22 May 2019

The Mysterious Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz and his connection to Vera Eriksen

Last week I posted a book review of David Tremain's new book: The Beautiful Spy: The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen. On the last page of the book Tremain mentions that, according to Kirstine Kloster Anderson (a Danish writer who also published a book on Vera), Vera's burial was paid for by Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz. Both Vera and Zitzewitz had been living at the Klopstock Pension in Hamburg (a former Abwehr accommodation). My curiosity was piqued. Who was this Zitzewitz? Was he a member of the Abwehr? How did he know Vera? Did he even exist?

Cover of Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg (by Kirstine Kloster Andersen)
Cover of Spurven: Den dramatiske historie
om spionen Vera Schalburg
(by Kirstine Kloster Andersen)
I decided to do a bit of digging and started with Anderson's book: Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg [Sparrow: The dramatic history of spy Vera Schalburg]. Andersen's book is only available in Danish (a shame) and while I haven't ordered it... I very well might. I found a few key pages available through Google Books, typed out a transcript of those pages and then ran them through Google Translate. The results are below - I have tried to fix Google's mangled syntax... not always with success:
[There is a fragment of a sentence before this - context seems to indicate that Andersen recreated  a scene from Vera's burial.]
Vera von Wedel stood there on the headstone, which was placed on top of the grave along with a little planting.

In all, Vera's funeral, including flowers, planting, burial ground and ceremony with string music and organ / accordion, cost 82.50 RM. The bill was paid the day before the burial by a man whose name had not previously appeared in connection with Vera. The only known connection between them is that he also lived at the Klopstock Pension when she died.

The man was named Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz. Perhaps Vera had met him in a camp or somewhere else on the journey through bombed Europe - then with him to search for the Klopstock Pension in Hamburg. Perhaps he was an old acquaintance she had met sooner or later in the months following the release to Germany. Maybe they first met each other here at the Pension in Hamburg. He obviously did not know her well enough to know her real name, Schalburg. Yet he chose to pay for a proper burial of a woman he had just just met, and at a time when the money was extremely scarce in war-torn Germany.

At home In Denmark, I decide to find out more about this last man in Vera's life. Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz. Maybe they knew each other through the Abwehr? Through an inquiry to his family combined with research on the web, I succeeded in finding some more information about him. Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz was born in 1910 and was thus 36 years old when he organized and paid for Vera's funeral. According to his relatives, he had a lot of money to squander at that time. [I ran this through Google Translate several times thinking it should be the reverse - he did not have a lot of money, but it kept coming up with this.]
"All of the Zitzewitz's lost their fortunes," read an email from the relative.

She said that the Zitzewitz-house originates in Pomerania, one of the eastern German regions, where many millions of Germans were expelled from the Soviet Union after the Second World War, in what has been called the greatest ethnic forced displacement of modern times. The part of the Pomerania region from which the house originates belongs to Poland today.

I have not managed to find out what Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz did during the war, but five years after Vera's funeral he had met another Vera, Vera von Bonin, whom he married. She had three children from her first marriage to a bank director, and according to relatives she was supposed to have been a gorgeous, gay woman who went her own way. When Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz in 1960 became director of the oil company Shell in Ireland, the couple moved there, and Vera von Bonin pledged to help Irish women work so that they could support themselves when their men were unemployed or drunk.
I can't help thinking about whether von Zitzewitz might have searched for Vera's relatives to inform them of her death, but unsuccessfully, since he had nothing but the "von Wedel" name and the wrong spelled "Stagizky" to go on. Maybe he chose to pay for the grave with the name on the stone, so that the family had 25 years to find it for themselves? Maybe he visited sometimes? Who knows? Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz himself died in 1966.

He eventually took his knowledge of Vera's last time with him in the grave.
I can only guess what went through Vera's head when she realized that her time on earth was running out. This deeply unhappy (bottomless/mysterious?) woman, who for years had overcome one hard trial after another, while demons ate her from the inside and outside.

Did her life pass before her eyes in the hospital bed at the Marienkrankenhaus, from childhood's escape and trauma, to the poverty and dance dreams in Copenhagen, which came together with the realities of Paris? I imagine the images, which, while she was drawing her last sigh, passed faster and faster before her mind's eye with colorful pictures of life as a dancer of the night, meeting with love, deceived, knife attack, and on to the suicide attempt in the Deer Park, while Hitler came to power and molded the shape to her destiny. Then to the 6th division/section and the lost years in a dark spy universe, to the cold night in the inflatable boat in Scotland, Stephen's interrogation, the death sentence, which she avoided, because she still fought as far as she could. Some force you had kept her/you alive. Which one?

I think of the letter, she wrote to Theo [Druecke], when, after three months of confinement, she tried to persuade him to tell the truth to avoid the gallows: "It is so terrible to think that we should die this way. Your mother and my parents will never get over it, ”she wrote and once again had her family in mind, as she thought of her family that she sacrificed for them in Paris and provided for their survival through her dance and its appearance, which should also become her fate.

