14 June 2019

Bella in the Wych Elm - The Case of the Missing Quaestor Article

Recently, I've been in a back and forth email exchange with Pete and Alex Merrill who are working on their second volume of the Bella in the Wych Elm series. At least, I hope it's a series, their first book was fascinating and volume 2 promises to be even more so. We have been bouncing around ideas/thoughts/puzzlements about the articles written by Quaestor (a.k.a. Wilford Byford-Jones) in late November 1953. Here's the dilemma... did Quaestor write just two articles? Or were there three?

The Worcestershire Police files have the following images of Quaestor articles (not arranged in chronological order in the file).

Quaestor Article - Thursday 19 November 1953
The image appears to be a consolidated copy of Quaestor's article written on 19 November 1953 (as noted in the newspaper heading). The article touches on the discovery of the body in the wych elm and then veers into the witchcraft elements before bringing in the case of Charles Walton. Quaestor's article is noticeable for having the black star as a divider between sections of text.
Express & Star - 19 November 1953 - Quaestor article
Express & Star - 19 November 1953 - Quaestor article
 Several items are of note in this image:
  • Firstly, other than the middle of the fourth column, where it says "continued on page five", there is no other "continued on", nor is there a final note to indicate when the next article in the series will be published. The text in this image just stops, likely because no more snippets from the article could be fitted onto the piece of paper on which these snippets were pasted.
  • Secondly, in the third last paragraph of the fourth column, Quaestor writes: "Now comes the astonishing fact with a terrifying bearing on the case, to which I referred in my first article". This would seem to indicate that there was a "first article" and that this image is not the first article. This paragraph, however, comes after the "continued on page five" note, which would suggest that it was on a separate page in the newspaper. I am doubtful, however, that Quaestor would refer to to the first part of an article as "first article". The very fact that there is a "continued on" would indicate, to me, that the article is one and the same.
We then have another image from the police file which would seem to be a continuation of the image above, and a continuation of the article from 19 November 1953, despite the fact that there is no header or date. The story of Charles Walton continues  with a few short snippets of text, as well as several photographs. How these snippets and photographs were arranged in the original newspaper is a mystery.
Express & Star - 19 November 1953 - Quaestor article
Express & Star - 19 November 1953 - Quaestor article
 Of note in this image are:
  • The title would seem to be a continuation as it is prefaced by a "---". This was likely the heading on page five
  • The snippet below the title reads: "The second article on two Midland murder mysteries, both of which have been linked with the cult of devil worship." This is a bit perplexing if this snippet was actually on page five in the newspaper, but given that it is a stand-alone snippet, it could well have appeared at the beginning of the article. The very fact that the title in the first image reads: "Writing on wall at dead of night baffles Midland murder hunt team" would suggest that the photograph of the writing on the wall was included on that first page of the article in the newspaper. And the "second article" snippet could also have been on the first page of the article.
  • The closing bit reads: "Tomorrow night: Vigil in Wych Elm Wood in the anniversary month of the murder." This would point to the next article in the series.
Although this image also has the traditional Quaestor stars between text sections, it would seem to be very short to be a stand-alone article. My suspicion is that whoever cut out the various snippets of the article, simply ran out of room on the first piece of paper upon which they were pasting the snippets, and continued on a second piece of paper.

Quaestor article - Friday 20 November 1953
The next day, 20 November, 1953, we find these two images apparently printed on facing pages in the newspaper. This article, presumably the third and concluding article (the subheading uses the word "conclusions"), seems fairly cohesive, until the end.
Express & Star - 20 November 1953 - Quaestor article
Express & Star - 20 November 1953 - Quaestor article
Express & Star - 20 November 1953 - Quaestor article
Express & Star - 20 November 1953 - Quaestor article

It might just be me, but the article seems to end rather abruptly:
"I shall welcome any clue--I can't have the grey hair of my old friend, Mr. Sidney Inight, go completely white worrying about the case of the wych elm murder or Superintendent Spooner setting out every St. Valentine's night on his patrol looking for witchcraft practitioners at Lower Quinton until the end of his days."
Seems a strange ending for an article that focused on Quaestor and the conclusions that he reached.

Three Articles?
Most of the newspaper clippings I have come across which reference Quaestor's articles call them a "series". I'm not sure that two articles qualifies as a series... but then, there is the 2014 article in the Express & Star, entitled "Punt PI investigates Midlands riddle". In that article there is a paragraph which reads:
"In the third of his three features, which was carried on November 20, 1953, Quaestor concluded: "As for the gipsy theory, whether the young woman is supposed to have been a gipsy who was ritualistically murdered with witchcraft or after a trial by her tribe, well, I do not accept it." [emphasis added]
This would seem to indicate that Quaestor wrote three articles on Bella in the Wych Elm and that, if he wrote them on consecutive days, we should have:
  1. First article - Wednesday 18 November 1953
  2. Second article - Thursday 19 November 1953
  3. Third and concluding article - Friday 20 November 1953
The only hiccup in this is... where is the article from 18 November? If we take it that the images from the 19 November article are a cohesive entity and one single article, Quaestor's second article, then we are left wondering... where is the first article?

Pete and his son have scoured the Express & Star from November 1-18 and come up empty-handed. There is no other Quaestor article on 18 November, 1953, nor on any other day in November. At least not in the Express & Star copies available to the Merrill's.

Is it possible that the newspaper ran a morning and afternoon/evening edition, one of which contained the article, and one which did not? Or perhaps, the article was included in an insert which was not preserved with the rest of the newspaper? The fact that the 2014 Express & Star article references three articles leaves it all a bit up in the air.

I've listened to the original Punt PI episode again... to see if there are any clues there... here's what we have around the 20:45 minute mark:
"[Punt PI].... someone sent an anonymous letter to the local paper! And I head off to the archives of the Express & Star... to meet Mark Andrews who takes me to the basement...
[Andrews] ...these are copies of our weekly paper going back to the 18...
[Punt PI] ...and unearth some cuttings from 1953, when the paper ran a series of articles on the case...
[Andrews] ...[reads Anna's letter out loud]
No mention of three Quaestor articles but... Punt PI would presumably have seen all three articles in the basement of the Express and Star... It would appear that Mark Andrews is a senior news writer for the Shropshire Star (part of the Express & Star network). According to the Express and Star website:
We do not have the facility for readers to view old editions online and the Express & Star does not run an archive library service.

Anyone looking to read an old edition of the newspaper should visit the archive library in Snow Hill, Wolverhampton, which holds all back issues of the Express & Star on microfilm.
Which leaves on wondering... does the missing Quaestor article reside in the inaccessible basement archives of the Express & Star?

Police reconstruction of Bella  (published in Murder by Witchcraft -  Donald McCormick (1968) - attributed  to Express & Star)
Police reconstruction of Bella
(published in Murder by Witchcraft -
Donald McCormick (1968) - attributed
to Express & Star)
Punt PI also has a chat with Joyce Coley who showed him a drawing of Bella... which leads us to...

Police Reconstruction image of Bella
Finally, we have this image, a drawing of Bella with the clothing she was wearing. The image appears in Donald McCormick's book, Murder by Witchcraft with the caption "The police reconstruction of the skeleton, 'Bella'." Which isn't all that helpful although the list if illustrations on page 7 notes:
Police reconstruction of 'Bella' (Express and Star, Wolverhampton)
 Now there are two odd things with this image:
  1. This drawing occurs nowhere in the Bella police files, which is odd if it was a police reconstruction and,
  2. This drawing has not been found in any Express and Star newspapers that I or Pete & Alex Merrill have seen.
So where did the image come from? Was it part of the Quaestor's elusive first article? Did McCormick comission the drawing himself and simply call it a police reconstruction and then ascribe it to the Express and Star?

