The Big­gest Lies In World His­tory

What’s true – and what’s a leg­end?

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - Contents -

HOW CAN A PHARAOH VAN­ISH INTO THIN AIR? Fake chron­i­cles from the Val­ley of the Kings

When Howard Carter opened the tomb in 1922, it was a sen­sa­tion. The world had never seen the un­spoilt, trea­sure-packed grave of a pharaoh be­fore. But why wasn’t Tu­tankhamun’s tomb plun­dered? Nearly 80 rulers were buried in the Val­ley of the Kings. Their graves were ran­sacked and even the mum­mies dis­ap­peared. But this one was left un­touched – why?

Tu­tankhamun’s reign was long thought to be in­signif­i­cant. The son of Akhen­aten and step­son of Ne­fer­titi, he was over­shad­owed by his pow­er­ful pre­de­ces­sors. This royal cou­ple un­leashed a re­li­gious rev­o­lu­tion by re­nounc­ing the old gods and re­plac­ing them with Aten, an all-pow­er­ful sin­gle de­ity. But the coup failed – Akhen­aten and his queen were over­thrown. Their son was used as a pup­pet by priests to re­store the old or­der of the gods. The young pharaoh died when their work was done – it’ll prob­a­bly never be known whether by nat­u­ral causes or if he was mur­dered – and his grave mon­u­ment was never com­pleted. The priests erased the names Akhen­aten and Tu­tankhamun from most records. It’s as if they never ex­isted.

Mere decades af­ter his death, Tu­tankhamun was com­pletely for­got­ten: ar­chae­ol­o­gists only found out about him when his tomb was opened, and loot­ers couldn’t find his grave as it was hid­den un­der a pile of rub­ble. But this also meant that the usual prac­tice of the priests tak­ing trea­sures from old graves to fur­nish new tombs didn’t take place be­cause they sim­ply for­got that he ex­isted. For his­to­ri­ans, the priests’ cover-up was a stroke of luck. Iron­i­cally, the pharaoh who was air­brushed from his­tory has ended up be­ing the most fa­mous pharaoh of them all.

WHO FORGED THE DOC­U­MENTS OF THE NAZI CRIM­I­NALS? The sus­pi­cious es­cape of Adolf Eich­mann

Adolf Eich­mann was Hitler’s most com­mit­ted ex­e­cu­tioner, re­spon­si­ble for the de­por­ta­tion of mil­lions of Jews to con­cen­tra­tion camps. Af­ter 1945, he was also the most wanted Nazi war crim­i­nal. How­ever, de­spite ev­ery soldier and border guard know­ing what he looked like, Eich­mann suc­ceeded in keep­ing him­self hid­den. How? With the help of a wellor­gan­ised ca­bal of sup­port­ers who helped Eich­mann hide in Ger­many and es­cape to Ar­gentina – us­ing coun­ter­feit iden­tity pa­pers. We now know that Eich­mann was given the doc­u­ments by SS groups in post-war Ger­many. Later, sym­pa­this­ers in the Vatican got him a cov­eted Red Cross refugee card. He then left for Ar­gentina and worked as an elec­tri­cian for au­to­mo­bile com­pany Daim­ler-benz.

How­ever, files re­cently re­leased by the CIA and Ger­many’s in­tel­li­gence agency prove that, from 1952, the US and Ger­man gov­ern­ments were aware of Eich­mann’s where­abouts. But fear­ing that Eich­mann could ex­pose the Nazi past of his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Hans Globke, Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Kon­rad Ade­nauer or­dered that his lo­ca­tion should re­main a se­cret. It was only when Eich­mann gave an in­ter­view to a jour­nal­ist in an at­tempt to dis­tance him­self from the Holo­caust that he be­came fair game. With help from the CIA, the Is­raeli se­cret ser­vice Mos­sad cap­tured Eich­mann in 1960 and took him to Is­rael, where he was ex­e­cuted in 1962.