And I remember the words of Grand Duchess/Princess Olga when she found out that Vera had been a Soviet spy: "Where the poor child has suffered."
And I saw Vera's mother; her poor old mother, who lost her homeland, her eldest son and every day hoped for a sign of life from her beloved daughter, her only daughter, from the Sparrow. A life sign she never got. And in all that grimness, all that tragedy, there is something beautiful and touching about the fact that Vera, in her last moments on this earth, met a man who did not even know her real name but yet took care of her and made ensured that she left here with music and flowers and respect for what she was: a human being. [Above extract from Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg via Google Books.]
It's a fascinating snippet from Andersen's book and it appears she has some of the same questions: Who was Zitzewitz? How did Vera meet him? Was he connected with the Abwehr as well? At the same time, Andersen has done some great research in tracking down Zitzewtiz relatives. She doesn't, however, provide a lot of information on Zitzewitz and I've done some digging on the genealogy/archives sites and come up with the following:

Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz & Family
Crest of the von Zitzewitz clan (from Geni site)
Crest of the von Zitzewitz clan
(from Geni site)
First... what a name. Although, the more I dug into the Zitzewitz clan, the more I saw that all four forenames are quite widely used. But most sources also have birth dates attached so I am fairly confident that the Zitzewitz info I found refers to our boy Ernst Bodo.

Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil was born 14 May 1910 in Berlin to Bodo Adalbert Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (1879-1958) and Leonie/Leonore Mathilde van der Wyck (1885-1969). Bodo Sr. had been born in Groß Crien, Pommern (now Kryznia, Poland) and his wife was born in Wedi, East Java (a Dutch colony). Bodo and Leonie were married 7 December 1905 in The Hague.

Ernst had two older brothers (Hendrik-Günther Bodo Wilhelm Theophil and Gerd Bodo Wilhelm Theophil). On 3 March 1917, the boys' parents divorced in Berlin and their father remarried less than two weeks later (15 March 1917) to Blanka von Zitzewitz. Blanka was the daughter of Cölestin I Friedrich Adolf Karl von Zitzewitz and Eliza Koebel and it is unknown if the two Zitzewitz families are related. Although, given the lack of  Bodo, Wilhelm or Theophil in Blanka's father's name, I'm going to guess this is a far removed branch of the Zitzewitz tree! It would appear, though, that Blanka's father was high up in the military (Oberstleutnant und Flügeladjutant des Kaisers - Lieutenant Colonel and aide-de-camp to the Kaiser). Another Cölestin, a Major Cölestin von Zitzewitz would serve as an aide to Hitler and report on the disaster of Stalingrad. I believe that the Zitzewitz family are a genealogical black hole and am now stepping away to focus on Ernst Bodo!

Ernst's father, Bodo, and step-mother, Blanka, provided he and his brothers with several half-sisters (Marie-Elise, Karin-Blanka and Rosemarie Elise). Ernst's mother, Leonie, also remarried in 1918 to Christianus Thurkow but the couple divorced in 1932. Leonie passed away in 1969 in Vichy, France.

Zitzewitz: Resident of the UK
Our quarry, Ernst Bodo, only really appears with certainty in the genealogical records in 1938 when he, surprisingly, arrives in the United Kingdom on Christmas Eve from New York. His age is 28, which would make his birth year 1910. He arrived in Plymouth and planned to settle in England. I had searched for earlier appearances of Ernst in Berlin, but there are at least three "Ernst" individuals in the 1930s directories, none of which can be ascribed with certainty to Ernst Bodo.

I wasn't even 100% sure that the 1938 UK arrival was Ernst Bodo except for... a Vermont Border Crossing record dated 21 September 1938. The record is for Baron Ernst von Zitzewitz,as he crosses from Quebec, Canada, into the USA at Rouses Point, NY. [Not sure why it is listed under Vermont Border crossings, but Vermont is just across the lake from this part of New York state.] This record is a veritable treasure trove of information on our friend.

He has a German passport (valid to 30 October 1939) issued in London, England. He had arrived in Quebec City on 17 September, 1938 upon the S.S. Empire of Australia. He was born in Berlin and is 28 years old (born 1910). He is 6'1" tall with a fair complexion, light brown hair and blue eyes. Ernst is single and a lumber operator. He can speak German and English and his permanent residence is 3 Grosvenor Square, London, where he lives with his mother, Eleanor van der Wyck. Ernst had never been to the USA before and his trip was a pleasure visit (less than 60 days). He planned to stay at the Commodore Hotel in New York City. The reverse of the form notes that his permit to stay was extended to 20 January 1939 as he had not made definite arrangements for his return journey but planned to sail home from Canada.

The mention of Ernst's mother, Eleanor (Leanore) van der Wyck is a key piece of information and confirms that the 1938 UK arrival mentioned earlier is likely our boy, returning from his trip to North America, albeit from a US port and not a Canadian one. That Ernst's permanent address is London is quite fascinating. His address, 3 Grosvenor Square is in the Mayfair area of London and quite posh, presumably back then as well. The fact that he is a German citizen, with a German passport, living in London in 1938, one year before the war broke out, is also quite intriguing. He would have been well-situated to have been a covert agent for the German secret service... although there is no evidence to confirm this. It is just a possibility.

There is a notation on the Geni site which states that Ernst B.W.T. von Zitzewit "Studierte in Rotterdam Nationalökonomie" - that he studied National Economics in Rotterdram. This would tally with his later career as an oil exectuvie.

