Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part Two: Basil Zaharoff: The Man Who Sold World War One

Part Two: Basil Zaharoff: The Man Who Sold World War One

Thu, 20 Feb 2020 11:00

Part Two: Basil Zaharoff: The Man Who Sold World War One

Listen to Episode

Copyright © 2022 iHeartPodcasts

Read Episode Transcript

Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's break or handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. Correct answer. No, I meant I don't know which phrase, and the best way to banish I don't know from your life is by cramming your brain full of stuff you should know. Join your host, Josh and Chuck on the Super Popular podcast packed with fascinating discussions on science, history, pop culture and more episodes that ask, was the lost city of Atlantis Real? I don't know. Is birth order important? I don't know. How does pizza work? Well, I do know. Bit about that see? You can know even more, because stuff you should know has over 1500 immensely interesting episodes for your brain to feast on. So what do you say? I don't want to miss the stuff you should know. Podcast you're learning already. Listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Hey there, it's Ebony Monet, your Co host for the San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast, in this special episode. You're speaking with Doctor Jane Goodall about the fascinating journey that led to her social discoveries on chimpanzees. For four, oh, months, the chimps ran away from me. I mean, they take one look at this peculiar white ape and disappear into the vegetation. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Welcome back. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, Sophie. Jesus Christ. No, no, we're running. All of this is the podcast, every single bit. Also, it's not welcome back if it's a new episode that's from an ad break. Sophie, this is behind the ********. Easily our worst opening, no, definitely our worst opening because of the opening was Hitler from like 2 weeks ago. That might have been our best. Oh my God. Well, for the five people who haven't stopped listening to this episode because of its terrible Sophie chosen opening, this is behind the ******** podcast, where we talk about the worst people in history. And this is part two of our series on Basil Zaharoff and Teresa. How are you doing in this part too? How are you, how you feeling? You know, I'm feeling a little scared about, you know, the inevitable death of all these people in the story. But, you know, I'm a, I'm a brave girl, so I think I can. I think I can finish listening to this story. Probably won't be able to go to sleep, but it's a good thing it's the middle of the day. I feel like there's some lessons that we can all learn in our own careers from the career of Basil Zaharoff. Like maybe if you're trying to sell a movie, you you you, you you should first sell submarines to Turkey and Greece and Russia and spark a naval arms race. I should first saw that will make movies to a different countries and then sell one to one country. Then say, do you want two of my movies? I don't know if that would work the same way. Yeah. I mean, I think, uh. The I I don't. I don't know. You're saying I should I should scam a rich selling machine woman out of her money? Yes, absolutely. Pretend I've said that for years and everything will be good. I did dye my hair blonde, so I'm halfway to Russian Prince. Do Russians have blonde hair? I think they very close them. Oh yeah. All of them. Every single Russian. Yeah. No, that was one of the one of the first things I ever said to you when we met was you should pretend to be a Russian Prince and marry a rich woman and steal her money and then flee the continent. Yes, I remember that. That's not a lie at all, Robert. I only see her like mouth because you're top of your face is cut off so nasty that it matters. But I was just looking at your mustache. Thank you. It's a mustache. So before we get back into Basil Zaharoff's career, I want to talk a little bit about the way this man presented himself to the world. He wore fine suits at all times, and he was known for having a striking mustache. He spoke rarely in public and confined himself mostly to shadowy backrooms and salons of the great and good. He preferred to speak in a whisper to in, like, talk to mainly powerful people and never really like. He was never a guy who was like, out in public like there. There's no like. Big addresses of this guy he didn't have like. A very public life, one writer at the time, Osbert Sitwell described him as evil and imposing, noting his quote, Beaky face, hooded eye, wrinkled neck, the impression of physical power and the capacity to wait. He was an outlook, merely a super croupier, and once I heard him introducing himself to a millionaire friend of mine with a startling phrase. I am Sir Basil Zaharoff. I have 16 millions so like. Like this is how rich I am. $1,000,000 some yeah Frank, people who want me dead. Yeah. To his friends. He went by Zed. Zed to the management at Vickers. Wait, wait, wait. General. He went by. Zed said OK. Yeah, it was his nickname. Cool. What do you call? What's what's your nickname chart? Is that who the DJZ is named after? He doesn't know? Yes. Do you know who that is? That I'm yes, that is exactly the story. Gosh. Yeah, it's just like, I know. I know who all of the musicians, my fans and guests said who are formerly dated, Selena Gomez, very briefly. But we know who all these people are. You're very convincing, Robert. Thank you. To most other people, yeah. So the management at Vickers called him our general representative abroad. And to most other people in the arms industry who we competed with, he was called the Armaments King, and it was in this last role that he would leave his most enduring mark. On the modern world, finance is boring, so we often ignore matters of debt when we tell the stories of the great wars of the past. But the fact that the Russian Czar spent the early years of the 20th century signing loan after loan with the French government to pay for his military buildup went on to be one of the most consequential decisions. Of the 20th century. So, like, Russia's got to like buy $620 million, which is like an enormous amount of money back in those days, rebuilding its military. And they just don't have the cash on hand. And the money comes primarily from France, and the money comes primarily from France because, like, France is Russia's military ally in this. And they're kind of trusting that Russia will help them fight Germany if they have to have a war with Germany. Yeah, the the fact that. Russia accrues hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to France would prove really key to the start of the First World War, and we can thank Basil Zaharoff for that. There were a number of arms manufacturers trying to like, get the Czar to give them his business, including corrupt the German firm. But Basil had spent half his life pretending to be a Russian Prince, and oddly enough, this actually prepared him really well for the job of selling guns to Russia. He spoke perfect Russian, he was a member of the Orthodox Church, and he spent a lot of