Hard to say... perhaps someone out there has information... or has a copy of Quaestor's first article...

05 June 2019

On the Trail of Kenneth Clifford Howard

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about the notebooks belonging to Kenneth Clifford Howard - notebooks that now reside within one of Josef's files at the National Archives. There is no evidence that the notebooks belonged to Josef, nor that they should have been placed within his file. One of the notebooks mentions Karl Theodore Drücke and it is far more likely that they were originally placed within his file.  Indeed, file KV 2/1701 - one of Drücke's files - has a number of reports and letters that mention the notebooks and Kenneth Clifford Howard. That Security Service file is likely the one belonging to Lt. Col. William Edward Hinchley Cooke who often testified at the trials of would-be spies. My guess would be the notebooks slipped out of Drücke's file and were then erroneously placed within Josef's file - a simple clerical/filing error that is an annoyance and contributes to confusion!

Anyhow... I am always chipping away at some of these lingering mysteries. One of the police reports notes:
I have to report that on Sunday, 1st June 1941, a communication was received from the Chief Constable, City Police Headquarters, Leicester, enclosing a diary dated 1936 and an address book. These apparently belong to Kenneth C. Howard, sometime of 17, Evelyn Road, Sparkhill, and contain a number of German references, also two addresses in Birmingham.
Beyond that, there is no information on the "communication" - was it a letter? Or simply an envelope containing the diary and address book?

Another report by the Metropolitan Police notes that:
Enquiries have revealed that a family named Howard lived at 128 (not 120) Durham Road, Bromley, Kent, from 2.5.1931 until 17.6.1936. The rated occupier was Frank Howard, who lived there with his wife, Flora, nee Mitchell, and son Kenneth Clifford.

Frank Howard was a blouse merchant and had a business under the style of 'Flora Mitchell' at 21, East Street, Bromley, where his wife assisted in dressmaking. I was informed that towards the end of his stay at 128 Durham Road, Howard was in some financial difficulty and took employment as a salesman with "Hoovers". Enquiries of Messrs., Hoovers Ltd. Westway, Perivale, fail to show that Howard was ever so employed.

On leaving Bromley, Frank Howard gave as his intended address, 17, Evelyn Road, Spark Hill, Birmingham - the address which appears in the notebook mentioned above. No member of the family is known to have returned to London.
The police report also noted that Kenneth Clifford Howard was born on 4 June 1921 at 3, Leigham Court Road, Streatham. This is all very specific information - a birth date, the name of his parents, his mother's maiden name and their very specific occupation. They mystery is... why is this family so hard to track? Admittedly, Frank and Flora/Florence are quite common names but... it's a bit of a mystery.

So, I'm going to lay out some information and see where it leads us... starting with the 1939 National Registration. Some of the records remain closed for individuals born less than 100 years ago, unless one can provide proof of death. Kenneth was born in 1921, so his record should magically open in 2021... unless one can provide proof of death. I got a bit hopeful when I read this except... one needs to provide the actual death registration/certificate, which we don't have because Kenneth just died in 2014, and there is no registration number available. So this is a dead end at this point. But let's see if we can track Frank & Flora.

Flora Howard
I began with "Flora" Howard as "Flora" was the name used in the police report. There are 17 occurrences of that name in the 1939 National Registration, which is a siftable number!

Option F1 01 - Burnley, Lancashire
The first national registration is for a Frank (1898) and Flora Howard (1890) living in Burnley, Lancashire. They are cotton weavers which sounds like it might be a fit for their occupations as blouse merchants (see the above police report). They also have a young man living with them (presumably their son), Harry, born 15 June 1923. There is no mention of Kenneth Clifford Howard, nor is there a closed record. It is possible that Kenneth was working away from home - he was 18 years old after all - or that he joined the Armed Forces. This seems to be a most promising option.
1939 National Registration - Burnley, Lancashire - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Burnley, Lancashire - Flora Howard
Option F1 02 - Chepping Wycome, Buckinghamshire
We also have a George T. (1890) and Flora L. Howard (1894) living in Chepping Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. George is a veneer expert and Marqueterie Cutter. (I had to look that up - using wood veneer to create fancy patterns on tables and furniture.) Flora's occupation is unpaid domestic duties (housewife). They have no children living with them, and no closed records.

Option F1 03 - Hereford, Herefordshire
We have a Timothy (1876) and a Flora L. Howard (1874). They have a young man, Arthur T. Howard (1903) living with them. Timothy is a builder and contractor while Flora is unpaid domestic duties

Option F1 04 - Chactonbury, Sussex
A Flora Howard (1880) is widowed and living with a Reuben and Margaret Butcher.

Option F1 05 - Norwich, Norfolk
A Flora Howard (1881), single, who is a boarding housekeeper, living with individuals who seem unrelated. There are two closed records.
1939 National Registration - Norwich, Norfolk - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Norwich, Norfolk - Flora Howard
Option F1 06 - Liverpool, Lancashire
We have a George (1898) and Flora M (1898) Howard living in Liverpool. George is a dock labourer. There are two (presumed) children listed - William (1929) and Flora (1939), as well as three closed records.
1939 National Registration - Liverpool, Lancashire - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Liverpool, Lancashire - Flora Howard
Option F1 07 - Brighton, Sussex
One Flora Marketis-Howard (1884), single and living on her own. She is a florists manageress.

Option F1 08 - Bury, Lancashire.
A Flora Clayton (1911) is listed, but her name has been stroked out and replaced with Howard. She was living with her (presumed) parents. Her occupation is "Makes up (paper)". Odd occupation but the father sells wholesale meat, the mother is a charlady (office) and the younger sister works in "production. Process worker. Textile. Bleachers".

Option F1 09 - Bromley, Kent
Got a bit excited at seeing this since Kenneth and his family lived in Bromley in the mid 1930s. Ernest A. (1891) and Flora M. Howard (1890) living on their own (no children or closed records). Ernest is a gardener domestic servant and Flora is unpaid domestic duties. The street name is Ravensbourne Road.
1939 National Registration - Bromley, Kent - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Bromley, Kent - Flora Howard

Option F1 10 - Hove, Sussex
A Flora G. Howard (1889), married and living with a closed record. Her occupation is unpaid domestic duties. The record is at the bottom of the page and the top of the next one has a new household.

Option F1 11 - Woolwich, London
Stephen (1872) and Flora Howard (1877) living with one Mabel N. Howard (married) and a closed record. Stephen is a fitter and Flora is unpaid domestic duties.

Option F1 12 - Brownhills, Staffordshire
William (1866) and Flora/Florence Howdle (1894) living on their own. William is a retired farmer and Florence is unpaid domestic duties. The age difference is striking. The marital status of both is "M" - married. Of note is that Ancestry has indexed this record as "Howard" and it is quite clearly Howdle.

Option F1 13 - Liverpool, Lancashire
This is the same as Option 6 and simply indexed twice due to the two Flora's in the household.

Option F1 14 - Waltham Holy Cross, Essex
Sidney B. Howard (1899) and Flora P. Howard (1895), married and living with two closed records and three (presumed) children: twins Peggy (Howard) Bass (1920) and Joan (Howard) Tredett (1920) and Clifford S. Howard (1923). Sydney is a Nursery Hand (food production) and Flora is unpaid domestic duties. Clifford is a grocers assistant.
1939 National Registration - Waltham Holy Cross, Essex - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Waltham Holy Cross, Essex - Flora Howard
Option F1 15 - Downham Market, Norfolk
Florrie/Flora Howard (1889) married and living with one (presumed) child and two closed records. Flora is unpaid domestic duties. She is individual #2 in the household and at the top of the form. The bottom of the previous page has half a dozen closed records so it is impossible to tell who individual #1 would be.

