ON SPECIAL MISSIONS
AN INTRICATE AFFAIR
THE real head of the German Secret Service at Geneva, whose principal duty was to recruit spies and traitors and to send them into France, was a fellow named Koeniger, who lived on the Rue Prévost-Martin.
He was not only in touch with Irma Staub, but also with the famous Miss Doktor, who directed (and how well she did it! ) the espionage headquarters that the Boches had set up at Antwerp.
However, if Koeniger was in charge of things at Geneva, it was only in appearance. He got his orders from the Main Information Bureau of the German army, located at Freiburg in Brisgau. Their representative at Geneva was a woman whose name we could never discover, whom we nicknamed "La Rouquine."
No one will ever know what great damage she did to France and to the Allies. Even Irma Staub was a gentle angel compared to La Rouquine. She stopped at nothing---not even murder---to accomplish what she had set her mind on. If I may use a slang phrase which describes her methods of procedure very exactly, she treated 'em rough. She didn't bother with skill and trickery, she relied entirely upon brute force. Her gang did not do things by halves. A man who was pointed out to them as a suspicious character was as good as dead!
La Rouquine had two assistants, Koeniger, just mentioned, and Lisenmenger. Her gang, her men, as she called them, were all French deserters. Among the most important of them were: Michel Cayer, Barrio, Murat, Perrin, Vignon---his assistant in crime was an Austrian anarchist named Weill---Forestier, Franciscoud, Forest, Mourier, alias Campion and Chapeyron, and, finally, Guaspare, one of the most dangerous bandits that I have ever had occasion to see.
Two French women completed the gang---Anne Garnier and Yvonne Schadeck.
Perhaps some day I will tell the story of how and where these bandits fell into our hands . . .
[NOTE: The list of names given above, which is far from complete, will perhaps convince the German papers that defied me to give the names of the directors of their Secret Service in Switzerland that they were not wise to do so. If I have omitted some of them, they may be assured that I did so willingly. As to Irma Staub, for instance, I know perfectly well that that is merely one of the famous spy's pseudonyms. Shall I be more precise, and mention the fact that she is titled, that her name begins with an H and ends with an R?]
For the moment suffice it to say that none of their schemes to harm their native land escaped our knowledge. One of our agents---he was certainly a hero---succeeded in living among these spies and traitors. They met at the Café Amodru, which was run by a man named Chavanne with the assistance of two brothers from Marseilles, Jean and Marius Ripert, better known by the name of Loupart.
But to continue, when I examined the documents that Kohr gave Irma Staub, I not only found out new things about the band that I have just described, but also about another one connected with it and just being organized. Its director, who had already been appointed, was none other than Julius, alias James, Meyer, sixty years old and born at Frankfort-am-Main, a member of the famous Lourrach band.
This fellow Julius claimed to be a naturalized American, and had often been pointed out to us. He traveled about France a great deal, going especially to Langres, Vesoul, Lyon, Dijon, Nantes, Saint-Nazaire, Lorient, and Brest.
The document in question stated that James Meyer, who already had his orders, would a few days later meet two French deserters near Saint-Julien-en-Genevois. These men would try to cross the border between there and Bellegarde. Meyer would swear them into the service and would then give them the details of a commission which they were to perform near Lyon.
Pinned to the document were photographs of the two deserters. Strangely enough, these photographs came from the office in Berlin where they keep the Bertillon measurements of people of various sorts, as was proved by a slip that accompanied them.
Immediately we were faced by the question: "As these two deserters are Frenchmen, how does it happen that the German information bureau has their photographs?"
The answer, you must admit, was not obvious. Especially as in such matters conjecture is of no value; one must have definite proof. You can't imprison men merely because you suspect that they are guilty. You have to establish their guilt beyond question.
In this case, if the presumption of their guilt were disregarded, we would have absolutely nothing against them. Of course, the mere fact that these two Frenchmen were deserters made them objects of suspicion; but there is a distinction between being a deserter and a traitor.
I decided to dear the thing up and left at once for Paris to look up the records of the two deserters. From the outset I had a feeling that the information on the slip that had been sent on from Berlin was inaccurate.
Not only could I find no trace of the desertion of men by the names of Vernier and Gastrat, the names given on the slip, but the regiments to which they were supposed to have belonged had never reported their disappearance. Who could these two men be?
I could not solve the problem as long as the information from which I was working was inaccurate, so I decided to watch the border at the point where they were going to try to get across into Switzerland.
I warned the different branches of the service which had charge of keeping suspicious people from entering our country, and then I left for Bellegarde, from which point I "sent out feelers" in all directions. Four days later some French customs men, who were making their rounds along the border at night, arrested Vernier and Gastrat as they were about to cross into Switzerland.
They were brought to me under heavy escort. In vain did I attempt to question them.
My questions were met by the most complete silence. There was nothing I could do but have them put in prison. It was done at once. But I could not let it go at that, so I took what steps were necessary.
A Dangerous Attempt, But a Necessary One
As the continued silence of the two deserters could not be convincingly explained, it occurred to me that Vernier and Gastrat, granted that those were their names, might easily be German agents who were trying to get across the border after a mission in France.
If they had really been Frenchmen, even French deserters, it is inconceivable that they should not have attempted to justify themselves in some way. They would probably have attempted to arouse our pity by expressing their regret at having been led to commit such a crime. But nothing of the sort had happened.
I talked the matter over with my colleagues at Bellegarde and decided to send the two men back to Paris where, if worse came to worst, some way would certainly be found to make them talk. That evening they left for Paris, heavily escorted, and I later heard that they really were German agents. Their true names were Holzmann (Vernier) and Junker (Gastrat).
The court-martial made short work of them.
With them out of the way, I now had to turn my attention to James Meyer, who, you remember, had arranged to meet the two spies. When they did not arrive, he might get suspicious and disappear.
But that was not necessarily true! It seemed even less likely when a further examination of the documents found on Irma Staub seemed to point to the fact that James Meyer was to have commissioned Vernier and Gastrat to blow up a factory at Lyon.
I decided to go to the place where James Meyer had agreed to meet the two spies, and I wanted one of my colleagues to go with me. The man I had in mind seemed to have been made to order for such business, and I had the utmost confidence in him. He spoke German perfectly, had an extraordinary amount of intelligence, and was an expert in hand-to-hand fighting. When I told him how things stood .he accepted my proposition enthusiastically.
As it had been necessary to give Meyer photographs of the pseudo-deserters, we inferred that he did not know them by sight. Thus, as we were of about the same build as Vernier and Gastrat, and as the meeting was to be at night, it was likely that Meyer would not recognize the substitution and would fall into our trap.
My colleague and I spent the day studying the photographs, and that evening we disguised ourselves so well that it would have been impossible for a man not previously warned to detect the substitution.
The meeting was to take place at a blind tiger, well-known along the border, where the smugglers in that district congregated. This joint had the great advantage of having two doors. One of them in France, and the other in Switzerland. The border, or, rather, the imaginary line that represented it, ran through the middle of the room inside.
Perhaps that feature did not seem attractive to the smugglers!
Moreover, the café was run by a fellow named Borgone, a, ferocious and blood-thirsty brute whose fights with the customs officials were famous.
Borgone had the reputation of being very pro-German. Moreover, he was supposed to be in the pay of La Rouquine, whose agents constantly frequented his place. It was consequently quite risky to go into his saloon, as there was always a chance that one might be recognized. For that reason we were armed to the teeth when we started out.
Just to get ourselves established as the people we were supposed to be, we organized a little byplay that we thought ought to gain us the immediate sympathy of the customers in the café Borgone. Chased by policemen and customs officials and, to all appearances, panic-stricken, we rushed into Borgone's, having first broken-in the door a little. That last action, as you can imagine, made him furious.
