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Showing posts from December, 2020

2020 - A Year in Review

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Well... I'm not sure what to say about 2020 except that it wasn't boring. From the flooded basement in February to Covid-19... it has definitely been a year of the unexpected. I'm hopeful that 2021 will bring a bit more routine but... who really knows. We, at least, still have our health and a health stock of toilet paper. In the meantime, I thought I would do a bit of a year review. Other than a few weeks during the flood/mud of basement adventures, I managed to maintain my goal of publishing one blog post a week. And, in reviewing the list of published blogs, I managed to cover a fairly wide variety of topics related to Josef Jakobs. Some closely related... some more tangential. At one point, I thought that I might be running out of blog topics but, after re-organizing my notes from various lists... I find that I have a good 100 blog topics in various stages of creation - from ideas to rough sketches to almost ready drafts. No shortage of something to write about it would

Book Review - They Came to Spy - Stanley Firmin - 1947

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The Book They Came to Spy: An Account of Nazi Espionage in Great Britain. Stanley Firmin. London-Hutchison. 1947. Background For over a year, I've been meaning to review Stanley Firmin's 1947 book, They Came to Spy , but somehow, there is always another blog that seems more pressing. But, today is the day. Mind you, I should add a caveat. While I thought that I had actually purchased this book, that turns out not to be the case. Last year (2019), fellow researcher Tony Percy kindly sent scanned pages from one of Firmin's chapters that relate to Josef Jakobs. Given what I've read therein, I'm not sure spending $30 CAD on the book is a worthwhile use of my research funds! As Percy wrote on his blog from February 2019 , the book is "wildly inaccurate". Summary Chapter 11 of the book is titled "The Parachutist who wore Spats" and refers to Josef Jakobs who, in addition to being dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase also had grey spats

Court Martial of Josef Jakobs - Stenographer - Sgt. Bertram Anthony Balment RAOC

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Royal Army Ordnance Corps I'd never heard of the tooth-to-tail ratio before. It's the ratio of the number of combat soldiers (tooth) to the number of soldiers involved in a support capacity (tail). I guess I knew that every army needed support and logistics but, in my mind, when someone is a soldier, that means they are in a combat role. Such is not the case. While numbers vary depending on the era and the army, the ratio can vary from 15% to 40%. Which means there are generally a lot more support soldiers in an army than combat soldiers. In this latest blog, I want to revisit the story of Quartermaster Sergeant Bertram Anthony Balment of the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, who served as the stenographer at the court martial of German spy Josef Jakobs. I had done a brief post about Balment and the court's interpreter (Lt. W.J. Thomas) five years ago, but the piece I wrote on Balment was minuscule. I've since dug up some more info.... Balment Origins Bertram Anthony Balment

From the Mailbox

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Several months ago (April!) I received an email from a German researcher, Heinz-Jörgen K.-v.H. who has been tracing the lives of the Katz family. Those who follow this blog might recall that Lily (née Katz) Knips was a Jewish widow living in Berlin, who in 1938, was introduced to Josef Jakobs by friends. Josef tried to convince her to buy a "legitimate" passport/visa (actually forged) from Ziebell in order to escape to England. Lily managed to escape without availing herself of Ziebell's shady services and joined her grown-up son in London in April 1939. She left behind her sister - Elsa (née Katz) Majewski (deported to Sobibor on 13 June 1942) - and their father - Jakob Katz (died on 15 April 1942 in Hannover's Jewish hospital after a long illness). Heinz-Jörgen had come across my post on Lily Knips and wanted to share some information about Jacob Katz's siblings. "Perhaps you'd be interested in a little visit to Mollenfelde, a village not far from Gött

Court Martial of Josef Jakobs - Waiting Member - Major Robert Christopher Alexander, Irish Guards

