22 November 2019

Ghost of a Hurt - Bella in the Wych Elm - Rik Rawling (2008)

Ghost of a Hurt: the Mystery of who put
Bella in the Wych Elm (2008)
by Rik Rawlings
During my research into the Bella story, I've come across repeated references to a booklet published by Rik Rawling entitled Ghost of a Hurt. Unable to find a copy online, I reached out to Pete Merrill (co-author of another book on Bella) and got Rawling's contact info. Rawling was kind enough to send me a copy of his booklet in Word format, the published versions all being long since dispersed. The booklet was part of a set which included a compact disc and cassettes.

The document is about 15 pages long and the first third is taken up with Rudolf Hess and his mission to England. In the later two thirds of the booklet, Rawling examines the Bella mystery and suggests there may be a connection with Rudolf Hess - that Bella may have been a German spy sent to Britain in late 1941 to escape the Aktion Hess (retaliation against astrologers in Germany). In the final few pages of the booklet, Rawling examines some other, more recent events surrounding Hagley Wood (abductions, rapes, murders) although their connection to the Bella case is not clear.

Mandrake - basal rosette of lowers with long tap root
Mandrake - basal rosette of lowers with long tap root
I'm not entirely familiar with the occult but Rawling does spend some time exploring the history of the Hand of Glory, and its possible links to the Bella case.

He notes that the Mandrake plant derives its name from the French word - mandragore, which comes from maindeglorie, meaning hand of glory.

So far so good, sounds reasonable... but Rawling then notes that another name for Mandrake is Deadly Nightshade, the Latin name of which is Belladonna. Ah-hah - connection between Hand of Glory & Bella... As an amateur herbalist however, this sounded a bit strange to me, so I did some research.

Deadly Nightshade - tall (2 m) shrub
Deadly Nightshade - tall (2 m) shrub
Mandrake (Genus Mandragora) and English (or False) Mandrake (Genus Bryonia) and Deadly Nightshade (Genus Atropa) are all from separate genera. Mandrake is NOT the same as Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna).

On top of that, Merriam-Webster states that Mandragora is derived from Middle English, from Old English, from Latin mandragoras, from Greek. A bit more digging on Wiktionary reveals that mandragoras originates: from Ancient Greek μανδραγόρας (mandragóras), probably from a non-Indo-European Pre-Greek/substrate. Or, possibly from Old Persian *merdum gija (“plant of humans”). There is no hint of Mandragora being derived from French... or that it means "hand of glory".

The above leaves me wondering how much of the booklet is accurate and how much is based on rumours and/or speculation. Having said that, it was definitely an interesting read! I also loved the cover of the booklet with it's Penguin-esque look to it.

18 November 2019

The Spy in the Tower - Reviews and a Request

The Spy in the Tower (cover) by G.K. Jakobs
The Spy in the Tower (cover)
by G.K. Jakobs
The Spy in the Tower has been published for just over six months now and I've received some feedback from a few people, including a maternal uncle who thought he was ordering a "pamphlet" and received a "tome", much to his surprise! It certainly isn't an overnight read but I was hoping that a few people may have had a chance to read through it.

The granddaughter of Lily Knips posted this kind review on Amazon.co.uk:
I am declaring an interest' as I'm mentioned in the book as is my grandmother Lily Knips who formed a relationship with Josef Jakobs 'the spy in the Tower' before finding safety in England as a refugee in 1938 from Nazi Germany.

Giselle Jakobs contacted me a few years ago and brought this extraordinary story to my attention and I was able to help with some aspects of her research.

Over the past five years she has worked tirelessly to create an absorbing book exploring the fate of spies sent over to spy for Germany-in this instance sending information to help the Luftwaffe's bombing raids. They were very often poorly trained. The book is intensely personal as it is about her grandfather and family but it is also extremely well-researched from the point of view of political context, the history of espionage/double agents and MI5 interrogation techniques and objectives.. People involved in this narrative faced challenging and life-threatening choices and situations with varying degrees of courage and manipulation.
Fellow author, David Tremain had this to say on the GoodReads site:
Full disclosure: I have to confess that I was in some way instrumental in helping the author in getting her book published as I believed that it was an interesting story which should become public knowledge.

Joseph Jakobs was yet another pawn in the Germans' game of sending spies to Britain during WW2 and, as the title suggests, he came to a sticky end. His granddaughter, Giselle Jakobs, begins by documenting his early life and how he became involved with the Abwehr and German espionage. Like most spies, his life was chequered by many affairs, illegal dealings, and falling in and out of prison because of them. The beginning of his downfall came when (no pun intended) he parachuted into England in December 1941 to begin his spy mission but injured his ankle in the process. By this time the British (MI5) had already dealt with a number of spies, and so were not sympathetic to his cause, yet at the same time they respected him as a brave man and it was with some reluctance perhaps that they put him on trial. What emerges from this story is how biased the trial was, and how determined the British were to punish anyone who dared to attempt to spy on them. The book raises important questions about the fairness of the Treachery Act and how spies were handled during WW2, as well as comparing Joseph's case with that of others. He died an honourable man. The author's description of his final days spent in prison and his execution by firing squad are incredibly moving, as is his final letter to his wife, a letter she would never see. Anyone interested in wartime espionage should read this book as it is an important contribution to the genre.
Another fellow author, Traugott Vitz, had this to say in an email to me:
Well, now, what would I say if someone asked me, "Tell me about the book you've just read"?...

I loved it. The subject - Spies, World War Two etc - is one that I'm interested in anyway. And since it is well written and readable throughout, you'll lay it down (till next day) only when you're tired from digesting the enormous amount of subject matter. But there's more to it.

The book is incredibly well researched, with footnotes all over the place to corroborate what the author claims to be true. It also shows evidence of careful proofreading. An example: The author - I've been exchanging emails with her - always says her German is rusty and hasn't seen much use since her childhood days. Nevertheless and, given the subject, very naturally, she uses a lot of German expressions and sentences. But I, being a native speaker of German, found only a dozen or so language errors in 448 pages (and some of them must be attributed to her sources, not to herself). I've seen MUCH worse from anglophone authors.

The author dived deep into the parliamentary history and legal intricacies of Britain's War Emergency legislation such as the Treachery Act. She followed every step of the legal proceedings and pointed out where there were weaknesses in courtroom tactics or outright violations of established procedure.

She also followed side issues, like the fate of other German spies, with similar zeal and made good use of the results for her main line of argument. (Which means her book can as well be used as a starting point for research into other cases of "German Spies in Britain".)

Her conclusions are well founded, in my opinion: That the Germans sent Josef Jakobs to Britain not to gain information but as cannon fodder or "canary in the mine". And that the British, under the veil of bewigged and gowned legal procedures, killed him not to atone for his guilt but because it was politically expedient.

And there's still one more layer to that book: When you are writing about your grandfather, it is inevitable that your family history and your own person will be involved and affected. If you don't lay open to the reader in which way this is the case, it will come out in unexpected places. Giselle K. Jakobs has seen that trap, I think. And she decided to lay open to the reader the multi-faceted image she got of her grandfather (not all of the facets being favourable) AND how the research process influenced her in her relation to her family and to her inner self. That is, by the way, a step I'd love to see the authors take in many other books as well - not only when they're researching something as close to home as their own grandpa. There is no such thing as disinterested and impartial historiography, you know.

So - "Spy in the Tower" is a book on a VERY special subject within the already special historical field of "History, Modern, World War Two, Espionage, German, in Britain" and will, for that reason, probably not make the bestseller lists. No matter. But it is also a book which establishes Giselle K. Jakobs as a trustworthy, thorough and thoughtful historical writer. Fellow researchers will notice that and pay their respects. Chapeau!
I do have a request to any of my blog readers/followers who have read the book... could you please post a review either on Amazon (if that is where you purchased your book) or on the GoodReads site. Amazon only allows "verified purchasers" to post reviews on their site but... GoodReads is a nice alternative. Here are some direct links to the book's page on the different Amazon sites:
Thanks so much!

13 November 2019

Geheimisse des Towers: Spione und Kronjuwelen - ZDF (2019) - in German

Logo of ZDF (from Wikipedia)
Logo of ZDF (from Wikipedia)
A cousin of mine in Germany made me aware of a German documentary that broadcast on 11 June 2019 in Germany. The show was a four part series on Geheimnisse des Towers (Secrets of the Tower [of London]):
  • Geheimnisse des Towers: Spione und Kronjuwelen (Spies & Crown Jewels)
  • Geheimnisse des Towers: Verschwörer und Verräter (Conspirators & Traitors)
  • Geheimnisse des Towers: Könige und Henker (Kings & Executioners)
  • Geheimnisse des Towers: Prinzen und Rebellen (Princes & Rebels)
I watched the episode on Spies and Crown Jewels shortly after it aired via the web and thought they did a fair job of telling the story of Josef Jakobs. They had a nice little piece in which they interviewed Bridget Clifford, curator of the Armouries at the Tower.

