And the guns fell silent.

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November 11, 1918. 10:59 am, one last volley of machine gun fire, one last soldier to die.Henry Nicholas John Gunther took one last charge with his bayonet, The enemy warned him , but he wanted to proof himself.He wanted to show his demotion from Sergeant to Private had been unjustified.

One last hoorah, one last act of bravery. The enemy warned him again but to no avail,  Henry N. Gunther kept going, the machine guns rattled, Henry N Gunther fell down,dead. But a Sergeant he was yet again.

Henry

His misguided act of bravery was more an act of madness ,because 60 seconds later the war was over. But he wasn’t to blame the so called Great War was based on human insanity.

November 11, 1918. 11:00 am the guns fell silent.

What was supposed to end before Christmas 1914 lasted 4 bloody years 40 million dead and for what?

The guns fell silent but soon they would fire again.

END OF WAR

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Opha May Johnson-US Marine

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of real girl power. Om August 13th 1918,Opha May Johnson became the first Female US Marine.

World War I was drawing to an end when the Marine Corps decided to fill some of the gaps left behind by all the men fighting overseas. In 1918, Johnson was the first of 300 women who reported for duty. They made headlines in newspapers all across the country.

Marines

Newspaper articles, OF 1918 AND ALSO the published history of Women Marines in World War I,  reported Johnson’s first duties were as a clerk at Marine Corps headquarters, managing the records of other female reservists who joined after she did.

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Ironically when she joined the marines she was not yet allowed to vote.

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Resources

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Creating the conditions for the Holocaust

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Nowadays it is very easy to blame social media for widely distributing fake news on a large scale by means of memes and other ways. However this is nothing new, about 100 years ago this was happening through way of propaganda postcards and cartoons(after all a meme is nothing else then a digital propaganda or satirical postcard or cartoon) spread via post or newspapers.

Long before Hitler came to power, German politicians like Friedrich Ebert already blamed  communists,socialists and especially the Jews for losing WWI, by creating the ‘stab in the back’ myth.

The stab-in-the-back myth was believed despite even though it was entirely false .German Jews had loyally and bravely served in the German army during WWII. In fact their numbers were out of proportion in ratio to their numbers in the population. A fact that was emphasized by the “Reich Federation of Jewish Front Soldiers”

Soldiers

Several myths  were deliberately propagated alongside older prejudices. Myths such as:

  • The Jews had started the war to bring Europe to financial ruin and to bring it under Jewish control.
  • Jews exploited the misery of the war to enrich themselves and prolonged it to lead the Bolshevik Revolution in furthering the aim of world revolution.

These myths were enhanced by propaganda postcards and cartoons.

stab in the back

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The origin of the term “stab-in-the-back” itself can possibly attributed to General Erich Ludendorff and dated to the autumn of 1919. Ludendorff was having dinere with the head of the British Military Mission in Berlin,  General Sir Neill Malcolm. Malcolm asked Ludendorff why he thought Germany lost the war. Ludendorff replied with his list of excuses, including that the home front failed the army.

Malcolm asked him: “Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?” Ludendorff’s eyes lit up and he leaped upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. “Stabbed in the back?” he repeated. “Yes, that’s it, exactly, we were stabbed in the back”.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders began to speak critically about the peace and Weimar politicians, socialists, communists and especially Jews, It was suggested that they had not been supportive during the war and had played a part in selling out Germany to its enemies.

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By the time the Nazis came to power the foundations had already been laid.

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Sources

Encyclopedia 1914-1918

USHMM

 

The hills are alive with the sound of sinking Ships.

 

Georg_von_Trapp.jpgWho hasn’t heard of the Sound of Music, an immensely popular movie about the von Trapp family.

But behind the idyllic portrayal of the family lies a darker origin. I will not focus on the singing legacy in this blog but more on that ‘darker side of the story.

Georg von Trapp’s first wive was Agatha Whitehead granddaughter of Robert Whitehead, the inventor of  the modern torpedo.

And how bizarre this may sound for Austria is a landlocked country, Georg von Trapp was a captain in the Austro-Hungarian navy during WWI. The Austro-Hungarian Empire or the Dual Monarchy did include some of the Baltic nations.

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After World War I broke out, he was given command of the U-Boat U-5, a small, 100-foot-long submarine displacing 240 tons, on April 17, 1915. U-5’s ventilation system wasn’t in the best of state  and sometimes filled the sub with poisonous fumes.While in command of SM U-5 he sank two enemy warships.

