Christian Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell - Mastermind of the Black Market Passport Business

Deutsches Reich - passport
Deutsches Reich - passport

Normally I can bang out these blog posts in about eight hours - about 6 hours of research and a couple of hours of writing and editing. In the case of Jürgen Ziebell, however, I have been sucked into an overwhelming web of information, most of it in German. It has taken me quite a while to sift through all of the information and try to make sense of it... without writing another book! This blog has been an absolute beast!

Let's just start by saying that Jürgen Ziebell, the man at the black heart of the passport business in 1930s Berlin, was an unscrupulous criminal, whose crooked career continued well into the 1960s. The more I delved into this story, the more amazed I was at the sheer audacity of the man. His ambition for fame, fortune, and above all, power, knew no bounds. Josef's association with this criminal adds another layer of darkness to Josef's own career, although I gather that Ziebell was a consummate master at projecting an image of respectability. He sucked in high-ranking politicians so I may need to cut Josef some slack for being sucked in by this scam artist.

I don't usually write such vehement denunciations of individuals on my blog, but honestly, in this case, the above condemnation is more than warranted in the case of Christian-Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell.

[N.B. A caveat, there is a fair bit of information on the internet about one Jürgen Ziebell, a German businessman, who was held in Bahrain for five years from 2012 to 2017. This Ziebell was born 1964 and lives in Hamburg with his wife and two young children (12 and 16 in 2012). This is not our man.]

Information from Josef Jakobs
During weeks of interrogation by MI5, Josef gave quite a bit of information about Ziebell... or at least... what he knew about Ziebell... or remembered about Ziebell.

Dr. Jürgen Ziebell was a lawyer born around 1906/07 of a very good family. His father was a lawyer and notary but had died many years previously. Ziebell's brother was a First Lieutenant in the regular army. At one point, Josef said Ziebell was an unimportant lawyer until he took over the Jewish emigration business from Hans Blum. In other place, Josef says that Ziebell had been a public prosecutor for many years before he started practising as a lawyer on his own account. I would tend to lean twoards the first statement being the most accurate.

Ziebell maintained that an American University had conferred an Honorary Doctor's Degree upon him in view of his good connections there and on account of certain scientific work he had done.

In view of his connections in the Argentine, Ziebell had been permitted to practise there as a lawyer, and he had also had the rank of Colonel bestowed upon him in the Argentine Army. Ziebell's representative in Buenos Aires was a German Aryan lawyer called Dr. Flume who had emigrated there many years previously.

Ziebell claimed to be engaged to a wealthy Swedish woman who supplied capital for his business.

It isn't entirely clear but it appears that Dr. Hans Blum and Ziebell were business partners. When Blum could no longer operate the passport business due to restrictions on Jews, Ziebell took over the operation. Josef said that he didn't make a lot of money bringing clients to the business until he met Ziebell in January 1938. This would suggest that the fees charged increased significantly under Ziebell. According to Josef, Ziebell became "very rich" from the business.

Josef only acted as an agent for Ziebell, bringing clients to Ziebell's "luxurious" offices on Kurfürstendamm 202. Ziebell could, for a fee, get passports, naturalisations and visas from different countries. Josef maintained that the business was legal, and that genuine passports were obtained from the consulates of the various countries concerned.

Ziebell could also assist with the aryanisation of Jewish businesses and had formed a company with eight others with a capital of 15,000,000 RM. Ziebell would take over a Jewish concern and sell it to an Aryan German firm at a significant profit. They would place their application for the purchase/sale before the “Arbeitsfront”, which gave them the necessary permission to buy Jewish businesses. Josef suggested that under these arrangements, Jewish business owners were able to get greater advantages than were allowed by law, and that this was done by bribing German officials. Josef also said that Ziebell claimed he could get people out of concentration camps.

Ziebell was also involved with an Irish naturalisation business through contacts in Amsterdam, which ended up being unsuccessful. Josef said that the clients for the Irish naturalisation got their money back.

Ziebell was also involved with a Finn, Algot Niska, in securing Finnish passports for his clients. He was assisted in this by Martin Goldstein who "placed his connections at Ziebell's disposal free of cost".

Josef repeated that Ziebell made a fortune from this business and that at one time, between forty and sixty Jewish clients were seen at his offices. Based on what Josef knew, Ziebell charged:

20,000 to 30,000 RM for naturalisation
600-800 RM (or 3000 RM) for South American visas
30,000 RM for release from concentration camps
5,000 RM for Finnish passports

In October 1938, the Gestapo arrested all of the individuals involved with the organisation (about 60 people) in total. Ziebell was arrested eight days after Josef and he too was sent to a concentration camp. He was later released but was not allowed to practise as a lawyer. According to Josef, Ziebell was a member of the "party" and also belonged to the Nationalsozialistische Rechtswahrerbund (NSRB) (National Socialist Association of German Legal Professionals).

This was apparently part of the reason why the business was broken up by the authorities in the fall of 1938. As a member of the "party" and as an Aryan lawyer, Ziebell was not allowed to look after Jewish interests. Ziebell resigned from the "society" (NSRB?) after his arrest, otherwise, according to Josef, Ziebell would have been expelled. According to Josef, the money Ziebell earned from the emigration business was not confiscated by the authorities.

So we know a bit about Ziebell through the eyes of Josef Jakobs. How much of it is true, is another question. There are several issues: Did Ziebell convey the truth to Josef? Did Josef remember information accurately? Did Josef tell the truth to the MI5 interrogators?

