The weird case of Violette Morris

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Of all stories relating to spies and collaborators during WWII this most be one of the most intriguing ones.

When I first read about Violette Morris and saw the date she died,26 April 1944, I assumed she was killed for being a member of the French resistance. Why I thought that I don’t know.

Born in France on 18 April 1893. She was a French athlete who won two gold and one silver medals at the Women’s World Games in 1922 and the Women’s Olympiad in 1924.

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She excelled in those sports that require strength and power such as shot put and javelin.However those weren’t the only sports she was involved in.

She partook in football,water polo ,road bicycle racing, motorcycle racing, airplane racing, horseback riding, tennis, archery, diving, swimming,weightlifting, and Greco-Roman wrestling,boxing and car racing.

She loved car racing so much that she had her breasts removed to fit better in the car.

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She married Cyprien Edouard Joseph Gouraud on 22 August 1914 in Paris. They divorced in May 1923. She had served in World War I as a military nurse during the Battle of the Somme and a courier during the Battle of Verdun.

Although she had been married, she was attracted to women.

Her motto was “Anything A Man Can Do, Violette Can Do, Too”

Her lifestyle was of no shame to her. She lived as a man and made no secret of the fact that her lovers were women. This was considered really scandalous behaviour in 1920’s France.

In 1928, she was refused license renewal by the Fédération française sportive féminine and as a result was not allowed to compete in the 1928 Olympic Games.

Despite her being openly gay she had a big fan in Adolf Hitler. This one of the anomalies in the Nazi policies,according to the Nazi doctrine women could not be gay.

In 1935 she was approached an recruited by by the Sicherheitsdienst. On the personal behest she was invited to attend the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.

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She provided the Nazi regime in Germany  with partial plans of the Maginot Line, detailed plans of strategic points within the city of Paris, and schematics of the French army’s main tank, the Somua S35. Her information was vital to the German invasion of Paris in 1940.

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After the Nazi invasion, Morris remained close to the Germans and started working for the French Gestapo, the Carlingue. She had the nickname, ‘The Hyena of the Gestapo,’ because apparently she got a lot of sadistic pleasure by torturing people and extracting information.

On 26 April 1944, when she went for a  drive in her Citroën Traction Avant car with two friends and their two children for a spin on a country road.

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Her engine sputtered and the car came to a halt. Earlier tha day, the engine had been tampered with by  the French Resistance Maquis Surcouf group. Members of the group  then emerged from a hiding spot and opened fired on the car. Although Morris was the target, all five people in the car were killed. Morris’ body, riddled with bullets.

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A spy in Hawaii-Takeo Yoshikawa

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The one thing this is for certain in history, it always repeats itself. With all the talk about spies nowadays it is a good time to look at one of WWII spies.Takeo Yoshikawa.

Because of his expertise on the U.S. Navy, Yoshikawa was sent to Hawaii under the cover of being a vice-consul named Tadashi Morimura.

On March 27, 1941, the following appeared in the Nippu Jiji, an English-and-Japanese-language newspaper in Honolulu: “Tadashi Morimura, newly appointed secretary of the local Japanese consulate general, arrived here this morning on the Nitta Maru from Japan.

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His appointment was made to expedite the work on expatriation applications and other matters.” The announcement should have drawn the attention of American intelligence agents, as there was no Tadashi Morimura listed in the Japanese foreign registry.

He rented a second story apartment that overlooked Pearl Harbor and would often wander around the island of Oahu, taking notes on Fleet movements and security measures.He rented small planes at John Rodgers Airport and flew around, observing U.S. installations as well as diving under the harbor using a hollow reed as a breathing device. He also gathered information by taking the Navy’s own harbor tugboat and listening to local gossip. He worked closely with German Abwehr agent Bernard Kuehn.

0000004141Kuehn—a member of the Nazi party—had arrived in Hawaii in 1935. By 1939, the Bureau was suspicious of him. He had questionable contacts with the Germans and Japanese.