Option F1 16 - Lambeth, London
Edward C. (1902) and Flora C. Howard (1902) married and living with two closed records and one Thomas S. Taylor. Edward is a Fruit and Greengrocers Porter (Heavy work).

Option F1 17 - Rochdale, Lancashire
Wright (1893) and Flora Howard (1893). Wright is a Departmental ?amel. Flora's occupation is unpaid domestic duties. No children and no closed records.
1939 National Registration - Rochdale, Lancashire - Flora Howard
1939 National Registration - Rochdale, Lancashire - Flora Howard

Florence & Frank Howard
I then searched for Florence Howard and... this is a bit of a beast... 730 occurrences of Florence Howard in the 1939 National Registration. If I filter for spouses named "Frank", that whittles it down to seven occurrences.

Option F2 01 - Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland
Frank (1898) Howard and Florence Howard (1902), married and living with two (presumed) children and three closed records. Frank is a meat packer and Florence is unpaid domestic duties. They have a Frank Jr and Florence Jr living with them.
1939 National Registration - Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland - Florence Howard
1939 National Registration - Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland - Florence Howard
Option F2 02 - Lees, Lancashire
Frank (1897) and Florence (1898) Howard, married and living with their son (Frank Jr) and two closed records. Frank Sr is a general labourer and Florence is unpaid domestic duties.
1939 National Registration - Lees, Lancashire - Florence Howard
1939 National Registration - Lees, Lancashire - Florence Howard
Option F2 03 - Bradford and Melksham, Wiltshire
Frank (1897) and Florence Howard (1897), married with no children or closed records. Frank is a Police Constable and Florence is unpaid domestic duties. They are living at 2 Police Quarters.
1939 National Registration - Bradford and Melksham, Wiltshire - Florence Howard
1939 National Registration - Bradford and Melksham, Wiltshire - Florence Howard

Option F2 04 - East Barnet, Hertfordshire
Frank C. (1905) and Florence M. Howard (1906), married and living with two (presumed) children and two closed records. Frank is a decorator (building) and Florence is unpaid domestic duties.
1939 National Registration - East Barnet, Hertfordshire - Florence Howard
1939 National Registration - East Barnet, Hertfordshire - Florence Howard
Option F2 05 - Worthing, Sussex
Frank (1870) and Florence E. Howard (1887), married with no children or closed records. Frank is a Member of Stock Exchange.
1939 National Register - Worthing, Sussex - Florence Howard
1939 National Register - Worthing, Sussex - Florence Howard

Option F2 06 - Leicester, Leicestershire
Frank (1870) and Florence Howard (1886), married and living with one closed record. Frank is an "area manager, medical appliance" and Flora is unpaid domestic duties. This one piqued my interest for two reasons: (1) Kenneth's notebooks were sent to the Leicestershire Police and (2) Frank may have stepped away from being a blouse merchant, and while his occupation has nothing to do with "Hoover" or vaccums... area manager for medical appliances is always a possibility. The closed record is also intriguing - it could be Kenneth Clifford Howard.
1939 National Register - Leicester, Leicestershire - Florence Howard
1939 National Register - Leicester, Leicestershire - Florence Howard
Option F2 07 - March, Cambridgeshire
Frank C. (1902) and Florence E. Howard (1900), married and living with one (presumed) son and three closed records. Frank is a grocer shopkeeper and Florence is unpaid domestic duties.
1939 National Registration - March, Cambridgeshire - Florence Howard
1939 National Registration - March, Cambridgeshire - Florence Howard
Caveats & Confusion
This is by no means an exhaustive list. It does not, for example, include individuals whose middle name might have been Florence and which might have been abbreviated in the registration. I came across one instance already... so our Frank and Flora might not be any of the above. I do, however, think Option F1 01 - Burnley, Lancashire is interesting... as is Option F2 06 - Leicester, Leicestershire.

Part of my renewed interest in Kenneth Clifford Howard and his notebooks was also sparked by finding a family tree on Ancestry which purports to be him and his wife. While it does not list his parents, and has him born in March 1924, it has the death registration from 2014. This is intriguing because the 2014 death index clearly states that Kenneth Clifford Howard was born in 1921. It is all a bit confusing. There is, however, a Kenneth C. Howard whose birth was registered in the first quarter of 1924 in Lambeth. Although the mother's maiden name was Milnes, while the police said Flora's maiden name was Mitchell. Sooo... this particular family tree needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

I also had a poke through the marriage registration indices... for a Frank Howard and Florence/Flora Mitchell... there is one for 1931 which seems odd, given that Kenneth Clifford Howard was born in 1921. Unless, of course, he was illegitimate...  Again, if Florence was the mother's middle name, it becomes a challenge to track them...

I also recently came a cross a RootsChat forum post from 2015 which was looking for information on the inhabitants of 17 Evelyn Road, Sparkhill, Birmingham (from 1932-1937) and 128 Durham Road, Bromley Kent (from 1936-1938). The writer noted: "I have a sneaking suspicion the family may be Howard, in which case the mother would be Mary E. Howard and the father would be Charles Howard." Just to add a bit more mud to the already muddy waters! A quick look at the 1939 National Register index shows a lot of Charles & Mary Howards...

Another part of my renewed interest in Kenneth arose from reading David Tremain's book - The Beautiful Spy - The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen. Tremain dedicated a whole chapter to a meticulous examination of Kenneth's address book and diary. Tremain all searched for Frank/Francis Howard living in Bromley in 1933 and 1937 and found no such person at Durham Road or anywhere in the Bromley area. This contradicts the police report above... Another few items of note: Vera Eriksen lived at 12 Durham Avenue, Bromley, Kent briefly in 1938... AND... Kenneth's diary had a note about Karl Theodore Drücke, Vera's fellow spy... Is there a the connection between Kenneth and these two German agents?? Good question...

I finally decided to bite the bullet and ordered the 2014 death registration for Kenneth Clifford Howard... hoping it actually has some accurate information and that the death informant knew the full names of the parents. With the death registration... I can also request the opening of Kenneth's closed 1939 National Registration entry... stay tuned...

31 May 2019

Robin W.G. Stephens - Clues from a Gravestone

Robin W.G. Stephens
Robin W.G. Stephens
War separates families. It separated Josef Jakobs from his wife and children, permanently. It's not a unique story but sometimes I wonder... after hostilities... do people find each other again? Or are they forever burst asunder by the legacy of conflict?

A few months back, I had written a blog post about the apparent estrangement between Robin W.G. Stephens and his parents, William H. and Elizabeth J. Stephens. From what I can glean, Robin's parents went to Jersey in an ill-timed trip. When the Germans invaded in July 1940, William and Elizabeth were stuck for the duration of the war. Meanwhile Robin was commandant of two interrogation centres: Camp 020 during the war and Bad Nenndorf after the war.

Julia Elizabeth Stephens ca. 1940
Julia Elizabeth Stephens
ca. 1940
In February 1946, after returning to England from Jersey, Robin's father wrote an impassioned plea to the War Office for any word of his son. The letter is contained with Stephens' army service records file, but there is no evidence that father and son ever reconnected.

William Henry Stephens ca. 1940
William Henry Stephens
ca. 1940
Robin's mother, Julia, passed away in 1949 and his father, William, passed away in 1962.

William's estate went to his sister, Lillian, indicating, again, that father and son never found each other.

It's a rather tragic story... even more so when you consider that William and Julia lost their eldest son, Howell Charles Stephens in 1917 during the First World War. But... there is one key piece of evidence which as recently come to light which sheds another light on the story.
William and Julia are buried in Cheltenham and their gravestone has a very interesting inscription.