Interned in the UK
What became of Ernst with the declaration of war between Germany and England? Well, the 1939 National Register has him living with his mother (and a lady's maid) at an address in Westminster (#34 - the unreleased entries have blacked out the street name although the previous page suggests that their address was Flat #34 in a building near 3 Grosvenor Square). Ernst's national registration number would have been AYNQ 61/3. Under the Defence Regulations, many enemy alien residents of England were interned with the declaration of war, some for a few weeks/months and some for the duration of the war. I found threeUK Alien Internees entries for Ernst Bodo W.T. von Zitzewitz and include the images here, as they tell quite a tale.

The first image is quite faint but it is a UK Alien Internees card. It lists his name Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz and his birth date as 14 May 1910. There is also a very faint Z83 which, based on other alien internee cards, may be a sequential alphabetical number based on surname [e.g. Zitzewitz was the 83rd person with a surname beginning with Z.]

1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).

 The more intriguing bit of information is the specific list that contains this card, visible in a screenshot of the Ancestry site - "1940: Internees on SS Arandora Star: Survivors".
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
Shows the specific file - 1940: Internees on SS Arandora Star: Survivors

Arandora Star Tragedy
In June and July 1940, after the invasion of the Low Countries, Britain decided to send some of its Italian and German alien internees (including Italian Fascist and German Nazi sympathizers and even a few German Jewish refugees) far away from its vulnerable shores.

A decision was made to ship some of the internees to the colonies, specifically Canada and Australia. Ernst von Zitzewitz was apparently one of those alien internees who boarded the Arandora Star bound for Canada. The ship sailed from Liverpool on 1 July 1940 with 734 interned Italian men, 479 interned German men, 86 German prisoners of war, 200 military guards, and a crew of 174 officers and men.

The ship sailed without a military escort and did not display the International Red Cross symbol to signify that civilians were on board. It was a doomed voyage, and in the early morning hours of 2 July, the ship was hit by a single torpedo from U-47, commanded by Günther Prien (who also sank the Royal Oak at Scapa Flow in 1939). Of the 1673 souls on board, almost half perished. The survivors were picked up by the Canadian C-class destroyer HMCS St. Laurent and taken to Greenock, Scotland. From there, many of the survivors were returned to Liverpool where they were placed on the SS Dunera, destination Australia. Ernst von Zitzewitz was fortunate to have survived the Arandora Star tragedy but he also had the misfortune to board the SS Dunera.

SS Dunera Debacle
The Dunera set sail from Liverpool on 10 July 1940. It had a capacity of 1600 persons but was crammed with 2000 souls, mostly Jewish refugees but also some prisoners of war, 200 Italian fascists and 251 "German Nazis" (BBC article).  It was not a pleasant voyage. The poorly discipline British guards removed (stole) the personal possessions of the internees and many prisoners had their luggage tossed overboard. Many of the guards were later accused of acts of cruelty and assault. On top of that, everyone's nerves took a hit when, in the first days of the voyage, the ship was hit by a torpedo which did not detonate. A second torpedo was fired but the heavy waves lifted the ship up just as the torpedo passed underneath.

1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees record from Ancestry - Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz - German - born 14 May 1910
"Sailed for Australia in s.s. 'DUNERA' on 10th July, 1940". The Z83 is probably a sequential surname tally.
The stroke-through line has a circled note "Under V on list" - likely that they put him on the "V" surname list (not the Z list".
The M 15 and the other numbers on the bottom of the card are of unknown meaning.


After a 57 day voyage in appalling conditions, the ship arrived in Australia. An Australian medical officer boarded the vessel and his damning report led to the court martial of several British guards.

Our friend Ernst had survived the sinking of the Arandora Star and the hideous voyage on the Dunera. The fact that Britain was so eager to get rid of him likely meant he was considered a Category A or Category B internee, which makes me wonder what made him so "dangerous". Given the mention of "German Nazis" (BBC article) in relation the passengers of the Dunera, it is possible that he was somehow affiliated with the Nazi Party. Or it is also possible that the BBC article assumed that the Germans were all Nazis and the Italians were all Fascists. It is also well known that although it was the intention of the British authorities to round up "Nazis" and "Fascists", mistakes were made. It may be that Ernst was simply a single, male, German alien living in Britain at a time of war... or he may indeed have had Nazi sympathies...

Group of Camp 1 internees at Tatura internment camp in Australia.
Group of Camp 1 internees at Tatura internment camp in Australia.
Back row: l to r - Willi Metzger; Louis Dressing; Bodo von Zitzewitz;
Herbert Dressing; Harold Hampel; Otto Haack.
Front row: l to r - Frederick Dressing; Fritz Huse; Friedrich Riha;
Johann Andrejczak.
(From Victorian Collections site).
Once in Australia, Zitzewitz was sent to the Tatura internment camp (Camp 1) north of Melbourne. He would apparently spend the remainder of the war in Australia.