Let's see what we can dig up on Ziebell... thank goodness his name wasn't Schmidt (Smith). The name Ziebell, however, is not that far from Zwiebel... the word for "onion" in German. In many respects, researching Jürgen Ziebell has been like peeling away the layers of an onion and finding it rotten at the core.

Christian-Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell was born on 3 July 1906 in Charlottenburg, Berlin. Interestingly, his parents, Else Pauline Marta (geb. Völz) and Emil Julius Josef Ziebell were living in Treuenbrietzen (Zauch-Belzig) at the time, about 60 km southwest of Berlin. Jürgen was born at Pestalozzistraße 99 with the assistance of a midwife. A look at the Berlin address books for that year shows that one E. Völz, Rentiere (woman of private means), was a resident there. This may have been a relative of Else, perhaps her mother (Emma).

Both of Jürgen's parents were Protestant, although Emil was a convert from Catholicism. His occupation was Rechtsanwalt (lawyer) and Notar (notary), which confirms what Josef knew about the man. Emil and Else were married in Körlin (formerly West Pommern, now part of Poland) on 14 September 1905. Emil was listed as Catholic on his marriage registration and born on 12 September 1873 in Stolp (just northeast of Körlin). His parents were Maria (born Hofmeier) and Christian Friedrich Ziebell of Stolp. Else was Protestant and born on 12 February 1882 in Körlin. Her parents were Emma (born Ziebell) and Arnold Völz of Körlin.

This is often where my head starts to hurt - Emil Ziebell married Else Völz, whose mother's maiden name was Ziebell. Could they have been distant cousins? I did track down Else's birth from 1882 and the marriage of her parents in 1879. Her mother, Emma Wilhelmine Carolina Ziebell (born 1862), was born of Julius Ziebell and Pauline Schneider. I haven't been able to track them farther than that, and it's hard to say if there is any connection between this branch of the Ziebell surname and Jürgen's paternal branch. Josef claimed that Jürgen came from a "good family" and he certainly did come from good Prussian (West Pomeranian) stock.

Josef also claimed that Jürgen had a brother but I haven't been able to find anything to confirm that. Mind you, the only reason I have Jürgen's birth registration is because he was born in Charlottenburg even though his parents were residents of Treuenbrietzen. If the brother (and other siblings) were born in Treuenbrietzen, we're out of luck at this point in time. Given that Jürgen was born the year after the marriage of his parents (in 1905), it would seem likely that any siblings would be younger than him. Similarly, if Jürgen's father passed away in Treuenbrietzen, the Ancestry website does not include those registers.

Young Lawyer
1934 Berlin Address book - listing for:  Ziebell, Else vw Rechtsanw Charlb Berliner Str 22
1934 Berlin Address book - listing for Ziebell:
Ziebell, Else vw Rechtsanw Charlb Berliner Str 22
The next traces I can pick up of Ziebell and his mother are in the mid 1930s. Else Ziebell appears in the 1934 Berlin address books as the widow of a Rechtsanwalt and is living at 22 Berliner Straße in Charlottenburg. Ziebell would have been 28 years old, but there is no evidence of him living in Berlin at this time. We pick him up in the 1935 address book (compiled from 1934 information) when he was living at 22 Berliner Straße with his mother. His occupation was given as "Ger. Assess" [Gerichts Assessor]. At this point, he was going by Jürgen but two years later (1937) he was listed as "Chr. J.". His occupation at that time was Rechtsanwalt and two addresses were given:
  • Friedrichstraße 100
  • Wohn (abbreviation for Wohnung-  Residence) Charlb Berliner Str 22
1936 Berlin Address book - for Berliner Straße 22 Ziebell, E(lse)l vw (widow) Rechtsanw. Ziebell, J(ürgen), Ger. Assess. (Gerichtssasessor)
1936 Berlin Address book - for Berliner Straße 22
Ziebell, E(lse)l vw (widow) Rechtsanw. (The section of
the address book arranged by surnames has her as
Ziebell, Else vw Rechtsanw. Berliner Str 22)
Ziebell, J(ürgen), Ger. Assess. (Gerichts Assessor)
It would appear that in 1937, Ziebell was still living at Berliner Straße 22 but that he had an office at Friedrichstaße 100. Interestingly, Hans Blum may have had an office at Friedrichstraße 214. The two addresses are about 500 m apart so not exactly in close proximity, although this would have been around the time that Ziebell took over the the Jewish emigration business from Hans.

A year later, in 1938, Ziebell had moved up in the world. His address (just one) was Kurfürstendamm 202 and his occupation was "Dr. Rechtsanwalt". This continued to be his address until 1943, the last Berlin address books available online for that time period.

Now, if we were relying solely on genealogical records, this would be as far as we could go. There are two other possible refrence to him, one in 1948 from the Munich address books and another in 1955 from the Mainz address books. But these would normally be a tenuous stretch without any corroborating evidence. Luckily, Ziebell turns out to have been a rather newsworthy individual who continued to be involved in shady deals! He appears in articles from Die Zeit, Der Spiegel, Wikipedia, the German Parliament (Bundestag) minutes and several books. From these sources, we can extract a few more tidbits and begin to stitch together a more complete story about his time in Berlin... and his further adventures after the war.

Schemes in Berlin
After Ziebell graduated from high school in 1925 he studied law, political science and forestry. In 1933, Ziebell claimed that he was awarded a doctorate in law from the University of Marburg in Hesse and subsequently passed both "juristischen Staatsprüfungen" - state law exams. That same year, he joined the Motor-SA or the Nationalsocialist Motor-Corps (a Nazi automobile club). He later (July 1937) served as legal advisor of the Motor Corps.

