23 March 2019

Mystery Spy GOOSE/GANDER - Kurt Goose

Every once in a while, I chip away at lingering mysteries. A recent email exchange with Tony Percy (www.coldspur.com) about Kurt/Karl Grosse/Goose reignited my curiosity about this mysterious spy.

I wrote an earlier blog post about his capture and short-lived career as a double agent but there are still many unanswered questions.

One of the primary ones is... what was this guy's real name? I did some digging in Ancestry, trying various combinations of his name and birth year (1911). Eventually, after many (many) dead ends, I came across this...
Bremen passenger list entry for Kurt Goose
Bremen passenger list entry for Kurt Goose
It's a passenger list record from Die Maus website (Bremen passenger lists). A German gentleman named Kurt Goose departed Bremen on 1 August 1936, bound for New York and ultimately Berkeley CA where he was a student at the University of California. Kurt was 25 years old (born around 1911), single and living in Berlin. His relative was his mother, R. Goose of Hohenzollerndamm 91, Berlin.

This looks pretty promising. From other information in the MI5 files, we do know that Kurt was born in 1911 in Berlin, and that he studied geology in the 1930s at the University of California.

I did a bit more digging on the Berlin address books website. The address of Hohenzollerndamm 91 would be in Schmargendorf (southwest of Wilmersdorf) and the address books website helpfully allows one to search by address. Which yielded this.... A widow, R. Goose living at Hohenzollerndamm 91.
Berlin address book entry for Hohenzollerndamm 91, Schmargendorf, Berlin with entry for R. Goose, widow
1936 Berlin address book entry for Hohenzollerndamm 91, Schmargendorf, Berlin
with entry for R. Goose, widow
I jumped forward to 1939 and had a look at Hohenzollerndamm 91 but... no Goose at that address for that year. Searching by last name yielded this:
1939 Berlin address book entry for Goose, Rose, widow, living at Kronbergerstrasse 26
1939 Berlin address book entry for Goose, Rose, widow, living at Kronbergerstrasse 26
This could be Kurt Goose's mother again, Rose Goose, a widow living at Kronbergerstrasse 26 (just around the corner from Hohenzollerndamm 91). She is a Generaldir[ktor?].

Another version of a Berlin address book from Ancestry, has this entry for 1938:
1938 Berlin address book entry for Rosa Goose
1938 Berlin address book entry for Rosa Goose
Likely the same woman given the address. However, in the 1939 address book available on Ancestry, it looks like Rosa has moved to Grunewald. And continued to lived there in 1940 and 1941. The phone number stayed the same:
1939 Berlin address book for Rosa Goose (from Ancestry)
1939 Berlin address book for Rosa Goose (from Ancestry)
But... by 1942... there is no Rosa Goose listed in the Berlin address books. And a search by street name yields no Goose living at Egerstrasse 1 in Grunewald
1942 Berlin address book for surname Goose
1942 Berlin address book for surname Goose
The trail runs cold... at least for Rosa Goose.

Another form of digging, this one for Kurt Goose, yielded the following gold nuggets of information from the University of California, Register 1936-37, Volume II.

On page 137, there is an entry for Kurt Karl Goose, in the list of graduate students for U.C. Berkeley.

Extract from list of Graduate Students at University of California (Berkeley) 1936-1937, page 137
entry for Kurt Karl Goose
On page 414, of the same volume, there is a supplementary list which has his name again.
Extract from Supplementary List of Students at University of California (Berkeley) 1936-37, page 414  entry for Kurt Karl Goose
Extract from Supplementary List of Students at University of California (Berkeley) 1936-37, page 414
entry for Kurt Karl Goose
It would seem that this is pretty good proof that our friend GANDER was Kurt Karl Goose, born in Berlin, who studied Geology at the University of California (likely Berkeley). One mystery solved...

25 February 2019

Media Review - Nazi Murder Mysteries - Yesterday Channel - Hermann Goering (2018)

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
The Yesterday Channel (UK) aired a six-part series entitled "Nazi Murder Mysteries" late last year.