The photograph at right shows a group of internees at the Tatura Camp and Ernst is easily recognizable (from his later Brazilian immigration cards) in the back row. He was only 30 years old when he was sent to Australia. Ernst's dangerous deportation journey, and that of his fellow internees from the Arandora Star and Dunera was not, however, in vain. Back in Britain, the story of the Arandora Star created quite a public uproar and Churchill admitted that the internment and deportation of refugees had been a mistake. In the late summer of 1940, Category C Jewish refugees began to be released from internment.

It is unclear what became of Ernst's mother, Leonore van der Wyck who was also resident in London in 1939. As a woman, she may have been seen as less "dangerous" and classified as a Category C alien and subsequently released later in 1940. What is clear is that in 1948, she became a naturalized citizen of the UK. Interestingly, the National Archives holds a Home Office record for her Application for Naturalization which is closed until 2049 for the standard reason: "Contains sensitive personal information which would substantially distress or endanger a living person or his or her descendants".

Repatriated
On 5 August 1945, Ernst returned to the UK aboard the Dominion Monarch ship. From the index card below, it would appear that he was destined for "continental internment". Given that he was a German citizen, it would also appear that he was repatriated to Germany on 28 October 1945.
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
1940 UK Alien Internees card for Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz (from Ancestry).
This image shows that Ernst was a German, born 15 May 1910. It states that he returned to the UK on 5 August 1945. The words behind the date seem to be "Dominion Monarch" Continental internment. The "Z83" is likely his sequential surname tally. Below his name are "A. MI5 or M15 (I see MI5 wherever I go!), an "M." an "nd." and the word Australia. At the bottom, it states "repatriated 28 October 1945".
Up until this point, Ernst's journey seems fairly clear. Prior to the war, he had been living in London with his mother, at a fairly posh Mayfair address. With the declaration of war, he was interned as an enemy alien. In the spring/summer of 1940, with invasion fears coursing through Britain, he and other Category A & B internees were deported. Ernst survived the Arandora Star sinking and was ultimately sent to Australia aboard the SS Dunera. In August 1945, he was sent back to the UK and then, in October 1945, repatriated to Germany.

We come now to Vera Eriksen. It is fairly clear from the above, that Vera and Ernst likely never met between September 1939 and August 1945. Did they meet at an internment camp in the UK in the fall of 1945? Or perhaps on a ship that took people back to Germany? Or at an internment camp in Germany, prior to their release? Somehow, they both ended up in Hamburg, at the Klopstock Pension, former haunt of would-be Abwehr spies. Although money was indeed tight in post-war Germany, it is possible that Ernst received some funds from his mother, who was likely still living in London. Ernst apparently paid for Vera's burial, a kind gesture on the part of a man who had suffered and lost so much.

Post-war
The next time we pick up Ernst's trail is on 1 May 1951, when he married Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin in Hamburg. If I were tempted by conspiracy theories, I could posit that this is too much of a coincidence! Perhaps this is actually Vera Eriksen?? Perhaps she and Ernst concocted a plan whereby she could steal the identity of the "real" Vera Von Bonin, etc, etc. But... other than the coincidence of names (both Vera's) there is not a shred of evidence of support any such theory. Although, I did find one reference (Geneanet) which has her name as Anna Helena Viktoria von Bonin...

Anna Vera Viktoria was apparently the daughter of a bank director and born in 1916 in Lietzow, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Anna married Johann Rudolf von Schröder in 1938 and the couple apparently had three children but later divorced. At some point, Anna Vera Viktoria met Ernst von Zitzewitz and...

On 1 May 1951, in Hamburg, Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz married Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin, former wife of Johann Rudolf von Schröder.

A few weeks later... on 30 May 1951, in Hamburg, Karin Blanka von Zitzewitz married Johann Rudolf von Schröder, former husband of Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin.

Sooo... did I mention that the Zitzewitz genealogy is a black hole? Yes... think I did. If you scroll up, you'll see that Ernst had a half-sister named Karin-Blanka. And yes... this is apparently the Karin-Blanka who married the former husband of Ernst's new bride. Clear as mud? Excellent. Is there significance to this?? Not sure. It just seems a bit strange... but... true love creates strange pairings. I should mention that while I have found the 1938 marriage registration of Anna Vera Viktoria and Johann Rudolf, I have not found the 1951 marriage of Ernst and Anna Vera (nor Karin Blanka and Johann Rudolf). Their marriage information is purely from family trees available on Ancestry...

A closer look at the 1938 marriage of Anna Vera Viktoria and Johann Rudolf reveals more complexities than upon first glance. The marriage took place in Berlin-Brandenburg at a Lutheran church: Evangelische Kirche. Garnisongemeinde Berlin - a church traditionally associated with the nearby garrison of the former Prussian Army. Under the Nazi regime, however, one wonders if it was still solely connected with the garrison. Johann Rudolf Schröder was a Kaufmann (businessman) from Hamburg. Anna Vera's entry is a bit more complicated, and I include it here for assistance with transciption!