SMU-5_Trapp

On April 27, less than two weeks after assuming command, U-5 sank the French cruiser Leon Gambetta just off the heel of Italy’s boot. The 12,000 ton Gambetta sank in ten minutes and 684 of its crew, out of 821, were lost. Von Trapp had difficulties coming to terms with the realities of modern warfare:

“So that’s what war looks like! There behind me hundreds of seamen have drowned, men who have done me no harm, men who did their duty as I myself have done, against whom I have nothing personally; with whom, on the contrary, I have felt a bond through sharing the same profession.

— Captain Georg von Trapp”

French_cruiser_Leon_Gambetta (1)

von Trapp was later given command of another submarine on October 14, 1915. The  SM U-14 which had previously been the French submarine Curie, before it was sunk, while trying to infiltrate an Austro-Hungarian Naval base,and salvaged by the Austrian Navy.

SM_U-14_(Austria-Hungary)

 

While in command of the SM U-14 he sank 11 allied ,mainly cargo, vessels.

For his endeavours in the Navy he received several honors, among them the Military Order of Maria Theresa, the highest award given in the Austrian Navy. Von Trapp was the most decorated officer in the Austrian Navy and was knigted, earning the title “Ritter” and became Georg Johannes, Ritter von Trapp.

On 3 September 1922, Agatha von Trapp died of scarlet fever. In  1926, Maria Franziska, the 2nd oldest daughter, was recovering from an illness and could not go to school. Therefor Georgvon Trapp recruited  Maria Augusta Kutschera, from the nearby Nonnberg Abbey, as a tutor,and not as a governess as is the case on the musical.

On 26 November 1927, the 47 year old Georg married the 22 year old Maria Augusta Kutschera.

Maria von Trapp

When Germany annexed Austria in 1938, von Trapp was offered a commission in the German Navy,But he couldn’t reconcile with the Nazi ideology. Realizing  that he could not  really decline the offer without the threat of arrest, possibly for his entire family, von Trapp decided to leave Austria.

Via Italy they eventually ended up in the US.

I think the exploits of Georg vonTrapp, prior to  Maria Augusta Kutschera would have made a much more fascinating movie, but that is just my opinion.

800px-Trapp_Family_Singers_1941

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The Führer is dead. Auf nie wiedersehen.

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For all of you who don’t know German, the second part of the title translates to “that we will never see you again” It has always been a puzzle to me why the death of Adolf Hitler was not turned into a global holiday. Maybe it is because of fears it also may be used by followers of the Austrian turned German leader.

I know History Channel is airing a show celled “Hunting Hitler” aiming to proof that he didn’t die but escaped to Argentina, their investigation is omitting some key elements though, like eye witness reports of those in the bunker. They also work on the assumption that he was last seen in public on his birthday April 20 1945, this is also not true. This is the last picture taken of Hitler on April 28 1945.

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Another key factor they fail to mention in the show is the fact that a day before he killed himself he got married to Eva Braun. Aside from all of that, he often said if he felt the war was lost he’d kill himself. So let’s forget about all these conspiracy therories for a while.

The world reacted in different ways on the news of his death.

The Irish Taosieach(prime minister), Éamon de Valera,  and president Douglas Hyde, bot offered condolences to Germany when the news of Hitler’s death broke.Ireland was neutral during WWII and de Valera stated he was only following diplomatic protocol.

The German embassy in Sweden flew the flag at half mast the day Hitler died, April 30, 1945.

The German embassy in Sweden flying the flag at half mast the day Hitler died, April 30th 1945

In the Netherlands mock mourning cards were published, the one below is using the Veni,Vidi,Vici (came.saw,conquered) analogy. Translation Hitler came but not to England,Hitler Saw Moscow, Hitler lost the war.rouwkaart hitler

Below are some news headlines covering the death of Hitler.

The announcement of Hitler’s and Goebbels’s death in the Bredasche Courant, Dutch Newspaper.

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Headline from “The Stars and Stripes” for May 2, 1945.

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Headline of La France Soir

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The Germans had a different spin on the news the headlines in the Oberdonau-Zeitung seems to indicate rather then having committed suicide he was ‘fallen’, he ‘sacrificed’ his life in the battle against Bolshevism.

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The Daily Mail also reported the appointment of Doenitz as the new German leader.daily_mail_may_2nd_1945

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What if Henry Tandey had taken that shot.

henry-tandey

Most of you will never have heard of the soldier called Henry Tandey, but this very soldier could have allegedly changed the course of history by carrying out one action. It could actually be disputed he changed the course of history by not firing that one shot.