time. In Russia. And it didn't hurt that his dad had Russified the family's last name. So at this point in time, France and Germany were kind of like fighting over Russia's friendship because, like, Germany had been Russia's ally before, and like, they all wanted Russia on their side because Russia's like 1/6 of the world's landmass. So whoever gets the Russian Empire to back them has a really big advantage in any kind of war in Europe. So while there were a lot of factors that weighed into Russia choosing to stay with France, the fact that the country was deeply in debt to the French. The public did not hurt, and Zaharoff firms wound up winning the lion's share of the Czarist business. Enshrining Basil is the most successful arms dealer on the planet. But the people of France didn't just decide to lone Russia all of that money because, like, they liked Russians or anything. Yeah, Zaharoff convinced them to do it. He owned newspapers in Paris, including one called Excelsior, which he ordered to send out a steady stream of propaganda supporting the cause of loaning more money to Russia. And he had a lot of like, there were like this. Wasn't super easy to do, because like, about a century before, a little less France had fought a big bloody war with Russia that had, like, killed a shitload of their young men, so there was like some bad blood there. So he had to, like, put out a bunch of propaganda to convince them. Like, no, it's actually a good idea to give all of your money to Russia to buy a ton of guns. So Basil found himself in the position of simultaneously trying to convince the French government to risk lots of money backing Russian rearmament, while also doing everything he could to stop French munitions. Bakers from selling any of their weapons to Russia. So, like, you've got to convince France to give Russia all this money to buy guns, but you also have to convince Russia not to buy any French guns because, like, you want to sell them, right? He wants to sell them. Oh, wow. Hmm. Yeah. So it's kind of a hard trick hat trick to pull as a as a gun salesman. But Zaharoff pulls it off. Yeah. So he succeeds in, like, making sure that Vickers a firm founded by an American and. Like a bunch of British people and run by a Greek pretending to be a Russian sold arms to the Russian Empire rather than the country who was actually loaning them the money to buy guns. His main competitor for Russia's business was a French firm called Schneider Crusoe. Its head, the eponymous Schneider, wound up dueling basil for their right to take all of Russia's money. He had his own newspapers, and he planted a story in them that Russia was about to sign a deal with corrupt to let them build factories inside Russia. This was really scary to the people of France, because all of the gun plans that Russia had gotten were French. Sort of crap started building Russian arms factories producing French guns that would effectively mean that Germany was gaining access to all of France's military secrets. None of that was true. It was just a bunch of lies that Schneider put out in newspapers. But it scared French people enough that a lot of them demanded their government loan Russia $25 million to rebuild its railways in exchange for letting Schneider Crusoe build arms factories in a in Russia. So all this kind of sketchy dealing is going on with, like, all the different companies in the arms trade. And we really don't know much about what Zaharoff did or said exactly to Russia, but we know that Vickers one of the vast majority of the different arms contracts that went to Russia. So like even with all this ******* from Schneider Crusoe, most of the empires new guns are provided by Vickers through Zaharoff now. Machine guns and rifles and artillery pieces weren't the only thing that modern armies needed at this point. The 20th century saw the advent of air travel in air war as things and Basil Zaharoff knew straight away that he wanted to sell. Planes too. His first step was to use a small chunk of his fortune to endow a chair of aviation at the Sorbonne. This presumably would give him a highly placed flunky when the French government decided to start buying planes. Unfortunately for basil, this move attracted controversy, and I'm going to quote an article by John T Flynn written by for the Miss Daily, which is a libertarian think tank publication. So these guys actually really like Zakharov. Quote Zaharoff, for all his pains to elude the spotlight, found that revealing beam playing upon him. Intervals and to his discomfiture. Who is this Mr Zaharoff? What is he? To what country does he owe allegiance? He was born in Turkey. He is a Greek. He is a French citizen. He is an English businessman. But what country does he serve? And what sort of game is he playing in France? These were not pleasant questions for one who indeed had what Mr Roosevelt calls a passion for anonymity. So he starts to like, get like, like the fact that he's endowing chairs at universities and stuff and, like owning newspapers in France gets people really suspicious about his intentions. And so he asked to quiet those. Intentions by like buying. Basically, he buys a convalescent home for old French soldiers and donates to a bunch of French causes and becomes like a philanthropist so that people don't think that there's something shady about all the guns he's trying to get other countries to buy. Wait, so he was more anonymous before, but now he's putting his name on all these like buildings and stuff. Yeah, he has to in order to like because they're starting questions about type of thing. Yeah, yeah, he does it to bribe France into liking him. Gotcha. Yeah. So that's cool. Yeah, it's cool. Yeah, it's fine. It's what you do. I mean, it's kind of what Rockefeller did. Like, that's. Yeah, what that's that's what it is to, like, be a philanthropist is you're usually trying to stop people from thinking too much about how you made all the money that you can donate. Yeah. It just becomes a you just want to building that tourist, go take an elevator up to and look around. That's when you know you've made it, when you your name is on a building like that. Yeah, or all of the wonderful public parks provided by the Raytheon Corporation. Yeah. So this sort of poem greasing accompanied bezels plotting in nations around the world. Vickers plant soon cropped up in Canada, Italy, Africa, Greece, Turkey, Russia, New Zealand, Ireland and Holland. They made machine guns and cannons and ships, but also brand new warplanes, some of the ones that were like just being bought up by European powers. When sales would slump, Zaharoff would use his press organs to pump more stories into the media about, say, France's rivals arming so you notice the sales are slumping. Then he'll try to drum up fear that there's a war. Europe happening, or that's about to happen. So, like, people will start demanding that their country buy more guns. Now, since Vickers was ostensibly a British company, the British government was happy to help Zaharoff by using their own soft power to bribe and cajole foreign nations into buying British guns. Sometimes the agreement to allow Vickers came with direct military aid from the British