As soon as he saw that we were standing safely at the bar, which was in Switzerland, although the tables and benches in front of it were in France, Borgone walked up to our pursuers and asked them in a rough tone of voice what they wanted. They explained to him that we were deserters, and perhaps German spies. Then one of the policemen, a sergeant, asked him to put us out so that they could, arrest us.
Borgone burst out into mocking laughter, and answered,
"Why, they aren't in France any more! They're in Switzerland! And besides that, it's not up to me to help you! If you're going to wait until I put them out, you have a long wait coming!"
Then he turned to us,
"Well, boys! Do you want to go back to France.
"Not on your life! " we cried together.
He became more derisive than ever.
"There, you see! They seem to have taken a .liking to this country of liberty, justice, and law! At any rate, if they don't want to go back, I'm not the one to force them to! To the contrary!"
The policemen and customs officials went out, saying that they would make their report.
"That's right!" he called to them. "And above all don't forget to send me a copy of it. I'll frame it!"
When that was over Borgone walked up to us and, after looking us over, he asked,
"What did those policemen want?"
"Hell,," I answered, "we're deserters, and, you know . . . "
"Where have you come from?"
"From the trenches in the Vosges!"
"The colonial artillery!
He took a dirty note-book out of the pocket of his blue apron and looked at it. Then he said,
"That checks! What can I do for you?"
I looked slyly around the room; then I remarked,
"There are too many people around to tell you here. Haven't you some room where we can talk without being overheard?"
He gave me a long look, then he said,
"Well, I guess it's all right. Aren't you supposed to meet somebody at my place?"
"What are the initials of the person you expect to meet?"
Then he stuck out his hand, saying,
"I see that you belong to the brotherhood! The person you are waiting for isn't here yet, but he won't be long. Go into this room. As soon as he comes, I'll tell you."
As he opened the door, he added,
"Order what you want, and make yourselves at home. No one will bother you here!"
Then as we settled down he went out.
We were in a den of the German spies. It was now up to us to get out. And to get out with what we had come for. . . .
I AM OFFERED A STRANGE MISSION AND ACCEPT IT
A FEW moments later Borgone sent a man to tell us that the person we were waiting for had arrived. He asked us to meet him outside, as there were some suspicious-looking people in the room and he didn't want them to see him.
We went out at once, and in the court outside we found James Meyer, whom I had known for a long time, talking intently to Borgone.
When he saw us, Meyer came toward us, taking out of his pocket a set of Bertillon measurements such as we had stolen from Irma Staub. He checked them over, and then compared us with the photographs he had. Then, turning toward Borgone, he said,
"They are the ones, all right!"
He shook hands with him, saying,
"Thanks! Once again you have done us a great service, my dear Borgone."
Without meaning to, James Meyer had just confirmed our suspicion that Borgone was on the German payroll, and that what had just happened was not a mere matter of chance. That information was of importance.
Then James Meyer turned to us and in German ordered us to follow him without saying anything.
We walked on over impossible roads until we finally got to what looked like an abandoned house.
James Meyer took an electric torch out of his pocket, and made certain signals with it, from time to time whistling in a strange way.
The door opened quietly and a voice from within said,
"Kommen sie!" ("Come in!")
We did not know the ground and had to grope our way through the dark. This seemed to annoy the man who was waiting for us, for he said, in a domineering tone,
"'Schnell!" ("Hurry up!")
We were in a large court in front of the house which seemed to be cluttered up with packing boxes, casks, and bales of goods. Our guide shut the door carefully, then he turned around and said,
"Here we are at home! Follow me; but be sure you walk right behind me without going an inch to either side, because we have pitfalls all around."
We followed him silently, admiring as we went the elaborate defenses with which this mysterious man had surrounded himself.
Soon we were at the door to the house, where we were met by a bulldog growling menacingly.
"Be quiet, Merkur," commanded his master, "you know perfectly well that these are friends!"
The dog shut up at once. It must have been well trained, for it went straight back to its house.
When we entered the house, the first things to strike our eyes were our own photographs on two large envelopes on which our names were printed in gothic capital letters. These were lying on the table. The man waved us to our chairs, and sat down at the table. He examined "our" envelopes for some time, then he said to James Meyer,
"Have you told them about it?"
"No, lieutenant colonel, we were told to let you take charge of the whole thing."
The officer seemed to be completely at his ease. He leaned toward us and said,
"Although you have never worked under me in this division, you probably know that the things we do here are of far greater importance than the kind of thing you have been doing under Miss Doktor."
We nodded, without saying anything.
"This," he continued, "is real war. It is a fight to the bitter end! I say that to let you know that the job that I am going to entrust to you has got to be accomplished, whatever the cost! You must stop at nothing. This is a question of life and death for Germany!"
He looked us in the eyes, then asked,
"Are you going on with it?"
In keeping with the parts we were playing, I answered without a moment's hesitation,
"I'll do it as long as there's breath left in my body, and the same with my friend!"
For a moment he thought, then he continued,
"I understand that as a result of what you have already accomplished, Miss Doktor thinks highly of you." (Then, it seemed, we were "stars"!) "She tells me that I can count on you absolutely. That encourages me to ask you to exert yourselves to the fullest. If these operations have the results upon which I am counting, you will have done a great service for your country."
As he said this, the officer had been taking a large map out of a pile of papers in front of him.
"Come over here!" he ordered.
When we had obeyed, he continued,
"You see this map? It shows the hydro-electric system that the French have built in the Alps and in Southeastern France. You will notice that under certain names there are, in parentheses, the letters: (D), (G), (E.ch.), and (E.m.). Their meanings are as follows:
"In short, what you have before your eyes is a map of all the factories in France that are producing materials, for carrying on the war. They are so far from the front, and have, up to the present time, been so carefully guarded, that they have been impregnable. This group of factories constitutes the only arsenal in France. From it are sent out in ever-increasing numbers the guns and munitions that, on the front, consistently halt even our most carefully prepared offensives.
"That must stop! Just as we have destroyed the industrial centers in the north and the east of France, so we must also destroy them in the Alps and the southeast of France! Such, gentlemen, is the mission that I am going to entrust to you."
Looking us straight in the eye, he asked,
"Do you accept it? "
I pretended to think for a moment , and seemed to have a short consultation with my comrade, then I answered,
"Why not? Granted that all the technical details are arranged, only one thing more remains to be settled."
"Why, the most important one, as far as we are concerned! The question of money! How much will you give us if we are successful?"
The lieutenant-colonel smiled.
"If it is only a matter of money that is bothering you, I can assure you that there will be no trouble about that."
"But still . . ."
"Listen to me," he said in a peremptory tone. Emphasizing each word, he said,
"My superiors have empowered me to offer you a hundred thousand marks for each factory in which you stop production, no matter what your means of doing so."
"That's fine! And . . . when do we start work?"
"As soon as possible. It will become more dangerous all the time!"
"Good! I don't know anything to keep us from starting at once. Will you tell me just what your plans are?"
"I like a man who makes up his mind that way," he remarked. "It shows that you are a man of action, which, judged by what you have done in the past, is not surprising." (What, I wondered, had I done in the past!) "Now listen to me!"
He took out of the portfolio before him more maps, a few notes, and a book---or, rather, a pamphlet---entitled, Water Power in France.
"This book," he began, "is an absolute miracle. Not only does it contain a complete list of the French factories that are manufacturing munitions, but it is filled with confidential information about these factories and their methods of production.
"The French will never guess how helpful they were when they brought out this book. With their usual levity, they have given us a weapon that we should be silly not to use, and they have done it merely to parade their strength and their wealth. Thus they have saved us a long and costly investigation, one that could never have been complete and that might have done more harm than good.
