Mata Hari

History of War - Spies




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Mata Hari is a lady of Dutch descent who ended up being accused of spying against the Germans. The problem with the story of Mata Hari is that it has never been proven whether she was a spy or not. So this could end up being a tragic story about someone who was accused of something they were not.

What is the story of Mata Hari? Today you will find out about the early years of Mata Hari and the consequences that led to Mata Hari becoming embroiled in being accused of spying.

The early years of Mata Hari

Leeuwarden, Friesland in the Netherlands is the birth place of Mata Hari. Officially Mata Hari was born on the 7th August 1876 under the name of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle.

Margaretha Geertruida Zelle’s father was a hat shop owner but investments made in oil made him a good fortune of money that allowed for him to give Margaretha what she wanted and send her to private and expensive schools.

Fortunes changed however when Margaretha turned 13 as her father’s money disappeared and he went bankrupt. Her father then remarried and this meant that she moved in with her godfather for a short time before running off to live with her Uncle.

By the age of 18 the young Margaretha wanted to move out of her uncle’s so answered a newspaper advertisement where a man was asking for a wife. The man was twenty years older and was a rich Captain in the Dutch Colonial Army.

Margaretha moved to Indonesia to be with her new husband, the problem was that the relationship was bad from the start as her new husband was an alcoholic and took his anger out on her. After a spell of separation Margaretha did move back in with her husband and spent all her time learning the culture of Indonesia, including dancing. It is here that her stage name Mata Hari occurred.

The couple moved back to their native Netherlands around 1900 and divorced not long after.

After the end of the marriage Margaretha made her way to Paris, France where she became an exotic dancer who was loved by all because of her carefree attitude. This attitude caught the attention of many wealthy and powerful men meaning Mati Hari travelled regularly around France, Belgium, Germany and other western European nations.

Mata Hari the Spy

As World War One broke out the view of Mata Hari changed and she was viewed with some suspicion. The issue was that as a Dutch citizen Mata Hari was still able to freely move between bordering countries as the Netherlands stayed neutral in the conflict.

The first brush with suspicious governments came in England when a ship Mata Hari was travelling on from Spain called at the English, Devonshire port of Falmouth. Here she was arrested and under duress stated she worked for the French intelligence, but this has never been confirmed.

By 1917 the Germans were reporting information from Spain to Germany about a great spy of theirs called H-21. The interesting thing about these reports is that they were sent in a code that the French had broken and more importantly, the Germans knew the French had broken.

The French deciphered the report and believed spy H-21 to be none other than Mata Hari. When Mata Hari was staying at a Paris hotel she was arrested and put on trial, the date was 13 February 1917.

At the trial Hari was accused of being a spy for the Germans and causing the death of over fifty thousand soldiers because of these actions. There was never any concrete evidence to prove she was a spy other than secret ink in her hotel room, although Hari said this was part of her makeup set.

Hari said of the ordeal "My international connections are due of my work as a dancer, nothing else. Because I really did not spy, it is terrible that I cannot defend myself." In the end she was found guilty of spying and on the 15 October 1917 summarily executed by firing squad. Mata Hari was 41 years of age at her death.

This story is one of intrigue as there has never been concrete evidence found to say whether Hari was indeed a spy or not.





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