Henry Tandey   was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the most highly decorated British private of the First World War.

On Sept. 28, 1918, one of the greatest mysteries of World War I is said to have taken place. During the fifth battle of Ypres, near the French village of Marcoing, 27-year-old Henry Tandey earned the Victoria Cross, which along with other medals, made him the highest decorated private of the First World War.

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But during the battle, a wounded and defenseless Austrian soldier i the German army stumbled into Tandey’s line of fire. Though he had his gun pointed right at him, Tandey decided not to kill him. This one act of compassion would forever overshadow his military record.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain would be the first to hear about this story from the German that Private Tandey had spared. His name was Adolf Hitler.

hitler-military-uniform

Apparently Hitler identified the soldier carrying the wounded man as Tandey from the photo of him in the newspaper clipping he had obtained in 1918.[16]

In 1938, when Neville Chamberlain visited Hitler at his alpine retreat, the Berghof, for the discussions that led to the Munich Agreement, he noticed the painting and asked about it. Hitler replied:

“That man came so near to killing me that I thought I should never see Germany again; Providence saved me from such devilishly accurate fire as those English boys were aiming at us.”

Although the story is disputed by some, but Tandey heard the story from an officer who had, in turn, heard the story from Chamberlain. Tandey admitted he had spared soldiers on the 28 Sept. but could not confirm if Hitler was one of them.

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When the Coventry Herald interviewed him in 1939, he said: “According to them, I’ve met Adolf Hitler. Maybe they’re right but I can’t remember him.”

A year later he seemed more certain. “If only I had known what he would turn out to be. When I saw all the people and women and children he had killed and wounded I was sorry to God I let him go.”

What if he had just taken that shot.

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Sources

BBC News

Vconline

Sometimes the good guys live a long life-Johan van Hulst WWII Hero.

jvh-curtain

Only the good die young all the evil seem to live forever are lyrics from an Iron Maiden song. For many years I thought this to be true for I saw so many evil men living a long life, however luckily I was wrong in that assumption. Sometimes good men do live a long life, like Johan van Hulst who died on 22 March aged 107.

He was a key player  of a  network that helped at least 600 Dutch babies and children escape the Nazis.Those children survived thanks to carefully orchestrated operations that smuggled them away right in front of the Nazis seeking to send them to concentration camps.

In 1942, two years after the German invasion of the Netherlands, Johan van Hulst – the son of a furniture upholsterer-was the director of the Reformed Teacher Training College, a Protestant religious seminary at Plantage Middenlaan 27, Amsterdam.

Across the street at Plantage Middenlaan 24 was the Hollandse Schouwburg theatre, the main clearing site for the Jews living in Amsterdam who had been issued deportation notices by the Nazi government.

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While the records of those detained there are no longer available, historians believe about 46,000 people were deported from the old theatre over about 18 months up to the end of 1943.

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Children who arrived at the Schouwburg with their families were separated and sent to the neighbouring nursery at Plantage Middenlaan 31 run by Henriëtte Pimentel. Who was  brought up in a well-to-do Portuguese-Jewish family.

Henriëtte_Henriquez_Pimentel_(1876-1943)

The nursery shared a back garden with the college that van Hulst directed.

The deportation centre’s administrator was a German-Jewish man named Walter Süskind, entrusted to run the centre by Nazis who disregarded his Jewish heritage.

12.01.27.Walter-Suskind-met-kleinkinderen

Soon after starting his work there however, he noticed that it was easy to help people escape.His close relationship with the German authorities helped him in his activities to help children escape. He especially tried to get close with the SS officer Ferdinand aus der Fünten, who was then the second man of the Central Office for Jewish Emigration in Amsterdam. He falsified arrival numbers, claiming for example that 60 people instead of 75 had arrived on a particular day, and then letting 15 people escape.

His task became easier when, in early 1943, the Nazis took over a crèche across the road from the theatre – and next door to Van Hulst’s school – to place Jewish children before deporting them to concentration camps.

Süskind joined forces with the head of the nursery, Henriëtte Pimentel, sneaking children to safety when a tram passed in front of the nursery.creche-1976Working with Pimentel, Süskind and dozens of other volunteers, van Hulst arranged for the children to be spirited over the hedge separating the neighbouring back yards of the nursery and the teachers’ college, often assisted by the teachers-in-training or local university students.When the time came to move the rescued children and babies away from the school, they would be hidden in containers such as bags, sacks or laundry baskets.Numerous methods were used to move the hidden children from the school. In one method, the operation’s helpers would then wait for the moment a tram passed, blocking the view of Nazi guards at the facing Hollandsche Schouwberg, to cycle away with the hidden child.

