27 May 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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