I wanted to watch the episode again before writing this blog post but... it is no longer available online. I wrote an email to the broadcasting company (ZDF - Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen - public broadcasting company) and asked for a digital copy to view. They told me that the program was unavailable due to "legal reasons".

08 November 2019

The Mystery of Le Touquet Syndicate and Josef Jakobs

There are a few mysteries in Josef's MI5 files, and one of them lies in folder KV 2/25, folio 87a - a memo on 30 May 1941 from H.P. Milmo (B2c) to Mr. Hunter (B6)
Memo from Milmo to Hunter re: Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd. (National Archives - Security Service file - KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Memo from Milmo to Hunter re: Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd.
(National Archives - Security Service file - KV 2/25, folio 87a)
First off, it's important to note that the memo has Josef's Personal File number on it (P.F. 55039), which means it is definitely connected to his case file.

In the memo, Milmo requests particulars of the directors of the "Le Touquet Syndicate Limited". On 4 June 1941, Hunter sends the memo back with an added note to see the attached particulars from Somerset House.

The particulars comprise two pages of information on Le Touquet Syndicate, although the official scanned pdf from the National Archives only includes the first page. The photocopy of the file I obtained in 2003 has the second page, see below.

Briefly. Le Touquet Syndicate Ltd. was a company registered on 9 May 1903 with a nominal capital of £50,000 divided into £1 shares. The object of the company was to acquire the land known as Le Touquet near Calais in France. The first page lists the directors of the company while the second page outlines the distribution of shares.
Le Touquet Syndicate directors - page 1 of Hunter's report (from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate directors - page 1 of Hunter's report
(from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate shares and shareholders - page 2 of Hunters report (from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
Le Touquet Syndicate shares and shareholders - page 2 of Hunters report
(from National Archives - Security Service file KV 2/25, folio 87a)
They mystery lies in the fact that at no point in his interrogations does Josef mention Le Touquet Syndicate. In terms of its placement in the list of folios, this memo falls in that period when MI5 was investigating Niska, Roos, Wolpe and Lincoln Allan Smith. Is there a connection? It's not clear. But let's delve into Le Touquet Syndicate and see what we can find.

Le Touquet History
Allen & Florence Stoneham ca. 1915 at  Étaples, France (Flickr - Library of Congress - no known copyright restrictions)
Allen & Florence Stoneham ca. 1915
at  Étaples, France
(Flickr - Library of Congress - no known
copyright restrictions)
Le Touquet started off as an isolated moor inhabited only by wild animals. In 1837 , Alphonse Daloz and Alyon bought 1,600 hectares of land and tried to set up a distillery and potato industry. In 1855, after many failed attempts, Daloz succeeded in planting a pine forest on some of the land. In 1875, the owner of "Le Figaro" newspaper realised that the Le Touquet area would make a perfect seaside resort and the first villas were built in 1882, the beginnings of Le Touquet - Paris Plage (Paris by the Sea). It served mostly as a summer retreat and was deserted in the winter months, but that all changed when John Whitley and Allen Stoneham bought the land in 1902.

Whitley and Stoneham decided to base the resort on sports and the area acquired a casino, golf course, hippodrome and tennis courts

After the outbreak of World War I, Allen Stoneham offered the area of Le Touquet for the use of the British Armed Forces. Le Touquet, and its glamourous hotels, hosted several military hospitals for wounded British and Canadian troops.  After the war, Stoneham was awarded the Order of the British Empire. His business partner, John Robinson Whitley passed away in 1922.

Canadian Hospital at Le Touquet ca. 1915 (Flickr - Library of Congress - no known copyright restrictions)
Canadian Hospital at Le Touquet ca. 1915
(Flickr - Library of Congress - no known
copyright restrictions)
In the 1920s, Le Touquet reached its nadir and hosted princes and politicians, as well as the likes of Noël Coward and the smart set from England. Le Touqet's gaiety vanished with the outbreak of war and it achieved notoriety as the most mined town in France (130,000 mines). After the war, Le Touquet revived some of its liveliness with the creation of a small port. It was once again known as a year round resort and seaside destination of the Opal Coast.

Today, Le Touquet is still a thriving resort with a year-round population of 5,355 that welcomes up to 250,000 people during the summer. It has a reputation as the most elegant holiday resort in northern France, the favourite haunt of rich Parisians. Today, Le Touquet offers guests sand yachting, sailing, riding, three golf courses, a thalassotherapty spa, water park, discotheques, night clubs and casinos.

Le Touquet and the company founded by Stoneham and Whitley seem quite straightforward and benign, but clearly something about the company, or its directors, piqued the interest of MI5. The information that Mr. Hunter tracked down on Le Touquet Syndicate doesn't tell us much, but let's take a look at it.

Company Directors of Le Touquet Syndicate in 1941
On the 3rd of May 1941 the directors and shareholders were:
  • Mrs Florence Maine [sic] Louise Stoneham. British. Director of - St. Swithens Syndicate Ltd. [also connected with Le Touquet] (Appointed June 1916)
  • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. British. Director of - Tramways Syndicate Ltd. [Allen Henry Philip Stoneham had introduced electric trams to Western Australia] (Appointed May 1927)
  • Mrs Jean Monica Stoneham. British. No other occupation. (Appointed December 1939)
    • All the above are shown as, c/o Gordon Reid. St. Sauriur des Monts, P.Q. Canada
  • Vincent Allen Stoneham. British. RAF Station. Coventry. Air Force Officer. (Appointed April 1928)
  • Henry Cooke McAlister [sic]. British. 159 Nether Street, N. 12. Chartered Accountant. Partner - Monkhouse Stoneham & Co. (Appointed 5 August 1940)
It is clear that the Stoneham family was still involved with Le Touquet in 1941, although three of the directors would appear to have weathered part of the war in Canada. If we then look at the shareholders of the company, we see the same Stoneham family names pop up, as well as one more.

Shareholders & Shares in Le Touquet in 1941
According to the MI5 document on Le Touquet, there were some "dozens of shareholders in this company". The following were the largest holdings at the time of the last return prior to the MI5 report. A total of 50,000 shares were issued of which:
  • 15,000 shares split between
    • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. Address as above.
    • Henry Tudor Crosthwaite. Stockbroker - 10/11 Copthall Avenue. EC.2.
  • 13,484 shares split between
    • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham. Address as above
    • Florence Maine [sic] Louise Stoneham. Address as above
    • Henry Tudor Crosthwaite. Address as above
  • 11,000 shares to Florence Maine Louise Stoneham
  • 3350 shares to Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham
  • 3400 shares to Vincent Allen Stoneham
  • 250 shares to Jean Monica Stoneham
  • 100 shares to Henry Cooke McAlister [sic]
That totals 46,584 shares leaving 3416 shares to be distributed between lesser shareholders. We now need to take a look at the Stoneham clan where we begin to see the relationships between the company directors and shareholders.

Stoneham Family
With one exception, all of the directors and major shareholders are members of the Stoneham clan, either by birth or marriage. The original co-founder of the company, Allen Henry Philip Stoneham, passed away in 1927 but his second wife, two children and two children-in-law were still involved in the company in 1941.

Allen Henry Philip Stoneham - 1856-1927 (co-founder of the company)
  • married 1882 - Jane Harley Cowie - 1853-1899
        • Irene Maude Stoneham - 1884-1947
          • m1905 - Henry Tudor Crosthwaite - 1871-1956  (major shareholder)
        • Linda Harley Stoneham - 1886-1965
          • m1911 - Bernard Cyril Windeler - 1887-1961
        • Phyllis Marjorie Stoneham - 1889-1958
          • m1912 - Roland Clive Wallace Burn - 1882-1955
  • married ???? - Florence Marie Louise [maiden name unknown] Stoneham - 1875-1950 (founder's second wife as well as director and major shareholder) 
        • Donald Skyring Allen Stoneham - 1903-1969 (director and major shareholder)
          • m1932 - Jean Monica McLean - 1908-1985 (minor shareholder)
        • Vincent Allen Stoneham - 1906-1982 (director and major shareholder)
          • m1946 - Jean M. (nee White) Hosken - 1916-?
That leaves us with Henry Cooke McAllister (1882-?) as director and chartered accountant, as well as a minor shareholder. He does not appear to be related to the Stoneham clan by birth or marriage. McAllister was born in Belfast Ireland in 1882 and by 1901 was already a chartered accountant in Ireland. In 1912, he married Eveline Emelie Kydd (1890-1974) in north London. McAllister served with the Army Service Corps during World War I and, given his background, he might have served as an accountant. After the war, his named appears in relation to the liquidation and bankruptcy of numerous companies, always as a chartered accountant.

