History tends to hide the ufortunate and unmentionable facts relating to people that become heroic or famous. Fortunately, it is usually possible to find the odd bit here and there – and that is what this list is about. Below are ten people who are either famous or infamous with obscure or scandalous facts about them. This is our ten little known (and often scandalous) facts about historic figures.

Adolf Hitler

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Fact: Hitler was a tax evader

Recent research into papers relating to Hitler has uncovered the fact that when he became chancellor of Germany in 1934 he had evaded paying 405,500 million Reichsmarks in tax (6.3 million USD in today’s currency). Fortunately for Hitler, he was forgiven his tax debts when he was elected. It is believed that he earned 1.2 million Reichsmarks for sales of Mein Kampf alone, and avoided paying 600,000 Reichsmarks in tax on it. The official who forgave Hitler’s tax debt was “rewarded” with a 2,000 Reichsmarks per month tax free allowance (a huge amount considering teachers at the time were paid 4,800 per annum).

Winston Churchill

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Fact: Churchill was racist

Sir Winston Churchill is so highly regarded for his skills as an orator and statesman that he was voted Britain’s greatest individual by the BBC in 2002. There is no doubt that his speech writing is a class above virtually every other modern writer of English speeches, and we are all familiar with at least one or two of his famous quotations, but what many people don’t know is that he also had a dark side. The best way to illustrate that is to let the man speak for himself:

“I do not admit… that a great wrong has been done to the Red Indians of America, or the black people of Australia… by the fact that a stronger race, a higher grade race… has come in and taken its place.” -Churchill to Palestine Royal Commission, 1937

“I do not understand the squeamishness about the use of gas. I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes” – Writing as president of the Air Council.

“First there are the Jews who, dwelling in every country throughout the world, identify themselves with that country, enter into its national life, and, while adhering faithfully to their own religion, regard themselves as citizens in the fullest sense of the State which has received them…In violent opposition to all this sphere of Jewish effort rise the schemes of the International Jews. The adherents of this sinister confederacy are mostly men reared up among the unhappy populations of countries where Jews are persecuted on account of their race. Most, if not all, of them have forsaken the faith of their fathers…This worldwide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation…has steadily growing” — Writing on ‘Zionism versus Bolshevism’ in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, February 1920



Fact: Gandhi was a dirty old man

At the age of 36, whilst married, Gandhi decided to become celibate in order to achieve a state of enlightenment (through the Hindu religion). As he got older, he became more and more fascinated with sex to the point that, second only to non-violence, it was the subject he most talked about. In order to “perfect” his celibate state, Gandhi would sleep naked with young naked women. One of the women was the 16 year old wife of his grand-nephew Kanu Gandhi. When he wanted to share his bed with his 19 year old grandniece Manu Gandhi, he wrote to her father and told him that they were sharing a bed so that he could “correct her sleeping posture”. When his stenographer R. P. Parasuram found him sleeping naked with Manu, he resigned in disgust.

George Washington


Fact: Washington cleverly tricked congress into paying him obscene amounts of money

First of all, this is what elementary schools teach about Washington: “Later, in 1775, at age 43, Washington was appointed military advisor for New York, defending it from British attack. A few weeks later he was appointed Commander-and-Chief of the entire American army. He did not ask for this position, and did not even ask to be paid for it. [...] The most important reason George was asked to be president was that he was very honest, and people both trusted and admired him. He was the most trusted, admired, and respected man in the whole country.”

Unfortunately what they miss entirely is the fact that he turned down a salary of what would have amounted to a little over 1,000 per month, but said: “Sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to have accepted this arduous employment, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.”

And then the shopping began:

- To cash paid for Sadlery, a Letter Case, Maps, Glasses, &c &c &c. for the use of my Command… $831.45
- To sundry Exp.’s paid by myself at different times and places… on the Retreat of the Army thro’ the Jerseys into Pennsylvania & while there… $3,776
- From September 1775 to March 1776, Washington spent over six thousand dollars on liquor

In eight years, by turning down a salary and taking an expense account, instead of being paid around $12,000, he was paid $449,261.51 in 1780 dollars (around $4,250,000.00 in today’s money).

Washington, being a clever man, tried the same ploy when he was elected President but he was turned down and given a set salary of $25,000 per year. You can view scans of Washington’s expense account at the Library of Congress.

Martin Luther

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Fact: Martin Luther was an anti-semite

Martin Luther, the famous Monk who started the protestant reformation, is often touted as a hero for standing up against excesses in the Catholic Church at the time, but what most people don’t know is that he was violently anti-Jewish and he made no secret of it. In 1543, he wrote “On The Jews And Their Lies”, in which he recommends that Jews be deprived of money, civil rights, religious teaching, and education, and that they be forced to labor on the land, or else be expelled from Germany and possibly killed (sound like someone familiar from more recent times?) He referred to the Jews as a “base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.” He said that Jews were “full of the devil’s feces … which they wallow in like swine,” and the synagogue is an “incorrigible whore and an evil slut …” [Source]

He also put together an eight point plan to get rid of the Jews:

- “First to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them. …”
- “Second, I advise that their houses also be razed and destroyed. …”
- “Third, I advise that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings, in which such idolatry, lies, cursing and blasphemy are taught, be taken from them. …”
- “Fourth, I advise that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb. …”
- “Fifth, I advise that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews. …”
- “Sixth, I advise that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them. … Such money should now be used in … the following [way]… Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed [a certain amount]…”
- “Seventh, I commend putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… For it is not fitting that they should let us accursed Goyim toil in the sweat of our faces while they, the holy people, idle away their time behind the stove, feasting and farting, and on top of all, boasting blasphemously of their lordship over the Christians by means of our sweat. No, one should toss out these lazy rogues by the seat of their pants.”
- “If we wish to wash our hands of the Jews’ blasphemy and not share in their guilt, we have to part company with them. They must be driven from our country” and “we must drive them out like mad dogs.” [Source: Luther, On the Jews, 47:268-288, 292.]