"Look, for instance, at this page about one of their most important factories. You will notice that it leaves out nothing. Even the names of the Board of Directors are there. That, however, we can afford to laugh at. Such information is of no possible use to you.
"But some of the information I am far from laughing at. I am intensely interested, for instance, to know what that factory produces. Now I know; there it is, written out in full."
Passing the book over to me, he continued,
"Some of the things there are even more useful than that. You can rely on their accuracy. For they all come from French sources. The figures as to production, and all the other information in the book may be considered official, because they are French. You must agree with me that it is a pleasure to work under such conditions!"
I was astounded! How had it happened that we French had been foolish enough to furnish such information to our implacable opponents!
I studied carefully the book he had just given me. The further I read, the better I realized that as the lieutenant-colonel had said, everything was there---a history of the business, its capital, the dividends it paid, its equipment, its capacity, etc. With such information the Boches couldn't go wrong! And what could we do to make this information useless? As I was thinking about how that might be done, the lieutenant-colonel went on,
"This booklet is perfect, but we have something even better. Here we have a detailed description of every machine in each one of those factories. We even have photographs of the machines. Here, for example, is the latest style of generator. It comes straight from the famous M----- factory at Leeds, as may be seen from the manufacturer's trade-mark. Under the tank you can read the sign, 'Danger, keep off.'
"You can be sure that if there is any danger about it, it is for the French, not for us."
Then the lieutenant-colonel set out to tell us just how to destroy these factories and their contents. He advocated a variety of methods. Thus I learned, to my astonishment, that nothing could be easier than to put hundreds of factories out of commission by the simple expedient of destroying the station or substation from which they got their power. It appeared that that was the aim of most of the schemes of the lieutenant-colonel and his accomplices.
When he had explained his plan, he said,
"Now that we have agreed on the necessity of immediate action, I have only left to tell you on which places we want you to concentrate your endeavors."
Taking a carefully folded paper out of his pocketbook, he looked it over, and then went on,
"For your actions to have the quickest effect, the following factories should be destroyed:
"The steel mills and foundries at Firminy.
"The steel mills and foundries at Saut-du-Tarn.
"The power and light station at Haute-Maurienne.
"The electric station at Millery.
"The factory at Crans.
"The machine shops of Rhône.
"When you are through with these places, and, I repeat, the sooner the better, we will get together again and see about continuing the work."
"Then all we have to do is to decide about the explosives," I said.
"I was just going to speak of that," he answered. "The explosives that you use must be as small in bulk as possible so that you will have no trouble getting them across the border. For that reason I asked one of my friends who specializes in such things to be good enough to prepare you some bombs that would be easy to handle and that would be charged with an exceptionally powerful explosive. I told him that they should not weigh more than 150 to 200 grammes. He has just sent me several such bombs. M. James Meyer, who is your immediate superior, will give them to you when the time comes, and he will tell you how to handle them.
"For the moment I shall merely say that the bombs are put up in metal boxes that look on the outside like tins of jam. The only way to explode them is by means of a fulminate cap, which you will not put in place until just before you are ready to use it."
He got up from his chair, saying,
"Now that this is settled, gentlemen, I must wish you good luck and hope that you will soon be with us again! When do you think you will start?"
"Why, as soon as M. James Meyer has finished off the instructions that you have just given us."
"I doubt whether that will take long."
Shaking hands, he said,
"Please excuse me, but as I am needed somewhere else, I find myself obliged to leave you. Again, good luck! "
He turned to James Meyer, saying,
"May I have a word with you?"
They went into a corner where they talked in low voices for a few moments, looking up at us frequently.
When their conversation was over, the lieutenant-colonel lifted up a curtain that concealed a door and left, waving a last good-bye to us.
My companion looked questioningly at me. I whispered to him,
With great care James Meyer closed the door through which the lieutenant-colonel had made his exit. When he turned toward us we literally jumped on him and after a fierce struggle succeeded in overpowering him. We then gagged and tied him up.
That done, I paid no attention to the furious looks that he gave me.
"Well, my boy," I said, "you're ours now!"
In Which We Make a Clean Getaway
Turning to my companion, I said,
"Will you go to the police station at Carouge and, in the name of M. N------, head of the Swiss Military Police, ask the officer in charge to meet us here? Before you do that, please call M. N----- for me and ask him to come here as soon as possible."
"Ought I to tell him what is happening? "
"Surely! You can even say that I'm alone here and don't know anything about this house, which is the lair of a pack of German spies, and that consequently, if help doesn't come in time, the Boches may come back and attend to me!"
He was already starting, when I warned him,
"Watch where you step! Remember that besides the dogs, there are the pitfalls. Take care! "
My colleague opened the door with infinite care and looked about the court for a long time. When his eyes had become accustomed to -the dark, he plunged into the night. . . .
I came back to James Meyer who was lying on the ground like a glass that had been tipped over. He was trying vainly to slip his bonds.
"Keep on trying," I told him laughingly. "An old sailor taught me to make those knots. That's no mean recommendation, you know! You can't ever work loose knots like that!"
James Meyer soon convinced himself of the uselessness of such efforts, and he lay still.
"I know," I went on, "that as I am in Swiss territory I have no legal right to question you. The others will take care of that! However., if you think it worth while to take me into your confidence, I am at your service! No? You don't want to? That's too bad. I thought I might be able to intercede in your favor with the Swiss police . . . . "
I saw that this got no rise out of him, so I went up to the table and, without losing sight of him, I began to go through the various portfolios that I found there. Two of them concerned France. The contents of eight of the others were entirely taken up with the Swiss Army.
Some of the documents were of the greatest importance, among which were a map of the border and a whole series of notes concerning the Swiss military defenses.
I was in the midst of examining them when a bell suddenly rang in the next room. It was doubtless the telephone.
Pulling my revolver out of my pocket, I said to James Meyer,
"Well, old man, you're going to get up and go ahead of me. I warn you, if you stumble, I'll put a bullet in your head."
I untied the bonds that held his legs, and ordered,
He obeyed at once and preceded me into the room where the telephone was ringing steadily.
I picked the instrument up hurriedly and took off the receiver, standing so that James Meyer was always in sight.
"Hello," I said. "Who is it?"
"A. F. 321! To whom have I the pleasure of speaking?"
"Well, that's strange! I didn't recognize your voice! "
"Oh, you know, that's not surprising. These Swiss instruments are terrible! "
"Aren't they? Is the lieutenant-colonel there?"
"No! But he'll be back soon. Can I take any message for him?"
The person at the telephone, a woman it was, seemed to hesitate for a moment, then she answered.
"No, I don't see any reason why you shouldn't. Will you tell him that Irma Staub called up to report that the two men whom he was expecting, who should have been there by now, were arrested at Saint-Julien-en-Genevois by the customs officials."
"Well, well! That's annoying! They were the two men who went by the names of Vernier and Gastrat? "
"Yes, they are the ones!"
"You know no details?"
"None at all!"
"That's all you have to tell the lieutenant-colonel? "
"Isn't that enough?"
"Yes, but there might be something else you wanted to say. No? Well, good night, madame."
Then I hung up the receiver. . . .
As you see, my colleague and I had had a close escape! If Irma Staub's message had reached the lieutenant-colonel two hours before, we should have had no warning and would have walked right into a trap!
Our profession is full of such risks. . . .
Thus without another thought about what might have happened, I took my prisoner back into the other room. During the conversation he had been making the most ferocious faces at me.
We had scarcely got back when the dog started to bark. He seemed to be raging mad, which reassured me somewhat. If there was someone in the court, it must be a friend. The dog would have recognized one of the Boches, and would not have set up such a racket.