Empire. The Royal Navy itself was for sale, provided that like when he was an old man, and the British government isn't about to correct the record. But there were folks at the time who paid attention to what Basil, his fellow arms dealers, were doing to Europe and the rest of the world. And some of them had the courage to speak up. And I'm going to quote now from Basil's Biography, Man of Arms, again. On March 18th 1914, on the very brink of the coming disaster, Phillip Snowden disease racked crippled socialist Labour leader Rosen comments to make a speech. When he had done, he had rocked the British Empire with his disclosures for two years. A young Quaker socialist named Walton Newbold had been tracing with infinite pains the torturous trail of the international arms makers, and Philip Snowden had in his possession the fruits of that long quest. When he rose to speak one by one he pointed out cabinet ministers, members of the house and named high-ranking officials in Army and Navy circles, persons of royal position who were large. Holders and shares of Vickers and Armstrong and John Brown and Beardmore Shipbuilders. The profits of Vickers and Armstrong have been enormous, and those powerful persons in the state and church and the nobility had bought into them to share in the profits. Vickers had among its director 2 Dukes, 2 Marquesses, 2 family members of 50 Earls, 15 baronets and five nights, 21 naval officers, two naval government architects and many journalists. Armstrong had even more 60 Earls or their wives, 15 baronets and 20 nights, 20 military or naval architects and officers, while there were 13 members of the House of Commons. In the directorates of Vickers Armstrong or John Brown, it would be impossible, said Snowden, to throw a handful of pebbles anywhere upon the opposition benches without hitting members interested in these arms firms. Ministers, officers, technical experts moved out of the government, out of the Navy, the Army, the War Office, the Admiralty. Into the employee of the munitions manufacturers. Snowden quoted Lord Welby, head of the Civil service, who only a few weeks before had denounced the arms conspirators. We are in the hands of an organization of crooks, said Lord Welby. They are politicians, generals, manufacturers of armaments and journalists. All of them are anxious for unlimited expenditure and go on inventing scares to terrify the public and terrify the ministers of the Crown. So part of how Zaharoff, and not just him, these other arms companies, get away with what they're doing is that they hire like they'll hire these like members of the nobility, members of the government, or convince them to buy stocks that these people profit to. And that's why he could convince the British Government to send the Royal Navy and to companies that buy from his firm is because, like, these guys have a vested interest. Do. And so they're basically spending public money to make themselves money by, like, drumming up more arms sales. So that's cool. Dang, that's like, who's this? Is this informant like? Was he how, how did he know all this? Like, is he just a guy who was like, he was a jerk? Yeah, part of it, yeah, it was this Quaker. Yeah, this Quaker, like socialist activist who just, like, slowly would start tracing, like, basically, like, starting with like, stock sales and stuff, like, who's buying up interest in all these firms? Last name was Snowden. No relation to Edward Snowden. No, no, Snowden's the Snowden is a socialist labor leader who, like makes a speech using this guy the stuff that this other guy found. But yeah, it is weird that like, yeah, it's it is another Snowden. So yeah, from 1877 to 1914, a cadre of arms dealers, spearheaded by Basil Zaharoff, who was the most successful of them, bribed a succession of Admirals, generals, high-ranking politicians, and nobility from all of the great powers of Europe. Krupp employed hundreds of people who received salaries without doing any actual work. Invited they were willing to put in a good word to their government ministries when Krupp needed it. One German armament maker at the time admitted. For some families, corrupt factories are a great sinecure where nephews and poor relations of officials whose influence in war is great find themselves jobs. In 1913, the year before Snowden made that speech, doctor Karl Liebknecht, a socialist leader in Germany's Reichstag, gave a similar speech uncoiling massive corruption within the German Ministry of War. It resulted in the trial and conviction of several ministry officials who were found to be agents of Krupp. In Japan and other scandal was involved with the German arms firm Seaman Shukert, who was found to have paid out more than half a million modern dollars in bribes to Japanese officials to guarantee them the contract to build a massive battleship. And these give us an idea of the kind of stuff basil himself would have engaged in, but in general we only catch glimpses of him during this. As Smithsonian Magazine summarizes quote, he appears sporadically in the Vickers papers now at Cambridge University Library and increasingly in the British Foreign Office archives. These sources allow us to trace zed Zed's increasing wealth and status between 1902 and 1905. He was paid £195,000 in commissions worth $25 million today, and by 1914 he was active not only in Istanbul. In Athens, but in Saint Petersburg, Buenos Aires, and Asuncion, he owned several banks, lived in a French Chateau, and was romancing the Duchess of Villa Franca, a Spanish noble woman who would become his third wife. They are not. So yeah, like this is part of what's frustrating about this guy is like, we don't know specifically what he did. We know that like, because, like, the people who the people who are like bribing public officials that we know about in this time were the ones who weren't as good as Zakharov because he was doing more of this. Yeah, because they got caught. But like what happens in Europe, and this is something we don't talk about much when we talk about World War One. But a big part of why that war happened is that the leadership of every country involved, like had personal financial stakes in the mass sale of weapons and armaments, which also led to them buying more guns and scaring each other with all the guns they were buying. Which led them to get angrier at each other, which increased the belligerence between the nations. And it was all basically to sell a **** load of guns to profit like these arms manufacturers and the people that they bribed. The government? So you're saying it's like a powder keg? I went to middle school. I remember the little diagram you have to draw. You know, it's like World War One. Is it powder cake? Yeah, forever. But it's a powder keg that like. I I think it's usually put that, like, there are these like that, that a huge part of it was like, I don't know, like, right. They didn't uncover all this. The. Yeah. The sinister underneath. I mean some of it was known at the time, like, particularly like a lot of socialist politicians at the time were like, the arms industry owns all of our governments and are like clearly lurching us towards a horrible war. Somebody should do something about this, but nobody did anything about it. So that's, I mean, that doesn't sound like anything familiar. Like the world lurching towards clear disaster and a small number of people being like, what? That reminds me of something, but I I can't. Yeah, put a finger on it. Hmm. Yeah, thankfully, it just it never happened again. Just a general sense of dread. What is what does that mean of something going on today? No, I can't think of it. You know what will assuage your general sense of Dread, Teresa? Products and services. Because I have. If I know something that has nothing at all to do with corrupt arms companies buying politicians and using them to bring the world closer and closer to disaster, it's beautiful, beautiful, sweet lady capitalism. So let's calm our souls with a little bit more of that. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for none of that. For anyone who hates their phone Bill, Mint Mobile offers premium wireless for just $15.00 a month. Mint Mobile will give you the best rate whether you're buying one or for a family. And it meant. Family start at 2 lines. All plans come with unlimited talk and text, plus high speed data delivered on the nation's largest 5G network. You can use your own phone with any mint mobile plan and keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts. Just switch to Mint mobile and get premium wireless service starting at 15 bucks a month. Get premium wireless service from just $15.00 a month and no one expected plot twist at That's Seriously, you'll make your wallet very happy at Mint Mobile. Com slash behind now a word from our sponsor better help. If you're having trouble stuck in your own head, focusing on problems dealing with depression, or just you know can't seem to get yourself out of a rut, you may want to try therapy, and better help makes it very easy to get therapy that works with your lifestyle and your schedule. A therapist can help you become a better problem solver, which can make it easier to accomplish your goals, no matter how big or small they happen to be. So if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, better help is a great. Option it's convenient, accessible, affordable, and it is entirely online. You can get matched with a therapist after filling out a brief survey, and if the therapist that you get matched with doesn't wind up working out, you can switch therapists at anytime. When you want to be a better problem solver, therapy can get you there. Visit behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better My name is Erica Kelly and I am the host and creator of Southern Freight true crime. There are so many people that just have no idea about some injustices in the world and if you can give a voice to them, you can create change. To be able to do it within podcasting is just such a gift. I believe it was 18 months after I got on with speaker that I was making enough that I could quit my day job. It was incredible. I always feel like an ambassador for speaker, but that's because I'm passionate about podcasting. It's really easy to use. I always tell people I am so not tech. Took me 5 minutes to get comfortable with spreaker, and when I find a new friend that has an incredible show, I want them to make money. I want them to be able to do what I did. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's break your handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Get paid to talk about the things you love with spreaker from iheart. And we're back so. We don't know exactly what Zaharoff did in most cases, but there is bits and pieces of it. There are bits and pieces of evidence here, and the documentary evidence that survive suggests that the chief value he brought to Vickers was his instinctive understanding of when and to whom she should offer bribes. So he was like one of the guys who was basically getting Members of Parliament, getting like, all these royal people to like, get involved with vicars and make themselves like, have a financial interest in the success of his company, he wrote. These four memos that told of doing the needful and administering doses of vicars to various prominent people in England. Foreign Office records showed that in 1912 Zaharoff was instrumental in passing 100,000 rubles to officers in Russia's Ministry of the Marine in order to divert government contracts to a local shipbuilding group in which Vickers had an interest. At the same time, for reasons that remain obscure but can be guessed at, Vickers also won a contract to supply light machine guns to the Russian army, despite the fact that its bid was 50% more expensive. And once submitted by a local Russian company, there is reason to suppose that in the latter's case, Zaharoff's charm, an easy way with women was at least as helpful as his money. One historian, William Fuller, suggests that he made particularly effective use of his association with the ballerina Kashinsky A who, after losing her place as a mistress, took up with Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Inspector General of the Russian artillery. So some of like, he succeeds in basically, like getting Russia to buy a bunch of guns from him for way more money. A local Russian firm wants to sell them for because he is dating a ballerina. He's dating a ballerina who's also ******* the Grand Duke of Russia. For her, which is you know, yeah. Poking again, more poke, because arms race is like a a delicate ballet. Hmm. Exactly. So the individual acts basil took during this. Are less important than the impact of strategies and tactics had on the broader climate in Europe. World War One was most directly a product of the armament schedules of the various nations of Europe. So, like, once, like, Germany realized that, like, OK, there was a conflict, you know, happening over between Austria and Serbia, and it's going to pull in Russia and it's going to pull in France, they knew that they had, like, only a certain amount of time to mobilize their troops and get their army ready and everyone else. Europe knew that too. So it was this kind of thing that, like, once everyone starts mobilizing for war, you really have to continue. Because any delay could mean you lose the war because you don't have your reserves and ship ready in time. And the system Zaharoff developed had ensured that each of these great powers had obsessively scheduled updates for their weaponry, their ships, their cannons, and their aircraft. And the varying levels to which all of these different militaries were updated played a huge role in the war calculus that drove the decision making in August 1914. Umm. So, like, basically he's got, like, all of these different countries are being convinced to update their weapons and buy new fancier guns and new fancier planes and stuff and new fancier cannons at different times. And all of the other powers know this. So, like, Germany in 1914 is in this position where they realize, like, they have the most advanced army in Europe by their calculus. But Russia is rearming because Zaharoff has got them to buy a bunch of guns, and France is rearming. And so they're like. If we don't get involved, like, fight a war right now with both of these