Yoshikawa also worked with Kokichi Seki , an untrained spy who served as the consulate’s treasurer.

FBI agents were paying attention to all of Yoshikawa’s comings and goings. In fact, U.S. military intelligence suspected him of spying. One officer even commented that “Morimura” was able to go unhindered “all over the _ _ place.”

Working diligently, the FBI’s chief investigator in Honolulu was tracking the 27-year-old Japanese spy, but there wasn’t enough evidence to arrest him.

At the time, Hawaii was not-yet an American state. Officials in Washington did not want to risk antagonizing the loyalty of Hawaii’s population by arresting a “diplomat” without hard evidence of spy activities. (About 160,000 people of Japanese ancestry lived in Hawaii in 1941.) Suspicions were not enough to stop Yoshikawa from going about his business.

So … because no one did stop him … Yoshikawa’s spy charts would provide perfect routes of travel for all the comings and goings of Japanese pilots on the 7th of December, 1941.

Although he had no knowledge of a planned attack on Pearl Harbor, Yoshikawa assumed that the intelligence would help prepare for such an eventuality and worked tirelessly to that end. His reports were transmitted by the Japanese Consulate in PURPLE code to the Foreign Ministry, which passed them on to the Navy.

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Although the code had been broken by American code breakers and messages to and from Tokyo were intercepted and de-crypted, communications between Tokyo and the consulate were considered low-priority because they contained so many messages that were entirely commercial in nature.

On the morning of December 7, Yoshikawa was listening to a short-wave radio broadcast from Tokyo. During the weather forecast, he heard a reporter very slowly say these words:

East wind, rain.

East wind, rain.

Yoshikawa knew what those code words meant. Japan had decided to start a war against America.

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The weatherman’s words did not contain any other codes. That meant Japan was not declaring war on Britain or Russia.

Yoshikawa and Japan’s counsel in Hawaii knew what they had to do. Federal agents would soon search their offices, so they had to destroy every piece of incriminating evidence, including their code books.

By the time U.S. agents showed-up, every shred of spying evidence against Yoshikawa no-longer existed. No evidence against him ever surfaced, while he was in American custody. In 1942, he returned to Japan. During the rest of the war, he held his rank of ensign in Japanese intelligence.

After the war, when the U.S. occupied Japan for several years, the Pearl-Harbor spy worried that he’d be caught … and hanged. He left his wife, whom he had married after returning to Japan, and went into hiding as a Buddhist monk.

Yoshikawa never received official recognition of his services during the war. In 1955, he opened a candy business but it failed as word spread of his role in the war. The locals blamed Yoshikawa for the war. “They even blamed me for the atomic bomb,” he declared in one interview.Penniless and jobless, he was supported by his wife for the rest of his life via her position selling insurance. “My wife alone shows me great respect,” said the old spy. “Every day she bows to me. She knows I am a man of history.”He died in a nursing home.

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Imperial Japanese Navy

Goldeneye-James Bond in WWII

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I have to confess that the title is actually deceiving, because this blog is not about James Bond as such but more about 007’s creator, Ian Fleming, and some of his WWII efforts. Looking at some of the operations it appears that his inspiration for James Bond may have partially come from himself.

In May 1939 Fleming was recruited by Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Director of  the Naval Intelligence  Division of the Royal Navy, to become his personal assistant. He joined the organisation full-time in August 1939,with the codename “17F”, and worked out of Room 39 at The Admiralty.

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Ian Fleming was soon involved in several WWII operations.

Operation Ruthless

Operation Ruthless was the name of a deception operation devised by Ian Fleming in the British Admiralty during World War II, in an attempt to gain access to German Naval Enigma code books.

In conjunction The code breakers at Bletchley Park, working on the highly secret German Enigma traffic, were having difficulty breaking into the German Naval signals. It was suggested that directly obtaining German Naval code tables would be the the fastest method of making progress.