The operation came to a halt on September 29, 1943 when the Nazis sent Pimental and 100 children from the nursery to Nazi concentration camps.[6] Decades later, van Hulst described the days preceding the closure to Yad Vashem: “Now try to imagine 80, 90, perhaps 70 or 100 children standing there, and you have to decide which children to take with you. … That was the most difficult day of my life. … You know for a fact that the children you leave behind are going to die. I took 12 with me. Later on I asked myself: ‘Why not 13?'”

In total, the operation had rescued about 600 Jewish babies and children.The punishment for aiding Jews was death.

Van Hulst received the Yad Vashem Distinction in 1970.[11] During a state visit to Israel in 2012, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said of van Hulst “We say, those who save one life saves a universe. You saved hundreds of universes. I want to thank you in the name of the Jewish people, but also in the name of humanity.prime minister

After the war Van Hulst served as a politician at several levels. From 1956 until 1981 he was a member of the Dutch Senate. From 1961 until 1968 he was a member of the European Parliament and from 1969 until 1972 he was chairman of the CHU. From 1972 until 1981 Van Hulst was group leader in the Senate; first for the CHU and from 1977 on for the CDA(Christian Democrats).

For all the attention he later received for his success at saving lives, Dr. van Hulst said he was traumatized by memories of those he could not rescue.Some of the children Johan van Hulst helped rescue were so young that they no longer remember the daring acts that saved their lives.

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Sources

BBC

CNN

Washington Post

NPR

Yad Vashem

Special thanks to Norman Stone and Melody Ziff for reminding me of this Hero.

Kaiser Wilhelm II- Political asylum in the Netherlands

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On 23 January 1920, the government of the Netherlands refused to extradite the former Kaiser of Germany, Wilhelm II. His aggressive foreign policy and support for Austro-Hungary in 1914 led to the first world war. After the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, he was charged with “a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties” and the allies demanded his extradition. Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands refused and granted him political asylum.

A request to the Dutch government for Wilhelms’ surrender had been made necessary by his flight; on 10 November 1918 the – soon former– Kaiser had crossed the Dutch borders.

By early November 1918, things were looking dismal for the Central Powers on all fronts of the Great War. The kaiser was at German army headquarters in the Belgian resort town of Spa when news reached him, in quick succession, of labor unrest in Berlin, a mutiny within the Imperial Navy and what looked like the beginnings of full-fledged revolution in Germany.

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From every direction, it seemed, came calls for peace, reform and the removal of the kaiser. Wilhelm II was told that the German General Staff would make a unified, orderly march home to Germany when the war ended, but it would not defend him against his internal opponents.

Faced with this lack of support, the kaiser agreed to abdicate his throne on November 9, 1918. Shortly after that, Wilhelm, the last of the powerful Hohenzollern monarchs, traveled from Spa to the Netherlands , never to return to German soil.

In January 1920, Wilhelm headed the list of so-called war criminals put together by the Allies and made public after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.

Treaty_of_Versailles,_English_version

In the Versailles Treaty, the Allied Powers stated that the Kaiser should be prosecuted for a supreme offence against international morality and the sanctity of treaties. What did they mean, and where did this formula come from?
The Preliminary Peace Conference decided at its plenary session of 25 January 1919 to create, for the purpose of inquiring into the responsibilities relating to the war, a Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War and on Enforcement of Penalties (hereafter Commission on Responsibility), composed of fifteen members.6 It was charged to inquire into and report upon the following points:

  1. the responsibility of the authors of the war;
  2. the facts as to breaches of the laws and customs of war committed by the forces of the German Empire and their Allies, on land, on sea, and in the air during the present war;
  3. the degree of responsibility for these offences attaching to particular members of the enemy forces, including members of the General Staffs and other individuals, however highly placed;
  4. the constitution and procedure of a tribunal appropriate for the trial of these offences;
  5. any other matters cognate or ancillary to the above which may arise in the course of the enquiry, and which the Commission finds useful and relevant to take into consideration.

The Netherlands,which had remained neutral during WWI, under the young, strong-willed Queen Wilhelmina, refused to extradite him for prosecution and Wilhelm remained in the Netherlands, where he settled in the municipality of Doorn.

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Personal tragedy struck when his son, Joachim, committed suicide later in 1920. Augusta, his wife and the mother of his seven children, died barely a year later. In 1922, Wilhelm remarried and published his memoirs, proclaiming his innocence in the promotion of the Great War.

