The media that did bother to get our side either dropped the story because our evidence was so overwhelming or, like Newsday, did additional reporting that refuted Thomas' claims. Yes, Newsday is owned by the same Tribune media empire as the L.A. Times, but the suggestion of collusion in the worldwide conspiracy to discredit Thomas is ludicrous and demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of how the newspapers operate. It's another red herring to avoid addressing the evidence outlined earlier. And, again, the L.A. Times was hardly the first organization to question Thomas' credibility. His defenders keep trying to paint me as some rogue reporter with an unexplained vendetta, but Thomas' tales had already been challenged in American and French media -- as well as by a top Nazi hunter and an acclaimed documentary film, neither of which was controlled by the Tribune media empire.
-- Roy Rivenburg
Battling the Hydra
Responding to Mr. Rivenburg is much like battling the Hydra. Each time one conclusively swats down an issue, he ignores the response and raises three more in its place.
So Newsday is the only other media outlet that got the story of Michel Thomas right after the publication of Mr. Rivenburg's article? Could that have anything to do with the fact that Newsday, like the L.A. Times, is owned by the Tribune Group, which was a fellow defendant in the defamation case? Did Mr. Rivenburg or anyone else at the Times have any communications with the Newsday reporter as he prepared his article about Mr. Thomas being awarded the Silver Star in New York in July 2004 by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, with his friends and family standing by, just to make sure there was a little rain on that parade? If so, it gives a whole new meaning to the term 'activist journalism.'
And what did that article 'refute'? As Mr. Rivenburg subsequently characterized the article, the Newsday reporter wrote that Thomas's investigator "admitted" Thomas was never inducted into the Army. But it's a typically misleading distortion to call that an 'admission' because neither Mr. Thomas, his investigator, his biographer, or anyone else who knew him ever claimed he was inducted. His biography makes it clear -- how many times must this be repeated? -- that he served as a CIC Agent in spite of not yet having become a citizen. As the book makes abundantly clear, Mr. Thomas's CIC superiors and colleagues at the time knew how valuable he could be, so they took advantage of his talents, such as the many languages he spoke and his extensive French Resistance contacts. And as the investigation to prepare the lawsuit made clear, they vigorously defended their decision not to go 'by-the-book' in making Mr. Thomas an Agent. Just ask Ted Kraus, Walter Wimer, Bedford Groves, or Henry Teichmann. They defend Mr. Thomas to this day.
But then, Mr. Rivenburg never wanted to hear what Mr. Thomas's WWII comrades had to say, lest the house of cards that he constructed to discredit Mr. Thomas collapse beneath the weight of their first-person testimonies.
More of that pattern of purposeful avoidance of the truth mentioned above?
Another mock trial? As Mr. Rivenburg well knows, Mr. Thomas is deceased. It is only Mr. Rivenburg who cares enough about these issues to want a public debate on them. As to his refusal to defend his reporting when Mr. Thomas was alive, he was certainly advised by his attorneys that truth is the ultimate defense against accusations of defamation. He was also advised, or should have been, that the issues raised in his article were res judicata and could not be raised in another lawsuit. So he had nothing to fear in defending his article when Mr. Thomas was alive, and his newspaper made it clear they would defend him to the hilt.
And finally, as to the 'worldwide conspiracy' he posits in his customary mocking tone, he has put this shoe on the wrong foot: could all those other media outlets have abandoned their usual practice of getting a balanced story just to put Roy Rivenburg and the L.A. Times in a bad light?
Thomas' Army status
Predictably, Thomas supporters offer another volley of ad hominem attacks and purposely avoid addressing any of the issues raised in posts far far earlier in this string. In the most recent blurb, they continue to contend Thomas and his biographer never claimed he was inducted into the Army, even though his book calls him a U.S. Army officer, even though Thomas regaled the L.A. Times at length about being drafted, and even though he sued the newspaper specifically for suggesting he was a civilian employee. Just answer these simple questions and maybe we can move on to another easy topic, like why Thomas kept changing his birthplace when interviewed by journalists:
1. How can someone be an Army officer if they were never inducted?
2. If Thomas was correct in insisting he wasn't a civilian employee, then what was he? What category exists besides civilian employee or inducted member of the U.S. Army? Double-secret CIC Agent, perhaps?
To repeat, the issue isn't whether Thomas had valuable skills and was "treated like" a real CIC agent by his unit. The issue is whether he fibbed in claiming not to be a civilian employee.
As to the res judicata, that applied only to the Times article. Any new statements could have been actionable. Even verbally saying "I stand behind the article" could have constituted a second publication.
-- Roy Rivenburg
Time for Little Chat?
I've reviewed the exchange here this evening between Mr. Rivenburg and the supporters of Mr. Thomas and have the following observations:
1) Why can't Mr. Rivenburg give any credit to Thomas who, regardless of the details of this debate, clearly led an amazing life and did a lot of incredible things?
2) Why won't Rivenburg meet with Thomas's researcher and have a conversation? It's clear from this exchange that very few people care about the details of Thomas's life more than these two. If the researcher is willing to meet, why isn't Rivenburg?
3) Why doesn't Mr. Rivenburg let Mr. Thomas rest in peace?
Reply to 'Little Chat'
1) The Times article gave lots of credit to Thomas. There's no question he led an interesting and accomplished life. After both interviews, he invited me to lunch and I enjoyed talking with him. As I've said earlier in this conversation, he undoubtedly performed some valuable work for the U.S. Army. Beyond that, he created an intriguing and acclaimed language instruction method. Our article was full of praise for that, and highlighted some of his other feats too. But this otherwise charming man also made some indisputably preposterous claims and that's what ends up being debated.
2) I've had numerous e-mail discussions with Thomas' researcher about the topics in this exchange, so I'm not sure what an in-person session would add. And, frankly, I'm wary of the guy. Although he occasionally sends calm and warm messages, he has privately said some pretty vitriolic things, has had weird run-ins with a Thomas critic back east and has publicly misrepresented my religious beliefs, my journalistic background and my conduct and motives in reporting the Times article. I've suggested that if he's sincere about a goodwill meeting, he should correct such misrepresentations and prominently display on Thomas' website the full text of all e-mails that Thomas' biographer and I exchanged before the L.A. Times article came out. That would be a show of good faith.
3) I actually felt kinda sorry for Thomas when I reported my story. One of his friends, Herb Morris, had me close to tears when we discussed what Morris referred to as Thomas' "embellishments" on the truth. It isn't exactly pleasant to expose someone who mostly seems like a good guy. I had similar feelings while dismantling the tale of an Arizona octogenarian who claimed to have invented the TV dinner. Good guy, funny guy. But a phony on the TV dinner thing. Why have I continued debunking both men even after their deaths? Simple: to set the record straight. Michel Thomas, by falsely claiming certain deeds in World War II, dishonored the memory of the people who actually did the things he claimed for himself. Those people don't have private investigators and slick PR teams trying to spin the facts. My dad, uncle and godfather fought in World War II. Some of my friends and colleagues served in Vietnam -- and they don't look kindly on people who fudge about heroism or about being full-fledged military when in fact they were civilian employees, however valuable or exemplary. I also have friends whose relatives were exterminated by the Nazis and I find it offensive that Thomas claimed he made multiple Hogan's Heroes-style escapes from concentration camps -- and then had the gall to suggest in print that other prisoners could have done the same if they hadn't surrendered to the "siren song" and given up hope. Read the half dozen escape tales in his bio and tell me you don't think they're preposterous. Thomas did some good and brave things, but that doesn't give him a pass for the bogus stuff. For the real heroes of those events, and for the people who had no choice about their fate in Nazi death camps, I want to set the record straight.
-- Roy Rivenburg
Questions for the reporter
I ran across this discussion today and, in contrast to "ElmDarkShark's" point of view above, I have to say that I find it is the reporter who should be answering the questions here. How does he account for the apparently planted letter to the editor of Mr. McCormick? The letters written by Mr. Foster and Sparks, indicating they were misled by the reporter? The flimsy excuses of the reporter regarding his not receiving the invitations to the mock trial? But, most important, why on earth does he kept hounding this man Thomas after his death, in the face of the universal support he received from the men he fought with decades ago?
Something's rotten in Orange County, if you ask me.
Answers from the reporter
Regarding the "planted letter to the editor," do you really think the L.A. Times would be stupid enough to write a fake letter and sign it with the name of a real person who could be traced, especially when Michel Thomas and his biographer had been threatening to sue? Of course not. Mr. McCormick sent the reporter an email after the story came out (we still have a copy). We asked for permission to publish it and he said yes, apparently thinking it would be part of a follow-up article, not a letter to the editor. Incidentally, we edited out the section of his note where he theorized that Thomas borrowed his stories from CIC colleagues.
As for Sparks and Foster, please read "The Dachau Deception" post higher up. Your other questions were also answered above.
-- Roy Rivenburg
NPOV flag etc
I've flagged the article as possibly lacking neutrality and as containing unsourced claims. The point of the article should be to present all significant views about Mr Thomas, not to determine the 'truth' of his life. As it stands, it reads like an investigative report rather than an encyclopedia entry. For example, a statement like "There are several problems with this version of events" takes a definite position in regard to particular allegations. It should be phrased something like "'X' alleges inconsistencies in 'Y's version of events" etc.
--GuyIncognito 12:07, 23 July 2006 (UTC)
- Truth is truth, dude. --184.108.40.206 02:57, 24 July 2006 (UTC)
Defendant in defamation suit allowed to write a Wikipedia entry about the plaintiff?
If Wikipedia is serious about building its reputation for fair, objective, neutral articles on any given subject, surely one of the most basic rules should be to bar the defendant in a defamation suit from writing or editing an article about the plaintiff. Could there be any clearer example of a biased author? Would Britannica allow this? World Book? Not even the most feverishly partisan editors of a tabloid newspaper would allow such a practice, lest the paper be ridiculed for its thumbing its nose at even the pretense of objectivity. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 03:42, 7 December 2006 (UTC).
Reply to 'Defendant in defamation suit...'
Using the logic of the unsigned comment above, the entire Thomas article should be deleted from Wikipedia, because the pro-Thomas contributions are largely written by the private investigator he hired for his unsuccessful lawsuit. My contributions have included both sides, because I'm a journalist trained to present all views, even those I don't necessarily agree with. In contrast, Thomas' supporters consistently eliminate any evidence that contradicts his claims. Like it or not, Thomas was controversial and some of his claims have been proved false by indisputable sources and documents, all of which I've cited so any reader can check their accuracy. A fair article about his life has to include that.
-- Roy Rivenburg, Dec. 6, 2006
A Journalist Trained to Present All Views?
See the Declaration of Thomas's CIC colleague Dr. Theodore Kraus, at http://www.michelthomas.org: after three pages describing Thomas's work as a CIC Agent with Kraus during WWII, Dr. Kraus wrote: "I relayed all of this information to Mr. Rivenburg prior to the publication of the article. I was surprised that none of this information appeared in the article, including the fact that Mr. Rivenburg had interviewed me, particularly since I believe that I am one of the only living witnesses who is able to corroborate Michel Thomas's CIC service. / I do not understand why Mr. Rivenburg or the Los Angeles Times decided to ignore the information I provided to them. The absence of this information implies that Mr. Rivenburg was intent on discrediting Mr. Thomas, despite clear evidence I provided to him about Thomas' military service. / I was so upset by Mr. Rivenburg's depiction of Mr. Thomas as someone who would misrepresent his military service that I wrote a letter to the Editor of the Los Angeles Times." [Copy of letter attached to Declaration]
After Mr. Rivenburg's article was published, Dr. Kraus's testimonials to Thomas's WWII service were subsequently buttressed by additional statements from WWII comrades Thomas had not seen in nearly sixty years, including Walter Wimer, who was in Thomas' CIC unit in Germany, and Bedford Groves, who knew Thomas in the 180th Regiment of the 45th Infantry Division, and knew Thomas as a CIC Agent. Groves wrote that Thomas "did the work of three Agents" when he was in the CIC; his letter concerning Thomas's service in the 180th was part of the evidence reviewed by the Army's Decorations Review Board which granted Thomas the Silver Star in 2004.