I would suggest that the "University of Marburg" business needs to be taken with a grain (pound) of salt. The sole reference I have found to it is Wikipedia and it is not confirmed by any primary sources. The Munzinger Archiv site (which Wikipedia uses as a references) simply indicates he left high school, went to law school and then passed his "juristischen Staatsprüfungen". Elsewhere, I've come across information which suggests that Ziebell graduated with a law degree in 1930 but there would then be a gap of several years before he began working as a lawyer in Berlin (1934). He could have gone to Argentina or even the USA during this interval... perhaps.

In 1934, Ziebell worked for a few months at the Berlin public prosecutor's office (Staatsanwaltschaft), where he did not perform all that well. He then became a Gerichts Assessor (court assessor - a lawyer in his first years of practice lacking an appointment for life) and Rechtsberater (legal advisor) to the Deutsche Arbeitsfront (German Labor Front). The Nazi Party had founded the organization in 1933 to replace the labour unions. It would seem likely that Ziebell showed at least some sympathy for the Nazi ideology in order to secure such a position. His position as Gerichts Assessor is confirmed in the 1935 Berlin address book, which gives his occupation as "Ger. Assess.". This information would have been from the previous year, so that in 1934, he was a Gerichts Assessor.

In October 1936, Ziebell was admitted as an attorney-at-law (lawyer) to the Kammergericht in Berlin (Berlin Appellate Court). How long this position lasted is unknown.

In September 1938, the Argentine Consul in Berlin and several German Jews sued Ziebell. He had apparently promised to give Jews entry visas to South American countries in return for large sums of money. He also gave them stolen Finnish passports which turned out to be useless. On 19 October 1938, Ziebell was arrested and, on 15 March 1940, sentenced to 15 months imprisonment by the Landgericht (Regional Court) for receiving stolen goods. That same year (1940), honour court proceedings were initiated against him but not completed because Ziebell voluntarily withdrew from the Bar. There is also some evidence that, between 1938 and 1942, Ziebell was also charged with bribery, embezzlement and foreign exchange offenses. One writer noted that Ziebell charged the Jews "horrendous sums" for passports and visas. Another reference notes that after his arrest on 19 October 1938 that he was released on 24 April 1940... doesn't quite jive with the above but he may have had several arrests...

In 1940, the Berlin Landgericht (Regional Court) determined that Ziebell was not entitled to call himself a "doctor" which would call into question the earlier note that he graduated from the University of Marburg with a doctorate in law.

Years later (1952), Ziebell was questioned about his life and made several statements which have not been corroborated and need to be taken with a grain of salt. Ziebell claimed:
  • that, in 1933, he was appointed Dr. h.c. by a university in New York on the basis of his thesis/paper on folk medicine (Volksmedizin) - intriguing but unproven. This is the same year that he supposedly earned a doctorate in law from the University of Marburg. It may be that this is the "doctorate" that he kept clinging to through the decades, and which consistently got him into trouble.
  • that the Gestapo arrested him in 1938 for representing Jews and opponents of the Nazi regime in court - this would seem unlikely, unless it involved the way in which he represented Jewish clients in the passport business
  • that after he was released in 1940, he served with the Wehrmacht from 1942 to 1945 - possible but unproven
  • that he served as defence counsel at the Nuremberg Trials - this might be verifiable, although he would likely have played a minor role on one of the defence teams
Post-War Machinations
The amount of information on Ziebell is rather bewildering. A whole book has been written about the Schmeisser Affair and Ziebell's pivotal role in shaping the politics of the time. There are several Spiegel and Zeit newspaper articles from the 1950s and 1960s that also touch on Ziebell and his impact on current events. Ziebell's post-war story is complex and even the author of the Schmeisser Affair notes that the stories told by various individuals (including Ziebell) are often contradictory. Suffice to say that the entire story is interwoven with politics and espionage. Ziebell often ended up at the heart of events, attempting to influence politics/politicians, journalists and intelligence agencies of various countries (Germany, France, America and the USSR). On top of that... there were multiple intelligence agencies vying with each other for superiority... For example, Germany had the LfV, the BfV and (after 1956) the BND while France had the BST, DST, SDECE and Sûreté. These intelligence agencies did not always share information or even similar policies. Some French intelligence agencies happily shared information with the USSR... some did not. It's enough to make one's head hurt. I am going to do my best to give an overview of Ziebell's machinations as he attempted to influence politics, make money with various scams, share information with intelligence agencies and stay one step ahead of the police. I hope to avoid stepping into any fettnäpfchen along the way (put my foot/pen in my mouth)... I must acknowledge as well the assistance of Traugott Vitz in summarizing some of this information from Germany sources. For others, I have relied on Deepl online translator... which isn't always great. Corrections welcome!

Dabbling in Bavarian Politics (1946)
After the war Ziebell reinvented himself and landed on his feet. He managed to conceal his past history with the Nazi party and portrayed the 1938 criminal proceedings as "politically motivated persecution" by the Nazis. On this basis he entered the Bavarian Sonderministerium (Bavarian State Ministry for Special Tasks) in 1946, where he portrayed himself as a "doctor". This would appear to be a bit of a stretch for in 1940, the Landgericht Berlin (Regional Court Berlin) determined that Ziebell was not entitled to use the title "doctor". Elzer also notes that there was some evidence that in 1945, Ziebell worked for a company (Anton E.) in Bad Dürkheim (Rhineland-Palatinate) where he already used the code name "de Laborie" (remember this name... it will come up later). This would suggest that Ziebell was already engaged with one of the French intelligence services.