The fifth episode aired in early December.

Episode 5 - Hermann Goering
I have to say, I really didn't know a lot about Hermann Goering prior to watching this episode.

I knew that he was head of the German Luftwaffe and that he escaped the hangman's noose after the Nuremberg War Crimes trials by taking a cyanide capsule, but that was about it.

Episode 5 - Hermann Goering - Nazi Murder Mysteries
The truth, however, seems far more complex and interesting! He was apparently a drug addict and managed to give quite a capable defence at the war crimes trials.

This episode of Nazi Murder Mysteries obviously focuses on the mystery of Goering's death. The American investigation concluded that Goering had had the pill hidden on his person. But that conclusion simply raises more questions. How did Goering manage to hide a cyanide capsule from his captors for so long? Surely the Allies knew about the Nazi penchant for hiding cyanide capsules in false teeth? For years, rumours have swirled that one of the American guards smuggled a capsule to Goering. Was there any truth to those rumours?


Review
Interesting episode which opened up the question of Goering's suicide.

4.5 out of 5 - well done.

20 February 2019

Sad News

This blog schedule has been a bit disrupted of late. I normally try to have things pre-posted several weeks in advance but... circumstances sometimes intervene.

A few weeks ago, Josef's last surviving child, my father, Raymond Jakobs, passed away at the age of 86 on the west coast of Canada. My Dad lived a long, full life and was extremely excited about my book on Josef. Raymond was only 9 years old when Josef left on his espionage mission and never really knew what happened to him. We had hoped that my Dad might make it to May and see the book in print, but such was not to be.


15 February 2019

The Beautiful and Popular Vera Eriksen/Schalburg

Cover - The Beautiful Spy: The Life
and Crimes of Vera Eriksen by David
Tremain (2019) - The History Press
It seems this is the year for books on LENA spies!

In an earlier blog, I had highlighted a soon to be published book (18 March - publication date pushed back by 3 weeks) by David Tremain: The Beautiful Spy: The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen.

Tremain's book is available on The History Press site and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Normally, I prefer to read a hard copy of new books but... in this case, I'm not sure that I want to wait for it to be shipped... so may cave and order the e-book version!

Tremain has written several books on other agents, all of which are intensely well-researched and thorough.

Vera seems to be a popular topic because just a couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Kirstine Kloster Andersen, a Danish writer who also recently published a book on Vera. I had come across Andersen's website several years ago when she was in the process of researching Vera's life.

Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om
spionen Vera Schalburg by Kirstine
Kloster Andersen (2018) - Saxo

Alas, Andersen's book is in Danish so it's contents are going to remain, by and large, inaccessible to me.

In her email, Andersen, did note that her book puts forward the theory that Vera passed away shortly after her return to Germany after the war. Andersen's book is based on archival sources and she even found documents referencing Vera's funeral in Hamburg. This would tend to jive with the Hamburg death certificate for Vera.

I had a look at the Danish publisher's website and pulled the description through Google Translate:
In the "Spurven" [The Sparrow], Kirstine Kloster Andersen tells the dramatic story of Vera Schalburg, who worked as a spy for both the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany and England during World War II.

Vera Schalburg's incredible life is surrounded by countless speculations, myths and conspiracy theories.

She grew up in Russia's cold Siberia until the October Revolution forced her family to flee to Denmark in 1918. From here she lived a dramatic life that started in Paris as a dancer and Soviet agent until her brother, C.F. Schalburg, one of Denmark's most prominent Nazis got her back to Denmark as a spy for Nazi Germany. During a failed espionage mission, she was arrested in Scotland in 1940. Here, she hardly avoided being hanged when she agreed to work for England's intelligence service.

Kirstine Kloster Andersen has immersed herself in Vera Schalburg's life for several years of research for the "Spurven". Therefore, Kirstine Kloster Andersen can give a unique and accurate insight into Vera Schalburg's infamous life.