Yet Mr. Rivenburg's web site article, "The Myth of Michel Thomas," published after Thomas's death, makes no mention of any of these, or many other statements, of Thomas's wartime comrades.
Fair and balanced? You decide...
Reply to 'A Journalist Trained to...'
As I noted earlier in this thread, the issue isn't whether Thomas assisted the CIC or was "treated like" a full-fledged agent. The question is whether he lied about being inducted into the military. His biography and libel lawsuit claim he was an officer in the U.S. Army, a position that would require being inducted. The reason Theodore Kraus wasn't quoted in the L.A. Times article is simple: Kraus told me he didn't know Thomas' official status with the Army. More importantly, the only authoritative source on whether someone was in the Army is the Army itself. It has no record of Thomas' service. Thomas also had no discharge papers or military service ID number. Last but not least is the 1946 military document with Thomas' signature over the words "civilian assistant." Guess who else's signature appears next to Thomas' on the 1946 document? Yep, none other than Theodore Kraus, so he should know full well that Thomas was indeed a civilian employee. Again, The Times article never said or implied that Thomas didn't do admirable work for the Army. It merely challenged his false claim to have been an inducted Army officer, a boast he repeated in his unsuccessful libel lawsuit.
-- Roy Rivenburg ... Rivenburg 22:41, 7 December 2006 (UTC)
Mr. Rivenburg has not only repeatedly deleted the work of multiple Wikipedia editors to impose his own version of Mr. Thomas's life, (see history page), he also keeps re-inserting a link to a 'debate' about whether Thomas 'lied' when he was the subject of a 1949 Stars & Stripes article, on a web site called Feldgrau.net. While Feldgrau.net undoubtedly has many members who are not nostalgic about the good old days of the Third Reich, it is interesting to note the "About Us" page of Feldgrau's principal sponsor, "GermanWarMachine" magazine: It is this:
"Last communiqué of the Wehrmacht, 9 May 1945: "Since midnight the guns have fallen silent on all fronts. Thus the almost six-year-long, honourable fight is over. It brought us great victories but also heavy defeats. In the end the German Armed Forces succumbed honourably to overwhelming forces. True to his oath, the German soldier, giving his all for his people, performed feats which will never be forgotten. To the end the homeland supported us at the cost of terrible sacrifices. The unique accomplishments of front and homeland will find its ultimate worth in a later judgement of history. The feats and sacrifices of German soldiers on water, on land and in the air will also receive the respect of the enemy. Therefore every soldier can lay down his weapons proudly with his head held high and in this most difficult hour in our history go on to work with courage and confidence for the eternal life of our people. In the gravest hour the Wehrmacht remembers those comrades who have fallen. We owe it to the dead to show unconditional loyalty, obedience and discipline to our bleeding, wounded Fatherland."
Reply to 'Feldgrau'
I don't know the website's background, but the evidence it offers of Thomas fabricating information to Stars & Stripes sounds compelling. And nobody has contradicted it. Readers can judge its veracity for themselves.
Rivenburg 20:09, 15 December 2006 (UTC)
I have watched this edit war between Mr. Rivenburg and various others during the past few days. It is telling that Rivenburg would find the postings at Feldgrau.net to be persuasive. No doubt he would find an even more enthusiastic group of supporters at Stormfront.com.
Mr. Rivenburg's posture of neutrality is belied by his persistent reversion of this article to suit his own version of Mr. Thomas's life, going back more than a year. Clearly there is a long history here, but it seems beyond question that this reporter is the last person on earth who should be given a forum by Wikipedia to fly under the flag of being a neutral commentator on Mr. Thomas.
Reply to 'Telling'
Everything I've written is sourced with citations anyone can verify. It's not my version of Thomas' life. It's all public record. It's not my opinion that Thomas lied when he claimed to be a non-civilian Army CIC agent. He signed a 1946 military document over the words "civilian assistant." And it's not my opinion that Klaus Barbie's prosecutor told the jury Thomas' testimony wasn't made "in good faith." It's documented in newspapers and in an Oscar-winning documentary in which the prosecutor tells filmmaker Marcel Ophuls that Thomas' story didn't hold together. It's also not my opinion that Thomas lied about accompanying Felix Sparks' men as they liberated Dachau. He said it in a sworn affidavit for his libel lawsuit, even though his biographer and Sparks himself said Thomas wasn't with that unit. Last but not least, it's not my opinion that Thomas lied when he claimed to have leaked word of of the Nazi Party ID cards to the press in May 1945, and that subsequent stories forced his superiors to move the cards to a safe place. The press coverage didn't happen until October. And military records prove the 7th Army unit Thomas worked for "abandoned" the cards. So, even if you believe Thomas was the first to find the cards, it's beyond dispute he lied about engineering press coverage and getting them moved to a safe place. The 3rd Army did that. Thomas and his unit left town without doing anything to secure the cards.
The bottom line is that Thomas' stories have been questioned for years, long before the L.A. Times article. So any fair, neutral account of his life must include that. My wiki edits retain arguments from Thomas' side even when I disagree with them or know they're false. In contrast, the pro-Thomas edits have removed links to my website, deleted links to the judge's decision rejecting Thomas' libel lawsuit and erased references to other credible sources who have questioned or contradicted Thomas' version of events as outlined above.
Rivenburg 02:53, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Reply to Reply to 'Telling'
The issue here is not Mr. Rivenburg's opinions, though his selective highlighting of certain facts while ignoring others does seem to be part of a long-standing pattern when it comes to this subject. The immediate issue is his repeated deletions of edits, or fully-compiled versions of an article, to which he objects, when numerous other Wikipedia contributors have judged his version to fall short of NPOV guidelines.
The longer-term issue, of interest to all Wikipedians, is whether a person who is has a clear public record of hostility to a given individual should be allowed to use Wikipedia as a public forum to propagate his efforts to discredit that person, particularly after that person has died.
Even if a panel of neutral judges were to decide that the collection of facts put forward by Mr. Rivenburg meet the standard of a Neutral Point of View article, the very fact that he is the contributor of those facts, chosen from a host of many others, and given his tangled history with the subject of the article, should be sufficient to disqualify him from posting on this subject.
Livingstonian 03:36, 16 December 2006 (UTC) [Livingstonian]
Reply to 'Telling's' reply
By your logic, the edits written by Thomas' private investigator or anyone else involved in his unsuccessful libel lawsuit should also be thrown out. And then we wouldn't have a Wikipedia entry on Thomas at all, because the whole thing is based on material compiled either by his legal team, his biographer (who filed an affidavit in the lawsuit) or by the Los Angeles Times, all inherently biased sources under your criteria.
As for edit deletions, it's the pro-Thomas side that keeps cutting Wiki material it doesn't like. I retain pro-Thomas arguments in my edits.
If your definition of "clear public record of hostility" means trying to present documented facts about Thomas' life, then yes, I'm guilty as charged. But if you think I'm ignoring other "facts," then by all means add them to the Wiki entry. Just don't delete mine while you're doing so. Also, if you're going to criticize the Times article, criticize the entire paper, not me. Every fact in that article was rigorously vetted by editors and lawyers before and after publication. And Times editor John Carroll publicly stated his full support for the piece in 2004, saying the paper wouldn't retract a single word because the story was true.
Rivenburg 07:52, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Let's analyze Michel Thomas' military status from another angle. Is it possible Thomas could have been a CIC agent despite never being inducted by the Army? The situation is analogous to a freelance writer claiming to be a staff writer at a newspaper. Let's say this freelancer does the work of three staff writers, as one of Thomas' colleagues said regarding his CIC contributions. And let's say this freelancer is treated like a staffer by his bosses and even nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. But his editors can't officially hire him because he just arrived from England and doesn't have a green card. What happens if, years later, this freelancer tells people he was a "staff writer" at the newspaper? That is, essentially, what Thomas did. He can say he did the work of three colleagues, he can say he was nominated for a Pulitzer (or Silver Star) and he can say his bosses intended to hire him, but once he crosses the line to claim he actually was a staff writer, he has (choose your word) embellished, exaggerated or lied.
Can Thomas' supporters concede that point? Being an Army officer or CIC agent by definition requires being inducted. Yet Thomas sued the Los Angeles Times for suggesting he was a civilian employee. Can anyone out there honestly defend his public claim that he wasn't a civilian employee? The National Archives has a military document with Thomas' signature over the words "civilian assistant." This is a no-brainer. The problem for Thomas' supporters, of course, is that once they entertain the idea that Thomas misrepresented himself in one area (they won't even acknowledge that he spent four decades saying he was born in France instead of Poland), it opens the door to the possibility he did in others too.
Rivenburg 18:06, 16 December 2006 (UTC)
Michel Thomas's life should be described in the proper perspective
The problem with the Michel Thomas page as it exists today is the excessive focus on whether or not he told the factual truth in several instances, some of which are relatively trivial in the big picture of what is important about his life. Mr. Thomas's differing narratives about some aspects of his life should not be the focus of an encyclopedic entry about him. Those items deserve a (briefer) mention if they can be backed up with evidence, but to maintain the integrity of Wikipedia, the important aspects of Thomas's life should be highlighted.
I believe the most important things about Michel Thomas are: (1) that he survived the Holocaust while his European family did not; (2) that he worked against the Nazis during the war, regardless of his title, and; (3) that he managed to start his life over in the United States after World War II, becoming a noted language instructor and innovator.
How many Hollywood actors have changed their names or not told their true age to the press? Is that what they are remembered for? No. They are remembered for their work. With Thomas, a more nuanced explanation of his changing identities is presented in his language materials and his book. The former states, "His mastery of languages enabled him to adopt many identities (the last one being 'Michel Thomas')..." His biography notes that he prefered not to tell people how old he was because he did not want to be judged by his age. A Wikipedia biography should be accurate but it also should focus on what is important to those seeking information about someone's life. As it stands now, I am discouraged about the ability of Wikipedia to present a fair biography.
—The preceding unsigned comment was added by By-the-bay (talk • contribs) 19:48, 22 December 2006 (UTC).
New Year, New Leaf?
[Note: the following post was not made by LA Times reporter Roy Rivenburg; however, he might want to consider whether such a statement is worth making as he heads into the sixth year of his efforts to discredit Michel Thomas, who died nearly two years ago.]
As the New Year approaches, I have decided to come clean about all this and admit that I simply got this story wrong. Thomas had a way of describing things that made me so suspicious of him that I refused to believe anything he told me, regardless of how much documentation he had. Plus, his biographer seemed so taken in by Thomas that I also discounted everything he told me, and everything in Thomas's biography.
I really did think he was a fraud, but now I know I was wrong.
Since there was no way to debunk conclusively some of the stories in the book that I found to be dubious, such as Thomas's release or escape from several slave-labor camps, I focused on well-documented areas that I thought Thomas had lied about.
