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?

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.

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...