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Book Review - From Art to Life and Back - Yvonne Hagen

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The Book
From Art to Life and Back: N.Y.-Berlin-Paris, 1925-1962. Yvonne Hagen. Xlibris. 2006.

Background
A relation of the Hagen clan, living in Norway, put me onto this book. Yvonne (née Forrest) Hagen was the wife of Karl Victor Hagen, who happened to be the son of Louis Georg Hagen, one of the individuals who appeared as clients of Jürgen Ziebell in the black market passport business with which Josef Jakobs was involved. I tracked down a second-hand copy of the book and it arrived a few weeks ago.Summary
The book is an autobiography of Yvonne Hagen, up until 1962, or thereabouts. The first half of the book is quite intriguing, covering her upbringing and her marriage to Karl Victor Hagen. After the war, Karl Victor was involved with the Allies in instituting German currency reforms. Yvonne and her young children moved to Berlin with Karl Victor and she shares a bit about the art scene in war-torn Berlin. After Karl Victor's death in a plane crash, during the Berlin Airlift, Yv…

German Swindler Josef Emil Roos

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A year ago, I published a series of blogs about Josef Jakobs' involvement with a blackmarket passport scheme in Berlin. The scheme was orchestrated by a German lawyer, Jürgen Ziebell, and involved selling fake passports to Jews desperate to escape Nazi Germany. Many of the fake passports were from Finland and supplied by Finnish bootlegger Algot Niska.

The link above provides a summary of the blackmarket passport business, but I posted a separate blog with links to all of the characters involved in the scheme.
There was a triad of individuals who were involved in securing Irish naturalisations for Ziebell: Johannes Hans Wolpe, Josef Emil Roos and Lincoln Allan Smith. While I had found quite a bit on Wolpe, I had only found brief mentions on Roos and Smith. There was one intriguing reference in an MI6 report on Roos which noted that he had been hanging out with one A.A. Tester in Greece. This spring, I downloaded several files from the National Archives (Kew) that related …

Eric Vincent Ewart White - the Barrister-at-Law who defended a German Spy

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A few months ago, I wrote a follow-up post about Eric Vincent Ewart White, the defence attorney for Josef Jakobs at his 1941 court martial. I had tracked down the names of three of Eric's grandchildren and reached out to one of them. And... success! Rowan Ewart-White kindly sent me a photograph of his grandfather and a post from the Epsom & Ewell History Explorer site. This post draws heavily upon my 2015 blog on Eric which can be read here, but also includes some extra information.
After so many years, it's exciting to be able to see the face of the man who met my grandfather and who did his best to defend him against the charges of espionage and treachery. The following is a blend of some new information from the Epsom & Ewell site, as well as my own supplemental research.
Early Life
Eric was born in the third quarter of 1909 in Lewisham, Greater London. Eric's parents Bertram Ewart White and Avera Emily née Vincent had married in the second quarter of 1909 in the W…

Book Review - Langes Seil, Schneller Tod - Traugott Vitz

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The Book
Langes Seil, Schneller Tod: Wie Großbritannien seine Mörder hängte.[Long rope, Fast Death: How Great Britain hanged their Murderers] Traugott Vitz, Kirchschlager. 2016.

Background
I had come across an English translation of a chapter from Langes Seil, Schneller Tod in February 2017. The chapter dealt with the execution of various wartime spies in Great Britain and mentioned Josef Jakobs. Several months later, I received an email from the author, Traugott Vitz, and we have been email pals every since. Traugott kindly sent me a copy of his book in German and, while it took me a couple of years due to the illness and death of my father, I did finish it earlier in 2020. My level of German is not all that advanced and quite rusty. I can deal with simple conversations and books fairly well but anything more complex requires a fair degree of effort. With the help of Google Translate, I learned quite a bit of technical legal and execution lingo.

Summary
This book covers the history of exe…

Book Review - Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find my Way - Irene Matthews

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The Book
Out of Nazi Germany and Trying to Find my Way. Irene Matthews. Upfront Publishing. 2002.

Background
A relation of the Hagen clan, living in Norway, put me onto this book. Irene Matthews is the daughter of Ernst David & Clara Hagen, individuals who appeared as clients of Jürgen Ziebell in the black market passport business with which Josef Jakobs was involved. I tracked down a second-hand copy of the book and it arrived a few weeks ago. I read it in one sitting (it's 109 pages) and was entranced.