Stephens family plot in Cheltenham Cemetery
Stephens family plot in Cheltenham Cemetery
I was able to visit the cemetery in Cheltenham this past month and, with a bit of help, deciphered the inscription:

A loving tribute to
Julia E. Stephens
B. 23.4.1871: D. 13.9.1949

Beloved wife of W.H. Stephens (C.S. Egypt) [likely Civil Service Egypt]
Devoted Mother of 2nd Lt. H.C.S. (1st. Worcs.) : Ypres. 1917 [Howell Charles Stephens]
and Lt. Col. R.W.G.S. (I.A. and B.A.) [Robin William George Stephens]

God said: My dear child, what do you think of
my world? I said: O God, I think it lovely.
I have seen Snowdon, the Nile, Kashmir, the
Golden Horn, the Riviera, Edinburgh, the Thames;
and everywhere I saw loving hearts and hands.

I had checked with the cemetery office a year or so ago and the only burials in the plot are Julia and William. So Robin is definitely not buried there. And Howell was killed in action near Ypres and is commemorated on the Menin Gate (final resting place unknown).

The intriguing thing for me with the gravestone inscription is: "Lt. Col. R.W.G.S.". Somehow, Robin's father knew that his son was a Lieutenant Colonel. It came to me that Robin's court martial around abuses at the Bad Nenndorf interrogation centre was rather public, splashed across the British newspapers in 1948. Did William read the shocking news that his last surviving son had been brought before a court martial? Ultimately Robin was acquitted but there is still no evidence that he and his parents ever reconnected. And if they did, such a reconnection clearly didn't last long and Robin's father left his estate to his sister.

27 May 2019

Two Abwehr von Bonin's and their connection to Vera Eriksen

In my last blog, I looked at the man who paid for Vera Ericksen's burial, Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (what a name!). Ernst had married Anne Vera Viktoria von Bonin in 1951, who also seemed to have ancestral roots in the Pommern region. After that post, David Tremain sent me a message with another tidbit (or titbit as they say in England): There was an Abwehr officer named Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin - could there be a connection?

von Bonin crest
von Bonin crest
My research for the von Zitzewitz article had already convinced me that both families were genealogical black holes. Trying to find a connection between Udo Wilhelm Bogislav  and Anna Vera Viktoria seemed like a bit of a Sisyphean task. David kindly sent the National Archives Security Service file on Udo (KV 2/1973) and... it contained the names of his parents and his birth date. With that info, it was off to the races.

The following genealogical reconstruction is based primarily on Ancestry records as well as a dusty volume entitled: Geschichte des Hinterpommerschen Geschlechtes von Bonin - bis zum Jahre 1863 (printed in Berlin 1864) - by Udo von Bonin (accessed via Google Books). The volume roughly translates as "History of the Transpomeranian Ancestry von Bonin". Hinterpommern could also be translated as Farther, Further or Eastern Pomerania. Within this volume, Udo von Bonin (possibly the grandfather of our Udo) lists the von Bonin descendants starting with Tessmar in the 1300s. It only goes as far as 1863, so I needed to track Udo and Vera back to the mid 1800s and then it was a piece of cake.

Ancestors for Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin
Ancestors for Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin
There was a certain Claus von Bonin (1500s) whose two sons, Toennis and Jürgen started the lines that produced Udo and Vera. This would mean that Udo and Vera are 11th cousins... unlikely that they would have attended family gatherings together. Although, I could imagine what whenever two von Bonins met each other, they might have done a quick run up their respective family trees to see how closely they were connected.

Now... Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin was a Leiter in at the Abwehr's Ast Paris for a while (1940-1942)... so it is possible that he had heard of Vera Ericksen. But, even if he did, at this point, he would likely have had no connection with von Zitzewitz (who was living in exile in Australia). Indeed, von Zitzewitz only married Vera von Bonin in 1951, five years after Vera Eriksen passed away in Hamburg.

The Security Service file on Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin also mentions one Hugo von Bonin who was a distant cousin of Udo. Just for fun... I dug a bit on Hugo. His full name was (take a deep breath): Wilhelm Friedrich Max Swantus Hugo Fürchtegott von Bonin born 29 September 1889 in Stavenow. His father was Otto Bernd Emil Burkhardt Fürchtegott von Bonin (born 17 September 1856 in Lauenburg). Right away, I'm going to hazard a guess that this line merges with Vera's as they were fans of the Fürchtegott name. Otto was son of Swantus Bogislav Ernst Bernhard Friedrich von Bonin and Olga Stempel. Which is all pretty clear, except when we jump to the Transpomeranian nobility book... we find that Swantus and Olga had a son named Anton Carl Bernd Burkhardt Fürchtegott born 17 September 1856 in Lauenburg. Clearly the same guy but... slightly different names, which is odd. Ultimately, Hugo's line blends with Vera's line at Anton (46). Anton had two sons, George (Jürgen) who formed Vera's line and Wedig, who formed Hugo's line. Which means Hugo was an 8th cousin of Vera (wife of von Zitzewitz) and an 11th cousin of Udo.

Turns out, though, that Hugo also served in the Abwehr in Ast Angers and Ast Norway. A report in Udo's Security Service file has this to say about Hugo:
This is a typical representative of the lesser aristocracy. He is a man of good education who served in the First World War until taken prisoner by the French. Owing to his being epileptic he was exchanged amongst the "grands blesses". After the war he led the quiet life of a landlord and in the recent war, owing to his family connections, was pushed into a "safe" job with the Abwehr. He was in no way suited to Intelligence work and received no special training. He appears to have been used by his cousin [Udo] as a useful appendage for doing minor administrative work in the office and was thus later graced with the appellation "Sachbearbeiter Allgemein" [General Administrator]. He had nothing to do with agents. He is rather a slow thinker, pompous and decayed, and obviously class-conscious. [Hugo was 57 years old.]
As for Udo, he spent some with with the Abwehr in Berlin before the war, and was also sent to Spain to serve on the German Condor Legation. From July 1940 to November 1942, he served in the Abwehr office in Paris. In 1942, he was sent to lead the Abwehr office in Norway (Oslo). He too seems to have done primarily administrative work, although of a higher calibre than his distant cousin Hugo.

I took this detour into the von Bonin's to see if there might be any connection between them and Vera Eriksen. It would seem to be a long shot. When von Zitzewitz paid for Vera Eriksen's burial in February 1946, he had just been repatriated to Germany after spending five years in exile in Australia. He only married Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin in 1951, so there is no obvious connection at the time of Vera's death.

22 May 2019

The Mysterious Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz and his connection to Vera Eriksen

[updated 25 May 2019]

Last week I posted a book review of David Tremain's new book: The Beautiful Spy: The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen. On the last page of the book Tremain mentions that, according to Kirstine Kloster Anderson (a Danish writer who also published a book on Vera), Vera's burial was paid for by Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz. Both Vera and Zitzewitz had been living at the Klopstock Pension in Hamburg (a former Abwehr accommodation). My curiosity was piqued. Who was this Zitzewitz? Was he a member of the Abwehr? How did he know Vera? Did he even exist?

Cover of Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg (by Kirstine Kloster Andersen)
Cover of Spurven: Den dramatiske historie
om spionen Vera Schalburg
(by Kirstine Kloster Andersen)
I decided to do a bit of digging and started with Anderson's book: Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg [Sparrow: The dramatic history of spy Vera Schalburg]. Andersen's book is only available in Danish (a shame) and while I haven't ordered it... I very well might. I found a few key pages available through Google Books, typed out a transcript of those pages and then ran them through Google Translate. The results are below - I have tried to fix Google's mangled syntax... not always with success:
[There is a fragment of a sentence before this - context seems to indicate that Andersen recreated  a scene from Vera's burial.]
Vera von Wedel stood there on the headstone, which was placed on top of the grave along with a little planting.