Suddenly there was the crack of a pistol outside! The dog let out a plaintive howl and was silent. He seemed to have got his deserts! A few seconds later someone knocked at the door.
Still playing my part, I answered with a rough,
"Friends! " answered a voice that I recognized as that of my companion. "Open the door! I am bringing reinforcements!"
I opened the door at once and had the pleasure of seeing a dozen Swiss policemen and an officer come in with my comrade.
The officer looked around inquisitively. Catching sight of the prisoner, he laughed.
"Ha. ha! There's the bird!"
He walked over to him and said,
"You scoundrel! I guess you would have had some trouble getting away! You have so much string around you, you look as if you belonged in a Punch and Judy show!"
Pointing to the table, I remarked,
"Take a look at these, lieutenant!"
When he had examined the portfolios he turned pale, and, visibly shaken, stretched out his hand towards me.
"I thank you," he said, "for what you have just done for my country!"
He thought for a moment, and then continued,
"I owe my knowledge of the truth to you. Until this moment I was pro-German! Stubbornly, I believed everything the pro-German press said. Now I know!"
He turned to his men and said,
"Take this thing away! Put him in safe-keeping, so the chief can question him when he arrives!"
"Here he is now," cried one of the policemen who was standing on the door-sill! "I can hear his car."
A few moments later M. N----- entered the room, accompanied by two detectives, one of whom was J-----, the "star" of the Swiss Military Police.
"What's going on here?" he asked.
He turned toward me and said,
"You, first of all! Who are you? What are you doing here?"
He hadn't recognized me with my disguise. I smiled, and took off some of my make-up.
"Who am I? Why, take a look!"
He cried out in surprise,
"Well, how extraordinary! It's unbelievable! I'll be darned, but I wouldn't have recognized you!"
After we had shaken hands, he asked once more,
"What's going on here? If you are on the job, it must be something worth looking into!"
"Judge for yourself!" I answered.
All of the Gang but the Lieutenant-Colonel Fall into Our Hands
With M. N----- and his assistants sitting around the table, I gave in detail the story of our recent activities, backing up my statements with the proof to be found in the documents taken from Irma Staub and those that we had just found in the office of the lieutenant-colonel.
Sorting out these documents, I gave them to the head of the Swiss Military Police. I explained just what they meant, and demonstrated their importance from a military point of view, the only one, for the moment, of real significance. By correlating the new evidence with that which James Nobody and I had discovered, I convinced M. N----- that it was imperative that he clean up this affair at once. He decided to ask his superiors for a free hand in doing so.
He thanked us for this new service we had done the Swiss Confederation, and then asked,
"Have you searched the house?"
I called his attention to the fact that as we were foreigners, we had no right to do anything of the sort in Switzerland, and that at our own risk, without receiving permission from our chief, we had decided to unmask James Meyer and his accomplices.
M. N----- smiled, and added,
"I realize that you have overstepped your legal rights, but in your place I would have done the same."
Then he glanced at James Meyer who, gagged and bound, was listening intently to our conversation.
"If you are willing, we will search the house together. I am sure we shall find some interesting things here. After that we will question this fellow."
I interrupted him to say,
"Don't you think it would be wise while we are doing this part of the job to see to the arrest of Borgone and his gang? It is quite evident that the two groups are connected!"
"Yes! You're right!"
He called the police officer and ordered,
"Take six men and go at once to the Café Borgone. Arrest everyone you find there, including the proprietor. Here is a blank warrant. You have only to write the names in, no matter how many of them there are!"
Again I interrupted him.
"Don't you think it would be wise to do this in connection with the French police? You remember how curiously the Café Borgone is placed, astride the border. If you bother Borgone and his friends, they have only to step across the room into France. If the French police are on one side of the border and your men on the other, no such problem can arise. They will fall either into our hands or yours, and the desired end will be accomplished.
"However, I don't think they will hesitate to let you arrest them. They know perfectly well that if they are taken into France the numerous crimes that they have committed will cost them their lives, while in Switzerland, where there is no death penalty, they will get out of it with a prison sentence."
"How shall we work it ?"
"It's easy enough! My friend here will hurry over to Bellegarde in your auto. He will tell our colleagues there what is happening. Then when your men close in from the Swiss side, ours will surround the French part of the café."
This was decided upon.
I may say at once that my predictions came true. Caught between the two fires, Borgone and his gang decided they would rather be arrested by the Swiss police than by ours.
Our search yielded nothing that we hadn't known before. The only really interesting thing that we found was an old-fashioned wireless set in the cellar.
Besides, in the lieutenant-colonel's room we found several uniforms belonging to officers in the Swiss army, one the uniform of a high officer. The lieutenant-colonel doubtless used this when he went to "inspect" the fortifications of the Swiss Confederation.
When we had searched the place from top to bottom, we returned to the room where we had left James Meyer. The Swiss Secret Service agent and two of his assistants then proceeded to seal up the various documents that had been found in the portfolios. It took a good hour to do it.
M. N----- then had the spy brought before him, and he was ungagged.
"I am going to question you," he began. "But before I begin, I must warn you that anything you say maybe used against you. You understand me?"
James Meyer smiled; then he answered,
"What you say is of no interest to me. I refuse to answer you!"
"We'll find a way of making you talk!"
"Try and do it!"
"That's what I'm going to do!"
After a moment's silence, he went on,
"What's your name?"
"It's none of your business! Moreover, you might as well know that although I was born in Germany, I am a naturalized American. You will have to answer to the American Consul for the indignities that I have suffered since my arrest. Besides, I have nothing to do with this business. As an employee of the owner of this house, I merely went to Borgone's place and brought these two men back.
He looked at us.
"If I have understood you," replied M. N-----, "you admit having been in contact with Borgone and the owner of this house? Will you then tell me the name of the latter?"
"Not on your life!" answered Meyer.
"Then you must have some reason for concealing it. It doesn't matter, though, for we shall soon find it out."
He turned to his detectives and ordered,
"Search this man!"
It was soon finished.
As his pockets were emptied a more and more dangerous-looking assemblage of weapons appeared on the table. He had everything imaginable---a revolver, a burglar's kit, sticks of dynamite, a Bickford hangman's noose, a Bowie knife, along with forged identification papers, etc. There was also a silver cigarette case, upon which I noticed that James Meyer kept his eyes.
I picked up the case, in which a few cigarettes were left, and examined it carefully. I saw nothing unusual about it, but noticed that the spy followed all my movements with growing uneasiness.
"Tell me," I said to M. N "at the customs office, is there an X-ray machine, such as is use to discover what's inside suspicious-looking baggage?"
"Why, of course," he answered.
"Then if you don't mind, I'll go up there to check up on a little matter that interests me."
"What is it?"
"I should like to know what kind of tobacco these cigarettes are made of."
Already M. N------ knew what I was driving at.
"We will go together. It will be worth while, if for no other reason than that I can introduce you to the man who takes the X-rays."
A quarter of an hour later, thanks to the X-rays, we had absolute proof of the guilt of James Meyer.
One of the cigarettes contained a little piece of paper tightly rolled and stuck in between two pinches of tobacco. This paper had on it the formula for the manufacture of an explosive which they intended to use to blow up French factories, and instructions as to how to make it. The factories to be destroyed were also named. When he was confronted with this evidence, James Meyer had to give up and admit his guilt.
A few days later the Council of War at Geneva sentenced him to six months in prison and a 5,000 francs' fine. It ordered, moreover, that he should be deported from Switzerland.
His accomplices---Borgone and his gang---were also sentenced for varying terms.
On the other hand, although we sent out thousands of copies of the lieutenant-colonel's photograph, we were never able to discover his real name. However, the dangerous gang that he had organized was put out of business and his lair unearthed. He was never heard from again.