In Munich, Ziebell ended up working in the legal division of the Entnazifizierungministerium (gotta love the German penchant for assembling incredibly long words together - the denazification ministry). After the war, it was the role of the denazification department to make sure that individuals were given a clean bill of health - i.e. that they had not been involved with the Nazis. Rather an odd assignment for Ziebell given his past connections with the Nazi party! But Ziebell always talked a good story...

He also cut a dashing figure and his slim build and dark, almost Italian complexion fitted the image of a "diplomat of the old school". He apparently had the manners of a grand seigneur who could impress even the most distinguished individuals. He was a wheeler-dealer who tried to better his position by using his charm and influence with leading personalities in politics, business and nobility.

Munich address book - 1948
Ziebell, not surprisingly, liked the finer things in life and used his influence to fleece his own nest. He used his contacts to decorate his villa in the Robert-Koch-Straße in Geiselsteig with fancy furniture, carpets and paintings from a Bavarian castle. [Incidentally, this is confirmed by a 1948 Munich address book which lists Ziebell as living at Robert-Koch-Straße 7.] The villa had previously belonged to a local group leader of the Nazi Party and had been confiscated by Ziebell. The authorities would eventually notice that Ziebell's income of 1,000 RM per month was insufficient to support such a lavish lifestyle, particularly as his Czech-born "wife" had expensive tastes. This may the woman that Josef thought was Swedish. Even though Ziebell presented her as his wife... they were not married and the woman was actually a Soviet agent... more on that later. Suffice to say that we already have hints that shortly after the war, Ziebell had connections to French and Soviet intelligence agencies.

The Bavarian denazification department would develop a reputation of being a bit corrupt. This was due, in part, to the fact that Ziebell gave legal advice to former Nazi and SS men and ensured that they received a clean bill of political health, for a fee... of course. Ziebell also had excellent relations with the KPD (Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands - Communist Party of Germany), although, when the Americans began to remove Communist-leaning individuals from higher civil service positions, Ziebell stepped away from the party. At the same time, Ziebell promised not to reveal the political leanings of some of the Communist individuals in the Bavarian administration, particularly his own denazification department which was rife with them. One of his subordinates was Hans-Conrad Schmeisser (we'll come across him later), a definite friend of the KPD. There is some evidence that Schmeisser had been appointed by the KPD to keep an eye on Ziebell. At the same time, the KPD believed that they had Ziebell in their back pocket due to their detailed knowledge of his past history in Berlin. If that wasn't enough, Ziebell also had connections with a group that was working for a separate Bavarian state under French protection.

Ziebell also tried to cut deals with the SPD (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - Social Democratic Party) in supporting the candidacy of Josef Müller (a member of the CSU - Christlich-Soziale Union - Christian Social Union) for Ministerpräsident of Bavaria.  All Ziebell asked for in return was that he be appointed Staatssekretär (Secretary of State for Bavaria) if/when Müller was successful in becoming Ministerpräsident.

Ziebell's boss, however, Anton Pfeiffer also had his eyes on the Ministerpräsident position. In late 1946, shortly before the election, Pfeiffer initiated proceedings against Müller. It turned out that Müller had served in the Abwehr during the war and this, combined with his possible affiliation with the Nazi Party, meant that he faced a lengthy denazification trial. Ziebell sought to sidestep the lengthy process by a variety of means. He tried to convince the chief prosecutor of the investigation to drop the case. He also tried to get the Americans to fast-track Müller's proceedings under the chairmanship of himself (Ziebell). The Americans, however,  refused to get involved in such a process. Finally, Ziebell found a witness who testified that Pfeiffer had been sent to Tunis during the war by the Abwehr. This naturally led to denazification proceedings against Pfeiffer!

At the same time, Ziebell's elaborate lifestyle on a civil servant's salary was beginning to attract attention. The Ministerpräsident, Hoegner, had initiated a disciplinary process against Ziebell several months previously due to a suspicion of corruption. Word had apparently gotten around that many former Nazi's were getting a clean bill of political health (Persilschein) and that something wasn't quite right in the denazification department.

On 21 December 1946, the position of Ministerpräsident went to Hans Ehard. Pfeiffer returned to the Bavarian State Chancellery and sought to flush the rats out of the denazification department. He pushed for the formation of a parliamentary committee to investigate members of the Sonderministerium who had tried to influence the formation of the government. The first person in their sights was Ziebell and, in January 1947, he was dismissed from his position by his new boss, Alfred Loritz. The parliamentary committee met in February and March 1947 and determined that Ziebell had, out of personal ambition, sought to make Müller the Ministerpräsident. In doing this, Ziebell had misused his professional position. An arrest warrant was issued for Ziebell but his friends from the Bavarian separatist group helped him escape to Saarbrücken.

Escape to the Saar (1947)
Upon arriving in the Saar, Ziebell founded a company in the Saaruferstraße in Saarbrücken: Industrieanlagen GmBH. It was apparently a cover for a his friends... the group of francophile Bavarian separtists. The Munich representative of Industrieanlagen GmbH was Anton Karl, former director of the Dachau Herb Garden, a huge research facility for aromatic and medicinal herbs attached to the concentration camp. Industrieanlagen GmBH apparently made lucrative foreign exchange deals in which it cheated its customers. There is also some evidence that the company was a front for communist agents and that it forwarded passports (stolen from the French Ministry of the Interior) to communist spies. Ziebell himself received a passport under the name "Georg Ziebel from Neunkirchen, Saarland". His passport attracted official attention in 1949/50 in Ludwigshafen when he was closely scrutinized by the local railway administration for using forged free tickets. True to form, Ziebell lived a plush lifestyle in the Saar. He moved into a confiscated villa in Scheit [sic], near Saarbrücken. He dined at the French offier's barracks and was able to buy plenty of food.