1938 marriage registration extract for Johann Rudolf Schröder and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin (from Ancestry)
1938 marriage registration extract for Johann Rudolf Schröder and Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin
(from Ancestry)

I can decipher the column headings... just need assistance with the handwriting... Here's what I've got so far:
Column 7 - von Bonin, Anna Vera Viktoria (there is no way to make a Helena out of that Vera!)
Column 8 - Lag???   ?.   d. Eckhart v. Bonin und Anni, geb. v. Eisenhart-Rothe, Berlin ??? und Bonin bis Schö???der.
Column 9 - 21 December 1916 in Lietzow bei Platha - Pommern [can't find a Platha anywhere]
Column 10 - ev? (evangelisch?)
Column 11 - Fraulein?
Column 12 - 10 May 1938 Berlin-Wilmersdorf Nr. 585
Column 13 - 11 May 1938
Column 14 - some signature
Column 15 - no idea... is a notes field, possibly... "Oberst.... auf Berlin-??? ?? ?? ??"
Any assistance much appreciated! I should mention that the von Bonin's are also a genealogical black hole and I am side-stepping them as well....

What is clear is that Ernst, from a posh Pomeranian family, married Anna Vera Viktoria, also from a posh West Pomeranian family. The half-siblings marrying spouses from a divorced pair is just... odd.

Successful Oil Executive
In 1953, 1955 and 1956, Ernst Bodo shows up living in Hamburg as a businessman.
In 1953, an Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz whose occupation is "Hochk.", is living at Reichskanzlerstr 14 in Nienst [likely Nienstedten - western district of Hamburg along the Elbe River].

In 1955 and 1956, an Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz (no occupation), is living at Heimhuder Str 59, in the Rotherbaum district of Hamburg, just north of city centre.

And after that... things shift for Ernst... he is issued with a German passport on 10 January 1956 in Hamburg and a year later, he is receiving a visa from the Brazilian consulate in London (30 January 1957). His birth date and parents are all correct. He gives his profession as "comerciante" or merchant/businessman. His address in the country of origin is 46 Porchester Terrace, London. Hard to tell if this is a permanent address or simply a way stop on his journey. For there is another Brazilian visa card issued on 8 March 1957 in the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which gives his address in the country of origin as "R.S. Peña 788 nesta". This could be the town of "Presidencia Roque Sáenz Peña" in Argentina... hard to say. In both instances, Ernst is granted a temporary visa.

Ernst definitely moved around during this time. On 21 July 1958, Ernst arrived in the US onboard a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) flight from England. He had been granted a visa in London on 20 June 1958.  His address in the US was c/o the Asiatic Petroleum Corporation in New York. This is the first indicator that Ernst was involved with oil companies. The Asiatic Petroleum Co. was a joint venture (begun in 1903) between the Shell and Royal Dutch oil companies to conduct exploration in the far east, primarily China. In 1951, China seized all properties of the company for "national security" reasons. There is no evidence that Ernst spent any time in the far east. At some point, Ernst must have flown back to England for his next international trip included both his wife and son.

On 29 August 1958, Ernst, his wife Vera and their son, departed Southampton (UK) aboard the Prins der Nederlanded. They traveled First Class and their destination was Cartagena, Colombia. Their son was born 14 May 1953 and he (and his parents) all had German passports, so the son was likely born in Germany. Their permanent residence (if living there for more than 12 months), however, was England and their address was 56 [sic] Porchester Terrace, London. Interestingly, Ernst had the title "Baron" in brackets next to his name and gave his occupation as "executive". According to the information on the arrival card, they planned to spend more than 12 months in Colombia.

A few months later, on 10 November 1958, Ernst renewed his passport at the German embassy in Bogota, Columbia. In July of the following year [1959], he flew from Bogota to Florida (using his previously issued American visa from London) and gave his destination as the New Weston Hotel in New York. His permanent address was listed as Bogota, Columbia. A few months later, on 3 August, 1959, he was back in Columbia applying for another visa to enter Brazil from the Brazilian embassy in Bogota.

Finally, on 26 February, 1960, he arrived in Florida from HAV (likely an airport code and corresponding to Havana, Cuba). He was in transit to Port au Spain in the British West Indies (now Trinidad & Tobago). His permanent address was listed as Port Trinidad, BWI (British West Indies).

It's hard to keep track of this guy, for on 10 July 1960, he arrived in NY again from Piarco, Trinidad via a BWIA flight. His intended destination was the Asiatic Petroleum Co. at  50 West 50th Street in New York and his permanent address was given as "c/o Shell Trinidad Limited, Point Fortin, Trinidad, W.I.". It also appears that he traveled with his wife (Vera) and son (whose name was [forename redacted] B.W.T.) who also arrived on the same flight.  Intriguingly, his son's birth date is given as 14 May 1953 in Hamburg. I thought this might be a transcription error on the part of the immigration officer but it is confirmed on the Genealogics site. Vera's immigration card is simply a copy of her son's but with information scratched out and handwritten in a very faint pen. I am also going to give an educated guess and suggest that the son's full name was [forename redacted] Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz. Apparently the apple does not fall far from the Zitzewitz family tree.

A few months later, on 20 October 1960, Ernst landed in New York from another BOAC flight, originating in London. His permanent address was Wentworth, Surrey and his intended destination in the US was the Dorset Hotel in New York. Originally, his visa had been issued on 6 April 1960 in Washington but this had been scratched out and the new issue date was 19 October 1960 in London, the day before his flight arrived in the US.