A few days later when everything here had been finished off, I was sent on a mission to the West. Here, it appeared, was a band of men and women whose activities were greatly disturbing the public.
GERMAN WOMEN SPIES AT NANTES
MAY I be permitted a moment's digression?
If Irma Staub, several of whose exploits I have recounted, was among the most dangerous of the female spies, she was never able to remain in France. She was too closely watched for that. But there were other women, some of whom worked for her, who had neither her brains nor her cleverness but who were none the less extremely dangerous. You may take my word for it that Irma Staub had numerous imitators, and she was far from being the only one of her sex to practice her detestable profession.
As a matter of fact, the German Secret Service has always employed women, not that it had any great confidence that they would obtain tremendously important results, but because, through them, they could get entrance to various places where even the cleverest of their men could not go. Thus when, by force of circumstances, Nantes and Saint-Nazaire became bases for the landing of British soldiers, we were literally flooded by the influx of women from the interior, whose presence and actions, all more or less suspicious, were not the least of our worries.
Some of them openly went in for prostitution. They were no less dangerous because, by clever manipulation, they would get their lovers to give them information which they probably did not understand, but of which other and more competent people could make use.
Some hired themselves out as "maids" in certain "houses" by the docks near the harbor. They would become more or less intimate with the Tommies and the sailors from the transports, and would end by getting "tips" on what should have remained secret.
At first, while we still had control of the sea, such leaks, although serious enough, were not matters of primary importance. Later, when the submarine warfare had become a fight to the finish, every bit of information of that sort was followed up with a torpedo. Thus, thanks to these women, the Germans were able, as I later found out from some documents that happened to come my way, to keep track of the number and the description of the troops that landed daily at our western ports.
Here is the way they did it:
The reader doubtless remembers that the English soldiers, unlike ours, did not have the number of their regiment marked on the collar of their uniforms. The different units were designated by metal tags which both officers and men wore pinned on top of their shoulders. These tags could be removed without difficulty.
Just as the Tommies were always on the look-out for souvenirs, so specially trained women got them to give them these metal tags as "souvenirs." They then turned the tags over to higher officers in the German Secret Service. At the time of which I am speaking, we captured two of these men at Nantes and one at Saint-Nazaire. In this way they had been able to estimate almost exactly the number of men landed and the branch of the service to which they belonged. As you see, it was extremely easy to get such information.
But it was not quite so simple to find out to what part of the front the new troops would be sent. Of course, privates and even non-commissioned officers knew nothing about this. Only a few officers on the regimental or brigade staffs possessed such information. For this purpose agents of a slightly higher class were sent around to cafés in the center of the town where the officers met, and they would try to get such information.
It is only fair to remark that most of the time our guests possessed a surprising amount of discretion. But it would be rash to say that this was always so, the proof of the opposite having been demonstrated so often.
One day when a friend and I were sitting on the terrace of a café in the Place Graslin, two English staff officers and a very pretty woman sat down at a table near ours. At first what they said was of no interest---I mean by that, they did not discuss military matters. Soon, in answer to a question from the woman, one of the officers remarked,
"It is true, my dear, that we leave Monday" (it was then Friday) "and we shall probably go to the northern part of the line."
"That's vague enough, 'the northern part,'" the woman answered. "But if I wanted to write you, where should I address the letter?"
The officer---he was an easy mark---took out a note-book and read out of it.
"Well, Tuesday morning we shall be at Bourget" (the main station). "Leaving at noon, we arrive that evening at Amiens. From there we shall take up our position in support of our N----- Division between Béthune and Arras."
Then, shutting the note-book, he added,
"In short, you can address your letters to the station at Mondicourt-Pas. Our military postal service will forward them to me from there."
You will have to admit that he couldn't have been more explicit than that!
Although I was internally raging mad at this officer whose carelessness passed all limits, I observed the young woman carefully. A malicious smile on her lips, she was writing down on a slip of paper she had torn from a note-book in her vanity-case everything the officer had said. When she finished, she folded up the paper, keeping up her conversation with the officers all the time. With a furtive look around the room, and making sure that she was not being watched, she slipped the paper into a writing pad that lay in front of her.
The officers hadn't seen any of this. Not so with an oldish-looking man sitting a few tables further on, who seemed to be taking great interest in the group around the young woman. When he saw this last movement of hers, he smiled at her and nodded his head approvingly. At this the young woman got up and remarked to the officers,
"Don't you think, my dears, that, although it is very nice here, it would be still better across the street at this time of day?"
She pointed with her umbrella to the P----- restaurant on the other side of the Square.
"By Jove! " exclaimed one of the officers when he had looked at his watch. "You are quite right. It's almost noon!"
As we knew where to find them if we wanted them, we let them go. Not so with the old man. He asked the waiter for writing paper, pointing to the pad that the woman had just left.
"Excuse me, sir!" I said to him. "May I have a word with you?"
"Why, I haven't the pleasure of your acquaintance," he answered.
"I don't know you either, but that's just one more reason why we should get acquainted."
I held out my card to him.
"In the name of the law," I said, "I arrest you!"
"And why?" he said, pulling himself up haughtily.
I looked him straight in the eye.
"Because you are no more nor less than a spy! "
"But . . . "
"Enough! Follow me!"
A Strange Commercial Traveler
The man went quietly along with us to the counter-espionage headquarters which, at the time, were in the maritime railroad station. He didn't open his mouth while we were on the way, but as soon as he was taken into the office of the head of the bureau, he protested with the greatest vehemence against what he termed "this arbitrary arrest."
The chief let him storm about as he wished. When he halted, he was asked in a cold, precise tone of voice,
"Who the devil told you that you were under arrest? Are you handcuffed? Have you been beaten up? No! Well, I don't see what you are getting so hot about."
"I beg your pardon, but . . .
"Come, come! Don't start all over again. I tell you, so far we haven't anything against you! My agents, whether rightly or wrongly, thought they saw you do something suspicious. They may have been mistaken. We are going to talk this out politely, quietly, and without any shouting! What has the world come to if two honest citizens can't come to an understanding?"
The man had already become calm.
"Well, if it's going to be that way," he began.
"Why should it be anything else?"
Then, in a more conciliatory manner, he went on,
"Come! First of all tell me to whom I have the pleasure of speaking."
The man took out a pocket-book, and sorted out several papers, which he passed over to the chief.
"I am," he said, "Nugenbaum, Georg Nugenbaum. I was born at Zurich, Switzerland, and I am .a commercial traveler."
"Fine! What house do you travel for?"
"Asprech and Traulitch, of Geneva."
"They have customers at Nantes? No? Then you are doubtless drumming up trade here?"
"That's right! "
"Now you see how easy it is for us to get along. When did you come to Nantes?"
"Just a week ago! "
"Fine! Now of course since you have been here you have visited several jewelers, and put through a few deals? No! Well, what have you been doing with yourself?"
The man was quite plainly embarrassed. He hesitated for a moment, then he answered,
"I was sick and had to stay indoors."
"What could be more natural! You doubtless called in a doctor? One isn't very well taken care of at a hotel. No! How rash you are! You don't take as good care of yourself as I should have expected. Did they take care of you all right at the hotel? "
"They couldn't have been kinder!
"Well, isn't that nice! Won't you tell me the name of the hotel where you are staying? I must congratulate the proprietor for the care he has taken of you. Such things happen so rarely that they shouldn't pass unnoticed."
More confused than ever, Nugenbaum answered, "I am staying at the F----- Hotel, on the Quai de la Fosse."
"Oh! of course that's a good hotel, but I should hardly expect to find a man of your importance there. If I'm not mistaken, the people who stay there are, for the most part, working men?"
"Oh, well, I'm not stuck up!"