Ziebell's former subordinate, Hans-Conrad Schmeisser also ended up in the Saar area. By 1948/49, Schmeisser was an agent for the Service de Documentation et Contre-Espionage (SDECE), the French intelligence service of the French Prime Minister. Schmeisser's cover name was René Levacher. He worked in Boppard am Rhein, a French-occupied city and spun a network of agents whom he paid for news. He also rubbed shoulders with some West German celebrities: Dr. Adolph Reifferscheidt (at the time economic consultant at the CDU, later Consul General of West Germany in Casablanca), Herbert Blankenhorn (at the time Secretary General of the CDU, later Ministerial Director and Head of the Political Department at the Bonn Foreign Office) and Konrad Adenauer (at the time Zone Chairman of the CDU, later Federal Chancellor of West Germany). These connections would later become the hub of the Schmeisser Affair. How friendly were Adenauer and crew with the French? How much political information did they pass along to the French? Suffice to say that Schmeisser would later claim that Adenauer, Blankenhorn and Reifferscheidt had been quite friendly with the French. This information would later be used by Ziebell as a political lever in the Bundestag.

Schmeisser was not the only one working for intelligence services. One of Schmeisser's sources was the agent Hella Hubaleck. In 1950, Ziebell approached Hubaleck and offered to pay her money if she would copy interesting information from Schmeisser's reports. He said he wanted to leak the information to the French tabloids but... when the French BST (Brigade de Surveillance Territoire) interrogated Hubaleck... they suspected that he wanted to pass the information to the Soviets. In April 1950, the BST arranged a little test of Ziebell. They got Schmeisser to pass along to Ziebell a bogus report about a change in Blankenhorn's Saar policy. They then had the French radio service monitor transmitters from the Soviet zone of Germany. No surprise... the news they were looking for appeared a few days later. Ziebell was hauled into the local BST offices and he and his "wife" were accused of passing information along to the Soviets. Despite Ziebell's denials, he was dismissed as an agent of the BST. This was not, however, the end of his connections with French intelligence services, some of whom had a much more laissez faire attitude about the Soviets, for they had worked together during the war. Ziebell was apparently also connected with the French High Commissariat in the Saar, the Sûreté and the SDECE.

We've already encountered Ziebell's "wife" in Munich... and she apparently followed Ziebell to the Saar. According to Schmeisser's wife, Ziebell was not actually married to his alleged wife who was also not from Prague. Frau Schmeisser and even Ziebell himself, admitted that Frau Ziebell was a communist/Soviet agent. When Ziebell escaped from the Saar, Frau Ziebell went with him. During one of his later interrogations, Schmeisser claimed that Frau Ziebell had three passports: one German, one Saarland and one Czech. By 1953, Frau Ziebell was apparently living as Madame de Laborie (remember Ziebell's early code name as a French agent in 1945) in Santiago, Chile. She apparently had something of the air of a "Bardame vom Berliner Kurfürstendamm" and impressed everyone with her "catlike character". She spoke Czech, English, German and French and portrayed herself as a fashion designer in Santiago. Even while in Chile, Frau Ziebell was still acting on behalf of the Soviets...

But we are getting ahead of ourselves... back to Ziebell in the Saar...

In the fall of 1950, Ziebell sought to expand his reach when he applied for employment at the German BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz - Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution). The BfV was/is Germany's domestic security agency, similar to MI5 in the UK. What possessed Ziebell to apply to the BfV is left to our imagination... In describing his career in his application, Ziebell conveniently jumped from his position at the Berlin Kammergericht in 1935 right to 1945 and his entry into the Bavarian Sonderministerium. According to his own testimony, Ziebell had fought communist activities in the Bavarian Sonderministerium and attributed his dismissal in December 1946 to communist intrigues. He then claimed to have worked as a journalist in the Saar and made no mention of intelligence services.

Ziebell's resume had some suspicious gaps and in June 1951, the BMI (Bundesministerium des Innern - Federal Ministry of the Interior - oversaw the BfV) conducted some enquiries at the BMJ (Bundesministerium der Justiz - Federal Ministry of Justice) about Ziebell. After viewing Ziebell's file from the BMJ, the BMI noted that Ziebell's employment with the BfV was out of the question.

In the Saar, Ziebell was quickly overstaying his welcome. His political intrigues revolved around the Saar Question (should it remain a separate state, rejoin Germany, etc). He was affiliated with the Saar's version of the SPD (the SPS) and sought to sow disorientation and division among the other parties, primarily the DPS.

In the fall of 1951, Ziebell's luck ran out. The High Commissariat asked Ziebell to cover for an official involved in bankruptcy proceedings... and Ziebell used the opportunity for personal enrichment. The end result was the fraudulent bankruptcy of the Kaufhauses Walter. Once again, the water had gotten too hot for Ziebell and he fled the Saar back to Germany.

Escape to Germany (1951)
Like a cat, Ziebell landed on his feet, drawing upon his relationship with an old friend, Paul Schmidt, the head of the LfV (Landesbehörde für Verfassungsschutz - State Office for the Protection of the Constitution) in Wiesbaden, Hesse. Similar to the federal security agency (BfV), each state in Germany had its own state-level security agency. It would also appear that Paul Schmidt of the LfV was also an agent of the SDECE. Schmidt protected Ziebell from the Saarland judiciary and defended Ziebell as a German patriot and a hunter of foreign agents. Although Ziebell had an office at the LfV, he later vehemently denied being an employee of the LfV... although it's a bit difficult to take anything Ziebell said at face value.