In all, Vera's funeral, including flowers, planting, burial ground and ceremony with string music and organ / accordion, cost 82.50 RM. The bill was paid the day before the burial by a man whose name had not previously appeared in connection with Vera. The only known connection between them is that he also lived at the Klopstock Pension when she died.

The man was named Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz. Perhaps Vera had met him in a camp or somewhere else on the journey through bombed Europe - then with him to search for the Klopstock Pension in Hamburg. Perhaps he was an old acquaintance she had met sooner or later in the months following the release to Germany. Maybe they first met each other here at the Pension in Hamburg. He obviously did not know her well enough to know her real name, Schalburg. Yet he chose to pay for a proper burial of a woman he had just just met, and at a time when the money was extremely scarce in war-torn Germany.

At home In Denmark, I decide to find out more about this last man in Vera's life. Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz. Maybe they knew each other through the Abwehr? Through an inquiry to his family combined with research on the web, I succeeded in finding some more information about him. Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz was born in 1910 and was thus 36 years old when he organized and paid for Vera's funeral. According to his relatives, he had a lot of money to squander at that time. [I ran this through Google Translate several times thinking it should be the reverse - he did not have a lot of money, but it kept coming up with this.] But a reader of this blog (T. Vitz) ran it through another online translator and it came up with: "According to his relatives, he had hardly much money to squander at the time." This seems much more reasonable.

"All of the Zitzewitz's lost their fortunes," read an email from the relative.

She said that the Zitzewitz-house originates in Pomerania, one of the eastern German regions, where many millions of Germans were expelled from the Soviet Union after the Second World War, in what has been called the greatest ethnic forced displacement of modern times. The part of the Pomerania region from which the house originates belongs to Poland today.

I have not managed to find out what Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz did during the war, but five years after Vera's funeral he had met another Vera, Vera von Bonin, whom he married. She had three children from her first marriage to a bank director, and according to relatives she was supposed to have been a gorgeous, gay woman who went her own way. When Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz in 1960 became director of the oil company Shell in Ireland, the couple moved there, and Vera von Bonin pledged to help Irish women work so that they could support themselves when their men were unemployed or drunk.
I can't help thinking about whether von Zitzewitz might have searched for Vera's relatives to inform them of her death, but unsuccessfully, since he had nothing but the "von Wedel" name and the wrong spelled "Stagizky" to go on. Maybe he chose to pay for the grave with the name on the stone, so that the family had 25 years to find it for themselves? Maybe he visited sometimes? Who knows? Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz himself died in 1966.

He eventually took his knowledge of Vera's last time with him in the grave.
I can only guess what went through Vera's head when she realized that her time on earth was running out. This deeply unhappy (bottomless/mysterious?) woman, who for years had overcome one hard trial after another, while demons ate her from the inside and outside.

Did her life pass before her eyes in the hospital bed at the Marienkrankenhaus, from childhood's escape and trauma, to the poverty and dance dreams in Copenhagen, which came together with the realities of Paris? I imagine the images, which, while she was drawing her last sigh, passed faster and faster before her mind's eye with colorful pictures of life as a dancer of the night, meeting with love, deceived, knife attack, and on to the suicide attempt in the Deer Park, while Hitler came to power and molded the shape to her destiny. Then to the 6th division/section and the lost years in a dark spy universe, to the cold night in the inflatable boat in Scotland, Stephen's interrogation, the death sentence, which she avoided, because she still fought as far as she could. Some force you had kept her/you alive. Which one?

I think of the letter, she wrote to Theo [Druecke], when, after three months of confinement, she tried to persuade him to tell the truth to avoid the gallows: "It is so terrible to think that we should die this way. Your mother and my parents will never get over it, ”she wrote and once again had her family in mind, as she thought of her family that she sacrificed for them in Paris and provided for their survival through her dance and its appearance, which should also become her fate.

And I remember the words of Grand Duchess/Princess Olga when she found out that Vera had been a Soviet spy: "Where the poor child has suffered."
And I saw Vera's mother; her poor old mother, who lost her homeland, her eldest son and every day hoped for a sign of life from her beloved daughter, her only daughter, from the Sparrow. A life sign she never got. And in all that grimness, all that tragedy, there is something beautiful and touching about the fact that Vera, in her last moments on this earth, met a man who did not even know her real name but yet took care of her and made ensured that she left here with music and flowers and respect for what she was: a human being. [Above extract from Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg via Google Books.]
It's a fascinating snippet from Andersen's book and it appears she has some of the same questions: Who was Zitzewitz? How did Vera meet him? Was he connected with the Abwehr as well? At the same time, Andersen has done some great research in tracking down Zitzewtiz relatives. She doesn't, however, provide a lot of information on Zitzewitz and I've done some digging on the genealogy/archives sites and come up with the following:

Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz & Family
Crest of the von Zitzewitz clan (from Geni site)
Crest of the von Zitzewitz clan
(from Geni site)
First... what a name. Although, the more I dug into the Zitzewitz clan, the more I saw that all four forenames are quite widely used. But most sources also have birth dates attached so I am fairly confident that the Zitzewitz info I found refers to our boy Ernst Bodo.

Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil was born 14 May 1910 in Berlin to Bodo Adalbert Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (1879-1958) and Leonie/Leonore Mathilde van der Wyck (1885-1969). Bodo Sr. had been born in Groß Crien, Pommern (now Kryznia, Poland) and his wife was born in Wedi, East Java (a Dutch colony). Bodo and Leonie were married 7 December 1905 in The Hague.

Ernst had two older brothers (Hendrik-Günther Bodo Wilhelm Theophil and Gerd Bodo Wilhelm Theophil). On 3 March 1917, the boys' parents divorced in Berlin and their father remarried less than two weeks later (15 March 1917) to Blanka von Zitzewitz. Blanka was the daughter of Cölestin I Friedrich Adolf Karl von Zitzewitz and Eliza Koebel and it is unknown if the two Zitzewitz families are related. Although, given the lack of  Bodo, Wilhelm or Theophil in Blanka's father's name, I'm going to guess this is a far removed branch of the Zitzewitz tree! It would appear, though, that Blanka's father was high up in the military (Oberstleutnant und Flügeladjutant des Kaisers - Lieutenant Colonel and aide-de-camp to the Kaiser). Another Cölestin, a Major Cölestin von Zitzewitz would serve as an aide to Hitler and report on the disaster of Stalingrad. I believe that the Zitzewitz family are a genealogical black hole and am now stepping away to focus on Ernst Bodo!

Ernst's father, Bodo, and step-mother, Blanka, provided he and his brothers with several half-sisters (Marie-Elise, Karin-Blanka and Rosemarie Elise). Ernst's mother, Leonie, also remarried in 1918 to Christianus Thurkow but the couple divorced in 1932. Leonie passed away in 1969 in Vichy, France.

Zitzewitz: Resident of the UK
Our quarry, Ernst Bodo, only really appears with certainty in the genealogical records in 1938 when he, surprisingly, arrives in the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve from New York. His age is 28, which would make his birth year 1910. He arrived in Plymouth and planned to settle in England. I had searched for earlier appearances of Ernst in Berlin, but there are at least three "Ernst" individuals in the 1930s directories, none of which can be ascribed with certainty to Ernst Bodo.

I wasn't even 100% sure that the 1938 UK arrival was Ernst Bodo except for... a Vermont Border Crossing record dated 21 September 1938. The record is for Baron Ernst von Zitzewitz,as he crosses from Quebec, Canada, into the USA at Rouses Point, NY. [Not sure why it is listed under Vermont Border crossings, but Vermont is just across the lake from this part of New York state.] This record is a veritable treasure trove of information on our friend.