"So I see! Well, to go on, for a week you have been so sick that you haven't been able to go out?"
"I didn't say that! I said . . ."
"Good! We'll say I misunderstood you! You see, no one could be more agreeable than I."
The chief took up the pocket-book that Nugenbaum had put down and examined the papers that were in it.
Suddenly he asked,
"Didn't you tell me that you had only been in Nantes for a week?"
"Well, then, how does it happen that I find here in your pocket-book receipts from three different hotels which seem to indicate that you have been in Nantes, not a week, but two months?"
The man was suddenly very worried.
The chief, who had been playing with him like a cat with a mouse, pretended not to notice his embarrassment, and, more pleasant than ever, continued,
"Perhaps you didn't say just what you meant. You are a foreigner and it is quite natural that you should not know the exact meaning of some of our words! You doubtless meant to say that you had been at the I----- Hotel for a week? That would explain everything."
"That is just what I did mean to say," sputtered Nugenbaum, who was visibly losing his confidence.
"You see! Now tell me," said the chief, "it must have cost you a lot to live this way for two months. At least you have plenty of money?"
"Oh, I have all the money I want!"
"Yes, if I'm not mistaken, you have quite a tidy sum here. In short, you are well off. Now all you have to explain is how and under what conditions you made the acquaintance of the young woman who, a few minutes ago, left the note that we found in your hand!"
"A pure coincidence!"
"Admitting that, you still have to explain why you signaled to her. Do you deny you did that."
"It's an absolute lie!"
"We'll see! "
He called to the detective who had been helping him with the questioning, saying,
"Will you go to the P------ restaurant, Place Graslin, with this gentleman" (he nodded toward my friend) "and ask the lady he will point out to you to be good enough to come back here?"
"As to you," he said to Nugenbaum, "I am forced to keep you here until I have interviewed this woman and cleared up the whole thing. Will you please wait in this next room?"
The next room was---a cell!
Ten minutes later the young woman entered the chief's office, accompanied by the detective and my friend. I hardly need say that she was no longer smiling.
Looking at her fiercely, the chief said in a brutal tone of voice,
"I know what to do with you! You are a spy, working with Nugenbaum---he has just confessed for the Germans!"
"That's not true! It's a lie!"
Then the chief showed her the letter she had written, which he had kept hidden under the blotter.
"And that? What is it?"
"I don't know! It isn't mine! I don't know what you want with me!"
"I'll show you what we want! Give me the notebook in your vanity case."
She did so, and he opened the book to the place where she had torn out the sheet of paper.
"Do you mean to tell me that that piece of paper didn't come out of your note-book? Look at it yourself! Doesn't it fit perfectly?"
The spy broke down. In tears, she told the chief her lamentable story.
She had met Nugenbaum when she was out of work in Paris. At that time he called himself Pierson. He had hired her, he said, to help him in his business. Soon afterward he had taken her with him on a trip and had made her become a prostitute so that she could get military information from the soldiers more easily. Falling lower and lower, she had become a spy.
The case was cleared up!
Confronted by the woman he had made his accomplice, Nugenbaum in turn was forced to confess. Like a coward he tried to shift the responsibility from his own shoulders, and, to save his skin, he gave us the names of the other members of the gang. They in turn soon fell into our hands.
That is one of the most striking examples I know of the thousand and one ways that Germany went about getting information. It is, I think, worth mentioning.
I now come to the business which, much later, called me back again to eastern France. It was really important.
Another Spy at Nantes
Condemned to death on January 25, 1918, by court-martial at Nantes for the crime of espionage, Augustine-Joséphine A-----, forty-one years old, born at Cognac, and Victorine F-------, twenty-two years old, born at Périgueux, self-styled poets, were shot at dawn at the Porterie rifle range in Saint-Joseph-de-Portricq, on Monday, May 6, 1918.
All who were present at the execution of these two women will tell you that they died courageously, and with profound regret for the crimes which they had to expiate with their lives. But however much they deserved such an end, and however just their sentence, it is still possible to regret that the head of that band of spies, the man who, after all, was really guilty, was able to escape the final volley.
That he did was certainly not the fault of those of our agents who were sent in his pursuit. They did everything possible to capture him, and failed by the smallest margin. They were on the point of arresting him as he crossed the Spanish border.
I can only tell about this affair from hearsay, as I had very little to do with it. At the time that it came to its logical end, I was tracking down another band who were engaged in getting information about the boats that left Saint-Nazaire and Nantes, for the use of German submarines. In this band, happily, there was not a single person who had been born in France. It was composed of sailors and stokers, most of them deserters; its leader was Paul Ol-----, a neutral.
They met in a low joint at Chantenay. With the aid of abandoned women---who never suspected the infamous trick that was being played on them---they enticed to the place sailors from foreign ships that had put in at Nantes. Of course sailors make and renew acquaintances easily, especially when they are of the same nationality and have sailed the same seas, and, above all, if they happen to have shipped on the same boat. They grow intimate very quickly, and it often happens that, without meaning to do so, they let out secrets that they might better have kept to themselves.
This time, as so often happened, it was entirely by chance that we heard-about the affair.
One day we got a note from the "British Intelligence Service" (the name our allies gave to their counter-espionage service) that somewhere in the western part of France the Germans had organized an information service.
As their information was so indefinite, the report seemed to me to be exaggerated. It was possible that a few suspicious characters had been able to slip through our net and settle down somewhere in the district that we in the counter-espionage headquarters at Nantes were supposed to guard. It was physically impossible that there should be within this zone an "organized information service" of such importance as the one described by the British.
I was convinced of it soon after I got to Nantes. I could take oath that the citizens of Nantes were well guarded. Even they themselves, perhaps, did not at the time know that their city---which, in time of war, is classed as a port-border town---is the only border town in France where the Germans engaged in no criminal activities during the war. It has now been demonstrated that the burning of the Tchad, which was attributed to them at the time, was of accidental origin, as was also the fire on the wharves of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique which destroyed a shipment of cotton. That was because the ports of Nantes and Saint-Nazaire were specially guarded, since, all through the war, they were used as ports of debarkation for the English and American troops.
The organization of the counter-espionage system there seemed to me to be perfect. Not only in each of the ten sections into which the district was divided was everything done in a faultless manner, but the central organization was so efficient that they were able to act immediately. In vain did I inspect the system. Nowhere could I find a hole in the cleverly stretched net that might leave an opening for this "information bureau."
Nevertheless there was one!
It was not merely through the official British reports that came in from time to time that we knew it. By piecing together bits of evidence concerning the torpedoing of several ships, so well protected that they should never have been disturbed, we proved definitely that a band of German spies was "working" either at Nantes or in the immediate vicinity.
From the first I had felt sure, from the evidence, that the enemy's information could only have been collected in a seaport. Once having established this fact, I set to work, and, using all kinds of disguises, I wandered all over the town. 1 worked day and night, and vowed to take no rest until I had rid Nantes of these undesirable guests.
One night I had the following adventure.
IN WHICH IT IS SHOWN THAT WHEN LUCK LENDS A HAND IT CAN TURN SOME NEAT TRICKS
DISGUISED as a mate in the British navy, I was going home after a day spent in checking up certain information about this affair. When I reached the neighborhood of the Bureau de Port I noticed two foreign sailors sitting at a table in a café. One of them, a man named Michelsen, was an extremely suspected character, and an avowed pro-German. He had been arrested many times for coming ashore without leave and had been sentenced to pay large fines. At last we had decided that he should be kept on board his ship. That amounted to cutting him off from all contact with those on land. When we told him of this ruling we had warned him that if he broke it he would be deported at once.