11 February 2019

Media Review - Nazi Murder Mysteries - Yesterday Channel - Rudolf Hess (2018)

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
The Yesterday Channel (UK) aired a six-part series entitled "Nazi Murder Mysteries" late last year.

The sixth episode aired in early December and was actually a story I had come across before.

Episode 6 - Rudolf Hess
I first came across the story of Rudolf Hess while researching the story of my grandfather, Josef Jakobs. Both Hess and Josef parachuted into the United Kingdom in 1941, and both spent time in the Tower of London in 1941, but their fates were very different. While Josef would be executed in the Tower of London in August 1941, Hess was imprisoned in England until the end of the war. He was then tried at the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment at Spandau Prison in Berlin. He died 17 August, 1987, at Spandau at the age of 93 years. He did not, however, die of old age... and was found with an electrical cord around his neck. The British coroner ruled suicide... the German coroner hired by Hess's son ruled it unlikely to be a suicide...

This episode covers the Hess story from beginning to end. While I knew a fair bit about the story, I was surprised to learn that Hess had been born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1894, the son of expat Germans. Robin W.G. Stephens, the commandant of Camp 020, and one of MI5's most feared interrogators was born in Alexandria in 1900. While separated in age by six years, one could wonder if the two families knew each other.

The story then covers Hess's early life and is involvement with the Nazi party before delving into Hess's ill-fated flight to Scotland. Why exactly did he fly to Scotland? Was it really with a peace proposal for the Duke of Hamilton? Did MI6 know about Hess's planned arrival? All these, and other questions, are examined in some detail.

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Episode 6 - Rudolf Hess
After his capture, Hess's mental health seems to have taken a nose-dive and he made two suicide attempts while held in British custody during the war. After the Nuremberg War Crimes trials, Hess and six other Nazi inmates were sent to Spandau Prison. In 1966, the last of Hess's fellow prisoners was released and Hess became the sole inmate at Spandau, guarded in rotation by the four Allied powers - United States, Great Britain, France and the Soviet Union. Given that two of the other Spandau prisoners had also been awarded life sentences, why had they been released early but not Hess? The episode examines some of the theories around why Hess was never released.  Was it because the Soviet's opposed losing a toehold in West Berlin? Was it to prevent Hess from becoming an icon for the Neo-Nazi movement?

The episode then spends a fair bit of time focusing on the death of Hess by strangulation - did this frail 93-year old man manage to hang himself? Or was it murder... and if so, by whom? I thought that the episode could have delved a bit more deeply into the actual circumstances surrounding Hess's death. Which Allied power was on duty at Spandau at the time of Hess's death? Was there something that Hess knew that could have come out had he been released? Admittedly, the episode was only 45 minutes long, so it would be difficult to cover the entire spectrum of the story. The episode also makes no mention of how Hess's grave in Bavaria became a Neo-Nazi pilgrimage site, to the point that his remains had to be exhumed, cremated and scattered over an unnamed lake.

Review
On the whole,  thought this episode gave a good introduction to the Rudolf Hess story although there are many questions/issues upon which it failed to touch.

4.5 out of 5 - well done.

06 February 2019

One Step Closer to Publication - The Spy in the Tower (2019)

The Spy in the Tower: The Untold Story
of Josef Jakobs, the Last Person to be
Executed at the Tower of London
(Cover image from The History Press)
I'm happy to report that we are one step closer to getting the story of Josef Jakobs published!

The History Press has added "The Spy in the Tower: the Untold Story of Josef Jakobs, the Last Person to be Executed at the Tower of London" to their roster of books, available on their website.

The cover is provisional but I have to admit, it is very similar to the image in my head that has been accompanying me on this journey.

Pre-orders are quite a big deal for a book, and if any of you readers are in the UK... and plan to purchase the book... then a pre-order counts for quite a lot in the publishing world.