HOW DO YOU DE­STROY THE MOST POW­ER­FUL AL­LIANCE IN THE WORLD? The big­gest smear cam­paign in his­tory

The en­emy fac­ing the French king seems too pow­er­ful: the Knights Tem­plar have amassed fab­u­lous riches af­ter re­turn­ing from the Cru­sades. More­over, in­ge­nious fi­nan­cial deals have al­lowed the Or­der to ac­quire more and more land. The Knights Tem­plar also have the strong­est al­liances through­out the con­ti­nent – Europe’s no­bil­ity is deep in their debt and even the Pope pro­tects their multi­na­tional fi­nan­cial em­pire…

King Philip IV knows that only the to­tal de­struc­tion of the Knights Tem­plar can bring about his goal: their as­sets would be worth £77 bil­lion in to­day’s money – money that Philip could use to re­con­struct his bank­rupt coun­try. And, at the same time, he could take re­venge on those who once re­fused him ad­mis­sion to the elite Tem­plar cir­cle. But how do you take on tens of thou­sands of bat­tle-hard­ened knights? Philip gave the Pope an ul­ti­ma­tum: ei­ther elim­i­nate the Knights Tem­plar and con­fis­cate their goods or the Church will be split! Pope Cle­ment V re­luc­tantly gave in – and be­trayed the most loyal and pow­er­ful army to have ever served the Church. Shortly be­fore his death, he wrote a let­ter to clear his con­science. It would be lost for cen­turies. On Fri­day 13th Oc­to­ber 1307, hun­dreds of Knights Tem­plar were ar­rested and brought be­fore the In­qui­si­tion court. The main charges in the most infamous smear cam­paign in his­tory were: heresy, sodomy, de­nial of Christ, be­smirch­ing of the Cross and idola­try. All of th­ese di­rectly con­tra­dicted the found­ing prin­ci­ples of the Knights Tem­plar. But – us­ing forged doc­u­ments, bribed wit­nesses, ma­nip­u­lated state­ments and con­fes­sions ob­tained un­der tor­ture – they were still found guilty. On 13th March 1314, Jac­ques de Mo­lay, the last Grand Mas­ter of the Tem­plars, was burned at the stake af­ter re­tract­ing his ear­lier con­fes­sion. He cursed Philip and the Pope with his fi­nal breath. Both died within a year, but the damn­ing ver­dict stuck to the Knights Tem­plar for nearly 700 years. It was only in 2007 that the Vatican pub­lished the doc­u­ment writ­ten by the con­niv­ing Pope Cle­ment V be­fore he died. It clearly shows that the trial of the Knights Tem­plar was the cul­mi­na­tion of some truly dev­il­ish in­trigue.

HOW DO YOU AIRBRUSH A WAR CRIME? Fake rea­sons for bomb­ing Hiroshima

On 16th July 1945, US Pres­i­dent Harry S. Tru­man re­ceived a tele­gram: “Op­er­ated on this morn­ing. Di­ag­no­sis not yet com­plete but re­sults seem sat­is­fac­tory and al­ready ex­ceed ex­pec­ta­tions.” On 18th July, Tru­man got a sec­ond, odd-sound­ing mes­sage: “Doc­tor has just re­turned most en­thu­si­as­tic and con­fi­dent that the lit­tle boy is as husky as his big brother.” Th­ese cryp­tic re­ports re­ferred to what would be­come the most dev­as­tat­ing mil­i­tary at­tack of the Sec­ond World War: the drop­ping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Na­gasaki in Ja­pan. Both were razed to the ground and around 220,000 peo­ple were killed im­me­di­ately, many of them va­por­ised on the spot. The long-term con­se­quence of ra­di­a­tion would go on to claim hun­dreds of thou­sands more victims.

The USA had made mil­i­tary his­tory. But it was wor­ried that world opin­ion would turn against it. A rea­son had to be found for the act – a very good rea­son. A few days later, Ja­pan sur­ren­dered and pro­vided Tru­man with an an­swer. The drop­ping of the atomic bombs was cel­e­brated as a hu­man­i­tar­ian vic­tory: “We have used it in or­der to shorten the agony of war, in or­der to save the lives of thou­sands and thou­sands of young Amer­i­cans,” Tru­man said. How­ever, in au­tumn 1945, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by his­to­rian J.K. Gal­braith found that the Ja­panese had wanted to sur­ren­der be­fore the bombs were dropped and had got in con­tact to do so. But the peace of­fers were ig­nored by the US. Why? There are many pos­si­ble rea­sons, one be­ing the fact that the bomb­ings were planned long be­fore­hand. In 1946, Ad­mi­ral Wil­liam Halsey ad­mit­ted that US sci­en­tists “had this toy and they wanted to try it out, so they dropped it”. It was an ex­per­i­ment to test the ef­fec­tive­ness of the most ter­ri­ble weapon ever known. And it also sent out a mes­sage to the Soviet Union: “Look, we have the bomb – and we’re not afraid to use it.”