So, even though Thomas's CIC comrade Ted Kraus made it clear when I interviewed him that Thomas functioned as a fully-credentialed CIC Agent, I knew that the biography made it clear Thomas was not a usual, by-the-book Agent because he was not a US citizen. So, I keyed on this "weak knee" and portrayed Thomas in such a way that readers were led to suspect that Thomas may have had little to do with the CIC beyond a very limited role. I did the same with the claims regarding Dachau and the discovery of the Nazi Party files. Readers were left with the impression Thomas might never have been anywhere near Dachau -- before, during, or after the liberation -- and to doubt whether he had anything to do with finding the Nazi Party's membership card file.
I now must reluctantly admit that my great skepticism about Thomas caused me to ignore significant evidence he showed me, and that appeared in his biography, and that the additional evidence that has subsequently emerged has demolished any reasonable skepticism about these issues. Had I been more dispassionate about the evidence I knew then, I would not have portrayed Thomas as I did. With all the additional evidence that has emerged, I know now that my portrayal of Thomas was highly misleading, and that I was wrong in my subsequent insistence that Thomas lied about or exaggerated key aspects of his wartime service and WWII experiences.
• Thomas clearly functioned as fully-credentialed CIC Agent, as attested to by at least three former CIC Agents who served with him who are still alive, and extensive historical documentation. To emphasize, as I did in my profile, his official status as a mere civilian assistant was misleading to readers. It was wartime, and Thomas had much to offer the CIC, which they wisely took advantage of. His contributions in the CIC, regardless of his official status, were clearly beyond the norm and were recognized as such by his comrades and superiors in 1945-47, and after the war. He was treated as an Agent, he wore the uniform of an Agent, and it was perfectly understandable that he viewed himself as one, regardless of his bureaucratic status. It was misleading of me to suggest in my article that Thomas might have invented his role as a CIC Agent entirely, or greatly exaggerated it.
• Thomas was a Dachau liberator. When he showed me the documents and photos he kept, I figured he could have picked them up anywhere, and since he could not recall certain topographical details of the camp, I figured he made it all up and probably never even saw the place. I know now I was wrong about this, and he was definitely at the camp on liberation day. Memory is selective, and Thomas's inability to recall topographical details of the camp after more than fifty years should not have led me to conclude he was lying about being a liberator.
As to whether Thomas was "with the first troops," he may well have been, but in any case it hardly matters. He was a CIC Agent, and I now know that as such he did not have to be attached to any particular infantry group. The post-liberation arguments between the two infantry divisions that did enter the camp that day as to which one got there first are of little significance -- the important thing is that this was the first Nazi concentration camp liberated by US forces, and the revelations of the liberation opened the eyes of the US to a horrifying reality that we had refused to believe from the wartime reports of witnesses and former inmates. The fact that Thomas -- a Polish-born Jew who lost his family to the camps -- was among the American liberators is what makes this a compelling aspect of his life story.
• The evidence that has emerged since I wrote my article shows that Thomas played a significant role in preventing the destruction of the Nazi Party documents cache he stumbled upon near Munich in May 1945. When I wrote my article, since I did not believe Thomas's account because I did not trust him, I relied upon the news reports I unearthed from the fall of '45 as the definitive account. Subsequent research, as detailed in Robert Wolfe's paper, establishes that Thomas was part of the small CIC unit that originally came upon the files. The widow of the man credited in the CIC history with the discovery, Francesco Quaranta, said he did not speak or read German and never claimed to have discovered the files. The accounts of Heym are unreliable, due to his clear political antipathy to the Americans at the time of his writings, which he held to the end of his life. And Heym's accounts in any event lend support Thomas's version because they describe two CIC Agents visiting the paper mill and taking some files in the spring of '45. I was not aware of these facts when I wrote the article, and because of my skepticism about Thomas I went overboard in portraying him as a liar about this issue.
As to what happened between the original discovery of the files in May by Thomas (and perhaps Quaranta), and their subsequent re-discovery in the fall by Major Browne, it's hard to say with certainty, since the historical record is sketchy. It is clear that in May 1945 a significant volume of Nazi Party membership files was brought to Munich CIC headquarters, judging by the photos and text of Major Browne's September 1945 report that was unearthed by Thomas's defense team at the National Archives. And it's possible Thomas did leak the existence of the files to the press. He may have assumed there was follow-up reporting, when in fact there was not, or there may in fact have been some, in press sources that are hard or impossible to find now.
The important thing is that, but for the discovery of the files in May, Browne would almost certainly not have learned of the existence of the files in the fall, and they may well have been destroyed. It is impossible to say whether Hans Huber was acting out of genuine opposition to Nazism in the fall of '45 when he talked to Browne -- in fact it's likely he was a Johnny-Come-Lately to anti-Nazism since the Nazi leadership would not have entrusted the destruction of such sensitive documents to an unreliable firm.
Having cleared up my position on these issues, I'd like to comment that it was extremely insensitive of me to portray a nearly 90 year-old man who endured what Thomas went through, and who contributed as he did to the Allied war effort, in the way that I portrayed him. I have never fought in any war, and have never lost my family members to a nightmarish program of genocidal extermination. In fact, I've lived a life of postwar middle-class comfort, mostly in sunny suburban Orange County, and the horrors of WWII Europe are so far from my personal experience that I simply did not reflect on the impact my article would have on a man such as Michel Thomas. I apologize for any pain my article caused to him, his family and friends, and perhaps most of all to his wartime comrades, who clearly valued his contributions and rallied to his side when I and my newspaper falsely suggested he was a fraud.
[Note: the post above was not made by LA Times reporter Roy Rivenburg; however, he might want to consider whether such a statement is worth making as he heads into the sixth year of his efforts to discredit Michel Thomas, who died nearly two years ago.] —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rivenburg-Not (talk • contribs) 07:55, 1 January 2007 (UTC).
Michel Thomas Apologizes
In his last will and testament, Michel Thomas left instructions for the following statement to be released two years after his death:
I am proud of my accomplishments, but occasionally I said and did things that I now regret.
One of my missteps was threatening to sue film director Marcel Ophuls over the wording of an English subtitle in "Hotel Terminus," his documentary about Klaus Barbie. In the film, Barbie's prosecutor, Pierre Truche, says the reason he asked the jury to disregard my testimony at Barbie's 1987 trial was because my story was "inconsistent." That is an accurate translation of what Truche said and I now apologize to Mr. Ophuls for publicly challenging it. I also apologize to Mr. Truche for any embarrassment I caused him while on the witness stand. Barbie was evil and I wanted to help convict him, but I realize in hindsight that my story could have jeopardized the prosecution's case.
I also am sorry for claiming I accompanied members of the 3rd Battalion, 157th Regiment as they liberated the Dachau concentration camp. Even after my biographer and the battalion's commander, Felix Sparks, said this claim was erroneous, I made a sworn affidavit repeating the story. I did go to Dachau, and I interrogated crematorium workers, but I wasn't with any of the troops who first liberated the camp. I apologize for insulting their memory by claiming otherwise.
I'm also sorry for the false information in my story about the discovery of a large cache of Nazi Party ID cards at a paper mill near Munich in May 1945. The man who saved the cards from destruction was Hans Huber, the mill owner. He disobeyed SS orders to pulp the cards, then came to my unit of the 7th Army to alert Allied forces about the cards. Two members of my unit drove out to the paper mill, but our role with the cards basically ended there. We moved on to another part of Germany, leaving the cards at the mill, where they could have easily been destroyed. Huber tried again when Patton's 3rd Army came to town and the cache was finally taken to a safe location. I should never have stated that I single-handedly rescued the cards, or that I leaked word of their discovery to journalists and the subsequent worldwide coverage forced my superiors to move the cards to a safe location. None of that is true. There was no press coverage until October and military records and 1945 newspaper articles prove the 7th Army abandoned the cards.
Lastly, I owe a deep apology to all military veterans for my claim that I was an officer in the U.S. Army. Although I did exemplary work for the Army Counter Intelligence Corps and won considerable praise from my superiors, I was officially a civilian assistant. I was well aware of my status, and even signed documents to that effect. So, when the Los Angeles Times reported that the military had no record of my service and that I might have served as a civilian employee, I should have acknowledged the truth, rather than sue the paper for suggesting I wasn't a full-fledged member of the Army. I now realize that many veterans, such as "Stolen Valor" author B.G. Burkett, don't look kindly on people who falsely claim they served in the military. I should have simply said I was "treated like" a full-fledged Counter Intelligence Corps agent.
In short, although I led an interesting and accomplished life, I nevertheless embellished and exaggerated certain aspects of my past. I'm not sure why I did it, but I have no one to blame but myself for misstating the truth.
[Note: This post was not written by Michel Thomas; however, his supporters apparently prefer to debate Thomas' stories by fabricating first-person statements and motives instead of discussing facts, so this post will stay up as long as theirs does.] --Michel-Not 18.104.22.168 04:21, 4 January 2007 (UTC)
Removal of Michel Thomas Method Section
Okay, which fool removed the Michel Thomas Method section I produced. Since this is the reason for him even being in Wikipeida, I can't believe someone deleted it.
I'll shut up
It does seem that any Michel Thomas Method section has been removed. I'm also not sure why and would suggest that a new one be put together.
Answer: The section repeated information that appeared in the paragraph immediately preceding it.
The Michel Thomas Method
I would really like to know more about the Michel Thomas method of language teaching - Where it stands in the spectrum of other language learning techniques. What other linguists out there make of it. Whether his claims for what the method can do hold water. I suggest that this is the greater 'legacy' he left to the world of knowledge, and what his entry in any authoritative (and mature) encylopedia would focus on. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Iwanbrioc (talk • contribs) 18:35, 27 March 2007 (UTC).
The Michel Thomas Method
A "Michel Thomas Method" page has now been added to Wikipedia, it seems. Shouldn't it be linked to this article somewhere? Unfortunately, I don't know how todo it.
The Michel Thomas Method
Shouldn't this article be shortened. There seems to be an incredibly long section debating the book about Thomas and subsequent court cases surrounding defamation. Can't this be truncated into two paragraphs and the rest of the argument surrounding it be put into a separate entry about Tim Robbin's book. Then just add a link to this article. At the moment, the huge size of this section makes it a bit unreadable. I think this is the problem you get when you have two sets of fanatics building an article. To a person from outside, it's really pretty useless. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 22.214.171.124 (talk) 03:08, 10 May 2007 (UTC).
I've reedited the article and it seems far more readable and appropriate. Let's keep things where they belong, people. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 126.96.36.199 (talk) 03:14, 10 May 2007 (UTC).
You have a point about the article's length, but the debate over Thomas' claims is complicated and your slicing and dicing didn't preserve a fair picture of that. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Rivenburg (talk • contribs) 03:44, 10 May 2007 (UTC).
New description of the Thomas method
I have re-written the description of the Michel Thomas Method so as to make it more encyclopedic and NPOV. I have removed an exact copy of that old article which appeared at the bottom of this page (while not changing the material at the top). The old article was written by Thomas' publishers, as detailed [here].
New description of the Thomas method
The description is certainly better written and more encyclopedic but it seems to me that the essence of the method has been removed. The description reads like almost a dozen other methods. Although the old description sounded a bit like it was from a publisher, as I remember it far better explained the way the method worked by building structure and interchanging words etc. To be honest, for me, although the description regarding the courses that exist is very good, the bit on the method is now really wide of the mark.
- Please discuss the new "Method" page on that page, not here.--Lingvo9 17:14, 11 June 2007 (UTC)
Undos of "by Roy Rivenburg" byline
Lingvo9: Mr. Rivenburg, who was sued by Mr. Thomas in a bitterly fought defamation case filed a few years before Mr. Thomas' death, is in fact the principal author of this article, as even a cursory review of the edit history since 2005 will show. Over the past year or so, several Wikipedia editors have tried to petition the powers-that-be at Wikipedia to address this issue, and some have drawn the analogy that having Mr. Rivenburg write an encyclopedia entry about Michel Thomas's life is akin to having Roy Cohn write the entry for Julius & Ethel Rosenberg -- knowledgeable about details perhaps, but hardly an unbiased author.
