Dutch Language Blog

Mata Hari – Part Two Posted by on May 16, 2012 in Culture

Last week I told you about the early years of the Dutch woman known as Mata Hari. Today we will continue where we left off and learn about her later years.

On March 13th, 1905 Mata Hari (a name M’greet adopted with her new life in Paris) debuted as an exotic dancer. So admired were her dances, that she ended up performing in many European venues, including Spain, Monte Carlo and Germany.

Mata Hari’s heyday lasted from 1905 until 1912. As her career as an exotic dancer began to end, she replaced it with a new career, that of courtesan. Despite the career change, she did try to remain slightly active in the entertainment industry. On May 23rd 1914 she performed in Germany. Her performance, deemed “indecent,” was reported to the police and a police officer named Griebel decided to check it out. The story goes that he was enchanted by Mata Hari on the spot and invited her on a date.

It is here that the story of Mata Hari becomes a bit unclear. Several different theories exist about what happened next including one that says Griebel’s superior, Traugott von Jagow, became her boyfriend and ordered her to spy on France and another that says she went to a German “spy school” located in Antwerp, Belgium.

No matter what version you follow, Mata Hari departed Germany two days after war broke out on August 4th, 1914. Back in Paris she fell in love with the Russian officer Vladmir Masloff, who was often called Vadim. Vadim was eventually ordered back to the Front where he lost sight in his left eye due to being gassed by the Germans.

Vadim was in a military hospital near Vittel. Officially in the war zone, civilians such as Mata Hari, required special permission to travel there. While asking for that permission Mata Hari met Georges Ladoux, an army captain in charge of organising French counterespionage.

Mata Hari had already been facing some struggles getting permission to visit Vadim because of the rumours that she was a German spy due to her previous travels to Germany and her romantic involvement with a German, so she approached Ladoux to plead her case.

After confirming where her loyalties were, he asked her if she would consider spying on the Germans for the French. Spying could be a lucrative profession and the lure of the money is what decided it for Mata Hari.

It was arranged that she would do some spying in Brussels. However, due to the war she had to take a non-direct route to get there and in Britain she was arrested. Scotland Yard was looking for a German spy named Clara Benedix, who they thought she was. Convincing them she wasn’t, Ladoux then had her returned to Spain.

An unsuccessful spying mission during a romance with the German Major Arnold Kalle left Mata Hari without an assignment. At this time the French intercepted a message from the Germans where Mata Hari appeared to have a German known code name.

“To understand the central issue of Mata Hari’s guilt, it is necessary to be aware of a vital fact: the Germans were relaying information about her in a code that they knew the French had already broken. Thus, Germany intended that the French read these messages. Their motive may have been to lure France into killing one of its own agents or it may have been because she was truly a double agent operating for France after agreeing to spy for Germany and had been designated an expendable “fool-spy” by the Germans. In either case, it is safe to say that the Germans wanted her out of the way and wished the French to do the actual dirty work.”Crime Library

On February 13th, 1917 Mata Hari was arrested by the French for espionage. She was interrogated and held pending trial. The court found her guilty, sentenced her to death and required her to pay the court costs.

Mata Hari was executed on October 15th 1917.

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