Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
“I took a pack of Tarot cards. I had found out that they were very superstitious. On arrival at a commune I would ask for their astrological birth signs and tell them mine,” Jillian Becker described her process of investigating the Marxist terrorist Baader-Meinhof Gang.
Officially, the Red Army Faction, but popularly known for its two leaders, Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhof, the leftist terrorist group had carried out a string of attacks, including the killings of a number of American military personnel. Becker’s investigations of Soviet backed terrorism had taken her around the world, and now the South African Jewish journalist was in Berlin.
The Baader-Meinhof gang had come out of the communards. The Communards, even more degenerate and deadlier versions of American leftists who flirted with terrorism and terror trolling, embraced Mao and experimented with everything, were not easy targets for journalists.
“I would offer to read two or three fortunes with the cards, saying that for me the process was exhausting so I could not do more than that. They would decide who were to be the lucky ones, and I would go through a routine of getting them to shuffle and lay out the cards in a certain pattern. Then I would pick them up one by one and “tell their fortune”. Becker told me.
“I can see at once that you are a very sensitive person.” “Ah, I see you are having some serious difficulties at the moment.” (Who isn’t, at any moment?) “But you are going to overcome them quite soon.” That sort of thing. After that they felt they could trust me, and I would ask my questions and get my answers.”
The answers went into Becker’s book, Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang, and later into the archives of her organization: The Institute for the Study of Terrorism. The Institute closed down due to lack of funding a decade before 9/11 and the collected archive covering a range of Soviet-backed terror groups around the world was transferred over to the University of Leicester. Now it’s gone missing even as the university has made the shift over to politically convenient wokeness. And Jillian Becker fears the worst.
In her original account of what took place on her own blog, Becker explains that the value of the Institute for the Study of Terrorism archive lay in the original material painstakingly collected at great risk which “established that almost all the terrorist groups in the First World and its allies between 1969 and 1990 were supported with training, and/or funding, arms, asylum, by Soviet Russia. (A few were affiliated with China.)”
Beyond playing fortune teller to Marxist terrorists, Becker mentions “picking the documents out of the rubble of bombed PLO headquarters” in Lebanon.
“They were blood stained and soiled but legible,” she recalls. “They went into transparent plastic covers to be photocopied before they could be translated and the translations filed. That was almost the only documentation there was about the PLO years in Lebanon to help me write that history.”
That led to her next book on terrorism, The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Those PLO documents, like so much else in the archive, are gone.
What happened to them?
Two years ago, the University of Leicester informed a Republican activist seeking information about the archive that they had no idea where it was. An extensive search turned up nothing.
A response from a sociology professor informed her that the university, “prioritises collections in their care which are most pertinent to contemporary research and teaching”, that a search for “material relating to the IST proved inconclusive” and that any material from the Institute for the Study of Terrorism “located in future will be appraised by a professionally-qualified archivist and, if appropriate, transferred to the care of our University Archives and Special Collections.”
To Jillian Becker, the email is a confession. “They keep what is most pertinent to contemporary research and teaching,'” she writes. “What is “most pertinent to contemporary research and teaching”? They declare unequivocally, ‘Ethnicity, sexuality and diversity.’”
The archives of the Institute for the Study of Terrorism represented a diversity of a very different kind. Becker recalls uncovering information about an IRA bomb that nearly killed Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and her co-director, Bernhard (“Adam”) Adamczewski, and finding a wanted Baader-Meinhoff terrorist who had been visiting a commune in Vienna.
“I came upon the deserted camp of one west African terrorist organization where, in the rows of desks in the classrooms, there were exercise books in which students had taken down lessons extolling Soviet Communism as the ideal system. The course had been run by graduates of Moscow’s Patrice Lumumba University. Those proofs that the organization was serving the interests of the USSR went back to London with me and entered our archive,” she relates.
Becker blames the “woke academics” at the University of Leicester who “threw away the archive of the Institute for the Study of Terrorism (IST) – compiled painstakingly over many years and often at personal risk by me and my fellow researchers – as unwanted trash”
In her latest update she concludes that the archive. “recording thousands of instances of the savage crime of terrorism – almost all of it by organizations on the Left, with support from the USSR and some from Communist China, through the Cold War years 1968-1990 – was an affront to the ideology of the ‘woke'”
Becker sees this as part of a larger great erasure of information, ideas, and the entire western past. “Most universities in the Western world now are conscientiously trying to erase history.”
While the University of Leicester can’t find the archive documenting Communist atrocities, its librarians promote the original papers of Karl Marx, materials from the Marx Memorial library, and rhapsodize about the ongoing process of digitizing issues of the Daily Worker.
One librarian excitedly promotes the fact that “the British Library has a digital copy of parts of the original Communist Manifesto – only 26 are believed to have survived worldwide!”
The University of Leicester has had no trouble retaining a special collection of socialist and anarchist memorabilia from the 19th century that includes notes and handbills. Or an oral interview with a Communist party member, and other leftist ephemera which have been painstakingly preserved even while the archive indicting Communism has disappeared.
These are “pertinent to contemporary research and teaching” at the University of Leicester.
“Once when I was in Beirut during the IDF incursion to drive the PLO out of Lebanon in 1983, I came to one end of a long street on which a gun battle was being fought,” Jillian Becker recalls.
Bernhard (“Adam”) Adamczewski, the deputy director of the Institute, quickly intervened.
“I had only just seen the yellow flash when Adam , who had been talking to someone, noticed where I was standing, rushed to me and seized me to drag me off. ‘Adam, you are obscuring my view!’ I said, trying to turn him out of my way.”
“He hung on to me, and we turned round twice again before I heard what he was saying – that I was in danger of being shot dead. Then I ran with him back to the safety of the sidewalk. When the adrenalin had ebbed, I said to him, ‘You’ve always told me that you cannot dance, but there we were waltzing in the crossfire!'”
Adamczewski passed away in 1993, having lived long enough to witness the fall of the Soviet Union, but the crossfire has only intensified. While it can still come in the form of terrorist bullets, the shots are even more often taken with words, with lies, and the destruction of memory.
And yet, like Jillian Becker, sometimes we can waltz in the crossfire, tell the truth, and fight to keep it alive.