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In effect this meant capturing a German Naval unit with the code material intact. Fleming proposed a scheme to do just this:

“TOP SECRET.
For Your Eyes Only.
12 September 1940.
To: Director Naval Intelligence
From: Ian Fleming

Operation Ruthless

I suggest we obtain the loot by the following means:

1. Obtain from Air Ministry an air-worthy German bomber.
2. Pick a tough crew of five, including a pilot, W/T operator and word-perfect German speaker. Dress them in German Air Force Uniform, add blood and bandages to suit.
3. Crash Plane in the Channel after making SOS to rescue service.
4. Once aboard rescue boat, shoot German crew, dump overboard, bring rescue boat back to English port.

In order to increase the chances of capturing an R or M [Räumboot – a small minesweeper; Minensuchboot – a large minesweeper] with its richer booty, the crash might be staged in mid-Channel.

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The Germans would presumably employ one of this type for the longer and more hazardous journey.

NB. Since attackers will be wearing enemy uniform, they will be liable to be shot as franc-tireurs if captured, and incident might be fruitful field for propaganda. Attackers’ story will therefore be that it was done for a lark by a group of young hot-heads who thought the war was too tame and wanted to have a go at the Germans. They had stolen the plane and equipment and had expected to get into trouble when they got back. This will prevent suspicions that party was after more valuable booty than a rescue boat.”

Operation Goldeneye

Operation Goldeneye was an Allied plan during the Second World War, which was to monitor Spain after a possible alliance between Francisco Franco and the Axis powers, and to undertake sabotage operations. The plan was formed by Commander Ian Fleming

With no German takeover of Spain or invasion of Gibraltar, the plan was closed in 1943.

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The object of the operation, was to ensure that the UK would still be able to communicate with Gibraltar in the event Spain joined the Axis powers. The plan also incorporated elements for the defense of Gibraltar had the Germans invaded through Spain.

Ultimately General  Franco , Spain’s dictator, declined to join the Axis powers, Adolf Hitler having refused to give Gibraltar and French North Africa to Spain after these had been seized.

Fleming later dubbed his Jamaican estate “Goldeneye”, and began writing his series of James Bond novels there.The name was also used for the title of the seventeenth James Bond film, GoldenEye starring Pierce Brosnan as Bond.

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30 Assault Unit

In Sep 1942, the Director of Naval Intelligence authorised the formation of the Special Intelligence Unit, composed of 33 (Royal Marines) Troop, 34 (Army) Troop, 35 (RAF) Troop and 36 (Royal Navy) Troop. The Special Intelligence Unit was later renamed 30 RN Commando (Special Engineering Unit), and was redesignated 30 Assault Unit in December 1943.

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The unit was formed by Ian Fleming.

Fleming did not fight in the field with the unit, but selected targets and directed operations from the rear.[41] On its formation the unit was thirty strong, but it grew to five times that size.[42] The unit was filled with men from other commando units, and trained in unarmed combat, safe-cracking and lock-picking at the SOE facilities.

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Operation Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

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I am just having a bit of fun here, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was never a WWII operation, however what many people don’t know this was the last book Ian Fleming ever wrote. But how cool would it have bnne if there actually had been an “Opertaion Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” The screen play for the movie was written by another WWII hero and legendary author, Roald Dahl.

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Fleming had first mentioned to friends during the war that he wanted to write a spy novel, an ambition he achieved within two months with Casino Royale. He started writing the book at Goldeneye on 17 February 1952, gaining inspiration from his own experiences and imagination.

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Coco Chanel-Fascist designer

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During the Second World War, many well-known fashion brands were accused of collaborating with the Nazis. However, Coco Chanel, the iconic founder of the luxury brand, is not only accused of fraternizing with high-level Nazi officials but that she capitalized on her powerful connections to oust Jewish business partners in her company. Her loyalty to the German party did not end there.