None of the appeals for someone to address this issue have gone anywhere. In the absence of such intervention, it seems only fair to Mr. Thomas to point out to readers, right up top, the identity of the principal author of the account they are about to read. If you have a better suggestion, please post it here. In the interim, there are numerous editors who will continue to undo your, and Mr. Rivenburg's, efforts to conceal his hand as the man who wants his version of Michel Thomas's life to be the one for posterity.
- I take your point, and I am indeed familiar with the extended battles between Rivenburg and the Friends of MT.
- Here is my problem: the line you keep inserting doesn't belong there. When one party is accusing another of systematic bias, the proper way to mark an article is with one of the standard POV tags. Not only does this prevent an edit war like the one you and I are having, but it allows other users to quickly find articles with POV disputes. The discussion page makes the Friends' objections to Roy's edits abundantly clear for anyone who is interested. The list of links at the end of the main article serve the same purpose. --Lingvo9 09:53, 7 August 2007 (UTC)
Note from Roy Rivenburg: If I were truly the principal author of this article, rest assured it would be better written and more concise. All I've done is add facts, with citations anyone can check, to ensure that all views are presented regarding Mr. Thomas' controversial World War II record. Thomas' claims have been disputed by reputable sources for SEVERAL DECADES. Unlike the pro-Thomas contributors to this Wikipedia article (who were also involved in Thomas' unsuccessful libel lawsuit and therefore equally subject to the Cohn/Rosenberg analogy mentioned above), I don't delete facts and arguments I dislike or disagree with. Rivenburg 07:24, 8 August 2007 (UTC)
Lingvo9: Thanks for your explanation. You wrote, "When one party is accusing another of systematic bias, the proper way to mark an article is with one of the standard POV tags." Could you be so kind as to mark the article with one of the appropriate tags -- the article was labeled as one subject to an NPOV dispute for some time, but then that tag was removed. Also, can you offer guidance on how to escalate this matter so that there is some kind of mediation of the ongoing disputes between Mr. Rivenburg and the others who have tried to edit this article?
- I have no specialist knowledge of how Wikipedia disputes can be escalated. I doubt that the Wikipedia board would be interested in settling your dispute when there are thousands of other edit wars breaking out every week.
- Since both sides seem to agree that the new POV tag is appropriate, this particular disagreement seems to have been resolved.--Lingvo9 22:05, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Fact vs. Opinion
As Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "Everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts." In response to the anonymous paragraph right above this one, I restored the POV tag to the main article. But it's amusing that Thomas' supporters claim the article is my version of Thomas' life. I didn't invent the fact that Klaus Barbie's prosecutor and the U.S. Department of Justice's chief Nazi hunter, among others, criticized Thomas' truthfulness. And it's not "my version" of events to say Thomas flip-flopped on whether he accompanied the 3rd Battalion as it liberated Dachau. Nor did I fabricate National Archives documents that prove Thomas was a civilian employee of the Army -- or 1945 newspaper articles and military records that contradict his story about the rescue of Nazi Party ID cards. All of this is sourced and footnoted. Thomas' supporters might not like such facts, and they might disagree over how to interpret them (that's what the talk page is for), but they cannot dispute their accuracy. Rivenburg 20:17, 11 August 2007 (UTC)
Selective Highlighting of Facts to Shape Opinion
Without granting the truth of any of the "facts" asserted above, each of which is subject to dispute, it is worth commenting that it is a true fact that Michel Thomas's chief critic took leave of his position as a reporter in 2007. It is a true fact that five years before he left the paper, he was sued for defamation, and that one story out of hundreds he wrote provoked over 500 letters of protest. It is a true fact that he made anonymous posts to Internet web sites, or used phony web names, to defend his work -- the same conduct that led to one of his colleagues being disciplined. It is also true that he had a long career at the paper and was generally well-liked by his colleagues and that his work occasionally won praise from various quarters.
If he were profiled by a hostile reporter, some of these true facts about his career could be juxtaposed to suggest that his departure was under less than favorable circumstances -- after all, he left the paper while others stayed, at a time of staff cuts. The cited facts might be technically accurate, but would such an article be a fair portrayal? Would it be good journalism? Certainly by the reporter's lights, it would not meet that test, even though all the cited facts might be true. As readers of the history section of this talk page will notice, the reporter profiled in such a fashion will howl with protest over the slightest semantic distinctions about this issue.
Interesting, isn't it, how true "facts" can be juxtaposed to lead a reader to a negative opinion, while skirting liability for defamation. And this writer does not even have access to a staff of highly paid attorneys and editors.
However, in this forum, the reporter has the ability to reply instantly, to recast the facts in a light he believes is fair and balanced.
Mr. Thomas was never given any such opportunity by the Los Angeles Times, whose profile of him reached an audience of more than a million readers, in the city he made his home for more than thirty years.
This has always been the crux of the issue about the LA Times story about Michel Thomas: a man who lived an extraordinary life and did remarkable things was ridiculed in his 87th year and portrayed as a fraud and a phony by selectively presenting certain alleged "facts" in isolation, while ignoring much else about his life that any reasonable person would find far more important. (See related comment above by "By-the-Bay.") This caused him great anguish and he fought back to the end of his life, and was saluted by a long parade of those who understood and appreciated his contributions, including every one of his surviving WWII comrades, US Senators Bob Dole, John Warner, John McCain, and Max Cleland, New York Representative Carolyn Maloney, the Ambassador of France, et al.
At age 90, and upon his death, he was publicly recognized and rewarded for his contributions by the US Army, the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, leading archivists, WWII historians,the US Justice Department, and media organizations including CNN, the Army News Service, and the Associated Press.
Despite this avalanche of approbation, the reporter continues, years after Mr. Thomas's death, what could properly be characterized as a vendetta campaign.
The reporter's lack of any sense of proportion or perspective about his subject, his niggling insistence on drawing attention to certain facts he insists should be pushed to the forefront-- versus the larger facts of his subject's life that are beyond dispute -- has always been the problem since he first chose to write about Mr. Thomas. This remains so to this day, as the reporter continues to stamp his feet and demand that any reader interested in Mr. Thomas be bombarded with the farrago of innuendo and selective "facts" that the reporter deems most worthy of emphasis.
One hopes that most readers will have the judgment and wisdom to weigh all the facts about Michel Thomas and not be misled by the one man who has worked so hard to discredit him, out of motives that remain a mystery to this day. WWII Buff
Reply to "Selective Highlighting..."
There's a big difference between juxtaposing facts in a misleading way (which did NOT happen in the Los Angeles Times article, by the way) vs. making stuff up altogether, as the previous post did.
It's also worth noting that the issues highlighted by The Times weren't chosen "selectively." They were issues that Mr. Thomas himself singled out as important in his biography and in interviews. Unfortunately, some of his "facts" didn't check out. As Times Editor John Carroll said, "When you put yourself out in public and make claims that are preposterous, and publish a book on it, you're likely to get a reviewer who will look into that and set the record straight."
That's all the Times article did and that's all I'm doing now -- setting the record straight. The "larger picture" of Mr. Thomas' life is that he was an interesting and accomplished man who for mysterious reasons embellished, exaggerated and in some cases outright fabricated his past. Most of this was documented long before the L.A. Times came along, so it's ridiculous to claim that the newspaper invented or misrepresented the controversies surrounding Thomas' tales. Yes, Thomas did some good things, but that doesn't give him a free pass to steal credit for the accomplishments of others. Rivenburg 20:59, 15 August 2007 (UTC)
Original Research and Neutrality Tags
However, the Neutrality tag remains. As the article now stands, I believe it's as neutral as can be, putting across any challenges and counterchallenges to the information within as clearly and concisely as possible. If there are no objections here within, say, a week, I will remove the tag. Best Regards. Liquidfinale 11:42, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
- Most of your edits seem fine on a quick read, but in some spots I think the condensing introduced inaccuracies or deleted crucial material. A couple of examples: In the Challenges section, the wording makes it sound as if William Browne called his press conference to contradict Thomas. Also, regarding Dachau, Felix Sparks didn't recant his statement that Thomas never accompanied his battalion into the concentration camp. What happened was that Thomas changed his own story, telling Sparks that he never claimed to have accompanied Sparks' battalion. Based on that, Sparks issued a letter saying he had been misled by the Times reporter, not realizing that a few months earlier, Thomas had given a sworn court deposition saying he WAS with Sparks' battalion. I'll take a closer look at the rest of your edits later. Thanks. Rivenburg 17:20, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
- Hi, thanks for pointing those out - now corrected, all save the Dachau claims. My original wording said something along the lines of "After confusion over the number of the battalion" or somesuch, but must have got lost along the way. I'll take hard look at that paragraph to see how it can be worded better, with the appropriate citations of course Liquidfinale 19:20, 17 August 2007 (UTC)
WikiProject class rating
This article was automatically assessed because at least one article was rated and this bot brought all the other ratings up to at least that level. BetacommandBot 07:29, 27 August 2007 (UTC)
Inclusion of Silver Star Citation Language
There are numerous instances on Wikipedia of the language of military medal citations being included in a biographical entry, see, e.g., the entries for former Nebraska Governor Bob Kerrey, former Senator Max Cleland, Senator Daniel Inouye, and actor Audie Murphy.
This article has been substantially written and edited by a man who has made a crusade of discrediting Thomas's wartime service. He insists on pushing to the fore alleged controversies that only he believes are significant -- and which have the effect of justifying and defending his very controversial take on this subject. Given this, it is perfectly legitimate to include the language of this citation here.
Unlike the long sections questioning Thomas's wartime service and credibility which make up the bulk of this entry, the language of the citation is an official record, based on research done by the U.S. Army, and endorsed by four Senators, a member of Congress, and the Ambassador of France.
Liquidfinale, thank you for correcting the formatting problem that was created by the original insertion of this text. It was unintended. Please feel free to insert a footnote at the end of the citation language. Facts@mt.org
Removal of Newsday quote re: private investigator
I have removed this sentence: "A 2004 article in Newsday reached the same conclusion, quoting Thomas' own private investigator as saying that he had never gone through the official induction process."
This is one of Mr. Rivenburg's more vicious cases of distortion. I am the private investigator who was interviewed by Ron Howell for Newsday. (Mr. Rivenburg has never answered my question about whether he "prepped" Mr. Howell for this interview, as Newsday is owned by Tribune Group, the owner of the L.A. Times.)
I spoke to Howell for quite some time at the SIlver Star medal ceremony at the Armory in New York City. I was horrified the next day to see that he was apparently a reporter with a hidden agenda, and was not at the ceremony to write a straight story about a 90 year-old man who was being recognized before his friends and family by the US Army for his heroism during WWII. Rather, Mr. Howell was apparently there to defend the work of his fellow Tribune employee Roy Rivenburg.
I did not "admit" that Michel Thomas was never inducted. I told Howell that Thomas never claimed he was inducted, and that his biography makes it quite clear that Thomas's status as a CIC Agent was distinctive, if not unique, in that despite his lack of US citizenship or any formal induction process he functioned as a fully-credentialed CIC Agent, as attested to by a raft of photos and documentation in his biography, which had been supplemented by letters and sworn affidavits I obtained in 2002-2003 from his surviving CIC colleagues. I also mentioned that Mr. Rivenburg had interviewed one of those fellow CIC Agents, Ted Kraus, but had never mentioned this in his article.
