Today in History
15.10.1917: Mata Hari Executed
Paris 1904: In the salons and clubs of the belle époque, champagne flowed freely at the nightly parties and exclusive soirées. Since the World Fair in 1900, Paris had fallen in love with the Orient, and the dance performance of a certain "Lady MacLeod" proved extremely popular.

MacLeod appeared all too exotic. "I was born in the holy city of Jaffnapatam. My father was a highly regarded Brahman, my mother a temple dancer, who died when giving birth to me at the age of fourteen. I grew up as a charge of the temple priests. They consecrated me to Siva and I was introduced to the holy mysteries of love and divine worship," the dancer claimed.

Her biography was pure fabrication. In reality, Lady MacLeod was Mati Hari, born 29 years earlier, in 1876, as Margareta Geetruida Zelle in the Dutch town of Leeuwarden. At a young age, she married the colonial army captain Rudolph MacLeod and accompanied him to Dutch India, known today as Indonesia. In 1902, she returned to Amsterdam and they separated after a marriage of just 5 years. It was time for the newly separated and now destitute Margareta Zelle to start anew.

In Paris the attractive dark-haired beauty was quick to find lovers. Acting on the advice of a benefactor, she changed her name MacLeod, which was thought to sound too aristocratic, to the oriental Mata Hari, the Malay word for sun.

Her 1905 performance in the Musée Guimet marked the beginning of her trajectory to stardom. Even in Paris with its joie de vivre, her dance performances astounded audiences. Her graceful gestures changing to passionate writhing as she stripped.

However her stardom was short lived, as interest for the darling of the Paris dance hall scene began to wane.

In 1914, one of Mata Hari’s former lovers unexpectedly arranged for her to perform at the Metropol Theatre in Berlin. Suddenly she was in demand again. Officers, ministers, even the Crown prince himself, were said to have been among her lovers – but then something happened which was to change it all.

August 1, 1914 the First World War began and Margareta Zelle, unable to return to the enemy country of France, instead travelled to the Netherlands.

At a reception there in May 1916, she made the acquaintance of the press attaché at the German Embassy in the Hague, Karl Kramer, a member of the intelligence service. However, on visiting her just a few days after their first meeting, he didn’t want the same from her as all other men. No, he spoke of "small jobs that she could carry out in Paris and that the German People would very much appreciate". Kramer wanted a spy.

"I recalled my valuable furs that had been confiscated from the theatre in Berlin and realised that this would be the ideal opportunity for me to make up for my loss. Therefore, I wrote to Kramer and accepted his offer," Zelle said.

Zelle was henceforth known by a code name H21 in the lists of the German Secret Service. Although Mata Hari revealed no Western secrets, French counter-intelligence became aware of her. And in 1917, the year of total war-weariness and mutiny of the troops, she became a welcome pawn to rouse the French.

On 13 February Mata Hari was arrested. The hearings lasted months. Nothing could be proven, but eventually Kramer’s 20,000 francs came to light and the noose tightened. Espionage was punishable by death.

On 15 October 1917, seven months after her arrest, Mata Hari stood in the forest of Vincennes, facing twelve soldiers and a French artillery regiment. She refused a blindfold for her execution: "I will look the soldiers in the eye. I am proud of my past and I was never a spy," she said. "I was Mata Hari!"
Zitat des Tages
Zitat des Tages
Who was Margareta Geetruida Zelle, executed on 15 October 1917, better known as?
  Princess Margaret
  Joan of Arc
  Mata Hari