Recent French documents revealed that she also may have been Agent 7124 (Codename: “Westminster”) for the Nazi intelligence organization, the Abwehr.

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In 1939, at the beginning of World War II, Chanel closed her shops, maintaining her apartment situated above the couture house at 31 Rue de Cambon. She claimed that it was not a time for fashion; as a result of her action, 4,000 female employees lost their jobs.   Her dislike of Jews, reportedly inculcated by her convent years and sharpened by her association with society elites, had solidified her beliefs. She shared with many of her circle a conviction that Jews were a threat to Europe because of the Bolshevik government in the Soviet Union.

During the German occupation, Chanel resided at the Hotel Ritz. It was noteworthy as the preferred place of residence for upper-echelon German military staff. Her romantic liaison with Baron (Freiherr) Hans Günther von Dincklage  a German diplomat in Paris and former Prussian Army officer and Attorney General who had been an operative in military intelligence since 1920, the handsome von Dincklage would meet and become lovers with Coco Chanel. The two moved in together, residing for a period in Paris’ Ritz Hotel.

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Chanel was enlisted as an Abwehr spy under the command of General Walter Schellenberg.

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The stylish designer journeyed to Spain with Baron Louis de Vaufreland, whose responsibility was to identify who could be drafted into spying for the Third Reich. Chanel regularly rubbed shoulders with the British nobility, including the British ambassador to Spain, providing Vaufreland with an excellent cover.

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World War II, specifically the Nazi seizure of all Jewish-owned property and business enterprises, provided Chanel with the opportunity to gain the full monetary fortune generated by Parfums Chanel and its most profitable product, Chanel No. 5. The directors of Parfums Chanel, the Wertheimers, were Jewish. Chanel used her position as an “Aryan” to petition German officials to legalize her claim to sole ownership.

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On 5 May 1941, she wrote to the government administrator charged with ruling on the disposition of Jewish financial assets. Her grounds for proprietary ownership were based on the claim that Parfums Chanel “is still the property of Jews” and had been legally “abandoned” by the owners.

“I have,” she wrote, “an indisputable right of priority … the profits that I have received from my creations since the foundation of this business … are disproportionate … [and] you can help to repair in part the prejudices I have suffered in the course of these seventeen years.”

Chanel was not aware that the Wertheimers, anticipating the forthcoming Nazi mandates against Jews had, in May 1940, legally turned control of Parfums Chanel over to Félix Amiot, a Christian French businessman and industrialist. At war’s end, Amiot returned “Parfums Chanel” to the hands of the Wertheimers.

During the period directly following the end of World War II, the business world watched with interest and some apprehension the ongoing legal wrestle for control of Parfums Chanel. Interested parties in the proceedings were cognizant that Chanel’s Nazi affiliations during wartime, if made public knowledge, would seriously threaten the reputation and status of the Chanel brand. Forbes magazine summarized the dilemma faced by the Wertheimers: [it is Pierre Wertheimer’s worry] how “a legal fight might illuminate Chanel’s wartime activities and wreck her image—and his business.”

After the war’s end, Chanel was never prosecuted for her active collaboration with the Germans. After Germany lost the war, the defeated couturier spent seven years in Switzerland with her lover, Baron von Dincklage. Eventually, in 1954, she managed to re-establish Chanel with the surprising aid of Pierre Wertheimer .

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At the end of the war, Schellenberg was tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment for war crimes. He was released in 1951 owing to incurable liver disease and took refuge in Italy. Chanel paid for Schellenberg’s medical care and living expenses, financially supported his wife and family, and paid for Schellenberg’s funeral upon his death in 1952.

Next time you spray a bit of Chanel just think of it’s history.

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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).

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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

Mata_Hari

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Duquesne Spy Ring

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The Duquesne spy ring was the largest espionage operation case in the history of the United States that ended in convictions. It was a German ring operating within the United States during World War II and was run by Frederick Joubert Duquesne, a South African who became a naturalized American citizen in December 1913.