From this, Mr. Howell extracted his "money quote" that I "admitted" Thomas had never been inducted. Rivenburg has crowed over this distortion ever since. I will not allow him to give it further life by including it in this Wikipedia entry. In my book, Howell's selective quotation of me was vendetta journalism at its worst. I contemplated an angry letter to Newsday at the time, but it seemed pointless to me, as it was clear that this sister newspaper to the LA Times was intent on carrying water for their west coast branch.
Reply to 'Removal of Newsday...'
Whether the Newsday quote stays or goes doesn't change the fact that Michel Thomas lied about his military status. He claimed he was inducted, claimed he was an officer in the U.S. Army and a full-fledged CIC agent (positions that REQUIRE official induction) and sued the Los Angeles Times for implying he was actually a civilian employee. Unfortunately for Mr. Thomas' credibility, National Archives records that he himself signed prove he was a civilian assistant, as do his lack of a military service I.D. number, discharge papers or any record of his service at the Army Personnel Records Center in St. Louis.
I find it baffling that Thomas and his supporters seem ashamed to admit he was a civilian Army employee. If anything, it's more admirable that he did everything he did voluntarily, as an unpaid civilian. It's too bad he sort of undermined his accomplishments by bragging that he was something more. He did the same with Dachau. In real life, he made a key arrest and handled some interrogations, but then he gives himself a black eye by claiming he accompanied the very first Army battalion into the concentration camp, a story he repeated in a sworn declaration even though his own biographer and the battalion commander said it was false.
It's interesting that people who inflate their resumes are typically, like Mr. Thomas, fairly accomplished. Maybe it's insecurity that motivates them. I don't know, but it's sad.
As for the notion that the L.A. Times had any sway over Newsday, utterly ridiculous. That's just a red herring to divert attention from the fact that Thomas cannot back up any claim to have been more than a civilian employee of the Army. Rivenburg 20:10, 9 September 2007 (UTC)
This is absurd
Today I inserted the language of Michel Thomas's Silver Star citation in this article. Hours later I find that Roy Rivenburg has modified it to "clarif[y] that Silver Star was not for U.S. Army service."
Once again Mr. Rivenburg is imposing a tortured construction on an obvious truth, lest Michel Thomas get any credit for his service fighting with US troops.
Let us, therefore, belabor the obvious. The language of the citation reads, "Michel Kroskof-Thomas, (Then Lieutenant, French Forces of the Interior) For gallantry in action against the enemy in France from August to September 1944, while a Lieutenant in the French Forces of the Interior (Maquis Commando Group) attached to the 1st Battalion, 180th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. etc.
The Silver Star was awarded by the US Army. It was for actions taken while fighting with US troops, under the command of a US Army Captain, Martin Schroeder, who wrote the original recommendation letter in 1944, and whose widow i interviewed in 2002 when she verified his signature on the letter. Michel Thomas was in a US Army uniform when he fought in the battle of Autrey France, and there are documents from 1944 that make his status as an attached member of the US Army "official" -- and we all know how important that is.
Despite all this, which Mr. Rivenburg knows, it is very important that he makes sure no one who consults this Wikipedia entry is misled into thinking this medal had any connection "with US Army Service."
Mr. Rivenburg, stop this nonsense. You have engaged in an edit war here for years, over the most hair-splitting details of Mr. Thomas's life, in order to defend your article. Rather than abuse Wikipedia as a forum for your ... obsession? vendetta? campaign? Javert-like crusade? ... call it what you will, I renew my years-old invitation to you to meet with me to discuss these issues at a place and time of your choosing. We can discuss our differences about Michel Thomas, and perhaps discuss some things we agree about too. Based on some of your writing, I think you are capable of being an agreeable fellow, at least on subjects other than Michel Thomas. But it is past time to stop abusing this forum. Let Michel Thomas rest in peace.
Reply to 'This is absurd'
Actually, what's absurd is using Thomas' Silver Star to suggest that everything he claimed is true and everything the Los Angeles Times and other critics said is false. I have no problem with giving Mr. Thomas his due. Indeed, the Los Angeles Times article made note of quite a few of his accomplishments. And I presume he deserved the Silver Star. Nobody ever said Mr. Thomas didn't do valuable or brave things during the war. He obviously did. But he fabricated some stories too. And pointing that out isn't hair-splitting or a vendetta. Thomas' tales have been criticized for decades, by an Oscar-winning documentary, various media outlets in the U.S. and Europe, Justice Department officials, members of L.A.'s CIC club in the 1950s, and others.
So, we have a fascinating dichotomy here: a man who demonstrated enough gallantry to receive a Silver Star, but who for mysterious reasons decided to exaggerate and lie about other aspects of his war record. That is the truth about Michel Thomas. The Silver Star doesn't negate his lies any more than his lies negate the actions that led to his Silver Star. Both are true.
Rather than acknowledge that humans can have good and dark sides, Thomas' supporters act as if the Silver Star confers sainthood and infallibility. It doesn't. The medal was awarded for reasons that had nothing to do with what the Los Angeles Times wrote about. Instead of vindicating Thomas, the Silver Star merely points up the complexity and duality of human nature. Rivenburg 07:24, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Time to Whack Another Hydra Head
Until I see some evidence that there are more than a tiny handful of people who care about these details, I will not spend the time refuting in greater detail the alleged "fabrications" which Mr. Rivenburg has, well, fabricated.
However, he has managed to insinuate a new one in his post above, when he refers, without providing any details, to "members of L.A.'s CIC club in the 1950s" as having "criticized Thomas' tales."
Again, this is something that I believe should be handled in private discussions or email correspondence, but since it's out there, I will address it.
I met with one of the "LA CIC club members from the 50s" at his home in 2005. I will not mention his name to protect his privacy. He told me he was contacted by Mr. Rivenburg in 2001, and had expressed some skepticism to him about Michel Thomas' wartime experiences, and reported other members of the club harbored similar skepticism. However, he could not offer any specifics about what, precisely, they doubted.
I showed him the affidavits and letters I had obtained from Michel Thomas's CIC colleagues, and other evidence set forth in the biography and in the investigation to prepare the defamation case against the Times.
He responded that he was not aware of this information, and if he had been aware of it, he would not have expressed the doubt and skepticism he had mentioned to Mr. Rivenburg. He even indicated a willingness to write a letter to the LA Times to this effect, but I said that it seemed pointless at such a late date, since Michel had died.
He also told me that Michel had taught his daughter more Spanish in a few hours than she had learned in years of schooling, and said his daughter had never gotten over it. He offered to put me in touch with her to hear from her first-hand how amazing she found the experience.
Michel Thomas lived such an extraordinary life that many people who only knew him in passing certainly must have harbored doubts about him. Perhaps this is why I feel strongly that the record should be kept straight: as someone who spent hundreds if not thousands of hours researching his past, what was most astonishing was that every "claim" he made was verified by documentation and people that he was not even aware of, or had forgotten during his ninety years.
Facts@mt.org 08:16, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Reply to 'Whack another hydra'
Obviously, Klaus Barbie's prosecutor, the Justice Department Nazi hunters, various journalists and others didn't consider "these details" unimportant. As for L.A.'s CIC club, one of the Thomas tales they doubted was his claim to have been an inducted member of the U.S. Army. In 1958, one contacted the Army (well before the 1973 fire that destroyed some personnel records) and received a letter saying the Army found no trace of Thomas in the military's official records or in "the records of units in World War II." Rivenburg 15:16, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
There You Go Again
The point is that "these details" have been refuted ad nauseam, and I see no evidence anyone but you cares about them, and would like some indication that they matter to anyone else but you before spending additional time taking up Wikipedia's space refuting them in greater detail.
To touch on but one of your points, the "Justice Department Nazi Hunters" you refer to are one person, whom Thomas picked a public fight with by criticizing his report about US intelligence's turning a blind eye to Barbie's war crimes. Many more people than Michel Thomas considered that report to be a whitewash, but Michel stepped forward and criticized it publicly, and held a news conference that was picked up by CNN. (I have seen the tape, have you?) Using your familiar formula of propping up an authority figure to discredit Thomas, you leave out this crucial information about why Allan Ryan criticized Thomas, and lead readers to believe that Ryan was simply attacking Thomas's credibility out of thin air.
Interestingly, the current head of the "Nazi-Hunting" office you refer to -- the Office of Special Investigations, (OSI) -- who occupies the chair that Allan Ryan sat in, has taken a keen interest in this matter, and was very supportive of Michel and my efforts on his behalf. He attended the Silver Star ceremony on the Mall in Washington in 2004, and gave an autographed copy of one of his books to both Michel and me, with a very nice salutation on the flyleaf. As you know, one of his most seasoned prosecutors also credited Michel with the original rescue of the Nazi Party Master file in a published 2006 article in the U.S. Attorney's Bulletin.
As with Allan Ryan, you use the same tactic with respect to Michel's Barbie testimony and your references to Pierre Truche's comments to the jury. I have read most or all of the press coverage regarding Michel's testimony about Barbie. You selectively focused on a couple of critical items, including one that had a false and misleading mistranslation of Truche's comments, while ignoring the rest. (Example: "à une manière de s'exprimer, à un goût trop prononcé de paraitre, de multiplier les détails" does not translate to "a taste for make-believe.")
Did you ever read Flora Lewis's columns about Michel's testimony in the New York Times? They were anything but critical of him. And, as with Ryan, you made no attempt to research original sources, such as the French transcript of the trial, or to interview the authority figure (Truche) whom you employed to attack Michel's credibility.
Instead, you stitched together a patchwork of critical items, presented them without context or in-depth research, and crucified Michel with an article that left readers, through artful innuendo, to believe he was a fraud and a liar. And you're still at it, more than two years after his death!
We could undertake a separate (private) debate about who was right about Ryan's report and whether it was in fact a whitewash. Michel felt strongly that it was a defense of the indefensible. I have a copy of the report, and am good friends with a man who worked on the investigation in the early 80s for Ryan's office. But it is misleading to refer to Michel's public fight with Ryan in the way that you have done, and entirely typical of your M.O. when it comes to Michel Thomas. You have cherry-picked a scrap from an old news item more than 30 years old, and presented it without context, and furthermore made no effort to contact Ryan presently to see what he has to say today about the matter -- Michel indicated to me that they eventually became friendly.
As for the "letter saying the Army found no trace of Thomas in the military's official records or in 'the records of units in World War II'" to which you refer, I have the original of that letter, from the man who wrote to the Army inquiring about Michel's military records. The man who wrote it was a close friend of Michel's in the LA CIC club, and was interested in writing a book about him -- he gave me the original manuscript draft of it, along with photos of him and Michel at the CIC Club, taken in the 50s.
When his would-be biographer received that letter in the 50s, Michel was in no way defensive about it. He told his friend that since he was never formally inducted, but was attached to the 180th Regiment, and functioned as a CIC Agent despite his lack of US citizenship, it was not surprising that the Army did not have a personnel file on him.
When I showed him Michel's biography, and all the other records and testimonials that I gathered to prepare the lawsuit, he was completely satisfied that Michel had functioned as a fully-credentialed CIC Agent, and had not lied or exaggerated his role. He is the one mentioned above who offered to write a letter to you and the LA Times, correcting the impression he had given to you four years earlier that Michel was something less than what he claimed.
The two remained friendly, but lost touch over the years. When I met with him shortly after Michel's death, he remembered Michel with both fondness and a sense of awe, and said he wished he could have been in touch with him before he died.
