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Showing posts from May, 2019

Robin W.G. Stephens - Clues from a Gravestone

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War separates families. It separated Josef Jakobs from his wife and children, permanently. It's not a unique story but sometimes I wonder... after hostilities... do people find each other again? Or are they forever burst asunder by the legacy of conflict?

A few months back, I had written a blog post about the apparent estrangement between Robin W.G. Stephens and his parents, William H. and Elizabeth J. Stephens. From what I can glean, Robin's parents went to Jersey in an ill-timed trip. When the Germans invaded in July 1940, William and Elizabeth were stuck for the duration of the war. Meanwhile Robin was commandant of two interrogation centres: Camp 020 during the war and Bad Nenndorf after the war.

In February 1946, after returning to England from Jersey, Robin's father wrote an impassioned plea to the War Office for any word of his son. The letter is contained with Stephens' army service records file, but there is no evidence that father and son ever reconnected.

R…

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

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

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

The following genealogical reconstruction is based primarily on Ancestry records as well as a dusty volume entitled: Ge…

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

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[updated 25 May 2019]
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? 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 …

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

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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…

The Spy in the Tower - Press, Promo and Published

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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...

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…