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The ring was established in order to gather information that could be used in the event the United States entered the war. It was assigned to find holes in American military forces and preparedness before the United States entered the war and to find ways to destabilize the country and its morale. The information that members of the ring passed forward related to acts of domestic terrorism and sabotage as well as industrial and military espionage.

The ring came to light when William Sebold, a German native who had served in the Imperial German Army during World War I, moved to the United States and became a naturalized citizen on February 10, 1936.

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While living in the United States and for a while in South Africa, he had worked in industrial and aircraft plants. When he returned to Germany in February 1939 to visit his ailing mother, he was approached by a member of the Gestapo and told that he would be contacted at a later time. He obtained a job in Mülheim and seven months later was visited by a gentleman who introduced himself as Dr. Gassner. Gassner questioned him intensely about his knowledge of military planes and equipment and then posed the possibility of Sebold returning to the United States and serving as a spy for Germany. Subsequent visits by Gassner and another man (later identified as Major Nickolaus Ritter of the German Secret Police) prompted him to agree to act as a spy rather than face reprisals against his family in Germany.

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Ritter was the Abwehr head of espionage against the United States and Britain and was determined to have a multi-faceted apparatus in place before the United States could get involved in the war.

Sebold’s passport was stolen after the visit by Gassner so he went to the U.S. Consulate to get a replacement. While there, he quietly told the consulate official that he had been recruited to spy on America and wanted instead to work as a double-agent for the U.S. Government. He was sent to Hamburg for espionage training by the Germans and was tutored on the use of micro-photographing and preparing coded-messages. He was given five microphotographs with information about the information he was to pass back to Germany. He was told to keep two and deliver the other three to three operatives, including Frederick Duquesne. He sailed back to the United States through Genoa, Italy and arrived in New York City in February 1940 under the guise of Harry Sawyer.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation had been informed of Sebold’s new role and aided him in getting a home and an office in the city. He played the role of Harry Sawyer, a diesel engineering consultant, and his office was chosen such the FBI could easily conduct surveillance at all times (the office was outfitted with hidden microphones and two-way mirrors). The FBI also set up an elaborate shortwave radio transmitting system and used it to maintain contact with German run shortwave radio stations in Germany. It would be the main radio apparatus used to communicate back and forth between the spies and their German handlers. FBI agents, acting as Sebold, passed along authentic sounding messages for 16 months (a total of 300 messages were sent to the Germans and 200 were received).

Sebold met repeatedly with various members of the spy network in his office, with the FBI recording all of it. He met several times with Duquesne and Duquesne passed information related to sabotage possibilities in industrial plants as well as plans for the development of a new bomb that he had stolen from a DuPont plant in Wilmington, Delware. Another member of the ring, Paul Bante, discussed plan to bomb different locations and even delivered dynamite and detonation caps to Sebold.

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Through Sebold’s undercover efforts, the FBI gained enough evidence to arrest and convict all of the spies before they had a chance to carry out any of their goals. Fourteen of the group entered guilty pleas and the other 19 were found guilty of espionage on December 13, 1941. On the 2nd of January 1942,they were sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison. A higher-up in German-intelligence said that the Sebold activity dealt a death blow to the German-espionage efforts in the United States and J. Edgar Hoover called the sting operation the greatest spy roundup in the history of the United States.

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Josef Jakobs-German spy and the last person executed in the Tower of London.

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On this day 78 years ago the last person was executed in the famous Tower of London, his name was Josef Jakobs.

 

Josef Jakobs (30 June 1898 – 15 August 1941) was a German spy and the last person to be executed at the Tower of London. He was captured shortly after parachuting into the United Kingdom during the Second World War. Convicted of espionage under the Treachery Act 1940, Jakobs was shot by a military firing squad. He was not hanged because he had broke his ankle and therefore couldn’t stand, he was therefore sat down to be shot.