HOW DO YOU CRE­ATE A PO­LIT­I­CAL ICON? The im­age cul­ti­va­tion of John F. Kennedy

Had Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy not been as­sas­si­nated in 1963, the Viet­nam War (1960 to 1975), Amer­ica’s most dev­as­tat­ing for­eign pol­icy de­feat, would have ended a lot sooner. It’s a claim that mil­lions of peo­ple around the world be­lieved af­ter he was killed in Dal­las. But the per­sona of the peace-lov­ing pres­i­dent isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it’s a myth. Kennedy de­spised com­mu­nism and every­thing it stood for. He couldn’t coun­te­nance Viet­nam fall­ing into the hands of the com­mu­nist Vi­et­cong: “It doesn’t do us any good to say, ‘Well, why don’t we all just go home and leave the world to those who are our en­e­mies,’” he said. More­over, in an in­ter­view af­ter his brother’s death, At­tor­ney Gen­eral Robert Kennedy con­firmed that JFK’S pri­mary goal was to win in Viet­nam – with ground troops, if need be.

Po­lit­i­cal writer and jour­nal­ist Sey­mour Hersh is cer­tain: “What­ever Kennedy’s in­ten­tions were, Viet­nam was his war, even af­ter his death.” The botched Bay of Pigs in­va­sion of Cuba in 1961 also oc­curred dur­ing his premier­ship. In fact, many his­to­ri­ans con­sider Kennedy to be an un­suc­cess­ful pres­i­dent – how­ever like­able he was as a per­son. JFK wanted to come across as the po­lar op­po­site of the fusty lead­ers of the Soviet Union. He put for­ward a young, lib­eral and pro­gres­sive face, al­though his opin­ions were more con­ser­va­tive. Im­age-build­ing spin in­volved be­ing seen with Hol­ly­wood celebri­ties such as Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. It’s a strat­egy that Barack Obama has also adopted dur­ing his ten­ure – the out­go­ing pres­i­dent is seen as hav­ing cul­ti­vated an aura of celebrity.

DID CHARLE­MAGNE IN­VENT A HOLY WAR? How a lie led to the first Cru­sades

He’s con­sid­ered the fa­ther of the Holy Ro­man Em­pire and one of the great­est lead­ers of the Mid­dle Ages, shap­ing a purely Chris­tian su­per­power in hea­then Europe through a seem­ingly end­less se­quence of mil­i­tary cam­paigns. He con­verted the Sax­ons – and killed any trou­ble­mak­ers. He se­cured the east­ern bor­ders against the pa­gan Slavs and in­spired the Euro­pean knight­hood to con­quer the Holy Land, be­com­ing the first monarch to lead a war of ag­gres­sion against Is­lam in the name of the Chris­tian faith. To all in­tents and pur­poses Charle­magne was the very first cru­sader, then. Or was he? This mis­con­cep­tion held sway for cen­turies. The real­ity is that Charle­magne’s only clash with Is­lamic troops was far from glo­ri­ous. He set out to lib­er­ate the Mus­lim-ruled Ibe­rian Penin­sula (mod­ern-day Spain and Por­tu­gal) in 778. How­ever, his forces were wiped out in the Pyre­nees – one of their few gains was An­dorra, a small prin­ci­pal­ity that still ex­ists to this day.

Nev­er­the­less, 300 years later, Holy Ro­man Em­peror Fred­er­ick Bar­barossa made Charle­magne a saint for his role in the Cru­sades. Bar­barossa saw him­self as Charle­magne’s heir and wanted to bask in his re­flected glory – strength­en­ing him­self against the pope. So what were Bar­barossa’s rea­sons for the canon­i­sa­tion? Charle­magne was the first Chris­tian ruler to en­ter the Holy Land and place the Chris­tians there un­der his pro­tec­tion. But this was a flight of fancy: Charle­magne never ac­tu­ally saw Jerusalem and the Ger­man ruler only be­came pro­tec­tor of the holy sites when they were given to him by Harun al-rashid, Caliph of Bagh­dad, as a diplo­matic courtesy. Charle­magne wasn’t known for his diplo­macy, which makes it even more ironic that in his­tory books he’s de­picted as a heroic fighter against Is­lam.