I'm not going to delve into the Stoneham clan in any great detail but one item is of note. The co-founder's second wife, Florence Marie Louise Stoneham was born in Montreal, Canada around 1875-1880. This may explain why Florence, her son Donald and Donald's wife Jean (all directors) were apparently living in Canada (or the USA) in 1941.

MI5's Interest in Le Touquet Syndicate
On 11 June 1941, H.P. Milmo of MI5's B2c wrote a letter to Henry Cooke McAllister in which he stated:
Dear Mr. McAlister [sic],

I would very much like to have an early opportunity of talking to you about a confidential matter upon which I think you may be in a position to supply us with some helpful information.

Would it be possible for you to arrange a meeting either at the War Office or at any other address which would be convenient to you?

I will be most grateful if you will telephone me at the above number some time in the course of the next few days.
There is no further reference to Le Touquet Syndicate, the Stoneham's or McAllister in the MI5 documents in Josef's file. We are left with several mysteries:
  • What did Josef say that triggered this investigation into Le Touquet Syndicate?
  • Given the chronology of the investigation, did it have anything to do with Lincoln Allen Smith?
  • What became of Milmo's meeting with McAllister?
On the face of it, Le Touquet Syndicate seems like a completely innocent bystander in the espionage game. Somehow, their name got dragged into Josef's case, but the exact connection is still a mystery. My best guess is that something in the Roos/Wolpe and Lincoln Allen Smith investigation caused MI5 to look at Le Touquet with more interest. It is clear from marginal notes in Josef's case file that Lincoln Allen Smith had his own Personal File (P.F.) in the MI5 registry. What lay therein is unknown.

As an aside, the village/town of Le Touquet does get one another mention in relation to espionage matters. The four hapless spies who landed on the coast of Kent in late September 1940 (Waldberg, Meier, Kieboom and Pons) had apparently celebrated a last meal in Le Touquet and set sail from there.

Information France - article on Le Touquet
France Today - article on Le Touquet
Le Touquet History - on Web Archive
Wikipedia (French) - Allen Stoneham
Fracedemic - French - history section
National Archives - Security Service file on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/25
Ancestry - genealogy information
Flickr - Library of Congress - pics of Allen Stoneham and Le Touquet

04 November 2019

Book Review - Shanghai Remembered - Bert Faulbaum (ed.) (2005)

Shanghai Remembered - 2005 by Bert Falbaum (ed)
Shanghai Remembered - 2005
by Bert Falbaum (ed)

The Book
Shanghai Remembered: Stories of Jews who escaped to Shanghai from Nazi Europe. Bert Falbaum (ed.). Momentum Books. 2005.


I came across this book while researching the stories of the German Jews who got caught up in Niska and Ziebell's passport business.

The book is composed of chapters written by individuals whose families escaped Nazi Europe to Shanghai, one of the only "open" places in the world for desperate Jews. About 20,000 Jews survived the war in Shanghai, although conditions were often quite horrific, particularly after the Japanese entered the war and sequestered all of the European Jewish refugees in the Hongkew Ghetto.

One of the chapters is written by the daughter of Martin Goldstein, the man who acted as a connector between Niska and Ziebell.

The stories are all fascinating, tragic and hopeful. When so many Jews stayed behind in Germany and Austria, reluctant to travel to the notorious Paris of the Orient, a brave few took their lives in their hands and left Europe with very little in the way of material wealth. They would, however, come out of the war with their lives, and many emigrated to the United States.

Several of the stories relate how the Jews had attempted to secure visas to other places, like Bolivia or Chile, sometimes purchasing documents - all of which proved to be false and/or worthless. While the stories don't have a specific reference to Ziebell or Niska, one can easily see that many individuals preyed on desperate Jews.

The many stories, all with their own tones and voices, present a patchwork quilt of life in Germany and Austria before focusing on a rather desperate life in Shanghai. I rather liked this approach of many voices, rather than a single narrative.

I had never heard of Jews escaping Nazi Europe to Shanghai, so this book certainly broadened my horizons. When so many countries reduced immigration quotas and turned away shiploads of Jewish refugees, this story is one of hope.

Review Score
4.5 out of 5 - interesting and very readable.

30 October 2019

Book Review - Bella: An Unsolved Murdery - Joyce M. Coley (2007)

Cover - Bella: An Unsolved Murder by Joyce M. Coley (2007)
Cover - Bella: An Unsolved Murder
by Joyce M. Coley (2007)
The Book
Bella: An Unsolved Murder. Joyce M. Coley. History in Print. 2007.

This book was written over 12 years ago by Joyce M. Coley, and is often quoted in Bella lore. I ordered a copy from Amazon and read it in less than an hour.

The book is more pamphlet than "book" comprising only 26 pages. It provides an overview of the case but has absolutely no references or footnotes, which makes its value rather limited. How much of what Coley writes is hearsay? How much is first-hand research from primary sources? Hard to say. In many respects then, this book is a compilation of anecdotes, facts, stories and rumours, all woven together into a rather disjointed whole.

Having said that, there are some accounts which are new in their thoroughness - for example the story of Warwick Aston Plant and his mother and the girl who played the piano in their pub (p. 10-12). I've come across bits and pieces of this story before, but the amount of detail presented by Coley is new.

Another account, that of Douglas Osborne and his post-war meeting with Canadian intelligence officers, is also quite extensive.  I admit to being perplexed as to how Canadian intelligence officers would have been permitted to (a) talk about secret matters such as Germans spies and (b) been permitted to take German Secret Service documents back to Canada.

Some of the details are a bit annoying though - for example on page 21, where she notes that journalist Matthew Gull found a reference to a spy called Clara in a Birmingham reference library. More detail would have been helpful.

And then there is some information which is completely false - for example on page 25, the story of the spy found dead in a Cambridge air shelter. This would Jan Willem ter Braak and Coley notes that "this man had letters sent from England, to families still in Germany, through the Red Cross". I have no idea where that information comes from as there is not a hint in ter Braak's files on any letters being found on his person, or in his effects.

Similarly, she notes that Jack Mossop's death certificate stats that he died from an overdose of drugs. This is not accurate and therefore makes me wonder how much of the book can be trusted.

This little booklet is interesting but I'm not entirely sure of how accurate the information is. It would seem to muddy the waters more than anything.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - interesting

25 October 2019

Conclusion - Black Market Passport Business

I started this series of blog posts several months ago and had no idea it would lead me on such an epic journey. The stories of those who sought to escape the clutches of the Nazis span the gamut of tragedy to triumph. I have found it exceedingly difficult and emotionally draining to dig into the archives trying to discover who lived and who died.

As for the stories of those who orchestrated this scheme... Christian Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell and Algoth Niska... words fail me. Perhaps Niska thought he was doing a "good" thing in selling passports to rich Jews desperate to leave Nazi Germany/Austria. I have read his own story of his adventures and he comes across as a schemer looking for his next adventure, preferably one where he could get paid handsomely. Selling fake Finnish passports to Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe ticked both of those boxes.

As for Jürgen Ziebell, he was simply in it for the money, of that I have no doubt. His career after the war is just more of the same - seeking wealth and power and using whatever legal or illegal means he could to achieve his aims.

For those who land on this post and want to read the whole series from start to finish, here are some links:

Overview of the passport business - as told by Josef Jakobs
Characters involved - has links to all of the clients as well as organizers of the passport scheme
Jürgen Ziebell - German lawyer, fake and fraud artist
Algoth Niska - Finnish bootlegger, smuggler and adventurer

21 October 2019

Johann Hans Wolpe & the Aleister Crowley Connection

Aleister Crowley in America (2017) by Tobias Churton (book cover from Amazon)
Aleister Crowley in America (2017)
by Tobias Churton
(book cover from Amazon)
 A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about Josef Jakobs' information on Ziebell's attempt to secure Irish naturalisations for the Jews. The scheme involved two other men: Johann (Hans) Wolpe and Josef Emil Roos. During my research for that post, I came across some references to Wolpe in Google Books - specifically a book by Tobias Churton entitled: Aleister Crowley in America - Art, Espionage and Sex Magick in the New World (2017). Given that Google Books only provides snippets of information, I ordered a copy of Churton's book which arrived in the mail last week. Here's what I discovered...