Jakobs was an untrained, ill-equipped German spy who was parachuted into Britain in February 1941, apparently charged with sending details of London weather patterns back to the Fatherland. But he broke his ankle in a bungled leap from the plane.

The following morning, Jakobs attracted the attention of two farmers, Charles Baldock and Harry Coulson, by firing his pistol into the air. Baldock and Coulson notified members of the local Home Guard who quickly apprehended Jakobs.

When captured, writhing in agony, at the Huntingdonshire drop point, he was found to have nearly £500 of counterfeit currency, an empty ration book and identity papers that were obviously forged and a German sauasge.

Jakobs was taken to Ramsey Police Station before being transferred to Cannon Row Police Station in London, where he gave a voluntary statement to Major T.A. Robertson of MI5.

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Due to the poor condition of his ankle, Jakobs was transferred to Brixton Prison Infirmary for the night. The following day he was briefly interrogated by Lieutenant Colonel Stephens of MI5 at Camp 020 before being transferred to Dulwich Hospital where he remained for the next two months.

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His war was over and so, effectively, was his life. The 43-year-old father of three was tried by a court martial, found guilty of treason and at 7.12am on 15 August 1941 was taken to the practice range at the Tower where, blindfolded and with a white marker over his heart, he was shot by eight soldiers from the Scots Guards.

Jakobs, who was a German citizen, was born in Luxembourg in 1898. During the First World War, he served in the German infantry, rising to the rank of Lieutenant, in the 4th Foot Guards. In June 1940, ten months after the outbreak of the Second World War, Jakobs was drafted into the Wehrmacht as a First lieutenant. However, when it was discovered that he had been imprisoned in Switzerland from 1934–37 for selling counterfeit gold, he was forced to resign his commission in the Wehrmacht.Jakobs was demoted to a noncommissioned officer and placed in the Meteorologischen Dienst (meteorological service) of the German Army. Shortly afterwards, he also began working for the Abwehr, the intelligence department of the German Army.

Jakobs’ court martial took place in front of a military tribunal at Duke of York’s Headquarters in Chelsea, London SW3, on 4–5 August 1941. The trial held was in camera because the German agent had been apprehended in a highly classified intelligence operation known as the Double Cross System. The British were aware that Jakobs was coming because his arrival information had been passed on to MI5 by the Welsh nationalist and Abwehr double agent Arthur Owens.

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After a two-day trial which involved hearing the testimony of eight witnesses, Jakobs was found guilty of spying and sentenced to death.

Jakobs’s execution took place at the miniature rifle range in the grounds of the Tower of London on 15 August 1941. He was seated blindfolded in a brown Windsor chair. Eight soldiers from the Holding battalion of the Scots Guards, armed with .303 Lee–Enfields, took aim at a white cotton target (the approximate size of a matchbook) pinned over Jakobs’ heart. The squad fired in unison at 7:12 a.m. after being given a silent signal from Lieutenant-Colonel C.R. Gerard (Deputy Provost Marshal for London District). Jakobs died instantly. A postmortem examination found that one bullet had hit Jakobs in the head and the other seven had been on or around the marked target area.

Following the execution, Jakobs’ body was buried in an unmarked grave at St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Kensal Green, London. The location used for Jakobs’ grave has since been re-used so the original grave site is difficult to find.

All other German spies condemned to death in the UK during the Second World War were executed by hanging at either Wandsworth or Pentonville prisons in London. Jakobs was the last person to be executed at the Tower of London.

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Operation Bernhard

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This story had all the makings of a great spy movie and no wonder that in 2007 ,film director Stefan Ruzowitzky made the movie “The Counterfeiters” which won the Oscar for best movie in a foreign Language.

Operation Bernhard was the name of a secret German plan devised during World War II to destabilise the British economy by flooding the country with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes, which was named after the SS officer who ran it.