Today, in September 2007, you now refer to this Army letter from the 50s and insinuate it's some kind of "proof" that Michel was a fraud. Yet you have been inundated since the day you met Michel in 2001 with documentation of his wartime service -- when you interviewed him he gave you copies of the letters written by his US Army superiors praising his service, written during the war, and you're well aware of how every one of them who survived back Michel to the hilt and were outraged at your depiction of him, including Ted Kraus, whom you interviewed before your article but never mentioned.
I do hope you can find someone knowledgeable about WWII history and journalistic ethics who can give you some candid feedback about the propriety of your ongoing campaign to discredit Thomas, and the tactics you have employed. It would be most helpful to have such a person -- who is not a friend of yours or someone biased to defend the Times -- give you a reality check. It would also be helpful to avoid clogging Wikipedia with all this minutiae -- it's clear that many editors who have looked in on this article and the debate between you and Thomas's supporters think it's way out of hand. I for one am happy to debate these points with you privately, but I see no evidence that there is a public appetite for it here.
Facts@mt.org 17:21, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Reply to 'There you go again'
As I noted in the post titled "Reply to 'This is absurd'," the truth about Michel Thomas is neither black nor white. It's a complex mixture of both. Attempts by email@example.com to reduce his portrait to hagiography are a disservice to history.
Regarding the remarks in "There you go again":
The 1958 letter isn't proof that Thomas lied about being a noncivilian Army employee. The proof is a National Archives document with Thomas' signature next to the words "civilian assistant." (Are you still seriously claiming he wasn't a civilian??). The Los Angeles Times never said Thomas didn't perform valuable and heroic work during the war. It simply questioned his claim to have been an officer in the U.S. Army. He wasn't. Is that a "minor point"? Depends on your point of view, but there are entire organizations and books devoted to debunking people who falsely claim to be enlisted/inducted in the U.S. military.
Allan Ryan Jr. (yes, I interviewed him, along with several other sources you incorrectly say I never tried to contact) wasn't the only Justice Department official to challenge Thomas, as a 1983 L.A. Times article makes clear. If Ryan had said anything positive about Thomas or his stories, I'd have quoted him. The dispute over Ryan's report on Barbie's escape is spelled out in the Wiki entry, so readers can judge for themselves whether he had an ax to grind.
As for Barbie prosecutor Truche, his rebuke of Thomas' credibility at trial is public record and reiterated on film in "Hotel Terminus." However, as the L.A. Times article pointed out, Thomas' testimony was believed and supported by Serge Klarsfeld and other credible sources. Whether you believe Thomas or not, it's a fact that his statements about Barbie were highly controversial -- in French and American media, at the Justice Department and to Barbie's prosecutor. Erasing mention of all this would be a whitewash of history.
Also a matter of record is that Thomas gave a sworn affidavit saying he accompanied Felix Sparks' battalion as it liberated the Dachau concentration camp. That claim, according to Sparks and Thomas' own biographer, isn't true. The Los Angeles Times didn't say Thomas never set foot in Dachau. It said -- correctly -- that his story of accompanying Sparks' battalion was contradicted by eyewitnesses, military records and Dachau experts. Yet when Thomas sued the L.A. Times, he repeated the claim in a sworn declaration. His supporters have been trying to backtrack and obfuscate ever since, even asserting that Thomas never claimed he accompanied Sparks' unit. He did make the claim, and it's not a "minor detail." It's a flat-out falsehood.
I'm not trying to "discredit Thomas." I'm trying to set the record straight and give props to some of the people whose wartime actions he claimed for himself. I've listed extensive citations and sources so anyone can check my facts. Nothing unethical about that. I've even added citations for Thomas' side and improved their presentation of information in a few spots. Rivenburg 18:34, 10 September 2007 (UTC)
Just as there is Wiki precedent for including the full citation of Michel Thomas' Silver Star citation, there is also precedent for including forum discussions in references, links and further readings. See, e.g., the entries on Carlos Castaneda, Discovery Bay, Night Drive, to name but a few. Rivenburg 08:27, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
- Honestly? I'd be tempted to remove those too. Now, there may be exceptions, as there surely are, but in most cases a forum discussion will not meet the criteria for a good external link. It's an interesting debate, to be sure, but for a start, it might look entirely different a year from now. Secondly, there's nothing really provable to say these people are more expert on the matter than, say, my friends over at the Return to Castle Wolfenstein forum. As for the Silver Star text, I'm hoping to find time to look over the article again in detail soon, and that is one of the things I may replace with the simple external link (or at the very least condense). Best regards, Liquidfinale (Ţ) (Ç) (Ŵ) 08:41, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
- Thanks for your response. I see your point, but if the standard is provability, then the links to and citations from michelthomas.org also become questionable. Although some of the MT website material comes from court files, much of it has no documentation whatsoever, other than the word of a plaintiff in an unsuccessful lawsuit. I would also note that the Feldgrau link has been up since at least Dec. 2006 and survived scrutiny by more than a few neutral Wiki editors. Thanks. Rivenburg 09:15, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
- p.s., I just found Wikipedia's policy on Verifiability, which indicates that discussion forums are unacceptable as sources for Wiki articles (it remains unclear whether they're OK as links or "Further reading"). The Verifiability code also makes clear that some of the citations from michelthomas.org (e.g., footnote 44 on the interview with Francesco Quaranta's widow) don't comply with Wikipedia policy. Rivenburg 19:58, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
- Thanks. Rivenburg 20:48, 19 September 2007 (UTC)
You know, for anyone not obsessed by MT's World War II record or the defamation suit he was involved with, this article reads as being incredibly disjointed. Aren't there wikipedia rules or guidelines regarding how much of an article can be given over to a small issue? If so, can most of this defamation and WWII stuff be put somewhere else. I feel that most people, like me, would come to this page looking for information about Michel Thomas related to his language teaching, schools etc. Sure, there should be a paragraph about all this stuff, and maybe a link to another wikipedia/wiki page dealing with the lawsuit and the related war record, but that should be it. This page is terribly disjointed as a result of this debate going on between a couple of people and as a result is one of the worst biographies I've read on wikipedia. It's like having 70% of the wikipedia entry on Hitler discussing whether or not it was right or not for him to receive the Iron Cross in World War I. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 188.8.131.52 (talk) 02:27, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- Info on his language program can be found under "Michel Thomas Method," an entry that was created after you posted about this in May. Thomas' WWII claims have been the subject of a book, considerable press coverage, an Army award ceremony and part of a film documentary, so the debate over whether he told the truth is a legitimate topic. Are you also upset that his biography focuses almost entirely on WWII instead of the language school? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Rivenburg (talk • contribs) 03:40, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
The book excluded a lot of what I think people would find interesting. Let me be clear here, I'm not on either side of this debate. I get what you're all saying. Personally, I guess the guy was naughty and made these things up. What you have said, Roy, convinces me far more than what the pro-Thomas lunatics have said. But for pity's sake, for the rest of the world beyond you and the mad private detective who worked for MT, no-one cares and the article is insane because of what you people have done to it. The fact that none of you can see this is a bit frightening, to be frank. As I said above, for anyone coming to Wikipedia, this article is a useless nightmare. Sure there is a page on his method, but that doesn't mean that the biographical bit should be like this. It's awful! Beyond the petty debate you crazy people are having, there is actually a normal biographical piece to be written here. But none of you will ever see this. It's like having a member of Hamas and Likud writing the history of the middle east since Roman times. The section dealing with the formation of the modern State of Israel and the ensuing conflict would take up two thirds of it - and to the detriment of people reading the article. And would they acknowledge that there was something wrong in that? No, they'd just carry on arguing their petty points with one another.
- 184.108.40.206/ Unsigned: You may consider me a lunatic, but you have also demonstrated a remarkable inability to comprehend written material in your post above. Have you not read the many, many posts here in which I have argued precisely what you are saying -- that the debate here between Mr. Rivenburg and myself and several other "pro-Thomas" contributors is a petty argument that no disinterested Wikipedia reader wants to wallow in? Do you not comprehend that this is because the points raised by Mr. Rivenburg are themselves petty? (See post below by Liquidfinale that nicely states this.)
- Let me say it again, in the hope it will finally penetrate: I have urged Mr. Rivenburg for many many months, both on this Wikipedia discussion page and in private emails with him, to take our little debate over these minutiae private. He has steadfastly refused to do this. So, as long as he insists on posting false or misleading information that supports his dubious crusade of discrediting a decorated WWII veteran and Holocaust survivor, I feel duty-bound to counter it. You may find this to be a 'lunatic' endeavor. Should you ever be defamed and ridiculed in a publication of wide circulation, and try to defend your reputation, I hope your legal team is less casual about defending you.
- As for Mr. Rivenburg's post below, I am sure he would indeed like to erase Mr. Thomas's wikipedia entry altogether. (He might want to look up the German word vernichtung as it bears an interesting relationship to his desire to 'eliminate' any mention of Mr. Thomas here, and generally to discredit and marginalize his name anywhere he can.)
- As for the Washington Post obit of Mr. Thomas, is Mr. Rivenburg willing to answer the question of what role he played in the writing of that obituary? (The Washington Post and LA Times have a joint publishing agreement.) Did he speak to Adam Bernstein, or trade emails with him, prior to publication of that obit? Even if he did not, I know from my own correspondence with Mr. Bernstein on the day that obit was published that he was heavily influenced by Mr. Rivenburg's article, but gave no evidence of having reviewed the detailed rebuttal of it at www.michelthomas.org, that had been posted for more than two years.
Facts@mt.org 21:21, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
- Dear 163.19: At least you're consistent (in regards to Thomas' book also overfocusing on WW2). I've always thought the best solution is to drop the Michel Thomas entry altogether. Or, as you might be suggesting, just remove the World War II stuff and let it focus exclusively on his language method. That'd be fine by me. Failing that, I think the debate over his war record could be much shorter, with the details provided in footnotes and/or links. Otherwise, I would point out that even the Washington Post's obituary on Thomas dealt mostly with his war record and the controversy over it. Indeed, much of the media coverage of Thomas since 1983 has involved debate over his war claims. So, if there is discussion of his war record, it's incomplete without that. Rivenburg 17:10, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
- p.s. In reply to Facts@mt: Wow, I can't believe you're still trotting out the media conspiracy and anti-Semitism hogwash. You show no understanding of how journalists work. I had zero communication with Mr. Bernstein and the Washington Post before that paper's obituary.
- Bottom line: It's not "minutiae" or "petty" when multiple major media outlets (the L.A. Times, Washington Post, Le Monde, an Oscar-winning documentary and others) see fit to cover these issues in detail -- and when a U.S. Justice Department official and a French Nazi prosecutor publicly denounce Mr. Thomas' honesty. Whether you agree with their conclusions is beside the point. When that many top news organizations, editors, filmmakers and public officials independently raise questions about someone, it's noteworthy. Rivenburg 22:22, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the thoughtful reply, Roy. I've made a suggestion at the bottom of the page, as maybe a compromise way out of all this, that the different groups might be able to agree upon. Though maybe not. I just hope there is a way to make this a more readable bio : )
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ —Preceding unsigned comment added by 220.127.116.11 (talk) 01:16, 15 October 2007 (UTC)
- 18.104.22.168/ Unsigned: The Friends of Michel Thomas could not agree more with your comments, and on their behalf I have made extensive entreaties to Mr. Rivenburg to take our "debate" about these issues private, as it makes no sense to clutter Wikipedia with so much detail about the dubious controversies he seeks to keep alive about Mr. Thomas.
- I would add that the article is more than simply disjointed. Rather, it obsessively recycles controversies that only Roy Rivenburg believes deserve the kind of emphasis he has given them here, and presents a highly skewed version of Mr. Thomas's long and accomplished life.