At the same time that Ziebell was burrowing himself into the LfV, Schmeisser was getting desperate to get out of France and the Saar. He was running out of money and out of French intelligence agencies willing to employ him. Schmeisser really wanted to work as a journalist in the Federal Republic of Germany but at the same time, he believed he had some compromising information on Blankenhorn and Adenauer, information that might earn him some money. He sent his wife to Bonn to offer the information to the SPD but, while they were interested, they weren't willing to pay the exorbitant figure that Schmeisser demanded. Ziebell, with his network of connections, learned of the offer to the SPD and this gave him leverage over Schmeisser. At the same time, Ziebell still sought to influence events in the Saar through his network of agents.

In November 1951, Ziebel suggested that Schmeisser join him at the LfV in Wiesbaden. Ziebell promised to help Schmeisser make a break with his previous life and suggested that he make a statement about his work for the French intelligence agencies to the responsible authorities in Germany. On 21 November, 1951, both Schmeisser and Ziebell gave statements at the LfV in Wiesbaden.

In December 1951, the Saarbrücken Regional Court sought to have Ziebell arrested in Germany, but their application was rejected at the Wiesbaden Local Court due to: (a) insufficient evidence and (b) Ziebell's German citizenship. Even though the Saar was legally part of Germany, it was regarded as a foreign country and, Germany did not extradite its citizens.

Ziebell might have had high hopes of using the information provided by Schmeisser to assist the SPD in the Bundestag but... in May 1952, the Deutsche Saar-Zeitung beat him to the punch. They published his intrigues and the background of his subversive operations in the Saar. His entire network of agents threatened to fall apart. Ziebell himself contacted the southwest correspondent of "Der Spiegel". An article about Hella Hubaleck "Falsch wie die Taube" (False as the Pigeon) followed on 2 July 1952. A week later, another article followed: "Am Telefon Vorsichtig"... this one however threw the cat amongst the pigeons! Ziebell apparently believed that the article would assist the SPD and benefit himself and Paul Schmidt as well. According to Schmeisser, both men had their eyes on political positions. In this instance, Ziebell again overplayed his hand...

Am Telefon Vorsichtig (Careful on the Telephone) (July 1952)
The Spiegel article quoted Schmeisser at length, stating that he had been in negotiations with Blankenhorn about what would transpire if the Red Army invaded Germany. The plan was to spirit Blankenhorn, Adenauer and their families out of Germany and to Spain with the assistance of the French Secret Service. At the same time, the article indicated that Blankenhorn had considered ceding the area west of the Rhine to France. Consternation reigned in the halls of the Bundestag and Chancellor Adenaur moved quickly to determine who was responsible for the 9 July article. Ziebell, however, had ensured that the trail led away from him... straight to Schmeisser's door and that of the SPD. Schmeisser and several individuals from Der Spiegel were charged with libel and slander, charges brought forward by Adenauer, Blankenhorn and Reifferscheidt. Their day in court would not, however, come quickly as three years of investigation followed. During that period, it became apparent that Ziebell and Schmidt were also involved in the publication of the offending Spiegel article.

In April 1952, two months before the Spiegel article, Interpol Saarbrücken again requested that the Wiesbaden police commissioner deliver Ziebell to them so that he could face the charges involving the Kaufhauses Walter bankruptcy. Word of the request filtered up to the Federal Justice Minister (Dehler) who remembered Ziebell's name from the Munich Sonderministerium debacle. Dehler ordered the BfV to begin inquiries into Ziebell and the 9 July Spiegel article simply sped up the BfV inquiries.

In the late summer and fall of 1952, more and more information came to light about Ziebell. It was determined that the Wiesbaden Local Court's decision not to hand over Ziebell to the Saar authorities had been questionable at best. At the same time, files on Ziebell from the Bavarian authorities were forwarded to the BfV. Ziebell was most definitely wanted for questioning...

Arrested in Berlin (1952)
With the authorities breathing down his neck in Hesse, Ziebell decided to escape to Berlin in October 1952. The LfV Berlin office got wind of this and tipped off Kurt Klang, a Berlin criminal assistant, and a member of the FDP (part of the governing coalition). Adenauer had instructed the Gehlen Organisation (forerunner of the BND) to keep an eye on Ziebell and his movements. On 31 October, 1952, Klang met Ziebell's plane at Tempelhof Airport, arrested him and questioned him extensively at police headquarters. Ziebell talked a fine story about his work for the LfV Wiesbaden and how he had uncovered a French spy ring in Hesse. Believing that Klang's supervisor was a member of the SPD, Ziebell emphasised his role in discovering how far Adenauer would go in accommodating the French. Klang, however, was not a member of the SPD but of the FDP. And he had actually gone behind his boss's back in arresting Ziebell and bringing him in for questioning. The information Ziebell provided was of vital interest to the federal intelligence services who were investigating the Schmeisser Affair, as well as to Blankenhorn and Adenauer who became clear that Ziebell had valuable information. There wasn't much that Klang could do with Ziebell however, since the original arrest warrant from the Saarbrücken court had been revoked by the German court. Ziebell was released the following day.