He has a German passport (valid to 30 October 1939) issued in London, England. He had arrived in Quebec City on 17 September, 1938 upon the S.S. Empire of Australia. He was born in Berlin and is 28 years old (born 1910). He is 6'1" tall with a fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. Ernst is single and a lumber operator. He can speak German and English and his permanent residence is 3 Grosvenor Square, London, where he lives with his mother, Eleanor van der Wyck. Ernst had never been to the USA before and his trip was a pleasure visit (less than 60 days). He planned to stay at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. The reverse of the form notes that his permit to stay was extended to 20 January 1939 as he had not made definite arrangements for his return journey but planned to sail home from Canada.

The mention of Ernst's mother, Eleanor (Leanore) van der Wyck is a key piece of information and confirms that the 1938 UK arrival mentioned earlier is likely our boy, returning from his trip to North America, albeit from a US port and not a Canadian one. That Ernst's permanent address is London is quite fascinating. His address, 3 Grosvenor Square is in the Mayfair area of London and quite posh, presumably back then as well. The fact that he is a German citizen, with a German passport, living in London in 1938, one year before the war broke out, is also quite intriguing. He would have been well-situated to have been a covert agent for the German secret service... although there is no evidence to confirm this. It is just a possibility.

There is a notation on the Geni site which states that Ernst B.W.T. von Zitzewit "Studierte in Rotterdam Nationalökonomie" - that he studied National Economics in Rotterdram. This would tally with his later career as an oil exectuvie.

Interned in the UK
What became of Ernst with the declaration of war between Germany and England? Well, the 1939 National Register has him living with his mother (and a lady's maid) at an address in Westminster (#34 - the unreleased entries have blacked out the street name although the previous page suggests that their address was Flat #34 in a building near 3 Grosvenor Square). Ernst's national registration number would have been AYNQ 61/3. Under the Defence Regulations, many enemy alien residents of England were interned with the declaration of war, some for a few weeks/months and some for the duration of the war. I found threeUK Alien Internees entries for Ernst Bodo W.T. von Zitzewitz and include the images here, as they tell quite a tale.

The first image is quite faint but it is a UK Alien Internees card. It lists his name Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz and his birth date as 14 May 1910. There is also a very faint Z83 which, based on other alien internee cards, may be a sequential alphabetical number based on surname [e.g. Zitzewitz was the 83rd person with a surname beginning with Z.]

1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).

 The more intriguing bit of information is the specific list that contains this card, visible in a screenshot of the Ancestry site - "1940: Internees on SS Arandora Star: Survivors".
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
Shows the specific file - 1940: Internees on SS Arandora Star: Survivors

Arandora Star Tragedy
In June and July 1940, after the invasion of the Low Countries, Britain decided to send some of its Italian and German alien internees (including Italian Fascist and German Nazi sympathizers and even a few German Jewish refugees) far away from its vulnerable shores.

A decision was made to ship some of the internees to the colonies, specifically Canada and Australia. Ernst von Zitzewitz was apparently one of those alien internees who boarded the Arandora Star bound for Canada. The ship sailed from Liverpool on 1 July 1940 with 734 interned Italian men, 479 interned German men, 86 German prisoners of war, 200 military guards, and a crew of 174 officers and men.

The ship sailed without a military escort and did not display the International Red Cross symbol to signify that civilians were on board. It was a doomed voyage, and in the early morning hours of 2 July, the ship was hit by a single torpedo from U-47, commanded by Günther Prien (who also sank the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow in 1939). Of the 1673 souls on board, almost half perished. The survivors were picked up by the Canadian C-class destroyer HMCS St. Laurent and taken to Greenock, Scotland. From there, many of the survivors were returned to Liverpool where they were placed on the SS Dunera, destination Australia. Ernst von Zitzewitz was fortunate to have survived the Arandora Star tragedy but he also had the misfortune to board the SS Dunera.

SS Dunera Debacle
The Dunera set sail from Liverpool on 10 July 1940. It had a capacity of 1600 persons but was crammed with 2000 souls, mostly Jewish refugees but also some prisoners of war, 200 Italian fascists and 251 "German Nazis" (BBC article).  It was not a pleasant voyage. The poorly discipline British guards removed (stole) the personal possessions of the internees and many prisoners had their luggage tossed overboard. Many of the guards were later accused of acts of cruelty and assault. On top of that, everyone's nerves took a hit when, in the first days of the voyage, the ship was hit by a torpedo which did not detonate. A second torpedo was fired but the heavy waves lifted the ship up just as the torpedo passed underneath.

1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees record from Ancestry - Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz - German - born 14 May 1910
"Sailed for Australia in s.s. 'DUNERA' on 10th July, 1940". The Z83 is probably a sequential surname tally.
The stroke-through line has a circled note "Under V on list" - likely that they put him on the "V" surname list (not the Z list".
The M 15 and the other numbers on the bottom of the card are of unknown meaning.

After a 57 day voyage in appalling conditions, the ship arrived in Australia. An Australian medical officer boarded the vessel and his damning report led to the court martial of several British guards.

Our friend Ernst had survived the sinking of the Arandora Star and the hideous voyage on the Dunera. The fact that Britain was so eager to get rid of him likely meant he was considered a Category A or Category B internee, which makes me wonder what made him so "dangerous". Given the mention of "German Nazis" (BBC article) in relation the passengers of the Dunera, it is possible that he was somehow affiliated with the Nazi Party. Or it is also possible that the BBC article assumed that the Germans were all Nazis and the Italians were all Fascists. It is also well known that although it was the intention of the British authorities to round up "Nazis" and "Fascists", mistakes were made. It may be that Ernst was simply a single, male, German alien living in Britain at a time of war... or he may indeed have had Nazi sympathies...

Group of Camp 1 internees at Tatura internment camp in Australia.
Group of Camp 1 internees at Tatura internment camp in Australia.
Back row: l to r - Willi Metzger; Louis Dressing; Bodo von Zitzewitz;
Herbert Dressing; Harold Hampel; Otto Haack.
Front row: l to r - Frederick Dressing; Fritz Huse; Friedrich Riha;
Johann Andrejczak.
(From Victorian Collections site).
Once in Australia, Zitzewitz was sent to the Tatura internment camp (Camp 1) north of Melbourne. He would apparently spend the remainder of the war in Australia.

The photograph at right shows a group of internees at the Tatura Camp and Ernst is easily recognizable (from his later Brazilian immigration cards) in the back row. He was only 30 years old when he was sent to Australia. Ernst's dangerous deportation journey, and that of his fellow internees from the Arandora Star and Dunera was not, however, in vain. Back in Britain, the story of the Arandora Star created quite a public uproar and Churchill admitted that the internment and deportation of refugees had been a mistake. In the late summer of 1940, Category C Jewish refugees began to be released from internment.

It is unclear what became of Ernst's mother, Leonore van der Wyck who was also resident in London in 1939. As a woman, she may have been seen as less "dangerous" and classified as a Category C alien and subsequently released later in 1940. What is clear is that in 1948, she became a naturalized citizen of the UK. Interestingly, the National Archives holds a Home Office record for her Application for Naturalization which is closed until 2049 for the standard reason: "Contains sensitive personal information which would substantially distress or endanger a living person or his or her descendants".

On 5 August 1945, Ernst returned to the UK aboard the Dominion Monarch ship. From the index card below, it would appear that he was destined for "continental internment". Given that he was a German citizen, it would also appear that he was repatriated to Germany on 28 October 1945.
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
This image shows that Ernst was a German, born 15 May 1910. It states that he returned to the UK on 5 August 1945. The words behind the date seem to be "Dominion Monarch" Continental internment. The "Z83" is likely his sequential surname tally. Below his name are "A. MI5 or M15 (I see MI5 wherever I go!), an "M." an "nd." and the word Australia. At the bottom, it states "repatriated 28 October 1945".
Up until this point, Ernst's journey seems fairly clear. Prior to the war, he had been living in London with his mother, at a fairly posh Mayfair address. With the declaration of war, he was interned as an enemy alien. In the spring/summer of 1940, with invasion fears coursing through Britain, he and other Category A & B internees were deported. Ernst survived the Arandora Star sinking and was ultimately sent to Australia aboard the SS Dunera. In August 1945, he was sent back to the UK and then, in October 1945, repatriated to Germany.

