In the peak of her fame Mata Hari stepped into the crème de la crème in Paris. In the previous part of this chain post you’d read that Mata Hari didn’t perform that often anymore. She mainly lived off men.
The money she earned with her succesful shows in several cities in Europe Mata Hari, was spent as fast as it came in. After the show in La Scala, Milan, she kept spending it royally. Her financial situation tended to worsen.
Mata Hari asked her agent to search for a new gig. A show in Folies Bergère, Paris as Spanish lady followed. In 1914 Mata Hari signed a contract for a year long show in the Metropol theater, Berlin. She would never dance there because the World War I broke. She wrote this in her diary dated in August, 1914
War. Left Berlin. Theater is closed.
Start of espionage
Mata Hari left Berlin for The Hague, to her Dutch lover there, Baron van der Capellen. However she found The Hague too civilised to her liking. She decided to come back to Paris. Just before she parted, German consul, Karl Cramer visited her. He asked her to spy France for Germany. Mata Hari would receive 20.000 Francs for this service. She agreed to do so.
As she arrived in Paris, Mata Hari met a young, Russian captain called Vadime de Massloff. They fell madly in love but he was located in Vittel which was about 240 km from Paris. Mata Hari was determined to visit him there but Vittel was a closed military area. She needed a special pass for that because she was a foreigner.
Asked to be a spy
To arrange that pass Mata Hari went to Military bureau for foreigners at Saint Germain 282, Paris. The French Contra Espionage bureau was housed in that same building. It was said that Mata Hari accidentally met the bureau’s chef, Georges Ladoux. She apparently entered his work room. He offered her a job as a spy for the Second Bureau. Her reward would be 1.000.000 Francs.
After she visited Vadime in Vittel, she accepted Ladoux’s offer. From that time Mata Hari was officially a French spy. Mata Hari thought by spying she would earn much money fastly. That amount of money she needed much because Vadime had proposed to her in Vittel. She dreamt of a marriage life with him. And that she would not have to work for the rest of her life, having earned that money from the espionage. Beside the money Mata Hari wanted sincerely to serve France, her adoptive country.
One important thing she did not tell Ladoux though, was the fact that the Germans had asked her to spy for Germany. It was agreed with Ladoux that Mata Hari would travel to The Netherlands via Spain. There she would receive further instructions from a French agent.
During the journey Mata Hari was apprehended by the British. They mistook her as another German spy called Clara Benedix. After several hearings Mata Hari was finally released but was forbidden to continue her journey to The Netherlands. At 11 december 1916 she was back in Madrid, Spain but Ladoux gave her no instructions so she decided to start spying herself.
Mata Hari approached German Military Attaché Von Kalle and Frech colonel Danvignes. There in Madrid, Mata Hari worked as double spy. Later on during her hearings, Mata Hari defended this by saying she only forwarded innocent news from old French newspaper to Von Kalle. Of course the French didn’t buy this. This got worse because military information Mata Hari obtained from Von Kalle and forwarded to Danvignes, appeared not to arrive in Paris.
In the meantime French Secret Service became suspicious, people knew Mata Hari was surrounded by Military High Officers from various nationalities. The German in turn, might have intercepted telegrams on which stood that Mata Hari also worked for them.
This situation at the end of 1916 was not in Mata Hari’s advantage. The main problem was that her double spying was initiated by herself. During or before the operation, Mata Hari had never told the French Espionage Bureau that she had been approached by the German. Most of all she never told the French she had received money from the German in advance.
In January 1917 Mata Hari was back in her beloved Paris. Vadime de Massloff told her he had been warned for her. Immediately she left France to The Netherlands via Swiss and Germany but the French did not grant her a travel visa.
A month later, 13 February, there was a knock on Mata Hari’s hotel room’s door. Six agents came to arrest her. She was suspected of espionage for the German. The hearings by MI5 and Second branch lasted 3 days. Mata Hari stayed after her arrestation in a simple cell in Saint-Lazare jail, Paris. The picture above was taken shortly after her arrestation.
The two days trial took place behind closed door in 24 – 25 July 1917. Official reports were not issued for publicity. Georges Ladoux denied he knew Mata Hari, let alone offered her a job as a spy. Colonel Danvignes claimed not to have gotten the information Mata Hari forwarded to him about the German. Despite the lack of hard evidences against Mata Hari, she was sentenced to death.
The official conviction was:
“In the name of the French the third permanent Council of War declares, Zelle, Marguérite, nicknamed Mata Hari, guilty of all the offenses she had been accused of. The Council of War sentences her to death. The accused is to pay the trial cost to the state.”
Early in the morning at 4 am, 15 October 1917 Mata Hari was woken up. She faced her death calmly, she was not afraid. After her last conversation with the preacher and writing some letters, she took her most beautiful dress on. She thanked the jail doctor, dr Bizard and nurse Léonide for their care.
Finally Mata Hari was brought by car to Vincennes castle, at the outskirt of Paris. A platoon of 12 soldiers waited for her. At 6.15 am Mata Hari refused her hands to be tighted up. She also declined a cloth around her eyes. Soon with lifted head, she was shot with dozens of bullets , she fell to the ground, dead.
4 years from now in 2017, exactly 100 years after her death, French government will make her official reports public. Only selected people has had access to parts of the hearing reports until now. Even the information in the reports seems difficult to conclude if Mata Hari was really a double spy nor her death penalty was justified. Up until now it is hard to judge her case unambigiously. We just wait.
Fries Museum: Mata Hari exposition
Mata Hari De levende legende by Marijke Huisman
De tranen van Mata Hari by Tomas Ross