The information on Wolpe is contained within Appendix I of the book and is a summary of the history of Simeon Leon Engers (Kennedy), the brother of Beatrice (Engers) Wolpe (wife of Johann Hans Wolpe).

As it turns out, Leon Engers was a painter who moved between Holland, Germany, the USA and Paris. He encountered Aleister Crowley as early as 1911 and apparently became involved with Crowley's spiritual sect, being known as Frater T.A.T.K.T.A. Leon became known for his "psychochrome" style (painting the sitters aura), his most famous being a painting of Crowley now hanging in the National Portrait Gallery in England.

Edward Alexander ('Aleister') Crowley by Leon Engers Kennedy oil on canvas, 1917-1918 National Portrait Gallery NPG 6630
Edward Alexander ('Aleister') Crowley
by Leon Engers Kennedy
oil on canvas, 1917-1918
National Portrait Gallery NPG 6630
The information contained within Appendix I of the book was compiled by Frank van Lamoen, assistant curator at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. It is in the appendix that we find information on Johann Wolpe and his wife Beatrice. Beyond that, Churton's book has some brief comments about Leon Engers.

The appendix information is tantalising:
Beatrice's father ran a business (Firma M. Engers) out of Rotterdam but, from 1904-1918, the family apparently lived in Berlin at Kurfürstendamm 23 (or 24). The company had branches in London, Hull, Hamburg and Bremen.

On 13 June 1917, Beatrice Engers married Johann Wolpe in Berlin-Charlottenburg. I had always wondered how the two had met, given that Beatrice was Dutch but the fact that her family was living in Berlin now explains the connection.

In 1919, Beatrice's mother, Paula (Schwabacher) Engers) was living in Berlin at Uhlandstrasse 197, the same address as J.H. Wolpe & Co, likely Johann Wolpe's company.

In 1924, Leon Engers and his American wife, Catherine Elizabeth Reilly moved to Paris where Leon may have studied at the Sorbonne. The following year, 1925, Beatrice and Johann Wolpe also moved their family from Berlin to Paris. The Appendix notes that "banker Wolpe together with a certain Fritz Klekottka (Klikottka?) accused of swindle". I had gleaned that bit of information from Google Books, but there is additional information for the following years.

In 1934, Beatrice's mother, widow Paula (Schwabacher) Engers applied for Dutch citizenship while living in Paris. She had been born in Odessa (Ukraine) in 1867 of German parents and one might expect that her marriage to Mozes Engers would have given her Dutch citizenship, but apparently not.

In 1935, Johann Wolpe, while living in Paris, tired to sell forged shares. Three years later, on 3 February 1938, Beatrice and Johann moved to The Hague, living at Laan van Meerdervoort 377. They made a trip to Ostend on 27 August 1938 and on 26 September 1938, Beatrice's mother was staying with them in The Hague.

But all was not well between Beatrice and Johann. The following year, on 17 February 1939, the couple was divorced. Beatrice and her children moved to Ostend and it isn't clear what became of Johann Wolpe. This may explain why Beatrice and her daughter were deported to Auschwitz on the same day while Johann seems to have been handled separately.

Wolpe's association with Aleister Crowley would therefore seem to be quite tangential through his wife's brother.

I have reached out to Frank van Lamoen to see if he has additional information on Wolpe... stay tuned. [Update 2019 10 21 - I heard back from Frank van Lamoen and he kindly shared his sources for the Wolpe material - mostly Dutch newspaper articles. I will be working through them and putting together a follow-up article in the next few weeks.]

16 October 2019

Herr & Frau Reiwald - Berlin - Black Market Passport Business

There are two final key individuals involved in Ziebell's black market passport business in Berlin: Herr & Frau Reiwald. Both individuals were mentioned by Josef Jakobs and Lily Knips, but the details we have on them are very sketchy.

Information from Josef Jakobs & Lily Knips
Josef said that he introduced many rich Jews to Ziebell, one of them being Herr Reiwald who had been a client of Josef's dental practice in the early 1930s. According to Josef, his wife's step-father had told him that Reiwald was interested in leaving Germany and wanted to become Dutch. Elsewhere, Josef said that Reiwald wanted to become French, but that this was found to be impossible and that he then wished to become Cuban. This could have been arranged by Ziebell except for the fact that the whole group was arrested in October 1938. Josef noted that Reiwald only wanted to get Cuban naturalisation and did not need any assistance getting money out of Germany as he had already made arrangements to transfer funds to a brother-in-law in Italy.

Finally, Josef noted that he had been introduced to Lily Knips in May 1938 by a rich Jewish family named Reiwald. Lily confirmed this stating that she had been introduced to Josef by a Jewish lady named Frau Reiwald. This lady told Lily that Josef was a very clever man who could help her in financial matters and in securing a passport to leave Germany.

That isn't a lot to go on - no first names, no birth dates, nothing. All we know is that Herr & Frau Reiwald were rich, Jewish and that the husband had a brother-in-law in Italy.

A Clue from Lily's Address Book
After MI5 questioned Lily at her home, the borrowed her address book to try and trace all of the individuals listed therein. On their transcribed list of entries, there is one relevant entry:
  •  Rewald       (Edg. 3815)
                    70 Mowbray Rd
Next to this entry there is a penciled note by an officer: P.F. 55000. This is likely a reference to MI5's Personal File series. Many of the other entries have N.T. next to them (no trace), but this "Rewald" entry arouse some interest. A note attached to the transcript from Lily's address book states:
Arthur Marcus Israel Rewald and wife Elsa Sara, German Jews
70, Mowbray Road, Edgeware, Middlesex.
Arrived U.K. 28.8.39

Was a well known general exporter in Berlin. In 1937 was forced by the Jewish boycott to sell his business and went to Vienna. In July, 1939, they returned to Germany to clear up certain outstanding business and obtain current passports.

They are supported in this country by Mr. William Sandover, British, senior partner of William Sandover & Co., firm of exporters with whom Rewald formerly did business. In return for this, Rewald writes letters of introduction on behalf of this firm to his connections abroad.

Rewald has a sister Alice living in Portugal. She is married to Martin Rosenberg and their address is Avenida Defensores de Chaves, 139-3, Lisbon-Norte. This brother-in-law asked Rewald to communicate with a German schoolboy, Otto Herschan, now in this country, saying that the latter's father was well and asking for news of the boy and his mother via Rosenberg. It was in this connection that Rewald came to notice.

Nothing recorded to his detriment.
This information is intriguing but does it refer to the Herr & Frau Reiwald known to both Josef and Lily?  On the face of it, it seems unlikely.

The last name is spelled differently: Reiwald vs. Rewald. One would expect the officers of MI5 to ask both Lily and Josef for the correct spelling of the surname. Unlike Wolpe and Roos where there was some doubt as to how the names were spelled, there is no evidence of this with Reiwald.

The couple also seem to have been in Vienna from 1937 to July 1939, and would not have been in Berlin in the spring/summer of 1938 to introduce Lily and Josef to each other.

In addition, if Rewald and Reiwald were identical, one would have expected MI5 to have gone knocking on the door of 70 Mowbray Road with a view to confirming or denying aspects of Josef's story. There is no evidence of such a visit.

On the other hand, the mention of a Rosenberg in connection with Rewald is intriguing as one of the men involved in brokering a connection between Niska and Ziebell was named Herr Rosenberg (no forename). But Rosenberg is quite a common name and again, there is no evidence of these two individuals being one and the same.

In the end, we are left dangling and there is no firm evidence as to who Herr & Frau Reiwald were. There are several possibilities in the Berlin address books, but without something more concrete, their identity will likely remain unknown.

National Archives - Security Service files on Josef Jakobs - KV 2/25

11 October 2019

Irish Naturalisation - Johann Hans Wolpe, Josef Emil Roos and Lincoln Allan Smith - Black Market Passport Business

Jürgen Ziebell from Der Spiegel (1955)
Jürgen Ziebell from Der Spiegel (1955)
Josef Jakobs was a client recruiter for lawyer Jürgen Ziebell in Berlin in 1937 and 1938. Josef would find rich Jews, desperate to escape Nazi Germany, who could then acquire passports, naturalisations or visas from Ziebell, for a fee.

One aspect of the business for which Josef had a fair bit of information was Irish naturalisations. These were apparently a failed initiative in which Ziebell partnered with two German expats: Wolpe and Roos. Josef's account allowed MI5 to identify both men, courtesy of MI6. According to Josef, Wolpe and Roos had worked with an Englishman named Lincoln Allan Smith, and this too was confirmed by MI6. This is the story of Wolpe, Roos and Smith.