We come now to Vera Eriksen. It is fairly clear from the above, that Vera and Ernst likely never met between September 1939 and August 1945. Did they meet at an internment camp in the UK in the fall of 1945? Or perhaps on a ship that took people back to Germany? Or at an internment camp in Germany, prior to their release? Somehow, they both ended up in Hamburg, at the Klopstock Pension, former haunt of would-be Abwehr spies. Although money was indeed tight in post-war Germany, it is possible that Ernst received some funds from his mother, who was likely still living in London. Ernst apparently paid for Vera's burial, a kind gesture on the part of a man who had suffered and lost so much.

The next time we pick up Ernst's trail is on 1 May 1951, when he married Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin in Hamburg. If I were tempted by conspiracy theories, I could posit that this is too much of a coincidence! Perhaps this is actually Vera Eriksen?? Perhaps she and Ernst concocted a plan whereby she could steal the identity of the "real" Vera Von Bonin, etc, etc. But... other than the coincidence of names (both Vera's) there is not a shred of evidence of support any such theory. Although, I did find one reference (Geneanet) which has her name as Anna Helena Viktoria von Bonin...

Anna Vera Viktoria was apparently the daughter of a bank director and born in 1916 in Lietzow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Anna married Johann Rudolf von Schröder in 1938 and the couple apparently had three children but later divorced. At some point, Anna Vera Viktoria met Ernst von Zitzewitz and...

On 1 May 1951, in Hamburg, Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz married Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin, former wife of Johann Rudolf von Schröder.

A few weeks later... on 30 May 1951, in Hamburg, Karin Blanka von Zitzewitz married Johann Rudolf von Schröder, former husband of Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin.

Sooo... did I mention that the Zitzewitz genealogy is a black hole? Yes... think I did. If you scroll up, you'll see that Ernst had a half-sister named Karin-Blanka. And yes... this is apparently the Karin-Blanka who married the former husband of Ernst's new bride. Clear as mud? Excellent. Is there significance to this?? Not sure. It just seems a bit strange... but... true love creates strange pairings. I should mention that while I have found the 1938 marriage registration of Anna Vera Viktoria and Johann Rudolf, I have not found the 1951 marriage of Ernst and Anna Vera (nor Karin Blanka and Johann Rudolf). Their marriage information is purely from family trees available on Ancestry...

A closer look at the 1938 marriage of Anna Vera Viktoria and Johann Rudolf reveals more complexities than upon first glance. The marriage took place in Berlin-Brandenburg at a Lutheran church: Evangelische Kirche. Garnisongemeinde Berlin - a church traditionally associated with the nearby garrison of the former Prussian Army. Under the Nazi regime, however, one wonders if it was still solely connected with the garrison. Johann Rudolf Schröder was a Kaufmann (businessman) from Hamburg. Anna Vera's entry is a bit more complicated, and I include it here for assistance with transciption!

1938 marriage registration extract for Johann Rudolf Schröder and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin (from Ancestry)
1938 marriage registration extract for Johann Rudolf Schröder and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin
(from Ancestry)

I can decipher the column headings... just need assistance with the handwriting... Which came via T. Vitz after this blog was originally posted:
Column 7 - von Bonin, Anna Vera Viktoria (there is no way to make a Helena out of that Vera!)
Column 8 - Legationsrat a.D. Eckart v. Bonin u. Anni, geb. von Eisenhart-Rothe, Berlin-Halensee und Bonin bei Schönwerder. ["Legationsrat" is a title in the diplomatic service, a fairly low one. Judging by the pay a Legationsrat gets, it is equivalent to a Major in
the army.  "a.D." signifies "außer Dienst", i.e. he was retired from that post.]

Column 9 - 21 December 1916 in Lietzow bei Plathe (now Lisowo near Płoty, Poland - formerly Plathe an der Rega).
Column 10 - ev (evangelisch or Protestant religion)
Column 11 - Fraulein (single woman)
Column 12 - 10 May 1938 Berlin-Wilmersdorf Nr. 585
Column 13 - 11 May 1938
Column 14 - a signature followed by Ev. Feldbischof (Protestant Army Bishop) - so clearly a military wedding
Column 15 - Abmeldeschein aus Berlin-Halensee lag vor. (In Protestant ecclesiastical law, you need a license, a document made out by the pastor of the parish where you reside, if you want to be married in a church or by a clergyman who is not "competent" in church law. This document was called "dimissoriale" or an "Abmeldeschein". The note says that this document was "on hand" ("lag vor"), i.e. everything was in order as far as the church law was concerned; the Army Bishop was indeed allowed to perform this marriage.) [Many thanks to T. Vitz for helping with the translation and context of these fields!]
Any assistance much appreciated! I should mention that the von Bonin's are also a genealogical black hole and I am side-stepping them as well.... Although... another reader, D. Tremain, pointed out that one Udo Wilhelm Bogislav von Bonin had served with the Abwehr during the Second World War. I have done a bit of digging and have yet to find a connection between Udo and Anna Vera although... it is possible that they were distant cousins. Udo was born 1894 and served with the German navy in the First World War. He was involved in a business in the Netherlands during the inter-war period and then was attached to the Abwehr. Intriguing connection... yet to see if it has any relevance to the story of Ernst...

What is clear is that Ernst, from a posh Pomeranian family, married Anna Vera Viktoria, also from a posh West Pomeranian family. The half-siblings marrying spouses from a divorced pair is just... odd.

Successful Oil Executive
In 1953, 1955 and 1956, Ernst Bodo shows up living in Hamburg as a businessman.
In 1953, an Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz whose occupation is "Hochk.", is living at Reichskanzlerstr 14 in Nienst [likely Nienstedten - western district of Hamburg along the Elbe River].

In 1955 and 1956, an Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz (no occupation), is living at Heimhuder Str 59, in the Rotherbaum district of Hamburg, just north of city centre.

And after that... things shift for Ernst... he is issued with a German passport on 10 January 1956 in Hamburg and a year later, he is receiving a visa from the Brazilian consulate in London (30 January 1957). His birth date and parents are all correct. He gives his profession as "comerciante" or merchant/businessman. His address in the country of origin is 46 Porchester Terrace, London. Hard to tell if this is a permanent address or simply a way stop on his journey. For there is another Brazilian visa card issued on 8 March 1957 in the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which gives his address in the country of origin as "R.S. Peña 788 nesta". This could be the town of "Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña" in Argentina... hard to say. In both instances, Ernst is granted a temporary visa.

Ernst definitely moved around during this time. On 21 July 1958, Ernst arrived in the US onboard a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) flight from England. He had been granted a visa in London on 20 June 1958.  His address in the US was c/o the Asiatic Petroleum Corporation in New York. This is the first indicator that Ernst was involved with oil companies. The Asiatic Petroleum Co. was a joint venture (begun in 1903) between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies to conduct exploration in the far east, primarily China. In 1951, China seized all properties of the company for "national security" reasons. There is no evidence that Ernst spent any time in the far east. At some point, Ernst must have flown back to England for his next international trip included both his wife and son.

On 29 August 1958, Ernst, his wife Vera and their son, departed Southampton (UK) aboard the Prins der Nederlanded. They traveled First Class and their destination was Cartagena, Colombia. Their son was born 14 May 1953 and he (and his parents) all had German passports. Their permanent residence (if living there for more than 12 months), however, was England and their address was 56 [sic] Porchester Terrace, London. Interestingly, Ernst had the title "Baron" in brackets next to his name and gave his occupation as "executive". According to the information on the arrival card, they planned to spend more than 12 months in Colombia.

