Among the groups who tried to distinguish the truth from the lie were the White emigres, Russians who had fled their homeland after the Soviet takeover. They were particularly vulnerable to the attack of disinformers. In Western Europe in the early 1920s they were considered to be a valuable and important anti-Communist factor. The emigres numbered about a million people of whom some 135,000 were still under arms and were thought to represent a potential anti-Communist armed force. Among the leaders of this group were men .. who exerted considerable influence over some Western statesmen.Natalie Grant
In 1921, in order to discredit anti-communist White Russian emigres, the Soviet special services spread false information connecting White Russians with anti-Semitism. According to Natalie Grant’s book on Soviet disinformation, Moscow wanted to portray the average White Russian “as a person dangerous to society, politically immature, conservative to the point of stupidity and engaging in criminal pursuits.”
In 1921 the New York Evening Journal, published an article titled “Scheme to Overthrow the Soviets Exposed,” written by Herman Bernstein. The article was based on a spurious secret document dated March 11, 1921, misattributed to the Committee to Save the Motherland (a White Russian emigre group). According to Grant, the phony document “bore the seals of the Tsarist Russian Consulate General in Constantinople and contained information about a rabidly anti-Semitic conference said to have been held by more or less conservative White emigres in the Turkish capital.” [p. 25]
In fact, no anti-Semitic White Russian conference was held in the Turkish capital in 1921. The story was a communist invention. Nonetheless, readers of the Evening Journal, noted Grant, “probably retained suspicions with regard to the Whites after reading the story of the conference. This would be the first act in an affair which came back to life some years later.”
After depicting White Russian emigres as enemies of the Jewish people, the Soviet secret police (Cheka) next sought to bring American automobile magnate Henry Ford into the picture. It was of the utmost importance for Moscow to “harm persons in the United States who had shown themselves inimical to the Soviets,” noted Grant, adding that “Ford was an enemy of Communism, but he pinned the blame for conditions in Soviet Russia mainly upon a definite group of people instead of blaming Communist doctrine. He chose the Jews as his scapegoat, using a fabrication, the so-called Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, as the basis for his views.” [p. 183]
In 1925 Henry Ford got drawn into a legal battle with Herman Bernstein, author of the Evening Journal’s defamatory article against White emigres in Turkey. Ford claimed, through his newspaper the Dearborn Independent, that Bernstein was a Soviet agent. This resulted in Bernstein filing suit against Ford. As Grant noted, “Jewish groups went all out to support Bernstein and other persons who had also been attacked by Ford’s paper, the Dearborn Independent. Angrily, Jewish circles declared that Ford was building his case against the Jews upon false documents.” [p. 184]
With perfect timing, Moscow published information about Ford in the pages of Izvestiya, noting that false documents purporting a Jewish conspiracy had been given to Ford by a friend named Ferguson, “an American residing in Geneva.” Izvestiya added that Ferguson’s documents came from “Aleksander F. Gumanskiy of Berlin who, at the time, directed Russian Grand Duke Kirill’s intelligence operations against the USSR.” [p. 185]
In terms of information warfare, the Izvestiya article killed two birds with one stone. It linked Ford and White Russian emigres to fake documents alleging a Jewish conspiracy. The Izvestiya story illustrated, for all to see, that anti-communists were “dangerous to society, politically immature, [and] conservative to the point of stupidity….”
Henry Ford was convinced that Herman Bernstein was a Soviet agent. To defend himself against Bernstein’s lawsuit, Ford turned to New York attorney Boris Brasol. Born in 1885, the son of Russian parents, Brasol traveled to Europe in search of documents that would prove Bernstein’s ties to Soviet intelligence. Through his Russian emigre contacts Brasol met Vladimir G. Orlov, a White Russian with ties to the Cheka. Orlov claimed that Bernstein had acted as a secret press agent of Soviet intelligence, fabricating magazine articles for the Cheka. Unfortunately, Orlov would turn out to be a Soviet agent; especially in helping Brasol to acquire documentary “proof” of Bernstein’s guilt.
In true Soviet style, Orlov put Brasol in touch with Harold von Siewiert, supposedly “an employee of the German Ministry of Interior.” Von Siewiert introduced Brasol to Soviet agent Mikhail Karpov, a chief functionary of Moscow’s disinformation apparatus in Berlin. Brasol asked Karpov for documents that would prove Bernstein worked for Moscow. In 1926, Karpov presented Brasol with three sets of documents. Ford paid Karpov the tidy sum of $7,000 for those documents. (In today’s money, well in excess of $100,000.)
What was the real value of Karpov’s documents? Two of the three sets of documents were worthless, containing nothing of interest. The third set contained eight separate incriminating letters supposedly written in 1921-22. These letters were subjected to chemical tests which showed that the ink in those letters was ten to fourteen days old (in 1926!). In other words, the letters were forgeries. Even if Bernstein had been a Soviet agent, this kind of shabby fabrication would have exonerated him.
For all his efforts on Ford’s behalf, Boris Brasol only succeeded in getting himself into trouble. Ford settled out of court with Bernstein while Brasol became subject to threats and blackmail from the Soviet agents he had fallen in with. The same dark personalities who introduced the New York attorney to Karpov threatened Brasol with law suits. Orlov and von Siewiert demanded money from Brasol. Meanwhile, Karpov was writing him sinister letters. The details of Brasol’s search for incriminating documents, noted Orlov, could prove incriminating to Ford. How much hush money was Ford willing to pay? According to Grant, “Ford’s lawyers turned a deaf ear to [Brasol’s] pleas for financial support to Orlov.”
Moscow’s disinformation agents are trained to keep their victims on the hook. Once hoodwinked, there is always the embarrassment of being a fool. How much will you pay to keep your own foolishness out of the newspapers? Grant points out that while Soviet methods are sophisticated, Soviet agents are often of an “exceedingly low cultural and moral level….” The Karpov/Brasol letters are part of a collection at the Library of Congress. They show how intrigue and lack of principle, crude manipulations and lies are used by Moscow’s secret agents.
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