Therefore, the very fact that he was ashore put Michelsen in a very unfavorable light. I was about to enter the café to tell him so, and to ask him to follow me, when I noticed that the two men had paid their bill and were leaving. Supposing that they would separate and that each would return to his ship, I hid in a doorway and postponed arresting Michelsen until his companion was gone. But far from separating, the two men went on talking in front of the café. From where I stood I could see and hear them perfectly, but they could not see me and had no suspicion of my presence.
The sailor with Michelsen was, I felt sure, a Slav, but he spoke English so perfectly that for a moment I mistook him for an Englishman.
"When do you sail?" asked Michelsen.
"To-morrow, I think. The cargo is almost unloaded, and I know that the captain got his papers yesterday."
"You will go to Cardiff?"
"Yes, but the convoy forms at Brest."
"How were you convoyed the last time?"
"By destroyers and airplanes."
"The destroyers were English, the airplanes French."
Michelsen thought for a moment, then he went on,
"That was a very interesting photograph you gave me just now. Where was it taken?"
"What do you mean?"
"Where, in what place, were you when you ran across the squadron of battle cruisers?"
"We had just left Plymouth. We came across some destroyers off the Eddystone lighthouse, but these cruisers were off Star Point."
"Just how many days ago was that?"
"It was on Thursday, about two in the morning."'
"Then it was six days ago. That is a little late for such information to get to me, but the chief can doubtless use it. That's all you have to report?"
"That's absolutely all there is!"
"Fine! Go back to your ship and wait until I come to see you. I'll be there between eight and nine o'clock in the morning. I'll bring your money and the new instructions. I advise you to keep your eyes open going back; it would be silly for you to be arrested just before you sail. We need you too much just now for that."
The two men shook hands, and one of them went toward his ship which was tied up at a dock near the cranes, the other went along the docks toward the station.
Of course I no longer thought of arresting Michelsen at once. The trail that I had happened upon was too interesting for me not to follow it to the end. I let the Slavic sailor get a few hundred yards' start and then followed him. He led me to Chantenay, and walked from one end of that town to the other; then he set out toward Roche-Maurice. Soon he went into a little café which, despite the police regulations, was still open.
I followed him to the café, and, finding a little hole in the front of the building, I peeked in.
The room was crowded with foreign sailors, most of whom were drunk. The tables had been pushed back around the wall and in the open space in the middle of the floor a couple were dancing.
However, the man I had been following had disappeared. Where could he have gone? I looked quickly around the house to make sure that there was no exit in the rear, then I came back to the front and walked in casually.
The men and women in the place stared at me; the proprietor, more curious than they, walked up and poked his nose into my face. But my make-up and my general attitude must have reassured them, for no one said anything to me. I could have asked for nothing better. Although I was ready for anything, a brawl at that moment would not have helped my investigation any.
Lurching and reeling like the sailors around me, as badly dressed as any of them, I made my way toward a group which was making a lot of noise and sat down. But I was careful to choose a seat from which I could see what was going on in the room behind.
There I saw my Slavic sailor talking heatedly to two men who were not sailors. One of them was leaning over a marine map listening to what the Slav said, the other was taking notes.
When I had drunk a glass of the wretched liquid that they served for beer and had paid the bill, I went out. Once outside, I looked the entrances over carefully, so that if the chief wanted to pull a raid I would know how it ought to be done. After that, although I was extremely tired, I took up my watch again.
Across the street was an old cart, evidently abandoned for the night, and this seemed to me a marvelous place from which to watch. I settled down in it as comfortably as possible, lit a cigarette, and prepared to wait as patiently as possible.
I hadn't long to wait. Toward two o'clock, while I was smoking my third cigarette, the police patrol came by. I knew the four patrolmen on it. They were warm-hearted chaps who had often given evidence of genuine ability.
In one jump I was out of the cart, but I had scarcely struck the ground when I found myself tightly pinioned between two of the patrolmen, with the head of the patrol, his revolver pointed at me, ordering,
"Hi there! No fooling!" I laughed. "This is a fine way to treat an old friend!"
Detective J-----, head of the patrol, walked up to me and looked me over carefully by the light of his electric torch. When he finally recognized me through my disguise he burst out laughing.
"That's a good one!" he said. "I'll be damned if I'd recognize you with that make-up and looking like that! I compliment you, chief! You're quite in keeping with this district!"
"Yes, that's all very well, but will you tell these fellows to let go of me? They've got grips like steel."
Needless to say, they let go at once.
Then I took them into a corner and explained what was up.
"If we arrest them with things as they are, there will certainly be a fight. And although I'm not afraid of a fight, I am afraid that if we have one, these three bums will make use of it to slip through our fingers. That would be a real disaster. Unless I'm mistaken, there is espionage at the bottom of this, and perhaps it's the very case that I have been trying to uncover. I should say the thing for us to do would be to shadow these men as they go home, and then call on them the first thing in the morning."
That is what we did.
At six o'clock in the morning while the café at Chantenay was being raided by the police, we arrested Soudany, Aloff, and Gunboy in their rooms. Michelsen was going to join them when they had reached a safe place. They were spies, and although I am unable to give the details of the case, I may state that it was a very important one. Again our luck had helped us turn a neat trick.
This was the last affair with which I was officially connected. Perhaps I should end my memoirs here.
But it occurs to me that I made the reader a promise. At the very beginning of the book, I promised to reveal some of the war-time secrets.
I shall keep my promise. But the reader should not expect to find in what follows any information that might be harmful to the national defense. Let him remember that at Berlin there is a Press-Bureau where they give careful attention to everything printed in a foreign country that might be of use to Germany. The Press-Bureau may be assured that there is nothing in this book that will be of any use to them. That is because the secrets I am going to reveal are German Secrets.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE " BIG BERTHA"
ON SUNDAY, March 24, 1918, the French Government made the following official statement to the press:
The enemy has shelled Paris with a long-range gun. Starting at eight o'clock in the morning, 240 shells have fallen in the capital and the suburbs, at four-hour intervals. The casualties amount to a dozen dead and fifteen wounded.
Steps to defend the town against this gun are being taken.
The newspapers wisely followed this announcement with a statement that served to calm the fright of the people, who, unacquainted with the technical side of artillery, thought that the enemy had made a tremendous advance and was already at the gates of Paris.
The statement was as follows:
It should be noted that at its nearest point the front is 100 kilometers from Paris, so this gun must be at least 112 kilometers away.
As a matter of fact---and we knew it that same day---the gun, which the Parisian public quickly named "Big Bertha," was just 120 kilometers from Paris, on the edge of the Saint-Gobain forest, near Crépy-en-Laonnois.
The Government, realizing how disastrous might be the psychological effect of this gun, sent word at once to Chantilly, ordering us to put all branches of the service on the job.
Veritable clouds of airplanes carried the best of our artillery observers in the attempt to "spot" the gun. That very evening we knew where it was, and it was bombarded from the air and by batteries behind our lines, as was announced in the official communiqué the next morning.
Meanwhile at Chantilly things were moving. Under the leadership of General C-----, one of our best technicians, a group of artillery experts gathered to investigate the various problems that this new move brought to the fore. That very evening five of our agents were carried by airplane behind the German lines into the triangle formed by the towns of La Fère, Coucy-le-Château and Anizy-le-Château. It was their duty to get the exact location of the gun and to discover all the details concerning it.
Their mission was all the harder because the Germans had done wonders in camouflaging the gun to hide it from our artillery observers. Certainly the agents who were sent on this mission, no matter how brilliant and how clever they were, were actually risking their lives.
But listen to this! Five volunteers were asked for---eighty men offered to go!
They had to be chosen by lot. Of the five agents thus selected, two never came back.
But, although the gun was camouflaged and guarded with the care one would expect from the Germans, the other three came back a few days later with all the information they had been sent out to get.