Unlike Wilhelmina and the rest of the Dutch royal family, Wilhelm turned down Winston Churchill’s offer of asylum in Britain in 1940, as Hitler’s armies pushed through Holland, choosing instead to live under German occupation. He died the following year.

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Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines-WWI style

America_during_WW1 (39)

World War I was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of aircraft. Tethered observation balloons had already been employed in several wars, and would be used extensively for artillery spotting. Germany employed Zeppelins for reconnaissance over the North Sea and Baltic and also for strategic bombing raids over Britain and the Eastern Front.

Aeroplanes were just coming into military use at the outset of the war. Initially, they were used mostly for reconnaissance. Pilots and engineers learned from experience, leading to the development of many specialized types, including fighters, bombers, and trench strafers.

Below just some examples of those magnificent flying machines.

British fleet in the Firth of Forth. Picture: taken from a rigid balloon showing the English fleet in the Firth of Forth where the German fleet was turned over to the allies.

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Aeroplane leaving a light cruiser.

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An aircraft flies over no-man’s land, a European battlefield torn up by bombs and trench diggers.

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Aircraft fly above New York City.

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A squadron of U.S. Curtis aircraft in flight, circa 1917.

A squadron of U.S. Curtis aircraft in flight, circa 1917.

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Life and death of Mata Hari

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Despite her exotic name Mata Hari was a Dutch woman. Her real name was Margaretha (Gretha)Zelle and was born in Leeuwarden, in the province of Friesland in the North West of  the Netherlands..

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Today marks the centenary of her execution.

At 18, Zelle answered an advertisement in a Dutch newspaper placed by Dutch Colonial Army Captain Rudolf MacLeod (1 March 1856 – 9 January 1928), who was living in what was then the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and was looking for a wife. Zelle married MacLeod in Amsterdam on 11 July 1895.2164

 

He was the son of Captain John Brienen MacLeod (a descendant of the Gesto branch of the MacLeods of Skye, hence his Scottish name) and Dina Louisa, Baroness Sweerts de Landas. The marriage enabled her to move into the Dutch upper class, and her finances were placed on a sound footing. They moved to Malang on the east side of the island of Java, traveling out on SS Prinses Amalia in May 1897, and had two children, Norman-John MacLeod (30 January 1897 – 27 June 1899) and Louise Jeanne MacLeod (2 May 1898 – 10 August 1919).

SS_Prinses_Amalia

From the start, her marriage was troubled. After the birth of their son, Norman, in 1897, they sailed for the Dutch East Indies, where Gretha would spend four years living in military garrisons. After the birth of their daughter, Non, in 1898, tragedy struck. For reasons that remain a mystery, a nanny poisoned Norman and Non; he died, she barely survived. Although John was able to retire on a military pension in 1900, the couple were unhappy and returned to Holland.

Gretha and John separated in 1902 and she was granted custody. But when he refused to pay the legally agreed allowance, she wrote to his cousin, Edward, who acted as an intermediary. The correspondence reveals her desperation to keep her daughter but, without family connections and with most professions barred to women, she had few choices. She reluctantly returned Non to her father and left for Paris.

Where she reinvented herself as a performer of exotic Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling the story of how she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, meaning “eye of the day” in Malay.

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She acquired her superficial knowledge of Indian and Javanese dances when she lived for several years in Malaysia with her former husband, who was a Scot in the Dutch colonial army. Regardless of her authenticity, she packed dance halls and opera houses from Russia to France, mostly because her show consisted of her slowly stripping nude.

She became a famous courtesan, and with the outbreak of World War I her catalog of lovers began to include high-ranking military officers of various nationalities. In February 1917, French authorities arrested her for espionage and imprisoned her at St. Lazare Prison in Paris. In a military trial conducted in July, she was accused of revealing details of the Allies’ new weapon, the tank, resulting in the deaths of thousands of soldiers. She was convicted and sentenced to death, and on October 15 she refused a blindfold and was shot to death by a firing squad at Vincennes.

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There is some evidence that Mata Hari acted as a German spy, and for a time as a double agent for the French, but the Germans had written her off as an ineffective agent whose pillow talk had produced little intelligence of value. Her military trial was riddled with bias and circumstantial evidence, and it is probable that French authorities trumped her up as “the greatest woman spy of the century” as a distraction for the huge losses the French army was suffering on the western front. Her only real crimes may have been an elaborate stage fallacy and a weakness for men in uniform.

Statue of Mata Hari in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands

Mata_Hari

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