In the September issue of SR (no. 185) I wrote that Rudolf Vrba was a cousin of Vera Atkins, the World War II British intelligence agent. Wikipedia based this claim on the 2007 (I erroneously wrote 2011) book Spymistress by William Stevenson. I confirmed via Google Books that Stevenson had written thus on his p. 3. Stevenson being a well-known popular biographer, I assumed he passed along a fact.
I later got the book from the library and looked for Stevenson's account of Atkins' encounter with Rudolf Höss, which he described on p. 310. The meeting is presented as occurring at the Soviet occupied Auschwitz camp in fall 1945. Received history, e.g. the earlier (2005) Atkins biography A Life In Secrets, by Sarah Helm, places the meeting in British-occupied Germany in March 1946.
I wrote to Stevenson c/o his New York publisher on 11 Oct. 2011 to ask for his comment on this discrepancy and as of 25 Nov. 2011 I had received no reply. Thus I assume Stevenson's version of the meeting is wrong.
Now I have found that Stevenson's book got reviews that made very negative judgments on grounds of factual content (e.g. Nigel West in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counter Intelligence, vol. 21, no. 3, 2008, pp. 594-608). This calls into question the veracity of Stevenson's claim of the Vrba-Atkins relationship. I have thus far been unable to verify the relationship because all relevant web pages I have found are based on Stevenson, the Wikipedia article referencing Stevenson, or in some cases on my September article.
My hunch is that Stevenson got that point, at least, right, but the reader is belatedly warned. I hope that the only factual error I passed along was the publication date of Stevenson's book.
Arthur R. Butz
25 November 2011