countries and another five or six years, they'll have bought new guns and their guns will be better than ours, and then we won't have a chance of winning this war. So, like, because of this, this kind of armament schedule that Zaharoff helps to create Germans. Like, if you look at, like, the internal documents, like, German officers like von Moltke, who's in charge of their military at the time, are writing each other during the July crisis. They call it a preventative war. And the thing they're trying to prevent is Germany. Getting lost, losing a fight against France and Russia because, like, Russia's buying all these guns from Vickers and they're like, soon they're going to actually be able to beat us if we don't fight them right now. It's like there's like a really, I feel like that's like when I break up with someone because I don't want them to break up with me later. So I'm like, I'll do it now, even though things are good. But like, later, I'll be sad if you break up with me. Yeah. And I I think we all remember that breakup you had that led to. Yeah. To World War One. Thousands of French and yeah, exactly. Yeah, it's it's it's. So yeah, so that's cool, right? So yeah, basically like von Moltke and the German General Staff thought that 1914 was like the last year they could beat both France and Russia in a war. The Saxon military attache in Berlin in July 1914 noted this about the German commander quote. I had the impression that the general staff would be pleased if war were to come about now. Conditions and prospects would never be better for us. Victor Naumann, a journalist writing in Germany at the time. Noted the same thing. There is considerable uneasiness in Berlin over Russian armaments and the test mobilization of considerable Russian forces, not only an army and Navy circles, but also in the Foreign Ministry. The idea of preventative war is regarded with less disapproval than a year ago. So there's like a really Direct Line between the fact that Zaharoff convinced it, like, sells so many guns to Russia, gets France to loan them all this money, and the fact that a World War One starts like it's it convinces the Germans that they have to fight right now that that wording. Do like less disapproval is also like a lot of propaganda because it's spinning like there's disapproval, but it's less disapproval and so they're just being like they approve. No, it's just slightly less disapproval. Yeah, yeah, it's interesting. So yeah, well, Europe lurched from crisis to crisis in the final years and months leading up to World War One. Basil continued to blissfully sell arms all around the world prior to World War One when war broke out between Greece, Turkey and some of the Ottoman empires rebellious European possessions. This is in 1912. Basil took the extraordinary step of funding the Greek war effort to the tune of two and a half million francs in order to ensure a Greek victory. It's not clear if there was like a financial motivation to this as well, or if he was like just patriotic. But the Ottoman empires embarrassing defeat helped push them closer to Germany and contributed to the ratcheting up of global tensions. Now, Stocking Global war was not the only thing Basil got up to during this. In 1889, during a tour around Europe, he met Maria del Pilar Antonia Angela Patrocinio, Simona de Muero. I'm just printing she the Duchess of Villafranca. He meets the Spanish noble woman. With so many ******* names, and basil strikes up a romantic relationship with her that allowed him to sell millions of dollars in guns to the Spanish army as well. Now, this was not purely a mercenary endeavor, though. Zaharoff seems to have legitimately fallen in love with the Duchess, and he begged her to divorce her husband, arguing that since her husband was dying and suffering from dementia, like, what did it really matter if they got divorced? But the Duchess was Catholic and she was not willing to get divorced, although she was willing to cheat on her husband, so. I I guess, do the moral math there. Things are different in Europe, OK? It's much looser than out there. Yeah, I can't divorce my husband because it'll make God angry, but we can **** for 30 years. So Basil and the Duchess were together for decades, and everyone kind of knew it, but just, like, agreed not to talk about it because I guess that's just how you did things back then. Her husband was declared insane and locked up in a mental asylum. He survived 35 years, which none of them expected, and really frustrated basil because he and his mistress had to, like, hide their relationship at least a little bit for most of this. But did Basil's credit. He seems to have actually loved this woman, and the two were together for the rest of their lives. So that's cool. She's like the Zuni to his Woody Allen. Ooh, yeah, yeah, he doesn't steal from her, so that's nice. Yeah. So, Umm, yeah, basil, yeah. I mean he he he's he's a big part of why World War One starts and kind of the the impact of his, like the **** that he pulls prior to the war, like the the the particularly like the fact that Russia winds up in like tremendous debt to France, winds up having an impact beyond just the First World War. So like. Russia, by the time like you, you know, World War 11917, like, there's a big revolution in Russia and the Czars very soon out of power. And one of the reasons that this happens is because of all of the debt that Russia owed to France. Like that was one of the big talking points of the Bolsheviks. And the socialists when they, like, overthrew the government is like the Czar had mortgaged their company to France to buy better guns, and that had forced them to get involved in this war that had killed hundreds of thousands of their young men. And you can kind of trace a lot of that to Zakharov. So, like, as far back as 1905, the Bolshevik councils had demanded repudiation of all of Russia's foreign debts. And this demand formed a centerpiece for the strikes in Saint Petersburg that happened in 1905. And those strikes spread around the empire, along with the demand for debt repudiation. And then they were crushed brutally by the Russian government, which was again one of the major causes, you know, one of the things that helped inspire the the Russian Revolution. So on December 3rd, 1905, czarist authorities arrested the entire Soviet leadership. We're publishing a manifesto urging debt repudiation. The revolution that sparked off in 1917 was based on a lot of grievances and crimes by the Tsarist regime. But the fact that the future of the Russian people had basically been like sold to France for pointless guns, for a stupid war was a big part of them. And it also played a role in the fact that, like the most extreme faction wound up winning the Civil War. The Czar initially, like, gave up power to a moderate socialist movement led by a guy named Kerensky and this provisional government. Was crippled by the fact that it both had to carry on World War One and it had to pledge to repay the debts contracted by the Tsarist regime. So because Kerensky had to agree that Russia was going to keep paying off its debts to France like that's a big part of why there's a revolution against