Death of Ernst Bodo
We reach the end of the tale with a bit of a anti-climactic thump. Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz passed away on 18 July 1966 in Caherulla, County Kerry, Ireland. How he got there, to the far southwestern corner of Ireland, we have no idea. Is there any truth to Andersen's assertion that his wife was involved in helping Irish women find jobs? Unknown. From the above travel itineraries, it would appear that from 1951 to 1956, the couple lived in Hamburg. From 1956/7 to 1960, the family was either living in London or living abroad. It isn't clear when they moved to Ireland.

Ernst's son, was married in 1978 at Richmond upon Thames, near London. There is some online evidence that he ended up in France. His mother, Anna Vera Viktoria von Bonin passed away in Paris, France on 30 December 2006. [Note: I have redacted the son's forename as he is most likely still alive.]

Vera Eriksen and Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz
Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz 1957 - Brazilian visa application (from Ancestry)
Ernst Bodo Wilhelm Theophil von Zitzewitz
1957 - Brazilian visa application
(from Ancestry)
As noted earlier, it's not clear when/how Ernst met Vera the spy. We know that Ernst was repatriated to Germany on 25 October 1945 and that Vera was sent back on 29 October 1945 (KV 2/16 197a). It would appear that the two were not sent back in the same batch of repatriated internees, which would suggest that they either met beforehand, perhaps at the London Reception Centre, or afterwards, at a camp in Germany.

Ernst's deportation as an alien internee in 1940 suggests the British saw him as dangerous, perhaps because of a political affiliation. His later career as a globe-trotting oil executive would seem to have him well-placed for an intelligence role, although there is no evidence of this. On the other hand, there is one tiny piece of information which does suggest he was affiliated with the Nazi party.

A German website has a index of printed obituaries of the German nobility from 1912-2009. There is an entry for:
Zitzewitz, Ernst Bodo v., NSDAP-Mitglied aus Irland
index list of printed obituary notices for German nobility from 1912 to 2009
AdelsForschung site
The name and location are both right. "NSDAP-Mitglied" translates as NSDAP member (National Socialist German Workers' Party member).

How Vera and Ernst met, and what transpired between them, shall likely remain a mystery. I have to admit, I found Ernst's story quite fascinating. It's interesting that he never relinquished his German nationality, even when he was an oil executive, working for Shell and living in London. Maybe that, in and of itself, is a clue.

Post Script: another Von Zitzewitz Mystery
In pursuing Ernst Bodo through the decades, and around the world, I came across a bit of a mystery. There are a number of UK probate records for a number of von Zitzewitz folk from 1959, 1960 and 1961 which were administered by the "Administrator of German Enemy Property".

VON ZITZEWITZ Blanka Anna Elise Marie otherwise Blank Marie Anna Elise otherwise Blanka of Lesnie Kreis Stolp Germany married woman died 24 Marcy 1945. Administration London 25 September [1959] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Coelestin August Julius Max otherwise Coelestin of Rheden No. 83 Germany died 11 October 1946 Administration London 11 June [1959] to Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Henry Paul otherwise Henry of Lietzenburger Str. 27 Berlin W. 15 Germany died 3 May 1945 at Templin Germany Administration London 8 April [1959] to Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Alexander Maximilian Heinrich of Kiel Germany died 2 August 1943 on war service Administration (with will) London 24 May [1960] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £193 6s. 8d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Julius Adolf Oskar otherwise Julius of Stolp Pomerania Germany died 8 March 1945 at Stolp Administration London 7 January to the Administration of German Enemy Property. Effects £700 13s. 5d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Max Wolfgang Oskar Juluis [sic] Georg of Koslin Pomerania Germany died 27 August 1941 on war service Administration London 23 May [1960] to the Administrator of German Enemy Property. Effects £157 13s. 4d. in England.

VON ZITZEWITZ Friedrich Julius Adolf otherwise Friedrich of Hohetorstrasse 34, Koslin, Germany, Doctor of Law, died 25 December 1940. Administration London 12 December 1961 to the Aministrator of German Enemy Propert. [no list of effects]

I don't know a lot about the 1951 law which applied to The Distribution of German Enemy Property but it seems odd that these probates would be taking place up to 20 years after the death of the individual. It brings me back to what one of the Zitzewitz relatives had told Andersen... that the Zitzewitz clan lost all of their wealth after the war.


Post Post Script
This post was a bit of a tiger by the tail! I started it to satisfy my own curiosity as to whether Ernst was associated with the Abwehr. The fascinating story of his life kind of grabbed me and while I may not have answered the Abwehr question, I'm happy with the results!

Sources
Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg [Sparrow: The dramatic history of spy Vera Schalburg] by Kirstine Kloster Andersen, published 2018.
The Beautiful Spy: the Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen by David Tremain, published 2019.
Ancestry, Geni, Geneanet, Genealogics - many, many birth/baptism/marriage/death, census, passenger lists, visa applications
Kirstine Kloster Andersen's website
Britain'sInternment of Enemy Aliens - National Archives blog
Arandora Star sinking - Mariner site
Arandora Star information - Warth Mills site
Arandora Star - Wikipedia
SS Dunera - BBC article
Tatura Internment Camp, Australia - Victorian Collections site
von Bonin genealogy - Geneanet 
Ernst B.W.T. von Zitzewitz entry - Geni site
National Archives - KV 2/16 - file on Vera Eriksen
National Archives - search result - HO 334/223/48858 - Naturalization certificate of Eleanore Mathilde van der Wyck.
National Archives - search result - Naturalization application for L.M. van der Wyck - closed til 2049
Kennelly Archive, Ireland - - has watermarked photographs of Ernst and his wife, Vera, from November 1965, taken in County Kerry, Ireland.
German Enemy Property - History Notes article (1998) - British Policy towards enemy property during and after the Second World War.