For those of you readers outside of the UK (e.g. Canada or the US), I think patience is required. Apparently UK publication dates are months ahead of International publication dates. But... more details as I have them.

I had been running with a UK publication date of May 19, 2019 but... I also see that the publication date is now May 1, 2019, although that too may alter depending on the editorial process.

I've been told by the editorial team, that I should have the first galley proofs within a couple of weeks, which is super exciting! I have been working on this project for the last 30+ years and it is a bit surreal for it to be nearing this milestone. More details as I have them...

25 January 2019

Media Review - Nazi Murder Mysteries - Yesterday Channel - Who put Bella in the Wych Elm (2018)

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
The Yesterday Channel (UK) aired a six-part series entitled "Nazi Murder Mysteries" late last year.

The fourth episode aired in early December and was one in which I participated.

Episode 4 - Who put Bella in the Wych Elm
This episode, unlike the first three, tells a story with which I am very familiar!

In 1943, three boys found a skull in a wych elm in Hagley Wood in the West Midlands. An almost complete skeleton was recovered from the tree by the police and attempts were made to identify the 30-something woman, without success. Over the decades, many rumours, theories, and conspiracy theories have swirled around the story of Bella in the Wych Elm. The skeletal remains disappeared. The coroner's report was destroyed after 15 years. Some of the police files are missing. One can see how the story is fertile ground for speculation!

This episode of Nazi Murder Mysteries summarizes the case quite well, without getting lost in some of the more outlandish theories. Its focus rests primarily on the theory that Bella may have been a Nazi spy. Naturally, this touches on the story of Josef Jakobs and Clara Bauerle which, given that Clara passed away in Berlin on 16 December 1942, can be put to rest.

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Episode 4 - Who put Bella in the Wych Elm
There were a couple of statements which I found a bit of stretch - the idea that there was a Nazi spy ring operating in Birmingham during the war. I haven't found any evidence of that during my years of research.


I did find Richard Lund's commentary quite intriguing - he is the son of Dr. Lund, the forensic biologist who examined Bella's remains and the fragments of clothing, etc. found in the wych elm. His comment that the coroner's reports were intentionally destroyed after 15 years (the standard at the time) explains at least one piece of the puzzle.

I admit I had trouble following the story of the RAF officer, Osborn. The account of him meeting some Canadian Intelligence officers at the end of the war, officers who claimed to have been involved in the Bella investigation seems a bit far-fetched. Why would Canadian intelligence officers have been involved in the Bella case? If the Bella case was a matter of national security, and the Security Service (MI5) had been involved, would any intelligence officer (Canadian or not) have spoken about it so freely?


Review
On the whole, I thought this episode gave a well-balanced account of the Bella story, as it relates to the possibility that she was a Nazi spy. While the story may never be solved... it is certainly an enduring mystery that many can sink their teeth into.


4.5 out of 5 - well done.

16 January 2019

The Hague - Vondelstraat Wireless Training Centre

In January 1941, Josef Jakobs received wireless training in The Hague prior to being sent on his espionage mission to England. During his interrogation by MI5, he was asked many questions about the German Abwehr's activities in The Hague, most of which he could not answer. He did admit that the wireless training took place in a flat in the Vondelstraat. The exact address, however, was unclear.

When Karel Richter arrived at MI5's interrogation centre, he too admitted to being trained at a flat in the Vondelstraat. By piecing Karel and Josef's statements together, we can circle a bit closer to an exact location for the flat.

According to Richter and Josef, the Vondelstraat was a fairly broad residential street with a few green grocers and tobacco kiosks and ran west from Prinzenstraat (likely Prinsestraat) to Elandstraat. According to Josef and Richter, one side of the street had large, five story red stone apartment houses, newly built, while the other side was somewhat older. Richter said that he was taken to one of the large, new blocks of apartments and that there was no concierge but the usual continental automatic bell and front-door release. This meant that each flat had a separate number and one entrance door might access seven or eight flats. Richer and Josef could not, however, agree on the flat number. Richter thought it was #131 or 132 while Josef thought it might be #184. After repeated conversations, Josef admitted to Richter that the flat number could have been #131 although both men were still quite uncertain. Richter later stated that “it is certain that if one is coming from the Church and the library and goes down the Vondelstraat on the right hand side, the door is the last but one, just before a small square where the Vondelstraat joins the Elandstraat. I think I can remember seeing no apartments with even numbers on the right hand side of this road.”