him in October of 1917, which leads to the takeover of the Bolsheviks, who in 1918 repudiated all Russian debt to its foreign creditors. Now the fact that the Bolsheviks in charge had decided they're just not going to pay France back ****** off a lot of people. Particularly France. And this contributes to the French decision to blockade Russia and back up the White Russian forces. This prolongs the Russian Civil War, killing more Russians than World War One actually did. And it also ensures that the Bolsheviks who remain, who emerged victorious from the war were like, even more ****** at these Western countries because they were like, well, you guys extended this horribly brutal war and like, like, just so we'd pay you back for these guns that, like, you conned us into buying in the first place. How, like, doesn't the America owe China a bunch of money? Not necessarily your weapons, but aren't we kind of dig ourselves into a whole like that too? I mean, we owe more money to our own people. Like, it's I I guess, I think it's like, but we have a it's different. Yeah. We sure do. You did it. Deficit. They lent us a bunch of money. I remember like learning this in high school. It's so much that we're never going to pay them back. And I think it's kind of understood that at some point it'll just be fair or we're just going to have to do what they say because it's so much that we can't pay back. Word? Yeah. I think it's a bit different now because, like, money's not real now. She was like, like, back then. Everything's like, backed up by gold or civil. Yeah, my country, I guess. No, it like, it isn't really real. Like, you like, you'll notice nobody even ******* talks about the deficit anymore. Yeah, like it used to be like our national debt was this big deal and now we just pretend it's not a thing. We're like, just kidding. Yeah, it's like if you go to the hospital and wind up owing $10 million in medical debt, and it's just like, well, I'm never paying this. Like, I work at the sparro like, what do you what do you want? But like back then, like all of the the all of these like currencies are back are, are like based on gold and silver and stuff. So like, there is like an expectation of real repayment and like, it's a horrible burden to the Russian peasantry because like the rich people of Russia aren't going to pay all of that money. Like they're the ones who made these deals so that they could get more money because these arms companies are bribing them. So like, yeah, basil, when you try to trace out like the impact of this guy, like it's a bunch of stuff. Helps lead the world into World War Two, which like 20 million people die in. But he also plays a significant role in helping to inspire at least parts of the Russian Civil War and helping to inspire like like the debts that Russia owes lead to like protests and stuff that are cracked down on brutally by the Czar, which is 1 contributing factor to the Civil War. And then once the civil war happens, they help to ensure that the most extreme people get into power and then help also ensure that like the European powers Russia. There's money to back up the other side and the Civil War, which kills hundreds of thousands of people. And like Basil, had a huge impact on that, but he also got to completely ignore it because he's just a rich guy living in Europe. He already made his ******* money. Doesn't give a **** like he made his he made. He got his cut of the deal already. He doesn't lose anything because Russia is not paying back his debts. Like, he's ******* fine. And he was fine with World War One. He made a ******** of money in World War One, and he basically got to not really work all that hard during the war. Because you don't have to work hard to sell guns to countries in the middle of the biggest war in history. It's really easy to sell guns there. So what you're saying is we almost wanted a war. And in fact, once the war was going, it was very much in his interest to prolong the bloodletting and yeah, make the war happen even longer. So at the start of hostilities, the Imperial German army had captured a place called the Brier Basin and they routed 2 French armies to do it for good reason. Brief included massive quantities of iron ore and Germany didn't have a whole lot of iron in like its own borders. So brief became a lynchpin of the German war effort. Without the iron there, they would not have been able to fight. World War One, more than about six months. So they capture all of this like iron ore and these blast furnaces and stuff, but all of it's within the range of French artillery. So what would you think if you're France? Oh, Germany's got this place that, like, they cannot fight the war. If they can't get iron out of it and we can blow it all up. You'd think they'd blow it all up, right? Seems like kind of a no brainer from a military point of view. They don't shell it at all during the war, and the reason they don't shell it at all is Basil Zaharoff. Because Basil's like, well, this is a bunch of money. Like, once the war is over, I could make a lot of money from the iron foundries here. Like, I don't want you guys blowing that stuff up. So he he basically finds himself in this position of having to convince France not to do the thing that could allow them to win the war in six months. And when we come back, we're going to talk about how he did that. But first, if you need to win a war against Germany in six months, the only way to do it is with the products and services that support this podcast. Mint Mobile offers premium wireless starting at just 15 bucks a month. And now for the plot twist. Nope, there isn't one. Mint Mobile just has premium wireless from 15 bucks a month. There's no trapping you into a two year contract. You're opening the bill to find all these nuts fees. There's no luring you in with free subscriptions or streaming services that you'll forget to cancel and then be charged full price for none of that. For anyone who hates their phone Bill, Mint Mobile offers premium wireless for just $15.00 a month. Mint Mobile will give you the best rate whether you're buying one or for a family. And it meant. Family start at 2 lines. All plans come with unlimited talk and text, plus high speed data delivered on the nation's largest 5G network. You can use your own phone with any mint mobile plan and keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts. Just switch to Mint mobile and get premium wireless service starting at 15 bucks a month. Get premium wireless service from just premium wireless for just $15.00 a month. Mint Mobile will give you the best rate whether you're buying one or for a family, and it meant family start at 2 lines. All plans come with unlimited talk and text. Those high speed data delivered on the nation's largest 5G network. You can use your own phone with any mint mobile plan and keep your same phone number along with all your existing contacts. Just switch to Mint mobile and get premium wireless service starting at 15 bucks a month. Get premium wireless service from just $15.00 a month and no one expected plot twists at That's Seriously, you'll make your wallet very happy at Now, a word from our sponsor. Better help