Lies And Untruths That Affected Human History

When an average person tells a white lie, it’s for something trivial like wanting to spare another's feelings or attempting to avoid your niece's first violin recital. However, it’s an entirely different story when little white lies in history make their way into our textbooks. There have been a number of powerful leaders (including emperors, Founding Fathers, presidents, and some of the worst people in history) who have bent the truth for one reason or another.

Who's on this list of monumental fibbers? Check out the list below for some of the biggest lies that changed history. Forever.


  • Hitler Told Neville Chamberlain He Wasn't Going To Start A War
    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-H12751 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    Hitler Told Neville Chamberlain He Wasn't Going To Start A War

    As one of the most infamous figures in history, it's not surprising to learn Adolf Hitler wasn't all that adamant about telling the truth. His extraordinary rise to power came in part from the lies he told world leaders about what he was trying to do.

    While discussing Germany's annexation of Czechoslovakia with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938, Hitler assured Chamberlain that there would be no need for a war in Europe if he was given what he wanted: the parts of Czechoslovakia with a more than 50% German population living there. Chamberlain, trusting the man and wanting to avoid war, used his diplomacy with the Czechs and French to grant this request. As we all know, however, WWII began a year later and Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. Maybe it all would have happened differently if Hitler hadn't lied.

  • Hitler Told People Poland Attacked First
    Photo: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-S55480 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

    Hitler Told People Poland Attacked First

    Do you ever wonder how German soldiers were able to follow through with the orders they were given? Well, one of the reasons was that Hitler often lied to the troops in order to further his goals. This was nowhere more apparent than in the lie he told to justify his scheme of invading Poland and starting WWII.

    In order to convince his people that Poland deserved invading, he set up an elaborate lie referred to as the Gleiwitz incident that consisted of a fake attack on a German radio station near the border of Poland and Germany. SS officers dressed up as Polish resistance and attacked the station, broadcasting messages in Polish and tricking the rest of Europe into thinking that Poland was the aggressor. An innocent Polish farmer was dressed in a Polish military uniform and shot, to be used like a prop in the pretend battle. If Hitler hadn't had lied again, maybe fewer people would have chosen to follow his orders. 

  • Grover Cleveland Lied About His Emergency Surgery
    Photo: National Archives at College Park / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Grover Cleveland Lied About His Emergency Surgery

    Grover Cleveland served as president for two terms in the late 1800s when America was facing difficult issues. The nation was in the middle of an economic depression and Cleveland didn't want to do anything to give the illusion of weakness.

    As fate would have it, one day near the beginning of his second term, Cleveland found a large mass of growth in his mouth that turned out to be a type of oral cancer. He needed it removed quickly but didn't want to worry the American people. He lied about going on a fishing trip and was secretly whisked off to a private boat for surgery, which was a dangerous place to have an operation. The American people at the time had no idea that their leader was having a serious problem. If they had, the economic depression might have worsened.

  • Andrei Gromyko Lied About Missiles In Cuba
    Photo: Mieremet, Rob/Anefo / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL

    Andrei Gromyko Lied About Missiles In Cuba

    The Cuban Missile Crisis might be one of the tensest moments in American history. The United States was on the brink of serious war with Russia, and President Kennedy learned that Cuba had Soviet-supplied missiles. In a meeting between Kennedy and Soviet Ambassador Andrei Gromyko, Gromkyo lied and said that the Soviet Union favored peace between the nations. Three weeks earlier, Gromkyo had lied in his address to the UN General Assembly, saying that the Soviet Union did not intend to give Cuba weapons or threaten the US.

    Kennedy, who had evidence that Gromkyo was lying, kept quiet about the situation. A few days later, Kennedy announced the truth in a public broadcast, where he demanded that the missiles be withdrawn or else war would result. 

  • Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev Said Chernobyl Was Under Control
    Photo: Fed Govt / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev Said Chernobyl Was Under Control

    It's still one of the worst disasters in world history, and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev lied about its seriousness. As radiation infected the area around Chernobyl, Gorbachev announced to the world that everything was being handled and "the worst is behind us." That lie is still affecting people today.

    The area remains uninhabitable and nuclear contamination spread far beyond Chernobyl, even reaching Italy and France. Thousands of people and animals have suffered radiation poisoning from the nuclear meltdown.

  • Nixon Swore He Knew Nothing About Watergate
    Photo: Oliver F. Atkins / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Nixon Swore He Knew Nothing About Watergate

    The president behind the infamous Watergate scandal made everything monumentally worse by lying about it. He swore up and down that he had no knowledge of the Watergate cover-up. It wasn’t until the courts forced Nixon to hand over his tapes - which he had made by secretly recording everything that was said in the Oval Office - that the lies were exposed, forcing Nixon to resign before the country could impeach him.

    It was a dark day for America, as it was one of the first times citizens were confronted with the possibility of not trusting the government.