Only a fortnight after the start of World War II, at a meeting that has remained a secret for more than half a century, officials of German finance and Nazi espionage approved an audacious plot to bring down the world’s financial system. Hundreds of millions of forged British pounds were to become a weapon of war. Operation Bernhard not only became the greatest counterfeit scheme in history but the most wide-ranging and bizarre, with its own gallery of rogues.

It  was the code-name of a secret Nazi plan devised  by the RSHA (Reich Main Security Office)  and the SS to destabilize the British economy via economic warfare by flooding the global economy and the British Empire with forged Bank of England £5, £10, £20, and £50 notes.

It was the largest counterfeiting operation in the history of economic warfare, and the first that employed the full technical/scientific and management expertise of a sovereign state to produce and deploy bogus currency with the aim of destabilizing an enemy belligerent’s economic standing with its allies, as well as its acceptance by neutral powers.

Britain was especially vulnerable because its war effort was founded upon – and sustained by – its global and Imperial economy. That economy was built upon directly-ruled colonial possessions, self-governing Commonwealth Dominions and the Empire’s currency zone, the Sterling Preference Area. These worked in commerce with neutral powers to acquire the manpower and material necessary to fight a global war. Each of these trading partners accepted the British currency for the exchange of goods and services and maintained their own reserves of it for transactions with, and within the Empire. Confidence in the integrity of this (then global) currency, both in and outside of the Sterling Preference Area, was essential to sustaining the vitality of the Empire, and through it, the war effort.

Major Bernhard Krueger, a meticulously correct SS engineer, ran a production line of Jewish prisoners in Sachsenhausen concentration camp near Berlin. The millions of forged notes they printed were laundered through a Nazi confidence man with the help of Jewish agents who concealed their origins. Toward the end, one of Europe ‘s most accomplished professional forgers, the only career criminal in the operation, was brought in to counterfeit dollar bills.

In London, the arrogant grandees at the Bank of England could not believe their pound notes could be forged with such expertise and in such quantity. In one of the crowning ironies of many, after the war Golda Meir protected a millionaire Jewish money-launderer from British authorities in what was then known as Palestine.

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The plan was to destabilize the British economy during the war by dropping the notes from aircrafts, on the assumption that most Britons would collect the money and spend it, thus triggering inflation. This scheme was not put into effect: it was postulated that the Luftwaffe did not have enough aircraft to deliver the forgeries, and by that time the operation was in the hands of SS foreign intelligence. From late 1943, approximately one million notes per month were printed. Many were transferred from SS headquarters to a former hotel near Meran in South Tyrol, Northern Italy, from where they were laundered and used to pay for strategic imports and German secret agents operating in Allied countries. It has been rumoured that counterfeit currency was used to finance the rescue of Benito Mussolini in 1943.

The plot was hatched in Berlin on September 18, 1939, behind the imposing stone facade of what had once been Kaiser Wilhelm’s Finance Ministry. Walther Funk, a pudgy former financial journalist whose principal task was keeping German industry in Hitler’s camp, was the only one to register the least objection because he feared the counterfeit notes would upset his task of milking Hitler’s conquered territories. Josef Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, was not present but feared the “grotesque plan” might be turned against Germany ‘s own fragile finances by the Allies. In fact, Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt toyed with the idea of counterfeiting enemy currency but their advisers rejected it.

Nevertheless, the second-rate minds of Nazi espionage believed they could weaken the pound as the trading standard and store of value underpinning the British Empire. Bullies and incompetents were at first put in charge of the operation. After several false starts, Krueger, a textile engineer, figured out how to match the paper, printing, and design of the impressive British notes. He found his forgers in Jewish death camps on the orders of SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler.

