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Eric Vincent Ewart White - the Barrister-at-Law who defended a German Spy

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A few months ago, I wrote a follow-up post about Eric Vincent Ewart White, the defence attorney for Josef Jakobs at his 1941 court martial. I had tracked down the names of three of Eric's grandchildren and reached out to one of them. And... success! Rowan Ewart-White kindly sent me a photograph of his grandfather and a post from the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer site. This post draws heavily upon my 2015 blog on Eric which can be read here, but also includes some extra information.
After so many years, it's exciting to be able to see the face of the man who met my grandfather and who did his best to defend him against the charges of espionage and treachery. The following is a blend of some new information from the Epsom & Ewell site, as well as my own supplemental research.
Early Life
Eric was born in the third quarter of 1909 in Lewisham, Greater London. Eric's parents Bertram Ewart White and Avera Emily née Vincent had married in the second quarter of 1909 in the W…

Book Review - Langes Seil, Schneller Tod - Traugott Vitz

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The Book
Langes Seil, Schneller Tod: Wie Großbritannien seine Mörder hängte.[Long rope, Fast Death: How Great Britain hanged their Murderers] Traugott Vitz, Kirchschlager. 2016.

Background
I had come across an English translation of a chapter from Langes Seil, Schneller Tod in February 2017. The chapter dealt with the execution of various wartime spies in Great Britain and mentioned Josef Jakobs. Several months later, I received an email from the author, Traugott Vitz, and we have been email pals every since. Traugott kindly sent me a copy of his book in German and, while it took me a couple of years due to the illness and death of my father, I did finish it earlier in 2020. My level of German is not all that advanced and quite rusty. I can deal with simple conversations and books fairly well but anything more complex requires a fair degree of effort. With the help of Google Translate, I learned quite a bit of technical legal and execution lingo.

Summary
This book covers the history of exe…

Book Review - Out of Nazi German and Trying to Find my Way - Irene Matthews

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The Book
Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find my Way. Irene Matthews. Upfront Publishing. 2002.

Background
A relation of the Hagen clan, living in Norway, put me onto this book. Irene Matthews is the daughter of Ernst David & Clara Hagen, individuals who appeared as clients of Jürgen Ziebell in the black market passport business with which Josef Jakobs was involved. I tracked down a second-hand copy of the book and it arrived a few weeks ago. I read it in one sitting (it's 109 pages) and was entranced.

Summary
In a very engaging and simple style, Irene tells the tale of growing up in Berlin and Potsdam during the 1930s. The everyday activities of a little girl, visiting her Opapa, going to school, playing with her dog. And yet, over all of these everyday activities, the looming shadow of Nazism cast a pall. Slowly, ever so slowly, signs appeared - No Jews Allowed. In late 1938 and early 1939, after her father was sent to a concentration camp in the wake of Kristallnacht, Irene&#…

Book Review - The M Room: Secret Listeners who Bugged the Nazis - Helen Fry

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The Book
The M Room: Secret Listeners Who Bugged the Nazis. Helen Fry, Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

Background
I bought this book as an e-book two years ago. Last year, it was republished on Yale University Press with a different title (The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II). I haven't read the republished version, so all of my comments relate to the original version.

Summary
The impetus for this book seems to have been an encounter between the author and one of the "secret listeners" who used to work in the M (microphone) Room at Trent Park, an interrogation centre run by British military intelligence during the Second World War. This gentleman's tales sparked Fry to investigate the history of the M Room at this facility. Receiving many high-ranking German officers, Trent Park (a.k.a. Cockfoster's Internment Camp), the secret listeners were privy to many top secret revelations uttered by the Germans when they …

The Jewish In-laws of Josef Jakobs - Gustav Goldemann

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During his court-martial, Josef told the court that he had direct Jewish ancestors. This was quite a revelation, as he had earlier told military interrogators that he was not Jewish. His court martial testimony, that his own grandfather was Jewish, seems like a desperate bid to gain the sympathy of the court. My own genealogical research has definitively shown that Josef's ancestry, on both sides, is Catholic well back into the 1500s.

At various points during his interrogations and court martial testimony, Josef also mentioned that his "father-in-law" was Jewish. In actual fact, it was Josef's step-father-in-law who was Jewish, a man named Abraham Wolfgang Elkan. When I published my book on Josef Jakobs (The Spy in the Tower), I told a bit of the tale of Elkan and, while I knew he had died before 1943, the year that his wife (Therese (née Knöffler) Elkan) passed away, I did not know the circumstances of his passing. Had he perished in a concentration camp…

Mobile Friendly Blog Templates

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I received a message from Google saying that my blog would not be indexed because it was not mobile friendly. Sigh. I have been toying with different blog templates all evening and have settled on this new look. There are a few hiccups, like anything that was formatted as a quote ends up being large, italicized font. Ah well...

The Jewish In-Laws of Josef Jakobs - Abraham Wolfgang Elkan

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During his court-martial, Josef told the court that he had direct Jewish ancestors. This was quite a revelation, as he had earlier told military interrogators that he was not Jewish. His court martial testimony, that his own grandfather was Jewish, seems like a desperate bid to gain the sympathy of the court. My own genealogical research has definitively shown that Josef's ancestry, on both sides, is Catholic well back into the 1500s.