What Josef told MI5
At the end of April 1941, Josef Jakobs gave the MI5 officers at Camp 020 a more detailed description of the black market passport business that Ziebell was running in Berlin. According to Josef, Hans Blum, a Jewish lawyer, introduced Ziebell to two men who could facilitate Irish naturalisations: Max [Josef was not sure about the forename] Wolpe and Josef Roos, both German emigres. Wolpe had apparently emigrated to Holland from Germany in 1938, while Roos had emigrated many years previously. While Wolpe was a very rich man, Roos was virtually penniless and lived off of Wolpe.

At the time of their meetings with Ziebell, both men were living in London. They would travel to Amsterdam where they would transact business with Ziebell. Josef said that Wolpe and Roos were connected with an English lawyer's office, one of whose partner's was named Smith. Josef also indicated that an English colonel was mixed up in the Irish naturalisation business but he couldn't remember the man's name. Nothing was ever known to the detriment of Smith and the mysterious English colonel, but the same could not be said about Wolpe and Roos.

Wolpe according to Josef
Between 1920 and 1928, Wolpe ran a business for financing transactons and was quite successful in getting connections to the German government, particularly with the German Postmaster General, Hoefle.

With Hoefle's assistance, Wolpe took over an important bank and obtained a large foreign credit through the German Imperial Post Office. According to Josef, Wolpe disappeared one day, leaving behind 10 million Gold Marks worth of debt. The authorities arrested Hoefle who committed suicide while in custody.

Wolpe had fled first to Holland, where he maintained a residence and then onwards to London. He claimed that he had been cheated by Hoefle and sued the German government for 30 million Reich Marks worth of damages. His case was dismissed and a warrant issued for his arrest.

After the Nazis came to power in Germany, Wolpe offered to forego his "lawful" claims if the authorities, in return, would allow him to return to Germany and take him into their service. The Nazis simply replied by sending out another warrant for his arrest.

According to Josef, Wolpe was quite a rich man who paid all of Ziebell's Amsterdam trip expenses. Wolpe had been warmly recommended to Ziebell by a bank in Amsterdam. Ziebell was also impressed that Wolpe still had a German passport, issued recently by the German Consulate General. Since it was practically impossible for a Jewish emigre to obtain a German passport abroad, Ziebell assumed that Wolpe must be very influential. Ziebell liked the sound of the Irish naturalisation business but wanted some evidence that it was actually feasible.

Apparently Wolpe knew a firm of lawyers in London, who knew the Mayor of Dublin, and arrangements could be made whereby a certain number of Jewish refugees could go to Dublin and become Irish. The cost was £600.

Wolpe chartered an aircraft and flew to Dublin with Roos and two Jews living in Holland. The trip was a spectacular failure and when the aircraft landed at Croydon aerodrome enroute from Dublin to Amsterdam, the English police arrested both Wolpe and Roos. They were released a few hours later but, upon their arrival in Holland, arrested by the Dutch Police.

Ziebell gave up the Irish naturalisation business after the unsuccessful negotiations in Dublin.

Josef has provided quite a bit of information but how much of it is actually true? I have confirmed that Anton Hoefle was the German Postmaster General and that he did indeed run afoul of the authorities after the Barmat Scandal. More on that later.

Roos according to Josef
As for Josef Roos, he had fled Germany after going bankrupt. He dabbled in fraudulent foreign exchange transactions. Roos apparently went to London, where he lived for many years, before being deported. Roos was virtually penniless and lived off of Wolpe.

Josef remembered reading in the ‘Neue Züricher Zeitung” in 1935 [while he was in a Swiss prison for gold counterfeiting] that Roos had been deported from England on account of the suspected murder of a girl of 28, who had been found dead in a flat in London. Josef did not know if this was the same Roos as Josef Roos.

Josef had never met Wolpe or Ross and did not know where they lived in London or whether they were still in England. Much of what Josef knew about Wolpe and Roos he had learned while being questioned by the Gestapo after his arrest in October 1938.

MI5 was naturally concerned about Wolpe, Roos, Smith and  the anonymous English colonel. They put out feelers with the Home Office and MI6.

What MI5 Discovered about Wolpe & Roos
MI5 began requesting traces of Wolpe and Roos through Special Branch and the Home Office, with very little success. Part of the difficulty lay in the fact that they weren't sure if it was Wolpe/Volpe or Roos/Rose.

By early June, Special Branch had dug up information on one Joseph Emil Roos, a German born on 27 January 1880 in Mosbach, Germany. Roos had first arrived in the UK on 22 November 1926 as a financial broker. On 28 December 1933, he was charged at Bow Street Police Court with failing to notify the authorities of particulars affecting the accuracy of the register. This may simply be that Roos, an alien, had moved residences but had not notified the authorities. It is also possible that the British suspected Roos of being in England for ulterior motives (spying) but had no hard evidence. Something similar had happened to Walter Simon in 1938 when he arrived in the UK illegally. Suspected of spying, Simon was deported. Roos, too, was recommended for deportation in lieu of a sentence and was deported on 13 January 1934. So Josef was partially correct - Roos had been deported but not for murdering anyone.

As for Wolpe, Special Branch had tracked down a Hans Max Joachim Wolpe, born 17 June 1918 in Berlin and residing at 33 Drayton Gardens in South Kensington. Hans Wolpe was a student who had arrived in the UK on 20 October 1934 (16 years old) and landed unconditionally. His registration card had been marked "disappeared" on 18 March 1940 and he could not be traced. The MI5 officers did not think that this was the same man as the one described by Josef. As we shall learn later, this was actually the son of the Wolpe involved in the passport business.

Two days after Josef's execution, on 17 August 1941, MI5 received more information about Wolpe, Roos and Smith from MI6.

MI6 was quite confident that the Smith referred to by Josef was one Lincoln Allen Smith, born in London on 19 February 1890. On 13 July 1938, Smith had visited the Passport Control Office in The Hague with a view to sponsoring the visa applications of Emil Josef Roos and Johann Hans Wolpe. Smith gave two London addresses: 22 Vallence Road, London N.22 and 21 Greek Street, London, W.1. Smith described himself as a citizen and horner [more on this later] and came across as a very plausible and unprepossessing individual.

Smith produced a letter signed by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, concerning a loan to the Corporation of Dublin, which was for development purposes. Smith indicated that Roos and Wolpe were prepared to invest a considerable sum of money into a pending Dublin Corporation loan and were also negotiating the purchase of a Dublin brewery. Smith said that Wolpe and Roos were acting on behalf of a wealthy group and that he was quite satisfied as to their bona-fides.

Josef did indeed have some of the details of the story correct, although it almost sounds as if Wolpe and Roos were trying to bribe their way into securing Irish naturalisations.

According to MI6, Emil Josef Roos was a German, born on 27 January 1880 in Mosbach. He had a German passport issued 14 October 1931 and valid until 14 October 1941. He resided at Frankenslag 126 in The Hague. He visited Holland at infrequent intervals and was concerned in a financial business in Düsseldorf. He had apparently lost a considerable amount of money in the past. He was a close friend of Wolpe.

As for Wolpe, MI6 discovered that Johann Hans Wolpe was a German financier, born on 3 July 1887 in Libau, Lithuania. He had a German passport issued 15 February 1938 in Rotterdam which was valid until 15 February 1943. Wolpe was married to Beatrice née Engers, a German, born in Amsterdam on 5 June 1894. The fact that Wolpe, a Jewish German emigre had obtained a passport in Holland in 1938 is indeed remarkable, particularly given his earlier history with Hoefle, the Barmat Scandal and absconding with a significant amount of money. As we shall see later, Wolpe had a tangential relationship with the German Abwehr's operatives in Holland.

Wolpe had been the owner of a bank in Berlin for many years but left Germany in 1937 and settled in The Hague where he lived at Laan van Meerdervoort 337. He was quite wealthy and engaged in financial transactions with the assistance of "Rodins Koenigs Handel Mij" in Amsterdam. At the time of MI6's report, this bank was on the statutory black list as it was known as being a very pro-Nazi business.

I can find no trace of Rodins Koenigs Handel, and it is probably a spelling/phonetics/transcription error on the part of the British with the business likely being "N.V. Rhodius Koenigs Handel Maatschap" [N.V. Rhodius Koenigs Trading Company] of Amsterdam. As we shall see, this company did indeed have Nazi and Abwehr connections.

Rhodius Koenigs Handel Maatschap
Franz Koenigs from Wikipedia
Franz Koenigs from Wikipedia
This company was founded after the First World War by Franz Koenigs (1881-1941), a German banker and a Belgian named Felix Robertus Hermann Rhodius (1881-1959). The two men were distantly related by marriage: Franz Koenigs was the son of  Ernst Friedrich Wilhelm Koenigs and Johanna Bunge. Felix Rhodius was born in Antwerp, Belgium, the son of Richard Rhodius and Jenny Laetitia Antonia Schoeller. Felix married Sophie Laura Bunge, a second or third cousin of Johanna Bunge, the mother of Franz Koenigs. Rhodius and Koenigs were savvy businessmen and saw great financial opportunity in the aftermath of the First World War.