17 May 2019

Book Review - The Beautiful Spy - the Life and Crimse of Vera Eriksen - David Tremain (2019)

Cover - The Beautiful Spy by
David Tremain - published April 2019
by The History Press
The Book
The Beautiful Spy - The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen. David Tremain. The History Press. 2019.

Summary
In late September 1940, two men and a woman beached their inflatable life raft on the coast of Scotland. The group split up, one man (Werner Walti) went off on his own and got as far as Edinburgh. The other two (Karl Theodore Drücke and Vera Eriksen) didn't make it beyond the railway station of tiny Port Gordon. All three aroused the suspicions of the locals and were swiftly arrested. Suspected of being spies, they were sent down to London to the tender mercies of Major Robin W.G. Stephens at MI5's secret interrogation centre (Latchmere House).

Drücke and Walti didn't reveal much and were ultimately executed in early August 1941 at Wandsworth Prison. Vera was sent to Holloway Prison and finally an internment camp on the Isle of Man. Strangely, she was never prosecuted and speculation has raged for decades as to the reasons for her escape from justice. Speculation has also raged about her post-war life... Did she move to the Isle of Wight and live under a new name? Did she become a double agent for the British against the Russians? Did she die in Hamburg in 1946 as suggested by a death certificate? Vera's life, as Tremain says is a "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".

Review
I'd been looking forward to this book for months! It had a publishing delay in Britain (from February to April), plus a delayed release in Canada (several months). But... whilst in London, I bought a copy at Foyles.

The book is, true to Tremain's style, very well-researched. He has delved into the files of Vera and her associates and presents a lot of information. I might almost say, however, that there is a bit too much information. Some of the secondary people, who are presented with a fair bit of biographical detail, could have had their information relegated to footnotes. I admit I got rather lost in the sheer volume of people presented to me. I commiserate with Tremain because I too did a lot of research into the lives of secondary characters in the Josef Jakobs saga, which, ultimately, did not make it into my book. It was hard to cut them out. Having said that, on the last page of the book, Tremain mentions a Ernst Bodo von Zitzewitz (mentioned in Spurven: Den dramatiske historie om spionen Vera Schalburg by Kirstine Kloster Andersen (2018)) who apparently paid for Vera's funeral. I would have loved to know more about this character...Who was he? Did he exist? Was he connected to the Abwehr? But in this instance, Tremain leaves the reader hanging.

I also wished that Tremain had perhaps drawn a few more inferences/conclusions throughout the book, and not just lay out the facts for observation. This may just be a personal preference. Some chapters seemed a bit disjointed and I wasn't always sure how the pieces were connected to what had gone before.

Tremain has done an admirable job of presenting every shred of fact on Vera, and her direct and not-so-direct associates

Tremain has given several interviews on radio programs and one of them, from TalkRadioEurope is available here.

Review Score
4 out of 5 - very well researched but a bit daunting to read.

Other Resources
Daily Record - mentions Tremain's book
Daily Express - mentions Tremain's book

14 May 2019

The Spy in the Tower - Press, Promo and Published

Cover - The Spy in the Tower by Giselle Jakobs
The History Press
The Spy in the Tower was sent out from the printers yesterday so should be hitting bookstores in the UK soon! I have yet to see a copy but am planning to stop by the Foyles book shop here in London tomorrow and see if they have received their copies.


I've done a couple of radio interviews whilst in London...


BBC Radio - Robert Elms Show - 10 May - my interview starts around the 37 minute mark. Interview is about 15-20 minutes. Went by super quickly and I didn't get a chance to mention all sorts of stuff! They had only received a pdf copy of the book that morning so their questions weren't as well-researched as the TalkRadio people below... Such is life...

BBC Radio London
(c) 2019 Giselle K. Jakobs
If you want to listen to it, you may need to register with the BBC online... It asks for a postal code - just use any UK postal code (it won't accept non UK post codes)...

TalkRadio - Paul Ross Late Late Early Early Show - 01 May - aired between 1 am and 5 am (ugh) - did a pre-recorded 10 minute interview - have yet to find an online version.

Daily Express also had a two page spread on the story of Josef in its 29 April 2019 edition. That was the day we arrived in London (late) but we did manage to run a couple copies to ground at the WH Smith in St. Pancras railway station! They did manage to use my father's image instead of Josef's... but that was corrected for the online version, which is available here...

From THP site - photo is of Josef and his family circa 1910
(r to l - Josef, Emma, Anne, Maria, Kaspar) (c) G.K. Jakobs
The interviewer kept calling me "Gretchen" (my grandmother's nic-name) but got it right near the end of the interview. They actually asked some good questions and had obviously done their research.