This last bit of information is quite helpful in untangling the issue. Given that the Vondelstraat runs in an east-west direction, we can be quite certain that the flat's address was on the north side of the street, near the west end, where the Vondelstraat meets the Elandstraat.

Vondelstraat - 1929 - looking westwards (From Local Heart, Global Soul blog)
The Hague - Vondelstraat - 1929 - looking westwards
(From Local Heart, Global Soul blog)
A bit of digging confirms that the buildings on the north side of the Vondelstraat were constructed in at least two stages in the 1930s and early 1940s.

The image at right was taken in 1929 and looks in a westerly direction near where the Vondelstraat bends towards the west. One can see the ends of the houses that line the intersecting Bilderdijkstraat, Tollensstraat and 2e de Riemerstraat. There are no apartment buildings lining the north side of the Vondelstraat. It is unclear from the image if apartment buildings existed along the south side of the Vondelstraat (left side of the photograph).

Vondelstraat looking east from the intersection with Elandstraat - 1935 (from Pinterest)
The Hague - Vondelstraat looking east from the intersection
with Elandstraat - 1935 (from Pinterest)
Six years later, in 1935, we find a very different picture. The image at left, was taken from the western end of the Vondelstraat looking towards the east (opposite to the image above). One can see a long row of apartment buildings lining the south side of the street (right side of the image) as well as some buildings at the far end of the north side of the street.

Based on the identical architecture of the buildings, it would appear that the apartment buildings on both sides of the street were built around the same time.

Along the north side of the Vondelstraat, the apartment buildings from Bilderdijkstraat to 2e de Riemerstraat look identical to those along the south side of the Vondelstraat. The Huispedia site notes that several flats were constructed in 1930 which would be expected. based on the above images.

The image below is from the north side of the east end of the Vondelstraat - note the windows on the ground floor, the doors and the concrete blocks above the doors.
Vondelstraat - north side, east end (Google Street view)
The Hague - Vondelstraat - north side, east end (Google Street view)
The image below is from the south side of the east end of the Vondelstraat - note the windows on the ground floor, the doors and the concrete blocks above the doors. The only difference between the south side and the north side is that the concrete blocks on the south side above the doors appear to have more moss and mildew staining, to be expected given that the they face towards the north and get less sun exposure.
Vondelstraat - south side, east end (Google Street view)
The Hague - Vondelstraat - south side, east end (Google Street view)
As for apartment numbers, the north side of the Vondelstraat has odd numbered units. The block just east of the 2e de Riemerstraat has flat numbers 93 to 105 and the numbers decrease towards the east. The first door on the north side of the Vondelstraat, near the Bilderdijkstraat is numbered 5 to 15. The flats on the south side of the Vondelstraat have even numbers.

The question then becomes, when was the last section of apartment buildings on the north side of the Vondelstraat (west of the 2e de Riemerstraat) constructed? Were they built by January 1941 when Josef and Richter received their training?

Vondelstraat - looking east from the intersection with Elandstraat. There is no date on the postcard but a comment on the site noted the the flats on the left were constructed in 1940/41. (from www.htmfoto.net site - but currently a broken link. A note on the main site states that the site is no longer being maintained.) (postcard from the collection of Gerard van der Swaluwe)
The Hague - Vondelstraat - looking east from the intersection with Elandstraat.
There is no date on the postcard but a comment on the site noted the the
flats on the left were constructed in 1940/41.
(from www.htmfoto.net site - but currently a broken link. A note on the main
site states that the site is no longer being maintained.)
(postcard from the collection of Gerard van der Swaluwe)
The image at right was taken from the western end of the Vondelstraat looking towards the east. From the photograph, one can see that the last section of flats on the north side of the street (left of the photograph) have been constructed.