After the Treaty of Versailles, Germany had faced trade restrictions with France and Great Britain, restrictions that did not exist with, and via, The Netherlands. The company circumvented the trade restrictions and functioned as a banking company which provided loans to German industry. One of Rhodius's relatives, Alfred Flesche, was named attorney for the business, and from 1926 to 1939, he served as one of the company's directors.

Alfred Flesche was born 24 March 1892 in Rheinbrohl near Neuwied. In 1921, in Linz am Rhein (near Neuwied), Flesche married Adele Auguste Elise Rhodius (born 1891), the daughter of Walter Rhodius and Anna née Grebel from Haarlem (Holland). Some sites state that Flesche had married the daughter of Felix Rhodius, while others indicate that he married the sister of Felix Rhodius but this is unlikely given the genealogical information on Felix and Adele. It is possible that Felix and Adele's fathers (Richard and Walter Rhodius) were siblings, but I haven't been able to confirm that. At the time of his marriage, Alfred Flesche was serving as an Oberleutnant (First Lieutenant) with the Königlichen Gruppenkommando I in Berlin (army group command). This may have been a staff officer position.

In 1936, Alfred Flesche was named the chairman of the German Chamber of Commerce (Deutsche Handelskammer) in Amsterdam. His official job was to strengthen trade relations between The Netherlands and Germany. His unofficial job, apparently, was a bit more sinister. According to MI6, the Deutsche Handelskammer in Amsterdam was a known cover for German espionage activities. MI6 believed that Flesche was the head agent in Amsterdam of Hauptmann W. Schulze-Bernett, Konsulatssekretär (Consulate Secretary) of the German Legation in The Hague. Schulze-Bernett, himself, was a representative of the O.K.W. Intelligence Service in Holland, i.e. a member of the German Abwehr. Interestingly enough, Schulze-Bernett had also worked for several banking companies in Amsterdam from 1920-1935 so it would come as no surprise that he would have connections with Rhodius Koenigs and Flesche. It was apparently Flesche's job to infiltrate Dutch businesses in Holland and some sites list him as the Leiter of Abwehr Gruppe I/Wissenschaft in The Netherlands, the branch associated with acquiring economic intelligence.

In 1939, Rhodius Koenigs received word from the British Consulate that, if they wished to avoid being blacklisted by the British, they should remove Flesche as a company director as he was a known member of the Nazi Party (having joined in 1933). In September 1939, Flesche resigned as director of Rhodius Koenigs, but this did little to help the company as they were still blacklisted by the British.

On 5 May 1940, shortly before the German invasion of Holland, Flesche was arrested by the Dutch police and his house in Haarlem searched. The police found an envelope full of secret messages for Otto Butting, the Leiter of Abwehr Gruppe I/Heer in The Netherlands. Butting was a fanatical Nazi official who was cultural attache with the German Consulte but also the head of the Reichsdeutsche Gemeinschaft in The Netherlands, a cover for the Nazi Party. Butting had organised quite a Fifth Column in Holland, and had an extensive network of spies. While his reports often passed across the desk of Schulze-Bernett, the head the Abwehr's Ast Nederlands in The Hague, the two did not not see eye-to-eye. Butting was apparently quite hated by members of the German Legation, including Schulze-Bernett who did not approve of Nazi methodologies.

In early April 1940, an official German envelope was found on the streets of The Hague and handed in to the Dutch police. It contained espionage reports on Dutch defences and included Butting's name. He was given a few hours to leave the country, unbeknownst to Flesche.

After the invasion of Holland in May 1940, the police and court records surrounding Flesche's arrest were confiscated by the Germans. Apparently the documents found on Flesche included "very important drawings covering almost the entire military defense system of our country".

Flesche also became involved in the famous Jewish financial firm of Lippman, Rosenthal & Co. when it was "acquired" by the Nazis (more information can be found in the Sources). In 1944, after the Allied landings at Arnhem, Flesche fled with his mistress to Linz am Rhein. After the war the Dutch authorities requested Flesche's surrender from the British Zone as a war criminal, on charges of robbery and blackmail with threats of violence. The request was granted and Flesche was prosecuted and convicted for his dangerous pre-war activities as a member of the German Fifth Column. He was sentenced to five years imprisonment for espionage. His divorced wife passed away in 1949 in Linz am Rhein.

It is rather interesting that Johann Hans Wolpe would have had a close relationship with the Rhodius Koenigs company, thereby having a tangential relationship with a high-ranking agent of the Abwehr, Alfred Flesche. Given Wolpe and Roos's repeated trips to the United Kingdom as part of their financial dealings, one could wonder if they might have been approached by the Abwehr to keep their eyes during their travels. The Abwehr often recruited traveling businessmen and it wouldn't surprise me if Wolpe and Roos had been approached. It is also quite suspicious that Wolpe would have been granted a German passport in Rotterdam in 1938 given his history and the fact that he was a German-Jewish expat.

Final MI6 Note on Roos
MI6 concluded their report on Wolpe and Roos by noting that, in December 1940, Joseph Emil Roos had been in Greece, working "hand in glove" with A.A. Tester in several very shady financial transactions. Tester was a known pro-Nazi and while Roos was reported to be anti-Nazi, he was, according to MI6, a German at heart and not above doing business with Germany if he could turn a profit.

Arthur Albert Tester was born 23 August 1895 in Stuttgart to Fred Tester, an English Jew who worked as English Consul, and Emma Kauffelin, a German. At the outbreak of the First World War, A.A. Tester was apparently put in a concentration camp for Englishmen but later claimed that he held no ill will against the Germans, his sympathies lying wholly with Germany. In 1918, Tester married Bertha Balbina Lisbeth Ingeborg Stube (née Alt) in Wiesbaden. The couple had four children but at some point the couple went their separate ways, perhaps due to divorce or Bertha's death.

Tester's activities in the 1920s are a bit murky. In 1927 he was apparently expelled from France for espionage. Around 1930 he moved to England and infiltrated the upper echelons of society. He lived with a woman named Charlotte (a former night club torch singer) who he may (or may not) have married but with whom he had another two children. [This may be Charlotte E. Ueckert who married an Arthur A. Tester in 1929 in London.]

Arthur apparently acquired British citizenship and in the pre-war years, bought a yacht upon which he gave elegant parties. He apparently also sailed the yacht close to German territorial waters and transmitted information to the Germans. After the Second World War, one Abwehr officer noted that the Germans penetrated British Intelligence through the use of an English banker named Tester.

Arthur Albert Tester (from Romanian Hunedorean Newspaper site)
Arthur Albert Tester
(from Romanian Hunedorean
Newspaper site
According to the National Archives catalogue, Dr Arthur Albert Tester was involved with the British Union of Fascists before the Second World War and negotiated with the German National Socialist Party. This brought him to the attention of MI5 and Scotland Yard who wrote to the Berlin police seeking information on Tester. In June 1939, the Berlin police wrote a reply, informing Special Branch that Tester was a "dangerous international swindler".  Apparently Tester's wealth was acquired by less than legal means. He had a history of starting up bogus businesses, fleecing clients/investors, declaring bankruptcy and absconding with the funds.

In late 1938, after the waters got too hot for Tester in England (word of his bogus companies was coming to light), Tester moved himself and his family out of England and eventually settled in Athens and then Romania. He apparently became involved with the Abwehr (and/or the Gestapo) in counter-espionage activities in Romania and Greece.

Tester was reported killed along the Romanian border in 1944, but there are also reports that he faked his death and escaped to Hungary. His will was probated in 1955 by his sister, Nelly Alice Lucy Ann Tester, spinster.

What was Josef Emil Roos doing with Arthur Albert Tester in Greece, a man who was possibly a double agent for the Germans and the Allies? It is rather interesting to note that not only did Wolpe have tangential espionage links, but Roos had some much more clear-cut links to a known German agent who spied against the British.

The ultimate question is: what became of Roos and Wolpe and their tangential relationships with Abwehr operatives?