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Krüger set up a team of 142 counterfeiters from among inmates at Sachsenhausen concentration camp at first, and then from others, especially Auschwitz. Beginning in 1942, the work of engraving the complex printing plates, developing the appropriate rag-based paper with the correct watermarks, and breaking the code to generate valid serial numbers was extremely difficult, but by the time Sachsenhausen was evacuated in April 1945, the printing press there had produced 8,965,080 banknotes with a total value of £134,610,810. The notes are considered among the most perfect counterfeits ever produced, being extremely difficult although not impossible to distinguish from the real thing Some were plucked from Auschwitz by Krueger himself, who courteously addressed them with the formal German Sie.

The SS planned to keep the operation secret by killing them when the job was done. The prisoners worked with the knowledge that they were marked for death when they had finished their jobs. ” From the start, they wondered whether they should stretch out their work and risk execution for sabotage, or perform efficiently and thus hasten their own deaths. No one ever knew for sure where Krueger stood, but by keeping the operation going, he kept himself from being sent to the Russian front. What all these men said and thought as they lived under this sword of Damocles makes chilling, personal drama.

The pound counterfeiting operation ended in 1944. Not wanting to go to the Eastern Front, and mindful of the fate of the concentration camp prisoners in his employ if his factory were closed, Krüger succeeded in establishing a new operation to forge American dollar notes. Instructing his workers to work as slowly as possible, he managed to stall the operation until the war ended, permitting the prisoners to be liberated after they were transferred to camps in Austria in May 1945.

One of the forgers, Adolf Burger survived the war and stated that “Major Krüger was in no way like Oskar Schindler. He was a murderer just like everyone else, six weeks before the war ended he had six people shot just because they were sick. He couldn’t send them to hospital in case they said something about the operation, so he killed them.”

After the war, Major Krüger was detained by the British for two years, then turned over to the French for a year.

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He said they asked him to forge documents but that he refused. He was released in 1948 without any charges being pressed, and returned to Germany. In the 1950s, he went before a denazification court, where inmates under his charge at Sachsenhausen provided statements that resulted in his acquittal. He eventually worked for the company that had produced the special paper for the Operation Bernhard forgeries. He died in 1989.

Following the evacuation of Sachsenhausen, the counterfeiting team was transferred to Redl-Zipf in Austria, a subsidiary camp of the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp. At the beginning of May 1945, the team was ordered to transfer again, this time to the Ebensee subsidiary camp where they were to be killed together. Their SS guards, however, had only one truck for their prisoners, so the transfer required three round trips. The truck broke down during the third trip, and the last batch of prisoners had to be marched to Ebensee where they arrived on May 4. The guards of the first two batches of prisoners fled when the prisoners at the Ebensee camp revolted and refused to be moved into tunnels where they would have probably been blown up. The counterfeiters then dispersed among the prisoners at Ebensee. The delayed arrival of the third batch therefore saved the lives of all. As a result of the order that all the counterfeiters be exterminated together, none were actually killed.

The Ebensee camp was liberated by US forces on May 6, 1945. One of the prisoners, the Jewish Slovak printer-turned-counterfeiter Adolf Burger, later contributed to the awareness of Operation Bernhard with several versions of his memoirs published in the languages of Central Europe and in Persian.

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It is believed that most of the notes produced ended up at the bottom of Lake Toplitz near Ebensee from where they were recovered by divers in 1959, but examples continued to turn up in circulation in Britain for many years, which caused the Bank of England to withdraw all notes larger than £5 from circulation, and not reintroduce the denominations until the early 1960s (£10), 1970 (£20), and 1980 (£50).

Toplitzsee

It is also rumoured there is quite a substantial amount of Nazi gold in the depth of Lake Toplitz. A few years ago an Austrian farmer and one of his family members played a prank on a local town councilor. He claimed that he had found a box full of gold bars which he and his friend had found whilst diving in the lake. He had actually just painted a few bricks gold and had forged a Nazi stamp.

The area still sees a lot of tourists and divers who hope that one day they will find the real’mythical gold’ which was dumped in the lake.

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