Thomas Jefferson

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Fact: Jefferson preached against whites having children with blacks, whilst doing that very thing and denying his offspring

Jefferson said “the amalgamation of whites with blacks produces a degradation to which no lover of his country, no lover of the excellence in the human character, can innocently consent.” Whilst preaching this rubbish, he had several children with his slave Sally Hemings who happened to be the illegitimate half-sister sister of his wife. While the rumours were around during their lifetime (which Jefferson implicitly denied), it was not until recent times that DNA testing proved that at least one of Hemings’ children was indeed fathered by Jefferson. In a letter to Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith dated July 1, 1805, Jefferson also admitted to having tried to seduce his married neighbor Betsey Walker.

Albert Einstein


Fact: Einstein was a philanderer

Einstein is perhaps the greatest mind of the 20th century and he and his most famous formular E=MC^2 are known by virtually everyone. Most people know he had a passion for the violin and that he started out life as a clerk in a patent office; but what most people don’t know, is that he cheated on both of his wives repeatedly. After splitting up with his first wife (because of his infidelity), he married his cousin Elsa. Shortly after that he had an affair with his secretary Betty Neumann. In a new volume of letters held by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Einstein described about six women with whom he spent time and from whom he received gifts while being married to Elsa. [Source]

Elvis Presley


Fact: Elvis was unhealthily obsessed with James Dean

Elvis exhibited many compulsive/obsessive qualities throughout his life which both helped and hindered his personal and public life. One of the areas that Elvis wanted to excel in was acting. He wanted to be the next James Dean and as a result was obsessed with Dean. He anguished over the fact that the roles he was given in movies were not (in his mind) substantial. Elvis knew all the words to “Rebel Without A Cause” that featured James Dean and Natalie Wood. Elvis sought out Wood because of her connection to James Dean. That relationship ended when Natalie came to visit Graceland and Elvis’ mother Gladys (who was domineering and jealous) drove Natalie away. Natalie confided to her sister Lana that “he can sing, but he can’t do much else”. The obsession with Dean led Elvis to intentionally befriend Nick Adams – a very close friend of Dean’s before he died and since his death rumors abound that Adams had a sexual relationship with both Dean and Elvis. [Source]

Andrew Johnson

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Fact: Vice-President Andrew Johnson took his presidential oath whilst completely drunk

Andrew Johnson was the Vice-President during Lincoln’s reign. He had a strong disliking for the aristocracy whom he thought were there by the labor of the poor such as his own family. “Glassy-eyed and smelling of whiskey, he reminded Congress, the Supreme Court, the Cabinet, and pretty much everyone within hearing distance that they owed their positions to “plebeians” such as himself, then kissed the Bible and staggered away”. In response, the New York Times said “To think that one frail life stands between this insolent, clownish creature and the presidency! May God bless and spare Abraham Lincoln!” History shows us that God didn’t spare Lincoln and Johnson eventually became president. His presidency was such a disaster that congress tried to impeach him twice – successfully on the second attempt! He avoided being fired by just one vote.

Pope Pius IX

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Fact: Pope Pius IX Kidnapped a Jewish child and had him raised as a Catholic

On the evening of 23 June 1858, in Bologna, then part of the Papal States, police arrived at the home of a Jewish couple, Salomone (”Momolo”) and Marianna Padovani Mortara, to seize one of their eight children, six-year-old Edgardo, and transport him to Rome to be raised as a ward of the state. The police had orders from Holy Office authorities in Rome, authorized by Pope Pius IX. Church officials had been told that a 14-year-old Catholic servant girl of the Mortaras, Anna Morisi, had baptized Edgardo while he was ill because she feared that he would otherwise die and go to Hell. Acorrding to Catholic Church doctrine, Edgardo’s baptism, even if illegal under canon law, was valid and made him a Christian. Under the canon law, non-Christians could not raise a Christian child, even their own. Edgardo was taken to a house for Catholic converts in Rome, maintained at state expense. His parents were not allowed to see him for several weeks, and then not alone. Pius IX took a personal interest in the case, and all appeals to the Church were rebuffed. Church authorities told the Mortaras that they could have Edgardo back if they abandoned their faith and converted to Catholicism, but they refused.

Despite international protests (including those from the United States government), Pope Pius IX did not relinquish Edgardo who eventually went on to become a priest. He was also a vehement supporter of the Vatican taking the first steps towards making Pius IX a saint. You can read his testimony here and you can see the incorrupt corpse of Blessed Pius IX here (his face has a protective mask of silver on which is removed for veneration).