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Irish Guards badge A few years ago, I posted a blog giving a bit of background about the officers who served as the Members of the Court at Josef's court martial in early August 1941. I was able to track down fairly good info on all but one of the officers, drawing a blank on Major R.C. Alexander, Irish Guards, Guards Depot, one of the Waiting Members. I was unable to dig up any further info for my book on Josef, The Spy in the Tower, published in 2019. But a few months ago, I gave Major Alexander another try... Tracking down Major R.C. Alexander Part of the problem with Major Alexander was the fact that I had no first names to work with. So, I decided to sift through the British Army Lists for the period 1941-1942. I tracked down the section for the Irish Guards and... voila... found this entry in 1942 (Part 1 Volume 1). British Army List, 1942, Part 1, Volume 1 - Irish Guards Given that Alexander was made a Brevet Major on 2 July 1941, my next step was to sift through the Gazett

From the Mailbox

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Some of the communications I've received this past week. Harm Knol Bruins - Dutch Spy I received an email this week from Ivar B. whose great aunt-in-law was the second wife of Harm Knol Bruins , Dutch engineer and German spy. I've updated my blog post (link above) with the info that Ivar shared. The most startling thing is that while both Bruins and Anna Lilian von Vaupel-Klein, his second wife, were arrested on 12 May 1940, Bruins escaped with his life after being shipped to England for interrogation, while von Vaupel-Klein was executed two weeks later by the French. Ivar is trying to get some judicial documents unlocked and hopefully they will shed some light on the case and answer a few questions. Why was Bruins sent to England for interrogation while von Vaupel-Klein was left to the not-so-tender mercies of the French? Given the brouhaha that surrounded the execution of female spies by Germany in both world wars, and England's reluctance to do the same, one wonders why

Magazine Article Review - After the Battle - Volume 150

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The Magazine Article From the Editor, After the Battle, volume 150, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd., 2010, page 53. Summary A full page spread (mostly photos) summarizing my visit to Ramsey, Huntingdonshire with Winston Ramsey. Includes photograph of me standing in the potato filed where Josef Jakobs landed, and in front of the Ramsey Police Station. Also a photograph of the envelope which contained Josef Jakobs' final letter to his wife, addressed to her at Rudolstädter Strasse 124. That building was bombed out in 1943 and there is a photograph of me standing in front of the rebuilt building. We had also visited the Ramsey Rural Museum but completely missed seeing the fragment of Josef's parachute on display in the museum. Review Score 5/5 - nice little piece that neatly summarizes our visit to Ramsey. I have, I think, now done blogs on all of the After the Battle issues that touch on the Josef Jakobs story - see below: After the Battle - Volume 11 - 1976 - the c

From the Mailbox

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A few months back, I received some very kind feedback on The Spy in the Tower. I've been meaning to share the comments for a while and my weekly Mailbox blog post seems like a good place for that. Winston Ramsey, After the Battle Magazine Winston was the first person I reached out to back in the late 1980s when I was trying to track down information on my grandfather, Josef Jakobs. After the Battle's classic spread on the executed spies from the Second World War was instrumental in helping me move a step up in my quest. "Words fail me! Since it arrived I have only had time to dip into your book but already it comes across as a masterly scholarship blended with your own beautiful expressive way of telling the story. Which makes it very hard to put it down when I have chores to do. I am privileged to have been able to help you with your project and I still treasure the memories of the first day I spent with you in 1990 on that whistle-stop tour of the London locations. We w

Black Market Passports - Alfred Gutmann

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 I may have tracked down another one of Ziebell's black market passport clients - Alfred Gutmann. The 1939 German Minority Census on Mapping the Lives has only one Alfred Gutmann living in Berlin at the time. While I am not 100% sure that it is him, I thought that I would dig a bit deeper, just in case it was him. The German Minority Census gives one piece of hopeful information, Alfred and his family, wife Lina and children Herbert James and Steffi Mirjam, all escaped to the USA via Portugal. Whether false Finnish passports helped them is doubtful. On top of that, Alfred's son, Herbert James Goodman (anglicized version of Gutmann), gave an interview on 17 October 1996 that was filmed for the Visual History Foundation (Survivors of the Shoah) . I was able to watch the video and learned quite a bit about the Gutmann family. Supplemented by information from Ancestry, I think we can get a fairly good picture of the family. Again, I am not 100% sure that this is the correct Alfred