A comment on the photograph noted that: "The flats at left were completed in 1940/1941."

The Huispedia site also notes that 131 Vondelstraat was built in 1940. It would then seem quite clear that Josef and Karel received their training at 131 Vondelstraat.

But there is a slight hiccup.

The Hague - Vondelstraat - block of flats constructed in 1940/41 - flats 125-139 Copyright 2010 G.K. Jakobs
The Hague - Vondelstraat - block of flats constructed in 1940/41 - flats 125-139
Copyright 2010 G.K. Jakobs
Richter had said that the flat was the second to last door before the small plaza where the Vondelstraat meets the Elandstraat.

If one walks down the north side of the Vondelstraat from 2e de Riemerstraat towards the Elandstraat, there are six entrance doors to the "new" section of flats (constructed 1940/41).

The second to last entrance door bears the flat numbers 173 to 187. The entrance door for flats 125 to 139 (including 131) is actually the second door after the 2e de Riemerstraat or the fourth door from the intersection with the Elandstraat.

Two possibilities would seem to present themselves.

Perhaps the "new" block of flats were constructed in two sections. The first building west of the 2e de Riemerstraat (with the first three entrance doors, the middle one of which is 125-139) may have been constructed in 1940 and therefore the door for 125 to 139 would have been the second to last door before the intersection with Elandstraat. The last block of flats (with the last three entrance doors) could have been constructed afterwards. The Huispedia site, however, notes that flat 173 (which would have been the second entrance door in the second block) was constructed in 1940 as well.

The other option is that the "new" section was present in its entirety in January 1941 and that the second to last door was the actual door of the wireless training flat, in which case it would have been an odd-numbered flat between 173 to 187, and much closer to Josef's recollection of it being flat #184.

Short of tracking down the building permits for the "new" block of buildings, it would seem that the exact flat in which Josef and Richter received their wireless training will remain a mystery. Despite this, it is a bit eerie to walk down the Vondelstraat knowing the history of at least one of these buildings.

P.S.
I have considered the possibility that the flats have been renumbered since 1941, but this seems unlikely given my experience with buildings in Germany. Unless the buildings were destroyed during the war, most tend to keep the same numbers over time.

07 January 2019

Media Review - Nazi Murder Mysteries - Yesterday Channel - A Serial Killer in Berlin (2018)

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
The Yesterday Channel (UK) is airing a six-part series entitled "Nazi Murder Mysteries".

The third episode aired in late November and was quite fascinating!


Episode 1 - A Serial Killer in Berlin
This episode, like the first two, tells a story of which I had never heard. A number of women were assaulted and murdered in Berlin in the early years of the war, generally either on, or around, the S-Bahn lines in the southeastern corner of the city. The Criminal Police (KriPo) in Berlin use some sophisticated forensic technique and good old-fashioned detective work to eventually corner the killer, Paul Ogorzow. As it turned out, Ogorzow pleaded guilty to eight murders, six attempted murders and thirty-one assaults.

Yesterday Channel - Nazi Murder Mysteries
Episode 3 - A Serial Killer in Berlin
What I found most intriguing however, was the side-story of one of the KriPo detectives, George Heuser, who would go on to become an SS-Obersturmf├╝hrer and participate in the systematic murder of Jews, Gypsies and Russians during the German occupation of Russia (1941-1944). It rather leaves one gasping with astonishment given his sentence, particularly when one compares it with that of Ogorzow.


Review
While much of the information presented in the Ogorzow story is available on Wikipedia or other sources, seeing it on screen is always much more engaging. I very much appreciated how this episode took the story farther in linking it to the war crimes of George Heuser.


4.8 out of 5 - well done.