if you're having trouble stuck in your own head, focusing on problems dealing with depression, or just, you know can't seem to get yourself out of a rut, you may want to try therapy. And better help makes it very easy to get therapy that works with your lifestyle and your schedule. A therapist can help you become a better problem solver, which can make it easier to accomplish your goals, no matter how big or small they happen to be. So if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, better help is a great option. It's convenient, accessible, affordable. And it is entirely online. You can get matched with a therapist after filling out a brief survey. And if the therapist that you get matched with doesn't wind up working out, you can switch therapists at anytime when you want to be a better problem solver therapy can get you there. Visit behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better So by now we imagine that you've seen the theories on Tik T.O.K. You maybe even heard the rumors, your friends and loved ones. But are any of the stories about government conspiracies and cover ups actually true? The answer is surprisingly or unsurprisingly, yes. For more than a decade, we hear at stuff they don't want you to know have been seeking answers to these questions. Sometimes there are answers that people would rather us not explore. Now we're sharing this research. With you for the first time ever in a book format, you can pre-order stuff they don't want you to know now. It's the new book from us, the creators of the podcast and video series. You can turn back now or read the stuff they don't want you to know. Available for pre-order now, it's stuff you should read or wherever you find your favorite books. We're back. So yeah. Bazarov. So Basil is trying to convince, like find himself in this position of like needing to convince France not to blow up this place that would allow them to win the war and make Germany's effort basically impossible. And the way he does this is through a friendship he has with a guy named Robert Pinot who's one of the leaders of like the French governments armaments effort. So he's like one of the people responsible for arming the French military during this war. Pinot warns him that French generals were agitating to bomb Brier because they're like. We want to win this war because we're generals and this is the easiest way to do it. Umm and yeah, Basil, basically. I'm going to read a quote from the book Man of Arms that describes what he did next. Espinos request Zaharoff took informal soundings from the German industrialists and Thionville, while at the same time putting up an alternative blockade plan to French headquarters. This was that the installations at brief should be left intact, but that attack should be launched and said on the railways. General military immediately and violently contested this option. The preference may have. Reflected the special interests of the committee. The ultimate decision, however, lay with the ministers individually in the cabinet. Collectively, after taking into consideration the advice of their military advisers and service chiefs, they neither pressed it nor resigned, and disagreement. The same French source put another gloss on this affair. Towards the end of 1916, Lloyd George sought zaharoff's advice on the chance of securing a token withdrawal of troops on both sides of the front on New Year's Day, an appeal which Zaharoff, with his customary agility distorted into a mutual agreement between the Allies and the Central Powers to respect each other's arms. Factories. Lloyd George, according to this version, finally concurred with Zaharoff's viewpoint and agreed it would be senseless to destroy industrial plants and to end the war with derelict factories and mass unemployment. So yeah, so it's like, yeah, so he not only like basically like tries to push this plan to have France, like, send thousands of young men to their deaths trying to attack German railways instead of just shelling these iron foundries. But like later in the war in like 1916 when he's like. Asked to try and secure, like, a withdrawal from both sides on New Year's Day to give, like, the soldiers like to ratchet down tensions and give the soldiers a break. He's like, no, no, no, no, no. They should keep shooting at each other. But like, what we should really do is make an international agreement to not destroy any arms factories. Because I yeah, that's so crazy. Yeah, he's a real ***** ** ****. So yeah, while millions of young men were, like, dashing themselves to death against machine gun nests and artillery emplacements, basil Zaharoff dedicated himself to protecting what really mattered the industrial facilities that made those weapons he he was deeply trusted by men at the heights of power on the allied side, and he acted as a go between for King George the fifth Lloyd George, who was like the guy in charge of England and the French Prime Minister Clemenceau. The Earl of Derby, the British ambassador to France, wrote that there is no man living in whom more people can fight him than him. And while it's impossible to say exactly what impact his personal influence had on the war, Lord Derby was convinced that Basil Zaharoff had a vested interest in making the war go on as long as possible. In June of 1917. Yeah, yeah, in June of 1917, he wrote in his journal. Zaharoff is all for continuing the war to the end. So, like, we don't know exactly what he did. And this is part of the frustrating thing. It's, like, hard to say. Like he said to the king, you know, do this or that because, like, nobody keeps track of these conversations between these world leaders and their friend. But we know he really wants the war to go on long. And he's a voice in all these people's ears. Yeah. So he did make one attempt to secure peace in 1917. He kind of he was sent by Lloyd George to try and bring Greece into the war on the allied side and to try to convince the Ottoman Empire to defect from Germany. He was given £10 million worth of solid gold to try to bribe this into being, but unfortunately for basil he only made it as far as Switzerland. I'm going to quote from Smithsonian Magazine now. His reputation preceded him. Intercepted at the border, he was humiliatingly stripped, searched and left standing. Sub-zero temperatures for more than an hour by the border police. In the end, his intrigues came to nothing, but that did not stop him writing to the British government to demand chocolate for Zed. Zed? His koi reference to the major honor he craved. So let's say he's asking for like an award. He's like, I would like zed. Zed would like some chocolate. Yeah. So this really disgusts King George the fifth, who, like, at this point, is at least enough of a human being to be like, millions of young men have died and, like, look at the kind of, like, the kind of **** you're saying. But he grudgingly recommends zed zed for a Grand Knight Cross, which finally enabled Zaharoff to style himself Sir Basil for the first time in his life with some sort of justification. So he's just like it to be. He's just like a little child whining like I want a prize. Yeah, like I you didn't say good job to me after I failed at that thing you wanted me to do. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I want a prize for, like, failing to secure peace participation and helping to start it. Yeah. So obviously World War One ends in 1918, and this is good news for human beings, but bad news for weapons companies because you're going to buy a lot fewer guns after this war, and when the fighting ended, the arms industry contracted massively. Basil, though, was still very wealthy and influential, and he bought his way into being part owner of Monte Carlo, the famous resort and Casino. However, his chief interest continued to be in the movement and destinies of nations from 1920 to 1922. Basil got deeply involved in the Greco Turkish war over Smyrna. And this is uh, we talked about this a little bit in the Savitri Devi episode. But basically, like, Greece in a treaty in the Treaty of Versailles, is given this like, chunk of land on the Turkish coast. And they have to send in troops to actually take it. And Turkey fights back and eventually the allies, like abandoned Greece and Greece, like loses the war and there's a horrible genocide. And there are rumors that Basel himself entirely funded the Greek war effort, their attempt to invade Turkey. There's no hard evidence of this. And it's one of the stories everyone will say is that like, he funded this war that Greece fights against Turkey. We just really don't know. The war was a disaster for Greece, though, and it was a disaster for Zaharoff's political backers like Lloyd George. So he had he like Zaharoff was a major part of the reason that, like, they got this land and the Treaty of Versailles, and he was like pushing the English and whatnot to back. Trump had been killed by Allied demands that they destroy all of their arms producing equipment. But the death of Vickers's greatest competitor did not help the company out. They were forced to massively reorganize and. That costs just to stay in business. Their stock price dropped by 2/3, and since Basil was the largest stockholder in Viccars, this severely impacted his net worth and he was slowly shuffled out of any position of power within the company by 1925. In 1927, the managers of the reorganized firm presented Basil with an award for his 50 years of service with the company. It was a balm designed to hide the fact that they removed him from any position of influence on September 22nd. Ha. Have this ******* award you like awards you some chocolate for Zedd? Zedd? Yeah. So on September 22nd, 1924, Basil Zaharoff had married his Duchess after nearly 40 years together because her husband died in that insane asylum. But she didn't outlive him for very long. At 18 months later, she died. And this basically spelled the end for basil. Yeah, he was never the same after his wife died. He does seem to have loved this woman. And in 1927, he burns all of his papers and notebooks and all of the evidence of his long and bloody career is the most. Successful arms dealer in world history goes up in smoke. The King of Armaments survived until 1936, but over the next decade he grew sicker and less mobile, eventually being wheeled around by servants as he did his rounds at Monte Carlo. He died sick and marginalized, with his vast fortune much depleted. There's no way to know how much money he was really worth, but his liquid known assets at death were only around 1,000,000. Modern dollars. Only a billion dollars? What a ******* a million. A million. A million. With a million? Well, a million. Yeah. Wow. I mean, like, wow, that's just what? A ******* loser. I mean, who doesn't have $1,000,000, right? Am I right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, you don't feel sorry for this guy that he only dies with $1,000,000? Robert, all I hear is this is a romcom that ended in a very happy marriage and that he you said he loved her. So, you know, that's all I need to hear. Most ROM Coms people **** ** and it doesn't matter how they **** ** as long as there's a kiss at the end. So that's what I heard. I mean it if there's one thing I've learned from modern politics. It's that just because somebody starts a couple of wars and gets a couple of million people killed doesn't mean you shouldn't root for them to be, have friends and live a happy life. You know? It's like like, So what if bezels at her off, like, got all those people killed? Like, don't you want him to, I don't know, take up painting and and make neat paintings of like world leaders or something like, isn't that? Shouldn't we forgive people like this? Yeah, for the record, because I feel like people don't know me as well as they know you. My 100% do not do not think that, but you know. But yeah, I do think I do think this guy is bad. And I I think he's burning in hell if you believe in hell. But if you don't, then he's just he's just dust. Then he completely won. Yeah, if you don't believe in hell like, then he's he got away, Scott. Free, basically with millions and millions. Contributing to millions of deaths. So on that happy note, you know who won't contribute to millions of deaths? Are you gonna say me? Theresa Lee? Yeah. Exactly. Time to plug. Ohh. Wow. OK, well, I promise to not strip. You have millions. I promise I'll never have $1,000,000. That's a promise I can keep. I you can follow me at Larissa TLERESATE on Instagram and Twitter. Yay. And my call to all of you is to prove Teresa wrong and give her $1,000,000. Yeah. And then she will sell armaments and spark the next great World War I feel confident of that. OK, if you give me $1,000,000, I will do my best to sell, start a war. So we are back or we're done. We're not back. We're about to go away. Means is he's doing a live show with Billy Wayne Davis in Los Angeles on March 8th at Dynasty typewriter. Buy tickets if you haven't already. He also means that he is I write OK on Twitter. You should follow him and you should follow our podcast ambassador spot on Twitter and Instagram. Anything? Did I forget anything, Robert? Oh, we have a key public. Yes, by Raytheon's fine missiles for knives. Yeah, the only missiles filled with knives. Anything else you still should. Great episodes over podcast. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams, let's breaker handle the hosting creation distribution. And monetization of your podcast go to That's Hey there, it's Ebony Monet, your co-host for the San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we're speaking with Doctor Jane Goodall about the fascinating journey that led to her social discoveries on chimpanzees. So four whole months, the chimps ran away from me. I mean, they take one look at this peculiar white ape and disappear into the vegetation. In wildlife, on the iHeartRadio app, or wherever you get your podcasts. Introducing the biz tape you're all things music business and media podcast. Join me, Joe Waslewski, and my co-host Colin McKay every Wednesday where we discuss the breaking news, changing the music industry, and what your favorite artists and creatives are up to. Listen to new episodes of the biz tape every Wednesday on the Nashville podcast network, available on iHeartRadio App, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.