A few months later, on 10 November 1958, Ernst renewed his passport at the German embassy in Bogota, Columbia. In July of the following year [1959], he flew from Bogota to Florida (using his previously issued American visa from London) and gave his destination as the New Weston Hotel in New York. His permanent address was listed as Bogota, Columbia. A few months later, on 3 August, 1959, he was back in Columbia applying for another visa to enter Brazil from the Brazilian embassy in Bogota.

Finally, on 26 February, 1960, he arrived in Florida from HAV (likely an airport code and corresponding to Havana, Cuba). He was in transit to Port au Spain in the British West Indies (now Trinidad & Tobago). His permanent address was listed as Port Trinidad, BWI (British West Indies).

It's hard to keep track of this guy, for on 10 July 1960, he arrived in NY again from Piarco, Trinidad via a BWIA flight. His intended destination was the Asiatic Petroleum Co. at  50 West 50th Street in New York and his permanent address was given as "c/o Shell Trinidad Limited, Point Fortin, Trinidad, W.I.". It also appears that he traveled with his wife (Vera) and son (whose name was [forename redacted] B.W.T.) who also arrived on the same flight.  Intriguingly, his son's birth date is given as 14 May 1953 in Hamburg. I thought this might be a transcription error on the part of the immigration officer but it is confirmed on the Genealogics site. Vera's immigration card is simply a copy of her son's but with information scratched out and handwritten in a very faint pen. I am also going to give an educated guess and suggest that the son's full name was [forename redacted] Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz. Apparently the apple does not fall far from the Zitzewitz family tree.

A few months later, on 20 October 1960, Ernst landed in New York from another BOAC flight, originating in London. His permanent address was Wentworth, Surrey and his intended destination in the US was the Dorset Hotel in New York. Originally, his visa had been issued on 6 April 1960 in Washington but this had been scratched out and the new issue date was 19 October 1960 in London, the day before his flight arrived in the US.

Death of Ernst Bodo
We reach the end of the tale with a bit of a anti-climactic thump. Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz passed away on 18 July 1966 in Caherulla, County Kerry, Ireland. How he got there, to the far southwestern corner of Ireland, we have no idea. Is there any truth to Andersen's assertion that his wife was involved in helping Irish women find jobs? Unknown. From the above travel itineraries, it would appear that from 1951 to 1956, the couple lived in Hamburg. From 1956/7 to 1960, the family was either living in London or living abroad. It isn't clear when they moved to Ireland.

Ernst's son, was married in 1978 at Richmond upon Thames, near London. There is some online evidence that he ended up in France. His mother, Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin passed away in Paris, France on 30 December 2006. [Note: I have redacted the son's forename as he is most likely still alive.]

Vera Eriksen and Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz
Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz 1957 - Brazilian visa application (from Ancestry)
Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz
1957 - Brazilian visa application
(from Ancestry)
As noted earlier, it's not clear when/how Ernst met Vera the spy. We know that Ernst was repatriated to Germany on 25 October 1945 and that Vera was sent back on 29 October 1945 (KV 2/16 197a). It would appear that the two were not sent back in the same batch of repatriated internees, which would suggest that they either met beforehand, perhaps at the London Reception Centre, or afterwards, at a camp in Germany.

Ernst's deportation as an alien internee in 1940 suggests the British saw him as dangerous, perhaps because of a political affiliation. His later career as a globe-trotting oil executive would seem to have him well-placed for an intelligence role, although there is no evidence of this. On the other hand, there is one tiny piece of information which does suggest he was affiliated with the Nazi party.

A German website has a index of printed obituaries of the German nobility from 1912-2009. There is an entry for:
Zitzewitz, Ernst Bodo v., NSDAP-Mitglied aus Irland
index list of printed obituary notices for German nobility from 1912 to 2009
AdelsForschung site
The name and location are both right. "NSDAP-Mitglied" translates as NSDAP member (National Socialist German Workers' Party member).

How Vera and Ernst met, and what transpired between them, shall likely remain a mystery. I have to admit, I found Ernst's story quite fascinating. It's interesting that he never relinquished his German nationality, even when he was an oil executive, working for Shell and living in London. Maybe that, in and of itself, is a clue.

Post Script: another Von Zitzewitz Mystery
In pursuing Ernst Bodo through the decades, and around the world, I came across a bit of a mystery. There are a number of UK probate records for a number of von Zitzewitz folk from 1959, 1960 and 1961 which were administered by the "Administrator of German Enemy Property".

VON ZITZEWITZ Blanka Anna Elise Marie otherwise Blank Marie Anna Elise otherwise Blanka of Lesnie Kreis Stolp Germany married woman died 24 March 1945. Administration London 25 September [1959] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Coelestin August Julius Max otherwise Coelestin of Rheden No. 83 Germany died 11 October 1946 Administration London 11 June [1959] to Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Henry Paul otherwise Henry of Lietzenburger Str. 27 Berlin W. 15 Germany died 3 May 1945 at Templin Germany Administration London 8 April [1959] to Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Alexander Maximilian Heinrich of Kiel Germany died 2 August 1943 on war service Administration (with will) London 24 May [1960] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £193 6s. 8d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Julius Adolf Oskar otherwise Julius of Stolp Pomerania Germany died 8 March 1945 at Stolp Administration London 7 January to the Administration of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Max Wolfgang Oskar Juluis [sic] Georg of Koslin Pomerania Germany died 27 August 1941 on war service Administration London 23 May [1960] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £157 13s. 4d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Friedrich Julius Adolf otherwise Friedrich of Hohetorstrasse 34, Koslin, Germany, Doctor of Law, died 25 December 1940. Administration London 12 December 1961 to the Aministrator of German Enemy Propert. [no list of effects]

I don't know a lot about the 1951 law which applied to The Distribution of German Enemy Property but it seems odd that these probates would be taking place up to 20 years after the death of the individual. It brings me back to what one of the Zitzewitz relatives had told Andersen... that the Zitzewitz clan lost all of their wealth after the war.

Post Post Script
This post was a bit of a tiger by the tail! I started it to satisfy my own curiosity as to whether Ernst was associated with the Abwehr. The fascinating story of his life kind of grabbed me and while I may not have answered the Abwehr question, I'm happy with the results!

Thanks to blog readers and fellow authors T. Vitz and D. Tremain for providing assistance and information after this blog was first posted.

Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg [Sparrow: The dramatic history of spy Vera Schalburg] by Kirstine Kloster Andersen, published 2018.
The Beautiful Spy: the Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen by David Tremain, published 2019.
Ancestry, Geni, Geneanet, Genealogics - many, many birth/baptism/marriage/death, census, passenger lists, visa applications
Kirstine Kloster Andersen's website
Britain'sInternment of Enemy Aliens - National Archives blog
Arandora Star sinking - Mariner site
Arandora Star information - Warth Mills site
Arandora Star - Wikipedia
SS Dunera - BBC article
Tatura Internment Camp, Australia - Victorian Collections site
von Bonin genealogy - Geneanet 
Ernst B.W.T. von Zitzewitz entry - Geni site
National Archives - KV 2/16 - file on Vera Eriksen
National Archives - search result - HO 334/223/48858 - Naturalization certificate of Eleanore Mathilde van der Wyck.
National Archives - search result - Naturalization application for L.M. van der Wyck - closed til 2049
Kennelly Archive, Ireland - - has watermarked photographs of Ernst and his wife, Vera, from November 1965, taken in County Kerry, Ireland.
German Enemy Property - History Notes article (1998) - British Policy towards enemy property during and after the Second World War.