Lib­er­a­tor of Cuba, icon of the in­de­pen­dence strug­gle, work­ing class hero – 50 years af­ter his death, mil­lions of peo­ple around the world still see the South Amer­i­can guer­rilla Che Gue­vara as a Marx­ist icon. His im­age adorns count­less T-shirts, mugs and posters. How­ever, few peo­ple knew that this view of the noble revo­lu­tion­ary was dis­torted – un­til files were re­leased to the pub­lic decades later.

Dur­ing the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion, Gue­vara pushed for the right to ex­e­cute al­leged traitors. In the first six months af­ter the de­feat of Cuba’s dic­ta­tor Batista, Gue­vara or­dered 216 ex­e­cu­tions – and that’s only the peo­ple who were named. He not only had the blood of his en­e­mies on his hands but also that of in­no­cent civil­ians. The revo­lu­tion­ary es­tab­lished a net­work of labour camps where tens of thou­sands were in­terned – and mur­dered hun­dreds of po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents. They had no way of de­fend­ing them­selves: “To send men to the fir­ing squad, ju­di­cial proof is un­nec­es­sary,” said Gue­vara. “This is a rev­o­lu­tion! And a revo­lu­tion­ary must be­come a cold killing ma­chine mo­ti­vated by pure hate.” His fel­low rebel Fidel Cas­tro doesn’t want the world to know about the dark side of Che Gue­vara be­cause Cuba – and com­mu­nism – needs he­roes for the strug­gle against the cap­i­tal­ist sys­tem. So the as­sas­si­na­tion of Gue­vara by the Bo­li­vian army in 1967 ben­e­fit­ted Cas­tro. Why? Be­cause dead he­roes live longer.

Four decades later, Cuban refugee Ja­cobo Ma­chover re­vealed the ex­tent of Gue­vara’s atroc­i­ties in his book The Hid­den Face of Che, which used records and tes­ti­mony from victims. It also tran­spires that, af­ter Che Gue­vara left Cuba for Bo­livia, his in­tel­li­gence agency car­ried on the blood­shed. His­to­ri­ans es­ti­mate that up to 12,000 peo­ple died.


BURIAL CHAM­BER This is where Howard Carter dis­cov­ered the un­touched sar­coph­a­gus of Tu­tankhamun in 1922. This room con­tained the most pre­cious grave goods – around 2,000 in to­tal.

ADOLF EICH­MANN WAS ONE OF THE MOST WANTED NAZI WAR CRIM­I­NALS, BUT RE­MAINED HID­DEN FOR 15 YEARS MACABRE LAST WORDS On 15th De­cem­ber 1961, Adolf Eich­mann was sen­tenced to death. He had pre­vi­ously said: “I will leap into my grave laugh­ing be­cause the feel­ing that I have five mil­lion hu­man be­ings on my con­science is for me a source of ex­tra­or­di­nary sat­is­fac­tion.”

AF­TER THE CRU­SADES, THE KNIGHTS TEM­PLAR RE­TURNED TO EUROPE – AND BE­CAME SO POW­ER­FUL THAT EVEN A KING AND A POPE FEARED THEM SIGN OF THE TEM­PLARS The Church of Saint Mary of Eu­nate in Navarre, Spain, (below) has an oc­tag­o­nal lay­out – and points to­wards the Church of the Holy Sepul­chre in Jerusalem.

DEADLY CLOUD The ra­dioac­tive cloud over the city of Na­gasaki, as seen from Koy­agi-jima – nearly 10km away.

ME­DIA MA­NIP­U­LA­TOR Noth­ing was left to chance: John F. Kennedy used the me­dia to style him­self as an icon. JOHN F. KENNEDY IS ONE OF THE GREAT­EST PO­LIT­I­CAL ICONS IN AMER­I­CAN HIS­TORY – BUT HIS­TO­RI­ANS CON­SIDER HIM A MEDI­OCRE PRES­I­DENT AT BEST

KING OF TWO NA­TIONS Charle­magne, or Charles the Great, is a na­tional hero in both Ger­many and France.

VIVA LA REV­O­LU­TION? They’re the he­roes of the com­mu­nist rev­o­lu­tion: Che Gue­vara (left) and Fidel Cas­tro. But the mur­ders they car­ried out af­ter the lib­er­a­tion of Cuba were kept quiet.

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