The History Press has also published an online article about my quest for Josef... Their theme for their online newsletter for the month of May is "undercover". They asked me to write something about the book - anything at all... so you can read what I wrote via the above link.

20 April 2019

The Spy in the Tower... Printer Delays

The Spy in the Tower - front cover
(from The History Press)
This publishing adventure is quite the roller-coaster ride!! Get all excited over a 1 May publishing date... book trip to London to be there for the release and... now we've got delays at the printer... so it's due to come out on 13 May at this point. Sigh.

I can't say I'm completely surprised as fellow author, David Tremain, experienced similar delays with his book on The Beautiful Spy: The Life and Crimes of Vera Eriksen. It was slated to come out in February 2019 and was repeatedly delayed... but finally hit the bookstores on 5 April. So that is the good news... it does eventually make its way through the maze!

I've heard rumours that the problem is Brexit... yep... that the printers are on the continent and shipping containers are being held up at the border. Who knows... just keeping all fingers crossed there aren't any more delays!

And...
  • I have some promotional appointments whilst in London... going to be on the Robert Elms show (BBC Radio) on May 10 at 10:30 am.
  • I put the publisher in touch with some contacts at Historic Royal Palaces (oversees the Tower of London gift shops) and Royal Armouries (gift shop in the White Tower)... hoping to get the book into their shops.
  •  I am hoping for a book signing on 15 August at the Tower... stay tuned...
  • I am also hoping to be at the Ramsey 1940s Weekend... August 17/18 in Ramsey (Cambridgeshire)... fingers crossed
Other than that... have been sending all my contacts news of the book coming out...

14 April 2019

Website Review - All That's Interesting (2019)

Came across an article about Josef on the All That's Interesting website.

It's actually pretty good (all things considered) that summarizes the story of Josef quite well.

They reference my interview with the RadioTimes back in 2012, and this seems to be their primary resource.

There are only a few minor errors:
  • Josef was arrested in 1938 (not 1939)
  • he fired his pistol (not his revolver - although this is a forgivable error since even the MI5 files use the two terms interchangeably).

03 April 2019

The Spy in the Tower - pre-orders for non-UK readers

The Spy in the Tower - 1 May 2019
by Giselle Jakobs
(The History Press)
Good news... readers outside of the UK can now pre-order a copy of the book (if you want to...) via the Book Depository site. They have free world-wide shipping!

UK readers can still order via Amazon.co.uk.

The marketing department of The History Press is also looking at setting up a book signing event in London in early May (when I'm over there). At this point, we're still looking good for a 1 May publication date. More details as I have them (this is becoming a standard phrase of mine).

As an aside... I thought researching and writing the darn book would cover the lion's share of the work but... I'm learning something new every day! I believe the real work is just beginning.

Whilst in London, I'm also planning to visit some of the sites associated with Josef's time in London and filming some vignettes for each. Bit of the history of each, Josef's time there, and my own impressions/thoughts of each. Sites would include:
  • Cannon Row Police Station - where Josef was brought upon arrival in London
  • HM Prison Brixton - Josef was incarcerated here twice during his recovery from his broken ankle
  • Dulwich Hospital - where Josef was hospitalised for almost two months
  • Latchmere House (or what's left of it) - MI5's secret wartime interrogation centre (most of which is now a housing estate)
  • HM Prison Wandsworth - where Josef spent the last three weeks of his life
  • Duke of York's Headquarters - where the court martial took place on 4/5 August 1941
  • Tower of London - site of the execution
  • Tower Bridge Mortuary - site of the post-mortem
  • St. Mary's Cemetery, Kensal Green - final resting place of Josef
Planning to create an exclusive access "goodie-bag" for readers who purchase the book... more details later. 

01 April 2019

The Spy in the Tower - T minus 30 days (and counting)

The Spy in the Tower is slated to come out on May 1, 2019 (in the UK) and so far, all systems are go. I've spent the last month or so reviewing the first proofs, then the second proofs and indexing the whole thing. It's been a bit of a marathon and rather all-consuming. The second proofs had some errors introduced in making the corrections from the first proofs. And so I read everything with a fine-tooth comb... Hoping it all goes smoothly with the second proof corrections and the index... fingers crossed! There's a lot of room for hiccups with the index...

The History Press has also sent me a mock-up of the full book cover with dust jacket flaps and a back cover...
The Spy in the Tower - by Giselle Jakobs front cover and inside flap - The History Press
The Spy in the Tower - by Giselle Jakobs
front cover and inside flap - The History Press
And the back cover... with inside flap
The Spy in the Tower - by Giselle Jakobs
front cover and inside flap - The History Press
Folks in the United Kingdom can pre-order via the Amazon link on THP website... North American audiences may need to wait... more details as I have them.

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?]. [I've had an email subsequent to this blog being posted, from Traugott Vitz, who suggests that as a widow, Rose would have kept the title of her husband (Generaldirektor) as it would have been quite extraordinary for that time period if the title referred to Rose].

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...

[Thanks to Traugott Vitz for contributing some suggestions on Rose Goose and her address book entries!]

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.