- Your Hitler-Iron Cross analogy is entertaining, but I'm not sure Michel Thomas would appreciate the comparison to the Fuhrer. I would say a better analogy is the alleged controversy whipped up about John Kerry's service medals by the Swift Boat vets before the 2004 election. In both instances you had men whose service records were, by any reasonable standard, highly meritorious, well-documented, and officially cited as such by the US military. In both instances their service records were attacked, out of highly questionable motives, by people with little or no direct knowledge of what Thomas or Kerry did in wartime. In both instances those who actually served and fought with them rallied to their defense. And, in both instances, the sheer level of noise, misinformation, twisted interpretations of obvious facts, myopic focus on insignificant details, and angry insistence on a malicious point of view, created an erroneous public perception. In my view, both amount to smear campaigns, and Mr. Rivenburg's ongoing efforts are a continuation of that, however much he insists he is just a disinterested reporter giving a neutral and objective version of Mr. Thomas's life.
- I have hoped for some time that a disinterested person would properly edit this article, in just the way you have described. My own occasional efforts for two years, and those of others, to edit this article in the way you describe are invariably changed back, often within minutes, by Mr. Rivenburg. However, as long as he continues to work to discredit Mr. Thomas, I and others who are knowledgeable about Mr. Thomas's battle with the LA TImes in the last years of his life have felt compelled to rebut him here. It would be far better if the article were re-worked wholesale by a neutral third-party; however, I believe Mr. Rivenburg would have to be barred from additional edits for any such effort to stand. Facts@mt.org 20:39, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- Neutral third parties have edited the article, only to see Michel Thomas supporters try to delete sourced material and citations they dislike. It bears repeating that Michel Thomas' claims have been disputed for more than 25 years by multiple credible sources, including an Oscar-winning documentary, French and American media, and Justice Department officials. Even his biographer says the Dachau liberation story that Thomas told in a sworn court affidavit is erroneous. And military records bearing Thomas' own signature contradict his statement that he wasn't a civilian employee of the U.S. Army. None of this negates Thomas' genuine accomplishments, which deserve praise, but the controversies are well-publicized and documented chapters in his life. A neutral bio contains a person's accomplishments as well as flaws. John Kerry's detractors were motivated by politics. In Thomas' case, unless there's some strange worldwide conspiracy to discredit him, then no plausible explanation besides telling the truth can account for why such disparate sources as Justice Department officials, a documentary filmmaker, Le Monde, Klaus Barbie's prosecutor and the Los Angeles Times would all challenge his credibility. Rivenburg 21:17, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- Like I said above, we should debate these things privately Roy. But I am at long last succumbing and must respond and correct the record about something you focused on, yes, myopically, and which you keep insisting impugns Michel Thomas's credibility. You write, "Even his biographer says the Dachau liberation story that Thomas told in a sworn court affidavit is erroneous."
- Here are the facts, for the umpteenth time:
- • Michel Thomas insisted, to the end of his days, that he was "with the first troops" that went into Dachau.
- • Christopher Robbins, his biographer, stated in the biography that Michel went in with the infantry of the 157th, which records show were the first troops in.
- • However, Michel never said, "I went in with the 157th" because he almost certainly did not know what "the 157th" was. His biographer researched the history of the liberation and assumed he was on safe ground making this statement. But when you pounced on this, he sent you an email prior to publication of your article in early 2001, stating:
- "Re Dachau: Nothing would have stopped Michel from being at the Liberation of Dachau. Not since his friend from Bordeaux University was incarcerated there before the war, and committed suicide when his accounts of the place were not believed. Again, not believed. Ironic, huh?
- I did Michel a disservice speculating to you that there might have been written orders attaching Michel to the 157th. It was not a question I asked him when writing the book. He has since told me that there were no written orders. At Dachau he represented CIC at divisional, not regimental, level.
- The question you should ask of the officer in charge of the 157th is not whether he knew Michel Thomas - of course he didn't - but whether he was aware of anyone from CIC being present in the camp. (Michel would have been known as Captain Mike. CIC special agents did not disclose name or rank.)
- • In January 2002, Michel Thomas stated in his Declaration in the defamation case:
- 27. On April 29, 1945, the 3rd battalion of the 157th Regiment of the 45th Division of the Seventh Army liberated the Dachau concentration camp, near Munich. I accompanied these troops; however, my presence would not necessarily have been known to the Commander of the infantry, then-Lieutenant Colonel Fritz Sparks. Because of the freedom of movement we enjoyed as CIC agents, we did not require orders allowing us to go to any particular place within our zone of operations. I explained this repeatedly to Rivenburg in our interviews, because he kept insisting that I tell him what orders I had and what military unit I was "attached to." Italic text
- 28. One of the reasons I went to the camp was because my friend Michael Nelken, whom I had met during my University days, had suffered so grievously as a prisoner at Dachau before the war - he committed suicide after his release from Dachau when he could not get his accounts describing conditions at the camp published. Another reason I went to Dachau was that I was searching for information about my parents and family from Auschwitz survivors I knew might be at Dachau. As Jews, I knew they had almost certainly disappeared somewhere into the abyss of the Nazi concentration camp system, and might well have been murdered. At the time of the liberation of Dachau, I still held out hope some members of my large family might somehow have survived. I later learned they were all murdered at Auschwitz.
- 29. I took a number of photographs at the liberation of Dachau. Many of these photographs depict gruesome images of piles of stacked, emaciated corpses in the crematorium and other areas of the camp. I still have the original large-format negatives for most of them. I showed these prints and negatives to Rivenburg in the course of my two interviews with him, and I saw him look at them. I also saw the Times photographer, who accompanied Rivenburg to his first interview with me, look at these prints and negatives. Attached hereto as Exhibit “M” is a set of copies of some of the photographs I took at Dachau, and showed to Rivenburg and the photographer.
- 30. Among these are photographs of the crematorium, which was located outside the main walls of the concentration camp. Several of the photographs are of crematorium workers who insisted that I take photographs of them performing their grisly duties of dragging corpses onto metal frames and putting them into the crematorium ovens.
- 31. I gave prints of these photographs to a number of my CIC colleagues. Recently, I learned that at least one of them, Frederick J. White, kept some of these prints. (See Declaration of Doris White) Doris White, the widow of former 45th Det. CIC Agent Frederick J. White, gave me photographs of the Dachau concentration camp that her husband kept since 1945. I took these photos, and have in my possession the negatives from which some of these prints were made.
- So, what's a reasonable interpretation of this? He "accompanied" the 157th in the same sense that a CIC Agent may have "accompanied" the 29th Infantry Division troops landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Does that mean the commander of that division would recognize the name of such a CIC Agent, especially five-plus decades later? Of course not. It means he went in at the same time. But as has been explained to you ad nauseam for six years, CIC Agents operated independently and did not need to be "attached" to any infantry troops.
- The "story" Michel Thomas told in his court affidavit is not erroneous. Rather, you have imposed a tortured interpretation on it, and continue to do so more than six years after it was explained to you what the context was of the statement you chose to focus on in your quest to discredit Michel Thomas.
- Yet again, I implore you to take these issues private, where I am happy to debate them with you. But it is a disservice to Wikipedia readers for you to continue to air these issues here. Facts@mt.org 22:07, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- Thank you for confirming that Michel Thomas' sworn affidavit contradicts Felix Sparks' statement to the Los Angeles Times that "there were no CIC [Counter Intelligence Corps] with us." Also, you failed to note that Mr. Thomas flip-flopped on whether the troops in Sparks' small battalion would have known he accompanied them. When Thomas was asked by the L.A. Times if anyone from the 157th "knew he was along for the ride," he replied, "They all knew I was there." For more details, please see "The Dachau Deception" post near the top of the Talk page.Rivenburg 23:09, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- It's hard to imagine any Wikipedia reader is interested in this micro-parsing of evidence that Mr. Rivenburg keeps insisting proves his points with respect to his "balanced" presentation of Mr. Thomas's life.
- But, for the record, according to the Friends of Michel Thomas web site, Felix Sparks told Thomas's investigator in 2002 that he never met any CIC Agents during the war and had no idea what they did. According to the signed letter on that site, Sparks stated the following:
- May 16, 2002
- To Whom It May Concern:
- My name is Felix L. Sparks. On April 29th, 1945, I was a lieutenant colonel commanding the infantry soldiers of the 157th Regiment of the United States 45th Infantry Division, with the mission of breaching the defenses of the city of Munich, Germany. Shortly after I had launched an attack against the outer defenses of Munich, I received an order to immediately proceed to the Dachau Concentration Camp.
- I led my troops into the camp that day, which became known as "liberation day." There were over six hundred troops from the 45th Infantry Division who were in Dachau on that day, along with some troops from the 42nd Infantry Division.
- In approximately February or March of 2001, I was contacted by phone by Roy Rivenburg, a reporter for the Los Angeles Times. Mr. Rivenburg stated to me that he was researching one Michel Thomas, who claimed he was with me, or at least with my troops of the 157th Regiment, when I entered the camp on liberation day.
- Mr. Rivenburg stated that Michel Thomas claimed he was a CIC Agent at the time he entered the camp "with you."
- I told Mr. Rivenburg I had never heard of Thomas, that I would have recognized his name if he had been one of my men in the 157th Regiment, and that there were no CIC Agents who accompanied my men when we entered the camp.
- Mr. Rivenburg did not tell me, or indicate in any way, that Mr. Thomas never claimed to be "attached to" the 157th Regiment. Nor did Mr. Rivenburg ever tell me that Michel Thomas was not aware of my name, and had never claimed to have "gone in with me" or my troops on liberation day. Nor did Mr. Rivenburg tell me that Mr. Thomas claimed only to have been at the camp sometime during the day of April 29, 1945.
- Had I been aware that this was Mr. Thomas's claim, I would have told Mr. Rivenburg that it was perfectly possible that Thomas was at the camp that day, and that I would not necessarily have been aware of this, as there were hundreds of U.S. military personnel who entered the camp that day whose names I did not know then, or whose names I would certainly not remember today even if I did know their names then.
- So, Thomas says he went on the same day, and perhaps around the same time, that the 157th went in, but the commander would not likely have known this. The commander, for his part, indicates Rivenburg may have been setting up Thomas by the way he phrased his question, says he was not aware of any CIC troops going in that day, and also that he never met any CIC agents during the war, did not know what they did, and that Thomas could very well have been there that day without his being aware of it. According to Rivenburg, this constitutes a "contradiction"? Sorry, but I think Rivenburg's trying the hang the man on a very thin thread.
Signed, Disinterested Observer 22.214.171.124 23:47, 26 September 2007 (UTC)
- You're misreading. Thomas didn't say he went in "around the same time" as the 157th. He said he went in WITH the 157th. Big difference. He also said "they all knew I was there," then backtracked. Again, see "The Dachau Deception" post near the beginning of the talk page for full details. Also, if you're "Disinterested," why have you previously deleted citations that question Mr. Thomas' versions of events? Rivenburg 00:10, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
- I'm not sure he is misreading, RR. It says a lot that you consider the minor contradictions described above to consitute a Big Difference. As I have followed this, I have repeatedly thought that you and the LA Times dodged a bullet when the judge did not allow Thomas's defamation case to go to a jury. The takeaway on this whole brouhaha? "Humor Columnist Attacks Holocaust Survivor and War Hero, Provokes Outrage."
- Not a case most lawyers would want to take to a jury. Maybe it's a good time for you to stop digging your hole deeper here.
