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).

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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

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It’s the beauty that killed the beast:The bravery of Franceska Mann.

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Franceska Mann   (February 4, 1917 – October 23, 1943)

Franciszka Mann was a young dancer residing in Warsaw before the Second World War. She studied dance in the dance school of Irena Prusicka. Her friends at that time included Wiera Gran and Stefania Grodzieńska. In 1939 she placed 4th during the international dance competition in Brussels among 125 other young ballet dancers.She was considered one of the most beautiful and promising dancers of her generation in Poland both in classical and modern repertoire.

 

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At the beginning of the Second World War she was a performer at the Melody Palace nightclub in Warsaw. She was a prisoner of Warsaw Ghetto.

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After  Nazi Germany had invaded and occupied Poland she escaped the ghetto and went into hiding on the “Aryan” site of Warsaw.
In spring 1943 the Germans declaired that all Polish Jews, who possessed visas of the neutral South American counties would be sent there.
Ms. Mann obtained (or forged) one of those visas and then sought refuge in “Hotel Polski”, transformed by the Nazis into the transit camp.

However, the allegedly neutral South American states that admitted numerous Nazi War criminals after 1945 did not lift a finger to rescue their victims, who were deported from “Hotel Polski” first to Bergen-Belsen and then (on October 23, 1943) to Auschwitz.
After the train arrived at the death camp the Jews were told that they were to be “disinfected” before crossing the Swiss border. While some began to comply with the SS orders to undress and enter the gas chamber, others hesitated, unwilling to take off clothes which contained their precious travel documents. As they delayed, the SS assumed more menacing stances, threatening the Jews with guns and finally beating them mercilessly with sticks.
Franceska Mann was a girl of striking beauty and had not lost it completely despite all suffering.

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Thus she attracted the attention of the SS man Schillinger, who ogled her as she undressed.
Suddenly she threw an article of clothing at Schillinger, hitting him in the head. As he opened his holster, Franceska Mann grabbed his pistol and shot twice mortally wounding him; the third shot wounded a second SS man, Emmerich, who later recovered, but was disabled.
Inspired by her courage the fellow prisoners attacked the SS guards and severely injured two of them, but could not do anything against the machine guns and were within minutes shot or driven into the gas chamber.

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I am passionate about my site and I know a you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2 ,however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thanks To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the paypal link. Many thanks

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