The Fate of Josef Emil Roos
Josef Emil Roos was born 27 January 1880 in Mosbach to Martin Roos and his wife Maria Schweitzer and baptised Catholic. Josef died 3 January 1944 in Mauthausen concentration camp at the age of 63. He had apparently been arrested for political reasons (he does not appear to have been a Jew) and arrived at the camp on 9 December 1943. According to his death registration, Roos was divorced and living in Spalato in Dalmatia (now Split, Croatia), which aligns somewhat with MI6's information which had him in Greece in 1940. Roos was a Kaufmann (merchant) and he died of Kreislaufschwäche (circulatory weakness). What could be the "political reasons" for his arrest and detention in a concentration camp? Espionage does come to mind, particularly if the Germans got wind of Tester's role as a possible double agent.

The Fate of Johann Hans Wolpe
As for Johann Hans Wolpe, he married Beatrice Engers in 1917 in Berlin. The couple had three children:
  • Hans Max Joachim Wolpe - born 1918 in Berlin (this is the same individual who, according to MI6 had been living in England as a student in the 1930s - more on him below)
  • Alexander Hermann Wilhelm Wolpe - born 1921 in Berlin
  • Lihana Wolpe - born 1926 in Paris
Josef had mentioned that Wolpe had operated a bank in Berlin for several years and this is confirmed by several independent sources, including a 1923 Berlin address book which lists Wolpe as a bank director living at Westfälische Straße 59 in Berlin-Halensee.

Josef had noted that Wolpe had engaged in a financial transaction with the German Imperial Post Office, with the assistance of the German Postmaster General, Anton Hoefle. According to Josef, Wolpe disappeared one day, leaving behind 10 million Gold Marks worth of debt.

A bit of research confirms that Anton Hoefle was arrested in 1925 for corruption and committed suicide later that year while still in custody. Apparently Hoefle had advanced millions in unsecured loans to the Jewish Barmat brothers who had lost the funds through speculation.

While there is no direct mention of Wolpe in many of the Barmat Scandal references, one Kansas newspaper noted that "it was strongly doubted whether the amounts advanced to the Barmat Brothers and other financial operators [emphasis added] would be recovered either wholly or in part". The total funds Hoefle had loaned from postal surpluses was around 60 million Gold Marks. It is possible that Wolpe was one of the "other financial operators".

On 30 March 1928, three of the five Barmat brothers were acquitted of the charges against them while two brothers, Julius and Henry, were found guilty of bribery and served several months imprisonment. The verdict was seen in some circles as a political compromise as the brothers should have been completely acquitted particlarly "after evidence was submitted that the Barmat affair was created by reactionary elements to serve their political purposes and to ruin the Barmat banking interests".

Wolpe is not the easiest person to trace but, after much searching, I did come across a small reference in one book which noted that:
The second case dealt with a letter of recommendation from [Foreign Minister Gustav] Stresemann and his support for a meanwhile fugitive bank director named Wolpe, who had cheated the Reich Ministry of Transport for a large amount of gold and the Reich Ministry of Posts for 5 million borrowed money. (Geyer, 2019) [Thank you Google Translate]
This passage confirms much of what Josef had to say about Wolpe - that he was a bank director, that he absconded with funds borrowed from the German Post Office and that it somehow involved Hoefle. The fact that Wolpe's third child, Lihana, was born in Paris in 1926, also suggests that something happened which had Wolpe leaving Germany around the time of the Barmat Scandal.

Aleister Crowley in America (cover) by Tobias Churton
Aleister Crowley in America (cover)
by Tobias Churton
I also came across a few tantalizing references to Wolpe in a book by Tobias Churton entitled Aleister Crowley in America: Art, Espionage, and Sex Magick in the New World. Crowley is a mysterious character in his own right, but not the topic of this blog post. I could not access the full references to Wolpe via Google Books but did find these tidbits in Churton's book:
1921 - Aug 28, 1921, Berlin, Wilmersdorf, Alexander Herman Wilhelm Wolpe born, son of Beatrice Engers & Johann Wolpe

1925 - Beatrice Engers & Johann Wolpe move from Berlin to Paris; banker Wolpe, together with a certain Fritz Klekottka (Klikottka?) accused of swindle [I have been unable to trace anything on Fritz Klekottka]

1935 - Johann Wolpe in Paris, tries to sell forged shares
This information jives with the Hoefle story, and confirms that Wolpe and his family moved from Berlin to Paris in 1925, the year that Hoefle was arrested. The fact that Wolpe was still in Paris in 1935 is intriguing. Did he and his family stay there that entire time? Or did he move around? It also sounds like Wolpe was not an upstanding banker but engaged in his own fair share of shady deals.

I also found a passenger list for Wolpe who traveled from Southampton to New York in February/March 1928. He was traveling without his family and gave his occupation as banker. He was a German citizen, born in Latvia, who was a resident of Paris, France, living at 52 Avenue de la Bourdonnais.

Around 1937 or 1938, Wolpe apparently moved his family to Holland and got involved with the Rhodius-Koenigs bank, Jürgen Ziebell and the Irish naturalisation business. It doesn't take much to understand MI6's interest in Wolpe. He was involved with a Dutch bank with obvious Nazi (and espionage) ties. He was attempting to faciliate the emigration/naturalisation of German/Dutch Jews into Ireland. It could be viewed as a pretty nice cover for infiltrating spies into Ireland.

In 1939, the Nazi regime annuled Wolpe's German citizenship with his last known address having been Westfälische Straße 59 in Berlin-Wilmersdorf. Clearly the Nazis hadn't been able to track Wolpe through his many misadventures. The question becomes, what became of Wolpe and his family after 1939? It is a tragic story.

Wolpe's second son, Alexander Hermann Wilhelm Wolpe, a hotel server, was deported from Düsseldorf, Germany to Theresienstadt concentration camp on 25 July 1942. He was transferred from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz on 8 September 1943. His date of death is unknown.

Wolpe's wife and daughter, Beatrice (nee Engers) Wolpe and Lihana Wolpe, were both deported from Mecheln, Belgium to Auschwitz on 26 September 1942. Their dates of death are unknown.

Wolpe himself was deported from Westerbork Transit Camp, Holland to Auschwitz on an unknown date. He died in Auschwitz on 6 March 1944.

As for Wolpe's first son, Hans Max Joachim Wolpe, his story also has a sad ending, it just took longer.

Hans Max Joachim Wolpe
The eldest child of Johann and Beatrice Wolpe managed to escape the Shoah, as hinted at by the MI6 report. Hans Max Joachim Wolpe was born 17 June 1918 in Charlottenburg, Berlin. From MI6, we know that he arrived in the UK in October 1934 and that his last known residence was 33 Drayton Gardens in South Kensington. By the time they tried to track him down in 1940, after he hadn't been processed through the alien internment tribunals, he was no longer living there and had, to all intents and purposes, disappeared.

It turns out that Hans Max Joachim Wolpe had returned to the Continent and, in May 1940, was working as a longshoreman in Antwerp, Belgium. While the rest of his family was shipped off to concentration camps, Wolpe was assigned to a slave labour battalion. In September 1944, Wolpe was helping to build German pill boxes around Calais. He somehow managed to escape across enemy lines and approached the Royal Winnipeg Rifles. After convincing them that he was not a spy, he was allowed to join the RWR as an unofficial soldier and took part in an attack on Calais during which he captured over 40 German soldiers from three pill boxes. Wolpe was granted the unofficial rank of Corporal and continued to fight wiht the RWR until the spring of 1945 when one of his legs was shattered by machine gun fire. Wolpe was evacuated to a hospital in London and in February 1946 arrived in Winnipeg as a hero and a Canadian citizen.

Hans Max Joachim (John) Wolpe Rockford Morning Star 1963
Hans Max Joachim (John) Wolpe
Rockford Morning Star 1963
Wolpe received his Bachelor degree with honours from the University of Manitoba and a doctorate from Harvard. Wolpe taught modern languages at Stanford and in 1961 moved to Rockford College in Rockford, Illinois where he chaired the Department of Modern Languages.

On 1 May 1963, Wolpe shot himself with a .38 calibre handgun. He was apparently depressed by his divorce the previous year and likely his separation from his three children who lived in California with his ex-wife. Wolpe was 45 years old.

After all of Wolpe's adventures, it's a tragic end for a man who had endured so much and had so much to live for. He had married Vera Wendel in 1954 in California. Vera had been born 8 May 1933 in Austria, the daughter of  Rudolf Pierre Wendel and Rose Natalie Hirschberg who emigrated to the USA in 1934.

We have reached the end of this rather complex story of Wolpe and Roos, one that is still quite incomplete. All that is left to investigate is their Britsh partner, Lincoln Allan Smith.