Summary
In a very engaging and simple style, Irene tells the tale of growing up in Berlin and Potsdam during the 1930s. The everyday activities of a little girl, visiting her Opapa, going to school, playing with her dog. And yet, over all of these everyday activities, the looming shadow of Nazism cast a pall. Slowly, ever so slowly, signs appeared - No Jews Allowed. In late 1938 and early 1939, after her father was sent to a concentration camp in the wake of Kristallnacht, Irene&#…

Book Review - The M Room: Secret Listeners who Bugged the Nazis - Helen Fry

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The Book
The M Room: Secret Listeners Who Bugged the Nazis. Helen Fry, Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2012.

Background
I bought this book as an e-book two years ago. Last year, it was republished on Yale University Press with a different title (The Walls Have Ears: The Greatest Intelligence Operation of World War II). I haven't read the republished version, so all of my comments relate to the original version.

Summary
The impetus for this book seems to have been an encounter between the author and one of the "secret listeners" who used to work in the M (microphone) Room at Trent Park, an interrogation centre run by British military intelligence during the Second World War. This gentleman's tales sparked Fry to investigate the history of the M Room at this facility. Receiving many high-ranking German officers, Trent Park (a.k.a. Cockfoster's Internment Camp), the secret listeners were privy to many top secret revelations uttered by the Germans when they …

The Jewish In-laws of Josef Jakobs - Gustav Goldemann

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During his court-martial, Josef told the court that he had direct Jewish ancestors. This was quite a revelation, as he had earlier told military interrogators that he was not Jewish. His court martial testimony, that his own grandfather was Jewish, seems like a desperate bid to gain the sympathy of the court. My own genealogical research has definitively shown that Josef's ancestry, on both sides, is Catholic well back into the 1500s.

At various points during his interrogations and court martial testimony, Josef also mentioned that his "father-in-law" was Jewish. In actual fact, it was Josef's step-father-in-law who was Jewish, a man named Abraham Wolfgang Elkan. When I published my book on Josef Jakobs (The Spy in the Tower), I told a bit of the tale of Elkan and, while I knew he had died before 1943, the year that his wife (Therese (née Knöffler) Elkan) passed away, I did not know the circumstances of his passing. Had he perished in a concentration camp…

Mobile Friendly Blog Templates

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I received a message from Google saying that my blog would not be indexed because it was not mobile friendly. Sigh. I have been toying with different blog templates all evening and have settled on this new look. There are a few hiccups, like anything that was formatted as a quote ends up being large, italicized font. Ah well...

The Jewish In-Laws of Josef Jakobs - Abraham Wolfgang Elkan

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During his court-martial, Josef told the court that he had direct Jewish ancestors. This was quite a revelation, as he had earlier told military interrogators that he was not Jewish. His court martial testimony, that his own grandfather was Jewish, seems like a desperate bid to gain the sympathy of the court. My own genealogical research has definitively shown that Josef's ancestry, on both sides, is Catholic well back into the 1500s.

At various points during his interrogations and court martial testimony, Josef also mentioned that his "father-in-law" was Jewish. In actual fact, it was Josef's step-father-in-law who was Jewish, a man named Abraham Wolfgang Elkan. When I published my book on Josef Jakobs, I told a bit of the tale of Elkan and, while I knew he had died before 1943, the year that his wife (Therese (née Knöffler) Elkan) passed away, I did not know the circumstances of his passing. Had he perished in a concentration camp?

What Josef did not mention during …

The Jewish Boy who Escaped the Nazis

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My father, Raymond Jakobs, was the son of Josef Jakobs. Born in the early 1930s, my father didn't really know his own father at all. Josef was either traveling or locked up in Swiss prisons or German concentration camps. My father was only 8 years old when Josef departed on his mission to England. Twenty years ago, I sat down with my father and interviewed him about his memories of growing up in wartime Berlin. It wasn't a pleasant story.

There was one vignette from his life that has stuck with me over the years, the story of a young Jewish boy with whom my father used to play. I'll let my father tell the story as I heard it from him.

Shortly after we moved to the Rudolstädter Straße [they moved there on 1 Oct 1938], I started playing with a boy, named Gerhard Drucker. He was a bit older than me, and taller and heavier. He wore thin, horn-rimmed glasses. We used to play together, and Regine (my sister) and I would go to his house. His father was a dentist and they lived in …