In November 1952, Ziebell applied for, and received, a German passport in Berlin. He also went to the Chilean and Swedish embassies in Bonn and applied for visas to both countries. It would seem that he had escape on his mind, perhaps intending to join his "wife" in Chile... The German federal authorities began to get nervous. Ziebell could not be allowed to escape but his passport could only be confiscated if criminal proceedings were brought against him. The Chilean and Swedish authorities agreed to delay the visas a bit and would notify the Germans once they were approved. Several weeks later Ziebell was arrested, accused with breach of custody (he was suspected of having taken copies of the 21 November 1951 Schmeisser statement from the LfV Wiesbaden). Ziebell's passport was seized and proceedings against Ziebell were sent to the public prosecutor's office in Hanover in early 1953. Ziebell would not escape German retribution so easily. Despite repeated requests, his passport would not be returned to him until after the dust from the criminal proceedings settled in 1959.

Trial in Hannover (1955)
Christian-Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell from Der Spiegel 1955 10 05
Christian-Friedrich Jürgen Ziebell
from Der Spiegel 1955 10 05

In the fall of 1955, three years after the offending Spiegel article had been published, Schmeisser, Ziebell and the Spiegel representatives finally had their day in court. It would all be a bit anti-climactic. On the first day, Ziebell's lawyer successfully argued that since Ziebell had not been included in the original criminal complaint filed in 1952, that he should not stand trial with the other accused individuals. He was successful in his arguments and Ziebell walked out of the court room., much to the disgust of the Spiegel representatives. They already suspected that Ziebell had deflected the spotlight onto Schmeisser while Ziebell remained hidden in the background. But Ziebell wasn't off the hook yet...

As for the other accused... the charges were withdrawn by the plaintiffs (Adenauer et al). Schmeisser, however, was left holding the bag for some of the legal costs... and that was that.

In October 1955, Der Spiegel printed an article summarizing the trial in Hannover and indicated that there was more to Ziebell's involvement than met the eye. A week later, it appears that the Spiegel had to print retraction/clarification in which they admitted that Ziebell was never included in the original indictment made by Adenauer et al.

In December 1955, the SPD brought forward questions in the Bundestag about the criminal proceedings. After all, there had been a three year judicial investigation which had involved trials, interrogations, extensive files, witnesses brought in from overseas... and then the charges had been withdrawn on the second day of the trial. Adenauer responded to the questions and noted that:

"... The most interesting person in the whole matter is Herr Ziebell. Herr Ziebell's defence counsel objected at the beginning of the trial to the fact that his client was being tried because an error had occurred in the service of the indictment on Herr Ziebell. The court had to grant this request, so that the proceedings against Ziebell, who interested me the most and will continue to do so in the future, had to be separated."

Konrad Adenauer (at left, behind the children) visiting St. Ludwig's Catholic Church in Wilmersdorf, Berlin in July 1954. Pfarrer Greve is pictured along with Josef Jakobs' son, Raymond Jakobs (wearing the dark suit just behind and to the right of Adenauer) (postcard photo from Jakobs family collection)
Konrad Adenauer (at left, behind the children) visiting St. Ludwig's
Catholic Church in Wilmersdorf, Berlin in July 1954.
Pfarrer Greve is pictured along with Josef Jakobs' son, Raymond Jakobs
(wearing the dark suit just behind and to the right of Adenauer)
(postcard photo from Jakobs family collection)
Adenauer then proceeded to deny much of what Schmeisser had claimed in the 1952 Spiegel article. He answered a few questions from the SPD and the debate ended, as abruptly as the Schmeisser trial had. Der Spiegel noted in another article that perhaps the SPD didn't want to shine too much light on the Schmeisser Affair and how they sought to benefit from it...

Adenauer indicated that criminal proceedings were continuing against Ziebell and that the Bundestag would be informed of the results. I did find further references to the Ziebell affair in the 1958 02 12 Bundestag minutes from the 10th Sitting. Dr. Bucher of the FDP asked what had become of the Ziebell proceedings and was answered by Dr. h.c. Erhard, the Deputy Federal Chancellor. In late December 1957 at the Regional Court in Hanover, Ziebell acknowledged the allegations made against Adenauer et al had been incorrect and he expressed his sincere regret without reservation. Ziebell agreed to bear the financial costs of the plaintiffs. End of story. This would seem to jive with other information which indicates that the proceedings against Ziebell had been resolved by 1959 when he was once again permitted to hold a passport. The FDP were less than pleased with Erhard's answer, particularly as Adenauer had said in 1955 that Ziebell was the most interesting individual...

New Fraud Scams (1955-1962)
We now jump back to early 1955 when, despite the fact that he was being investigated by the authorities for his role in the Schmeisser Affair, Ziebell continued to generate new money making schemes. In early 1955, he tried to persuade the owner of a pharmaceutical factory in Bissendorf (near Hannover) to enter into a business partnership with him. Ziebell promised the man that they could speculate in real estate and double their money. Ziebell planned to only contribute a small amount of money but... the factory owner noticed the trap after reading about Ziebell's involvement in the Schmeisser trial in Der Spiegel.

Mustard pot from Langner-Feinkost (from eBay)
Mustard pot from Langner-Feinkost
(from eBay)
In the fall of 1955, Ziebell acquired a delicatessen company in Ettlingen, Baden (Langner-Feinkost AG which specialized in mayonnaise and meat salads). With the assistance of a crooked accounting system, Ziebell managed to skim funds from the company and acquire tax advantages for himself. In the summer of 1961, the company went bankrupt. Ziebell, however, had cannily withdrawn funds from the company and placed them out of reach of creditors. In the end, the company's debt was over DM 3.9 million, of which only a fraction could be settled by liquidating assets. Ziebell was taken into custody in February 1962 and charged with 41 offences, one of which included the unauthorized use of the term "doctor". In June 1964, his trial for fraud began in the Karlsruhe Regional Court. At the end of July 1964, Ziebell was sentenced to five and a half years imprisonment for fraud and fraudulent bankruptcy.

