MI5 releases documents on Dutch double spy Mata Hari
April 25, 2014 2 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The British government has released a set of documents relating to the capture and eventual execution of Mata Hari, modern history’s most legendary female spy. Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in northern Holland in 1876. In 1895 she married Rudolf MacLeod, a Dutch Army Captain of Scottish descent serving the Dutch colonial administration of what is now Indonesia. She eventually divorced the alcoholic and abusive MacLeod, who was 20 years her senior, and joined the circus in Paris. Eventually she became wildly popular as an exotic dancer, a position that placed her in close contact with several influential men in France, including the millionaire industrialist Émile Étienne Guimet, who became her longtime lover. Several of her male devotees came from military backgrounds from various European countries. Most historians agree that by 1916 Zelle was working for French intelligence, gathering information from a host of German lovers. However, in February of the following year she was arrested by French counterintelligence officers in Paris and accused of spying on behalf of the German Empire. French prosecutors accused Zelle of having provided Berlin with tactical intelligence that cost the Triple Entente the lives of over 50,000 soldiers. A set of documents released this month by Britain’s Security Service, commonly known as MI5, reveal that allied intelligence operatives trailed the exotic dancer across several European countries before she was apprehended in Paris. They also allege that, while under French custody, the Dutch spy admitted that she had conducted espionage on behalf of the German Secret Service and that her codename was H21. She is also alleged to have admitted that she received payments of approximately 20,000 French francs for her servicse. The papers also suggest that Zelle admitted that several vials of invisible ink fond in her hotel suite had been given to her by her German handlers. However, the MI5 reports claim that the accused spy “never made a full confession” and “never gave away anyone” as her accomplice, leading the British author of the report to conclude that she must have been “working alone”. Zelle also appeared unfazed by attempts by her French interrogators to shame her by confronting her with a list of her lovers’ names. According to the MI5 reports, she responded to accusations that she took in “lovers of all ranks and all nations” by replying that she “loved all officers and would rather have as her lover a poor officer than a rich banker”. The declassified documents further state that the Dutch spy appeared confident and fluent but notably shallow in her final interrogation. She was eventually executed by firing squad on October 15, 1917 in a field in the outskirts of Paris. The documents kept in French government archives relating to Zelle’s capture, interrogation and eventual execution remain classified.