Lincoln Allan Smith
Josef Jakobs had mentioned an Englishman named Smith who had been brokering a connection between Wolpe/Roos and the Mayor of Dublin. MI6 was able to confirm that this gentleman would undoubtedly be Lincoln Allan Smith who had approached the Passport Control Office in The Hague in July 1938 with a view to sponsoring the visa applications of Wolpe and Roos. Smith came across as a very plausible and unprepossessing individual who described himself as a citizen and a horner. MI6 also provided Smith's birthdate which gives us a solid jumping off point.

Lincoln Allan Smith was born 19 February 1890 in Wood Green, Middlesex to Cornelius Smith (1855-1899?) and Elizabeth Hannah Arnold (1856-?). The couple had six children in total of which Lincoln was the second youngest. Cornelius passed away sometime between 1891 and 1901, possibly in 1899 in Edmonton, Middlesex. Two years later, in 1901, Lincoln was attending school in Eton at the British Orphan Asylum, Slough, Buckinghamshire. By 1911, Lincoln was back home in Wood Green, Middlesex living with his mother and five siblings:
  • Elizabeth Hanna Smith - head - age 53
  • Marion Smith - daur - age 28 - record clerk for a typewriter company
  • Arnold Frederick Smith - son - age 23 - bank clerk
  • Lincoln Allan Smith - son - age 21 - clerk for Marine Insurance Company
  • Cornelius Sydney Smith - son - age 18 - clerk for precious stone merchant
  • Lillian Connie Stead - grand-daughter - age 6 (daughter of Jesse Jenny Mary Smith and Joseph Exley Stead)
West Yorkshire Regiment cap badge
West Yorkshire Regiment cap badge
With the outbreak of war, Lincoln enlisted with the West Yorkshire Regiment and by 1915 was commissioned a temporary Second Lieutenant with the Second Battalion. He then moved up to Second Lieutenant with the WYR. In 1916, he was attached to the 15th Field Company of the Royal Engineers for some weeks but rejoined the Second Battalion of the West Yorkshire Rregiment in
July 1916 after the Battle of the Somme.

Earlier that same year, on 28 January 1916, Lincoln had married Daisy Hilda Lasbury (b. 1895) in Southwark, Surrey. After the war, the couple would have two daughters: Doreen Smith (born 1919 in Barnet, Hertfordshire) and Iris M. Smith (born 10 Dec 1922 in Edmonton, Middlesex).

coat of arms of  the Worshipful Company of Horners
coat of arms of  the
Worshipful Company of Horners
On 3 December 1924, Smith submitted an applicaton to the Freedom of the City to be admitted to the Company of Horners. He gave his occupation as insurance broker and the application was approved in January 1925. This would explain a rather cryptic reference in the MI6 notes in which, when Smith appeared in The Hague, stated that he was a citizen and a "horner". This would be a reference to one of the Livery Companies of the City of London - the Company of Horners. This seems be a centuries long tradition in the City of London involving guilds and the privileges granted to them by the city.

Three years later, in 1927, Smith was involved in the establishment of the British Surety Insurance Company, Ltd and was listed as Managing Director. The chairman was The Right Honourable Lord Askwith K.C.B., K.C. and the company seems to have gotten off to a good start. In 1929, however, the company was involved in a court case: Kaufman vs. British Surety Insurance. The insured (Kaufman) had had a motor vehicle accident and was denied an award by the company. The case went to court and the judge ruled in favour of the insured (Kaufman). This was likely not a good verdict for the company and the following year, on 12 May 1930, the court issued an order to "wind up". The company would be struck off the register in 1938.

Four years later, on 9 June 1934, Smith set sail for Quebec City aboard the Empress of Britain. Smith gave his occupation as merchant and his address as Lincoln House E.C.3 (London) at the premises of Lincoln Allan Smith & Co. Interestingly, the Electoral Register for 1934 has Smith and his wife registered at 35 Crutched Friars E.C.3 while listing their abode as 22 Vallance Road. There are multiple individuals with the same address (35 Crutched Friars) but different abodes, not something I've come across before in the Electoral Registers. On 5 July 1934, Smith arrived back from Quebec and gave his address as 35 Crutched Friars, London, c/o Westminster Bank Ltd, Piccadilly Brand.

A few months later, on 16 October 1934, Smith was again in the courts, this time as a creditor requesting the winding up of Callie & Company. The company had been struck off the register of companies in 1924 but it isn't clear what interest Smith would have had in the company.

From the MI6 documents, we know that Smith apparently traveled to The Hague to vouch for Wolpe and Roos. What could have inspired him to get involved in something like the Irish naturalisation scheme is a complete mystery. In September 1939,  Smith was living at 39 Leaside Avenue in north London with his wife, Hilda, their two daughters, Doreen and Iris, as well as Hilda's widowed mother, Elisabeth Lasbury (b. 1863). Smith gave his occupation as insurance broker, so the failure of the British Surety Insurance company obviously hadn't ended his career.

Smith was 50 years old at the outbreak of the war but this did not exclude him from being called up. On 24 January 1940, he was granted a commission as a Pilot Officer (on probation) in the Administrative and Special Duties Branch of the Royal Air Force. A year later, on 18 January 1941, Smith was granted the war substantative rank of Flying Officer, but his fortunes were about to change. During the spring and summer of 1941, MI5 was interrogating Josef and MI6 was following up on some of the information he provided. Smith's involvement with Wolpe and Roos came to light in the summer of 1941 and may have impacted his military career. On 23 July 1941, Smith resigned his commission as Flying Officer.

Beyond that, we don't know what happened to him. Was he questioned by MI6 or MI6 about Wolpe and Roos and the Irish naturalisation business? Wolpe was associated with a German-Dutch bank that had Nazi and intelligence ties. Roos was associated with the infamous A.A. Tester, a half-German banker who had ties to Nazi intelligence. The only evidence we have that Smith was hauled in by the British security services is two marginal notes.

"Filed in P.F. 46708 SMITH 50A" Marginal note from National Archives Security Service file on Josef Jakobs KV 2/25 104a
"Filed in P.F. 46708 SMITH 50A"
Marginal note from National Archives Security Service file on Josef Jakobs
KV 2/25 104a
The first marginal note states that the MI6 report on Smith/Wolpe/Roos was filed in P.F. 46708 SMITH 50A. A second martinal note states that a follow-up report was filed in P.F. 46708 SMITH 51A.

It would seem that Lincoln Allan Smith had a Personal File in MI5's registry, with quite a few documents judging by the folio numbers (50A and 51A). There is no evidence that Smith's file has ever been released to the National Archvies by MI5. They may still hold it... or it may have been destroyed.

As for Smith... His wife Daisy passed away in 1947 in Edmonton, Middlesex. Smith himself passed away in 1957 in Brighton, Sussex.

The story of Ziebell, Wolpe, Roos and Smith is unfinished and, while revealing many tantalising details, has left us with a host of unanswered questions.

Was Wolpe coerced/encouraged to work for the German intelligence services? Given that Roos was tied to Albert Arthur Tester, was he also involved in espionage? Why was Roos interned in a concentration camp for political reasons? What role did Lincoln Allan Smith play with these two men of questionable integrity? Why did he resign his Flying Officer commission? Why does/did he have a fairly significant MI5 file?

At this point, I have no answers but I have ordered the Aleister Crowley in America book with some hope that it will shed some light on Wolpe's time in Paris... stay tuned.

Franz Koenigs official site
Dutch site - NRC.nl - article in Dutch about Rhodius Koenigs - mentions the the resignation of Alfred Flesche
International Law Reports - via Google Books - Annual Digest and Reports of Public International Law Cases for the Year 1949; H. Lauterpachthas (ed.), published 1955. Has a piece about the prosecution of Alfred Flesche after the war
Joodsamsterdam site - info on Flesche
Lippman-Rosenthal - blog post about Flesche's involvement with the Jewish financing firm Lippman, Rosenthal & Co.

Dejong Book - in Dutch - mentions Otto Butting
Abwehr Activities in The Netherlands - lists the individuals in charge of each Abwehr Gruppe
DeJong book - German Fifth Column in Holland - 1953 - Otto Butting
British Clandestine Activities in Romania during the Second World War, Dennis Deletant, 2016 - opens as a pdf - has several paragraphs on A.A. Tester
Romanian site on Arthur Albert Tester - in Romanian
German Wikipedia page on Arthur Albert Tester

Barmat Scandal - Wikipedia
Kapitalismus und politische Moral in der Zwischenkriegszeit oder: Wer war Julius Barmat? - 2018 by Martin H. Geyer - accessed via Google Books

Winnipeg Free Press - 1946 newspaper articles on Hans Joachim Max Wolpe
Rockford Morning Star - 1963 newspaper article on Hans Joachim Max Wolpe's death
Interview with Lisa Wolpe - daughter of Hans Max Joachim Wolpe