Marginal note from Jürgen Ziebell's 1906 Birth Registration gives the information for his marriage in 1959
Marginal note from Jürgen Ziebell's 1906 Birth Registration
gives the information for his marriage in 1959
What his new wife thought of her husband can only be imagined. According to Ziebell's birth registration, he married Eva Luise Auguste König in Schaidt/Pfalz (west of Karlsruhe and Ettlingen) on 14 February 1959. This was his first marriage, confirming again that he was not married to his previous "wife", the Soviet agent who ended up in Chile.

Despite the fact that Ziebell had been in custody since February 1962, however, he still managed to create a stir in prison by his association with the notorious Soviet mole Heinz Felfe.

Soviet Friends
Soviet mole Heinz Felfe (From SIGINT Chatter site)
Soviet mole Heinz Felfe
(From SIGINT Chatter site)
Felfe had been a department head in the BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst - Federal Intelligence Service) under General Gehlen since the late 1940s. By 1951, however,  he was also definitely working for the Soviet KGB providing them with extremely valuable information, including the names of West German field officers. In the fall of 1961, he was arrested on suspicion of treason after a KGB defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn, provided enough information to identify Felfe as a Soviet spy.

Surprisingly, Felfe was not held in a maximum security facility but in a more relaxed prison facility where he had access to another prisoners. He received permission to leave his cell on weekends and play chess with three other prisoners in the prison library. Because chess requires such concentration (of course) the prison guards did not disturb the chess players and Felfe was able to have unmonitored conversations with the other players. These conversations could then be converted into contact with the outside world, since the other chess players were not as restricted in their communications.

One of these chess players was our friend Ziebell... Felfe was able to send coded messages through magazines shipped from the prison (cheap labour) which then made their way to the Soviets. He was also able to write letters to his mother in the GDR using secret ink (water and alum).

Felfe and Ziebell also concocted an escape plan in which they tried to make a replica of a gate key. Some of the other inmates (once released) eventually reported Felfe and Ziebell's antics. Felfe was transferred to another prison and both men were put into solitary confinement.

Felfe would eventually be traded back to the Soviets on 14 February 1969 at Herleshausen in return for 21 prisoners held by the Soviets. As for Ziebell... his legal appeal was heard by the Federal Supreme Court in June 1966 and dismissed.  It would appear that some of the charges were altered and sent back to the Regional Court for a new hearing and decision, including the costs of the appeal.

After that... Ziebell's trail disappears. Did he escape to Chile where his first "wife" had worked for the Soviets? Or did he try to make it to Sweden as suggested by his earlier visa application? It's rather hard to imagine that he was released from prison and then simply led a quiet, unassuming life in Germany.

It's a bit an anti-climactic conclusion to such a breath-taking story. As author Elzer noted: Ziebell possessed a beguiling charm with which he camouflaged his lack of conscience. While stirring the political currents of post-war Germany, Ziebell always sought to increase his own position - be it power, wealth or influence. The interesting thing is that even Elzer had to rely on second-hand information regarding Ziebell's time in Berlin and the Jewish passport fiasco. Surely there are records squirreled away in Berlin archives somewhere... just waiting to be discovered... some day.

Primary Sources
Herbert Elzer - Die Schmeisser Affäre - 2008 - I perused a copy of the book at the British Library this past May. Without an index, it was difficult to navigate although I did take dozens of pictures of key sections/pages in the book. Much of Ziebell's later career (1946-1963) comes from this book, although it also provided key bits of information on his wife and his 1930s adventures in Berlin.

Ancestry - genealogical records

Spiegel - 1947 01 11 - Loritz räumt auf - cleaning up the Bavarian denazification department
Spiegel - 1952 07 02 - Falsch wie die Taube - article about Hella Hubaleck
Spiegel - 1952 07 09 - Am Telefon vorsichtig - the bombshell Spiegel article
Spiegel - 1955 10 05 - Lieber Spiegelleser - the first two days of the trial in Hannover
Spiegel - 1955 10 26 - Schmeisser - retraction
Spiegel - 1955 12 14 - Ziebell nach vorn - Bundestag debate re Schmeisser Affair
Spiegel - 1963 06 05 - Wasser und Alaun - Heinz Felfe and Ziebell in prison
Spiegel - 2008 05 27 - Spione in der Staatskanzlei - Elzer's book on the Schmeisser Affair

Zeit - 1955 09 29 - Die Sache Schmeisser ad acta gelegt - the Hannover trial
Zeit - 1955 10 13 - Ein Dritter Mann im Spiel - suggests Paul Schmidt at the heart of Schmeisser Affair

Bundestag Sitzung #116 from 1955 12 07 - Adenauer answers questions re: Schmeisser (opens as a pdf)
Bundestag Sitzung #10 from 1958 02 12 - follow up on what became of Ziebell criminal proceedings (opens as a pdf)

Web cache page (12 June 2019) of Bundesgerichtshof ruling from 1966 - not sure how long this cached page will be available online - I printed a copy.

Secondary Sources
LTO - Legal Tribune Onlinee - 2012 10 21 - article on Schmeisser Affair
HLB - Historical Lexicon Bayern - Bavarian Sonderministerium
Munziger article - Bio stub on Ziebell - full article requires subscription or library access

Wikipedia - consulted articles on Jürgen Ziebell, Hans-Konrad Schmeisser, Heinz Felfe and others for background information


Popular posts from this blog

Clara Bauerle is Finally Laid to Rest

Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?

The Truth about Clara Bauerle