- 126.96.36.199 00:29, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
- See "The Dachau Deception" near top of Talk page. Do you also think it's a "minor contradiction" that Thomas claimed he wasn't a civilian Army employee even though he signed military documents saying otherwise? I'm disappointed that you choose to make personal attacks instead of simply debating the facts. Remember, before the Los Angeles Times article was published, Thomas had threatened to sue, so all the evidence Thomas and his biographer presented was reviewed by Times editors and legal staff BEFORE the story ran. They didn't find it credible and still don't. Times editor John Carroll said a couple of years ago that he was very proud of the story and wouldn't retract a word because it was all true.Rivenburg 00:52, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
- Opining about how a jury would have decided is a personal attack? 188.8.131.52 01:57, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
- If the facts were truly on Thomas' side, there'd be no need to get personal, cast aspersions or make up stuff about Times attorneys fearing jurors would believe Thomas (you're way off the mark on that score). Labeling me a "humor columnist" when I spent two decades as an investigative, news and feature writer is obviously an attempt to divert attention from the holes in Thomas' evidence by implying I wasn't competent to dig into his background. Moreover, it ignores the fact that ALL of Thomas' evidence was reviewed in detail by Times editors and legal staff before (and after) the article ran and found to be, as Times editor John Carroll put it, "preposterous." So, your "takeaway" headline about a humor columnist challenging Thomas' veracity should be aimed at the entire paper. And, for that matter, at Newsday, Le Monde, the Oscar-winning documentary "Hotel Terminus," Klaus Barbie's prosecutor, U.S. Justice Department officials, historians and others who have challenged Thomas' honesty over the past 25 years. Yes, Thomas did many good things, but it's unrealistic to claim he didn't also exaggerate and fabricate some stories about his past. He was a flawed hero. Rivenburg 03:26, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
- Roy, I have returned to my computer and found this stimulating exchange between you and some others here since I Ieft this afternoon. Since you won't talk to me, despite my assurances that I won't bite, and have chosen to keep filling up Wikipedia with our little debate, I'd like to invite any other readers out there to sound off, and give their take on all the furious point-counterpoint argument about the issues you keep pounding away at. In private emails to you, I've asked if you have not gotten tired of arguing your case to an audience that has left the room. To gather some real data on that question, I'd be interested in readers' responses to the following questions:
- How many readers of this article and discussion are there? By reader, I mean those who have actually read it all, and believe they have followed the arguments. Just respond to the three questions below and end your post with four tildes (a tilde looks like this: ~) to sign with your username or IP address.
- 1) If you have read all this, do you think it's a useful exercise to have the issues raised by Mr. Rivenburg debated here? Just enter (1) and answer yes or no.
- 2) Which "side" do you find more persuasive? Enter (2) and answer "Rivenburg" or "Friends of Michel Thomas."
- 3) For the hard-core aficionados, who have not only read all this but have read significant amounts of the web site at www.michelthomas.org, and have read Mr. Rivenburg's article at www.offkilter.org and his original LA Times article which is linked there, please enter (3) and comment on whether you believe the original article was a piece of fair, balanced, and accurate journalism that the esteemed editor of the LA Times should have been "proud" of publishing.
- If, understandably, you feel that posting your responses here is an inappropriate use of Wikipedia's discussion page, please email your answers to <facts (at) michelthomas.org>. If you'd like, you can also email them simultaneously to <roy (at) offkilter.org>. (Roy, feel free to remove the latter if you don't want such emails.)
- I look forward to whatever responses may be forthcoming.
- Facts@mt.org 05:37, 27 September 2007 (UTC)
By my count, it's been about 50 hours since I solicited the "other readers" here to reveal themselves. So far, it looks like it's just you & me here fella.
Helloooo! Anyone else out there? Hellooooo?
Facts@mt.org 07:05, 29 September 2007 (UTC)
- Hi. I had a long-ish reply prepared. But it's on my PC at work. Monday, I'll give you some of my thoughts about this. Best regards, Liquidfinale (Ţ) (Ç) (Ŵ) 07:42, 29 September 2007 (UTC)
Well, I had an even longer answer prepared, but upon reading it, I find that for all the words, it makes but a few points, which I'll briefly skim over here. It may well be that this is outside the scope of a Wikipedia talk page, and an admin may come along and delete all this, but I think an allowance can be made for now, as it tangentially relates to getting this article sorted out for good. I've followed all the arguments made by you both here and elsewhere (the 307th Counter Intelligence Corps message board, for example), and I think I have a good enough handle on where you're both coming from. If Mr Thomas hadn't sued the LA Times in the first place, maybe there wouldn't be all this mess. It was a mistake; the original article is too vague in its intimations to be able to pin any proof of defamation of character on it, but here we are.
I have no reason to question Mr Rivenburg's sincerity, but to be completely honest, I find his conclusions flawed, and his fixation with "setting the record straight" about Mr Thomas out proportion to his sins. I would understand, were there to be concrete evidence that he was a liar and a fraud, but there isn't. There are inconsistencies and mistakes, conflicting statements and things which don't entirely make sense. Some things which from a certain angle look awry. But nothing tangible. Nothing enough to justify the zeal with which Thomas' record is constantly called into question. As for those contradictions, some can be explained away by the vagaries of memory, but just as many by simple pride. Pride has a lot to answer for, in fact.
I have no intention of spending all day here examining each and every claim and counterclaim. But as just one example of what I'm talking about, let's look at Thomas' CIC service, which has been the cause of such heated debate over the years. He was a "civilian employee", albeit one who acted in a special capacity due to the peculiarities of circumstance. His position was unique, in fact. To all intents and purposes, Thomas was a working CIC Agent; he wore the uniform of one and performed the actions of one – it just wasn't official in the strictest (and I mean strictest) sense. I think we can all agree with this so far. But what is contentious is Thomas' repeated categorisation of himself as a CIC Agent. This lack of "official" status has been seized upon by some as proof of his fraudulence. I disagree. I see it as a sign of his extremely high self-regard for actions he was quite, quite proud of. Even Mr Rivenburg, to his credit, agrees that Thomas did some remarkable things during his time with the CIC. Can he not also accept that it may be that Thomas was simply proud of his actions, and was pleased, proud (perhaps overproud), of telling people of them? To be frank, I wouldn't have any hesitation in telling people that I was a CIC agent, even if, technically, I was a "civilian employee", if I did all the things that Thomas did during the war. For Thomas, a case of "no matter what the paperwork says, I did everything, and more, a CIC agent would. Thus, I was one." (these are not Thomas' words, btw). Despite what some would have us believe, pride is not a sin.
The rest of the case "against" Thomas is largely based upon such misremembered minutiae and irregularities as these, and I find little point in taking up as much space in the article as we do currently. This isn't a matter of it reflecting my POV, it's a matter of notability. I'm not dismissing the claims entirely, and I have no problem with the article talking about them in some way, but there isn't a majority belief in them and the article should reflect this. I'd rewrite it in an instant I felt it wouldn't be defaced within a matter of weeks. And, on this score, Mr Kline is just as guilty, adding unnecessary boosterisms and what counts as original research. What it needs is to be reverted to a version from a few weeks ago, then for both to back off for a while and let other editors sort it out at their leisure. Too many have been scared off by this edit war, and the quality of the article has suffered - this is my only concern, and if you two want to argue this out between you until your dying days, I suggest you do it elsewhere. Best regards, S. Wilkinson (Liquidfinale) (Ţ) (Ç) (Ŵ) 13:14, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
- Amen. I could not agree more wholeheartedly. Many thanks for your thoughtful and objective comments above. I have been trying to get Mr. Rivenburg to take our debate "private" for a long, long time -- for precisely the reasons you cite here.
- My solicitation last week to other readers to respond has been met with zero replies other than yours. This is further evidence that, other than yourself, who plainly finds the debate tiresome and distracting, there is no audience for the debate Mr. Rivenburg seeks to air publicly. I believe it is because most sensible readers quickly understand that he is cavilling about minutiae.
- I disagree only with your statement that the article "needs ... to be reverted to a version from a few weeks ago." I think it should be re-done from scratch. Based on your careful reading you would probably be an excellent candidate for the job, and I will happily refrain from editing your contribution.
- Facts@mt.org 14:49, 1 October 2007 (UTC)
- "Every journalist who is not too stupid or too full of himself to know what is going on knows that what he does is morally indefensible. He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people's vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse." - Janet Malcolm
- 184.108.40.206 16:43, 6 October 2007 (UTC)
- If you seriously think nobody is reading the Michel Thomas entry, then why keep it on Wikipedia? Beyond that, although Liquidfinale is certainly entitled to side with Mr. Thomas' defenders, he's off-track in saying the evidence presented by Thomas' critics lacks "notability" or "majority belief."
- Let's start with an issue he didn't mention, Mr. Thomas' role in the Klaus Barbie case. When the Washington Post published its obituary of Mr. Thomas in 2005, it prominently noted that Barbie's prosecutor took a swipe at Mr. Thomas' credibility during Barbie's 1987 trial, telling the jury, "With the exception of Mr. Thomas, all the witnesses are of good faith." Questions about Thomas' testimony also appeared in the Oscar-winning documentary "Hotel Terminus." And, four years earlier, the U.S. Justice Department's top Nazi hunter called a press conference to denounce Thomas' credibility. Whether you believe Thomas or not, everyone can agree it's highly unusual and, yes, notable to have a Justice Department official publicly criticize you and have your courtroom testimony against a war criminal thrown out by the prosecutor who put you on the stand.
- The same is true for the rest of Thomas' stories. You're entitled to think it's all minutiae or out of proportion to Michel's accomplishments, but major media organizations have decided otherwise. L.A. Times Editor John Carroll labeled Thomas' war claims "preposterous," and said he was "very proud" the paper devoted several thousand words to, as Mr. Carroll put it, "set the record straight."
- Newsday, Le Monde and France's history channel have also covered these so-called "petty" issues in detail. When that many respected editors, filmmakers and public officials independently raise questions about someone, it is, by definition, "notable." By all means, air both sides of the debate, but let readers judge for themselves.
- Regarding Mr. Thomas' Army status: The pride explanation doesn't wash. For example, let's say I was a freelance writer for the L.A. Times instead of on staff. And let's say the editors treated me like an official staffer and that one of my stories won a Pulitzer. I would rightly be proud of my work, but I would never claim to be a staff writer and I certainly wouldn't sue a newspaper for libel because it printed the truth about my job status. At that point, pride shifts to fraud. Although some might view the debate over Thomas' military status as "petty," others don't (entire books and organizations are devoted to debunking false military claims), which is why the L.A. Times, Newsday and LAObserved.com (a journalism website) all deemed it important to explain that Thomas was, in fact, a civilian employee of the U.S. Army. Mr. Thomas could have made the kind of statement Liquidfinale imagined, but he didn't. Even Thomas' supporters refuse to acknowledge he was a civilian. It's crazy. Thomas obviously did admirable work, but he was never inducted. Ergo, he was a civilian. There is no unique halfway point between inducted and civilian. You're either one or the other. And, for the record, Ian Sayer, who wrote a history of the CIC, said thousands of foreign nationals wore CIC uniforms, so Thomas wasn't unique in that respect either.
- Also problematic is the memory excuse on matters like Dachau and the Nazi ID card find. Thomas and his biographer went to great lengths to claim that Thomas had a photographic memory and could relive the past in vivid detail.
- As for the Janet Malcolm quote posted above, obviously the facts aren't on Thomas' side if his supporters keep trying to personally attack the messengers. Rivenburg 23:54, 11 October 2007 (UTC)
- Cite error: The named reference
Newsdaywas invoked but never defined (see the help page).