BEN WEIDER

OR VICTORY

THROUGH DETERMINATION

by

Jean-Claude Damamme

French Representative for the International

Napoleonic Society of Montreal

June 2, 2005 should have been a great day for Ben Weider, President of the International Napoleonic Society of Montreal.

I say “should” because following a double pneumonia (from which he has entirely recovered) his doctors forbade any long flights.

I leave it to you to imagine his disappointment at missing this day, “his” day, that was to herald the end of a long and often difficult adventure, concluding nearly 40 years’ battling scepticism and frequently derision from the Napoleonic establishment in France .

Despite this distressing setback that kept him away from Strasbourg , June 2nd was still a very great day for Ben Weider .

During a press conference that echoed around the globe, and I don’t use the image frivolously, Dr. Kintz announced the findings of his most recent tests, and silenced the semantic quibbles that Napoleonic historians cleverly exploited in the media to discredit the theory of the Emperor’s having died by poisoning.

There is, however, one thing they can be trusted to do; they will not have neglected since to block any media outlets still available.

“Phantom monster surfaces,” was the sarcastic comment from one Napoleonic historian, Jean Tulard, in the literary supplement of a major daily.

In turn, the Director of the Fondation Napoléon, Mr. Thierry Lentz (who claims that the International Napoleonic Society “has five followers” in France and five in Canada, as publicly stated in his address in Strasbourg on January 14, 2003, as if they were some sect of which Ben Weider was the leader), was quite unconcerned to discover if Napoleon was poisoned, because it was merely of “minor interest” (quotations taken from the January 14 address).

We no longer pay heed to his sneers and attempts to explain away the presence of arsenic in the Emperor’s hair, none of which, of course, are based on genuine, honest testing and analysis, qualities that one would never be tempted to apply to the magazine Science & Vie, as this site has several times made clear.

Is it at all reasonable to claim that it is merely “of minor interest” to determine the real circumstances surrounding the death of the most illustrious figure in the history of France and, for this writer at least, the history of the world.

Is it not extremely presumptuous of these historians to publicly scoff at very complex scientific findings that they are not qualified to understand, following which they try to discredit the authors of the research?

 

A PROFOUND DEVOTION TO NAPOLEON THE MAN

 

As a Frenchman, I must admit to often feeling ashamed at the scorn, to say the very least, that these historians have publicly expressed towards a man (and moreover a foreigner who should at the very least be shown some basic courtesy) who has done so much, and continues to do so much to honour Napoleon’s memory.

I was ashamed to read their venomous remarks, religiously intoned, that I must say greeted each of his projects.

I was ashamed of those who wrote them, but they are often only mouthpieces motivated by purely selfish interests (which, of course, in no way excuses them). I was even more ashamed of those who inspired them.

Who, in France, could boast a “Napoleonic Record” as distinguished as that of the President of the International Napoleonic Society, whose Foundation, the Ben Weider Foundation, made, as I recall, a gift of $1.25 million to Florida State University to found a chair of studies in Napoleon and the First Empire?

Some people live off Napoleon; Ben Weider lives for Napoleon… in order to make the man and his enormous achievements better known. The distinction could not be more clear.

He had to maintain an unwavering determination in order to hold out so long against attacks whose cynicism and sordid motives reflect no credit on their instigators, and I believe that throughout his campaign (I am tempted to say his crusade) Ben Weider never lost heart simply because of his deep devotion to Napoleon the man.

In collaboration with Professor Robert Wennig of the University of the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg, Dr. Pascal Kintz had already shown that arsenic was present in the core of Napoleon’s hair, proving beyond doubt that the poison was carried in the blood stream and therefore ingested by mouth, and thereby demolishing the supposedly “irrefutable” conclusions (they stuck so closely to the official theory of arsenic being an ingredient in hair preservatives that they left no room for doubt!) that were trumpeted in Science & Vie magazine.

Their tests [!] put me in mind of the “indignation” of a journalist ( Le Figaro Littéraire of May 5, 2000), who wrote an article infused with phony passion and titled  ”Old controversies still simmering: Napoleon… a poisoned tale” attacking Ben Weider for having dared employ “toxicologists, nuclear experts [not, in fact, BW, but his Swedish forerunner, Sten Forshufvud] and even agents of the FBI.”

The author was clearly in total agreement with Jean Tulard, whose opinions emerge, almost word for word, in every paragraph. His reference to “a Canadian manufacturer of sporting goods” was typical of his sarcasm.

What was the story behind the “tests” sponsored by Science & Vie ?

Nothing less than the spectacle of an ordinary popular-market magazine “mobilizing” an official laboratory of the Government of France, that of the Préfecture de Police, in order to produce findings decided in advance.

 

THE TYPE OF ARSENIC FINALLY IDENTIFIED

 

Using a new technique, Dr. Kintz this time succeeded in identifying the type of arsenic as a mineral arsenic commonly known as “rat poison,” which everyone would agree is not some magic potion or miracle drug.

In Strasbourg on June 2, 2005 , I represented (I cannot say “replaced”) Ben Weider and I was gratified to note the keen interest and profound sympathy that his struggle and devotion aroused among the public in attendance.

Justice was served.

Ben Weider

If, today, we now know the truth about the last days of life of the great man that Napoleon is, and I deliberately do not say “was,” then we owe it to the determination of Ben Weider.

I have no doubt that among the hundred thousand or more regular visitors to the International Napoleonic Society web site, there are many who, like the author of this text, respect and admire Napoleon.

I believe they will all wish to join with me in saying to the President of the International Napoleonic Society:

“Thank you, Ben Weider, for all that you have done to honour the memory of the Emperor.”

 

Jean-Claude Damamme
Writer, historian, member of the Société des Gens de Lettres, active member of the Association des Écrivains Combattants