At various points during his interrogations and court martial testimony, Josef also mentioned that his "father-in-law" was Jewish. In actual fact, it was Josef's step-father-in-law who was Jewish, a man named Abraham Wolfgang Elkan. When I published my book on Josef Jakobs, I told a bit of the tale of Elkan and, while I knew he had died before 1943, the year that his wife (Therese (née Knöffler) Elkan) passed away, I did not know the circumstances of his passing. Had he perished in a concentration camp?

What Josef did not mention during …

The Jewish Boy who Escaped the Nazis

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My father, Raymond Jakobs, was the son of Josef Jakobs. Born in the early 1930s, my father didn't really know his own father at all. Josef was either traveling or locked up in Swiss prisons or German concentration camps. My father was only 8 years old when Josef departed on his mission to England. Twenty years ago, I sat down with my father and interviewed him about his memories of growing up in wartime Berlin. It wasn't a pleasant story.

There was one vignette from his life that has stuck with me over the years, the story of a young Jewish boy with whom my father used to play. I'll let my father tell the story as I heard it from him.

Shortly after we moved to the Rudolstädter Straße [they moved there on 1 Oct 1938], I started playing with a boy, named Gerhard Drucker. He was a bit older than me, and taller and heavier. He wore thin, horn-rimmed glasses. We used to play together, and Regine (my sister) and I would go to his house. His father was a dentist and they lived in …

A Useful Resource - the 1939 German Minority Census

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I've been doing some follow-up work on some the individuals involved in the black market passport racket run by Jürgen Ziebell in 1938 in Berlin. I had come across a possible result on the MyHeritage site and signed up for a free two week subscription. One of the resources mentioned was the 1939 German Minority Census. The MyHeritage site didn't have all of the information that one would expect from a census, so I did some more digging.
My first stop was the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) which had a reference page for the census. The German title was "Reichssippenamt Volkszählung vom 17.05.1938 durchgeführt 1939". This was the second of two Nazi-mandated censuses (the first was in 1933) designed to identify all Jewish individuals in the country. The entries on the census form included: first and last namedate and place of birthrace-based questions about maternal and parental grandparentslevel of educationwhether any members of the household resided outside th…

Follow-up to the story of Louis Georg Hagen

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I had an email the other day from a gentleman in Norway, the son-in-law of Karl Victor Hagen! Those who read this blog regularly, may remember I did a series of blogs about Josef's involvement with a black market passport business in Berlin in 1938. One of the individuals who purchased a Finnish passport from Jürgen Ziebell was Louis Georg Hagen (father of Karl Victor Hagen).
The Norwegian gentleman had been researching the Hagen clan for many years and came across my blog on Louis Georg Hagen. He was grateful for the new-to-him info on the passport business and I'm glad that my blog was able to help him with his research. He also gave me a few more family connections to the Hagen family and mentioned two books written by two women of the clan.
The first book is From Art to Life and Back, written by Yvonne (nee Forrest) Hagen, widow of Karl Victor Hagen. While the book doesn't seem to be focused on the family's escape from Nazi Germany, my Norwegian contact says it does …

The German Spy and the Lewisham Barrister

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A few weeks ago, I received an email from Mike Guilfoyle, Vice-Chair of the Friends of Bockley & Ladywell cemeteries. I'm always amazed at how many diverse people find my blog and reach out. Mike was researching historically interesting deceased individuals with links to Lewisham (just southeast of London) and came upon my website and blog.
As it turns out, Josef's defending attorney, Eric Vincent Ewart White, was born in Ladywell, Lewisham and Mike wrote a short piece for the Ladywell Live site. He did a great job of summarizing the story of Josef Jakobs and his defence attorney. Mike had hoped to dig up some more information on E.V.E. White but was unsuccessful. I had written a blog about White five years ago and include the link here for interested readers.
I did a bit more digging on Eric, just to see if I could turn up any more information.
In my earlier blog, I had noted that he and his wife had a son, David, born in the early months of 1943. I now believe that this i…

MetPol FOI request regarding German Spy Josef Jakobs

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Sooo... given that someone successfully submitted an FOI request to the Metropolitan Police about Arthur Albert Tester... I thought... why not see if they have anything on Josef Jakobs. I did some digging and found the original MetPol file number for Josef's case and sent an email off to their FOI department a few weeks ago.
Alas... here is their reply.
Freedom of Information Request Reference No: 01/FOI/20/014842

I write in connection with your request for information, which was received by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on 24/06/2020.  I note you seek access to the following information:

Met Pol file on German spy Josef Jakobs - January 1941 to December 1941. Met Pol file 405/41/624. May have information on Lily Knips as well.

SEARCHES TO LOCATE INFORMATION

To locate the information relevant to your request searches were conducted within the MPS.  The searches failed to locate any records relevant to your request, therefore, regrettably the information you have requested is not…