31 January 2014

Clara Bauerle & Josef Jakobs

Photograph of Clara Bauerle
Copy of photograph in MI5
files at National Archives (Kew)
Reverse side of photograph of Clara Bauerle
Copy of photograph in MI5
files at National Archives (Kew)
When Josef Jakobs landed at Dovehouse Farm near Ramsey on the night of 31 January, 1941, he had a picture postcard in his possession. The photograph was of a woman with an inscription on the back which read:
     My dear _  _
     I love you
     For ever
     Your
     Clara
     Landau, July 1940
  

At first, there was some confusion as to the location of the photograph, which looked a bit like London. Further research by MI5 and consultation with an expert in German affairs determined that the handwriting was German and that the location was Landau (a city in southwestern Germany) and not London.

Josef Jakobs & Clara Bauerle

When questioned about the woman in the photograph, Josef told a story that changed a bit over time. Josef arrived in Hamburg on September 22 and stayed at the Reichshof Hotel. He often visited the Cafe Dreyer and enjoyed the music of the Bernhard Etté Orchestra and one of their lead singers, Clara Bauerle. Josef and Clara became quite friendly and on October 26, at her request, he moved to the Sorgenfrei Hotel, where many of her orchestra friends were staying. Clara was staying in a private apartment in the Hansaplatz but intended to move in with Josef after her upcoming tour. Clara had been the mistress of the Medical Officer of a U-boat flotilla in Kiel and Josef now admitted that she was his mistress.
Bernhard Ette (ca. 1920s)
Bernhard Ette (ca. 1920s)
Clara and the orchestra left Hamburg on a tour which took them to Leipzig, Dresden, Forst, East Prussia and Berlin. On November 7, Josef phoned Clara in Forst and set up a meeting for when she was in Berlin. The orchestra was in Schöneberg, Berlin from November 18-20 and at the Neue Welt in Hasenheide, Berlin from November 23-24. Josef presumably met Clara at one of the Berlin engagements as he traveled to Berlin on the weekends to visit his family and November 23-24 was a weekend. He also introduced Clara to his wife, Margarete, perhaps at one of the performances of the orchestra. Clara returned to Hamburg on November 25 and moved in with Josef at the Sorgenfrei Hotel. Clara and Josef often dined at the "2n den Gaststätten" restaurant and the "Alstereck" restaurant.
Photograph of Bernhard Ette and his Orchestra - possibly taken in  the studios in Berlin-Schöneberg. Photograph from the Grammophon-Platten website  which suggests that the three ladies in the foreground are (left to right):  Claire Bauerle, Gisela Katt, Madeleine Lohse
Photograph of Bernhard Ette and his Orchestra - possibly taken in
the studios in Berlin-Schöneberg. Photograph from the Grammophon-Platten website
which suggests that the three ladies in the foreground are (left to right):
Claire Bauerle, Gisela Katt, Madeleine Lohse

During November and December, Josef began to take English lessons at the Berlitz School in Hamburg. Clara took some lessons as well after she returned to Hamburg at the end of November. When Josef left Hamburg in early January, Clara was still there, but on January 21, he received a letter which said that she was very ill and had been sent to hospital. Josef knew that the orchestra was supposed to be in Hamburg in March 1941 but had had no further word of Clara's condition.

Initially Josef said that he introduced Clara to Dr. Beyer (Boeckel) who got her a gig entertaining the troops, where she earned more money than with the Etté Orchestra. Josef said that Clara knew of his connection with the German Intelligence Service.Later, in July 1941, during a conversation with fellow spy Karel Richter, Josef mentioned that the Major in The Hague had told Josef that Clara would be sent over to join him. In July 1941, officers of MI5 interrogated Josef about Clara and learned that had Josef's mission succeeded, Clara would have been sent over to help him. She was being trained in Hamburg to use the wireless set. However, as Josef had been unable to send news to Hamburg, he doubted that she would be sent to England. 

MI5 searched their files and requested searches of the Home Office files. The only possible match for Clara Bauerle was a certain Klara Sophie Bauerle, a German born on June 29, 1906 in Stuttgart. This woman had arrived in the United Kingdom on 10 or 20 of October, 1930, and left Warwickshire for Germany at some unknown date. The Central Register of Aliens had been notified of her departure on 21 June, 1932. There was no evidence that this Klara had ever visited England again. Whether this particular Klara Sophie Bauerle was the same person as the Clara Bauerle that Josef knew was questionable. Josef said that Clara always spelled her name with a "C" and he was quite certain that she had never been to England before. He was also quite certain that she had been born in Ulm, a city in southwestern Germany near Stuttgart. When asked why the photograph said "Landau, July 1940" when Josef said he had only met her in October, Josef said that Clara was a capricious woman and was always giving him picture postcards of herself with various dates.

Interestingly, Karel Richter, another Abwehr spy, had met Josef and Clara several times in Hamburg. In Karel's opinion, Josef was mainly interested in his affairs with women but Karel thought Clara was a large, not very good-looking woman. Karel never spoke to Clara but recognized her later because of her "tallness".

Whatever became of Clara Bauerle? Did she come over to England as an espionage agent? Did she continue her career as a singer? Clara disappeared from the music scene and her name eventually became associated with an enduring murder mystery from the British Midlands. Did Clara Bauerle end up stuffed in a hollow elm tree in Hagley Wood in 1941? If so, graffiti from the area asked the question... who put Bella in the Wych Elm? (next article)

Postscript (8 December 2014)
D.J. Cockburn has written a nice summary of the various theories around Bella in the Wych Elm - well worth a read.

Updates (18 July 2015)
A couple of blog postings with more recent news of my search for the ever-elusive Clara Bauerle

2015 02 23 - A Follow-up to Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm
2015 07 17 - Update on the Elusive Clara Bauerle and Bella in the Wych Elm

References

National Archives, Security Service files - KV 2/24 (Jakobs), KV2/25 (Jakobs), KV2/26 (Jakobs) and KV2/30 (Richter)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very nice write-up. I certainly appreciate this website. Keep writing!

Giselle Jakobs said...

Thank you!