Among other things, they had the following description of the "Bertha":
Caliber: 305 L. 50. (rifled bore of 21 centimeters).
Length of barrel: 21 meters (100 calibers).
Powder chamber: polished interior, 400 millimeters diameter.
Breech block: cast in a single piece.
Powder: Smokeless, M. 97f (Rohrenpulver).
Charge: 200 kilos.
Projectile: Profile like that of the "S" ball (probably has a false ogive).
Weight of projectile: 120 kilos.
Initial velocity: 1,500 meters.
Angle of elevation: about 45 degrees.
Thus you see that when the Germans claim that we knew none of the details of construction, they are quite mistaken. The inquiry that followed revealed some striking discoveries.
We were able to establish definitely the fact that the preliminary studies for the construction of this gun were begun in the Krupp factory at Essen in 1888. One of our agents was able at the time to get hold of a highly secret document of great importance that contained the calculations of a German engineer for the construction of a gun with a range of 268 kilometers.
Since our own calculations as to the possibility of long-range guns had never been carried so far, we considered this document to be wholly theoretical and of no practical use, and at the time we carried our investigation no further. The authenticity of the document, however, was never questioned.
How wrong we were! It never pays to disregard information, however fantastic it may seem, when it concerns Germany! How could one imagine that a man in his senses, a great scientist, could conceive of a gun firing at an object 268 kilometers away!
Everyone thought it a mere day-dream. It proved to be a fact, nevertheless, a fact just as definite as the goal for which the gun was constructed-Paris!
The goal was 200 kilometers away, and yet the gun was so constructed that they could obtain accuracy with it. That scientist finished his calculations, and had everything ready to start work on construction . . . twenty-six years before the declaration of war! That's something to think about, isn't it?
This was one of the great secrets of the war! Against it, what weight can the statements of a few German pacifists carry? They are doubtless sincere., but they probably do not even know what is going on at this very moment in certain laboratories that we know about.
However that may be, as soon as we got those details of the construction and the position of the "Bertha," we did everything possible to put it out of business, without, however, unqualified success. Still, our aviators and our artillery wrought such havoc among the gunners who fired these guns that the Germans had great difficulty keeping the crews manned.
The armistice finally put an end to the baneful activity of these formidable machines upon which the Kaiser had counted to break down the morale of the Parisians, thus proving his fundamental lack of comprehension of their psychology. Perhaps one should attribute this error on the part of the Kaiser to his personal fear of aerial bombardments.
It is well know that right up to the end of hostilities---and even at Spa---he had underground shelters built wherever he was, so that he could take refuge in them if necessary. That is another secret of the war.
Still another one, and one that I am sure the Germans know nothing about, is that despite the activity of the German police, our agents never let the Kaiser get out of their sight. They shadowed him even while he was at Spa, as they had before.
As a matter of fact, and it is time that it was generally known, never during the war was the Kaiser able to give us the slip. Each day all of his movements were reported to us.
And if he is still alive, it is because we French, unlike the Germans, do not encourage such assassins as those who killed Captain Fryatt, the heroic Miss Cavell, and so many other people who were victims of their notorious "Kultur."
THE GERMAN AGENT "H. 21" MATA-HARI
WITH the leave of her numerous flatterers, some of whom, alas, are Frenchmen, and in complete agreement with the sentiments of her own superiors (among whom were Cuers and Thiesen, two of the "stars" of the German Secret Service), I make the statement that "H. 21" did more harm to France during the war than almost anyone else.
The effectiveness of a Secret Service unit is estimated by the number of enemy soldiers which it causes to be killed.
Due to the activities of this "H. 21" seventeen Allied ships, seventeen transports carrying troops, were torpedoed by German submarines.
And "H. 21" was a woman! Her name, or rather, the name she adopted, was Mata-Hari.
All Frenchmen and others who feel called upon to pity this woman because of her sad fate, all Frenchmen and foreigners who have built up a legend around Mata-Hari, and who claim that she was unjustly sentenced, should not forget that because of the entry of her name on the list of the agents employed by the Thiergarten we were able to prove that long before the war, since 1904, to be exact, she had been a member of the German Secret Service.
It is the easiest thing in the world to prove this, as the Germans themselves have given us the necessary facts. Up to the first of August, 1914, all German spies were designated by the letter "H." From the first of August, 1914, until the armistice, new spies coming into the service were allotted the letters "A. F.." followed by their number. [NOTE: A, Antwerp; F, France. In other words, a spy under the direction of the officials at Antwerp who operates in France.]. The Boches, of course, never discovered that we knew this. If they had, they would have listed their agents differently---a thing which would have been greatly to our inconvenience.
To continue, although we knew all about the activities of Mata-Hari, for some time we did not have to pay any attention to her as she never practiced her nefarious trade at our expense.
Even so, we kept an eye on her and consequently when, in 1915, she was sent to "work" in France, her coming did not pass unnoticed. Although she succeeded in becoming the mistress of a Minister of War, and of one of the most important officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs, never, despite what some people may think, never at any time did we relax our watch over her, even for a moment. The document recording her activities is at headquarters, and bears witness to the fact. But it is one thing to watch a spy, and something altogether different to catch this same spy in action.
Mata-Hari was a woman of real intelligence and she was extremely skilful; she always avoided the traps we set for her. Our "nets" she laughed at, and until 1916 we were unable to discover her "letter box." In our profession, this is our name for the higher agent to whom a spy gives the correspondence that she is sending to her employers.
We finally discovered, however, that she was sending her correspondence to the German Staff through a man in the legation of a neutral country. As all people connected with this legation were protected by their diplomatic immunity, it was very difficult for us to get hold of this correspondence. Eventually we did, but still another difficulty arose. Mata-Hari's correspondence was all in code---unless it was in cryptic phrases---and we were never able to get what we call in counter-espionage "proof" of her treachery.
As you might imagine, it is very difficult for me to write about this, for there are some secrets that I am still unable to reveal. To make my meaning more clear, I must explain that in counter-espionage a single fact or a single message is not enough testis unus, testis nullus. We must procure a series of facts or of messages which complement one another and fit together, so that, after the most careful examination, there can remain no doubt as to their meaning.
Moreover, Mata-Hari had "slept" with some of the most distinguished men in Europe---the German Crown Prince, and M. Van der Linden, the Dutch premier, among others. Thus, once we arrested her, we were sure to have great pressure brought to bear upon us to secure her release.
It was, therefore, necessary to get such definite proof of her guilt that we could be sure that not only would the court-martial that tried her case put an absolute stop to all attempts to bring influence to bear upon it, but that even the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the President of the Republic also would act firmly. I might add that such attempts to bring influence to bear upon the case were made.
It was up to us to get such proof; after a while we got it.
It was at this time that Mata-Hari applied for a pass On the pretext that she wanted to go to Vittel to take care of a Russian officer in whom she was "interested."
At this same time it happened that we were building at Vittel, or at least very near there, an important aerodrome which was to be one of our largest air centers. Through some questionnaires that we had found on German agents, we knew that the Kaiser's Staff was trying in all possible ways to get information about it.
Was Mata-Hari going there in an attempt to get this information? We were not sure, but we decided to find out. She was granted the pass she had asked for.
As luck would have it, one of our men was clumsy, and she discovered that she was being watched. Being extremely clever, she merely stayed a few weeks in Vittel and then returned to Paris without having done anything at all suspicious. just to make her triumph complete and to have a last laugh at us, on her way back she "lost" the agents whose duty it was to follow her---and they were among the best "shadowers" in the service.
Things were going badly and as, after all, there
could no longer be any doubt as to her profession, some of the high officials decided to deport her and to let it go at that. It was thought that by sending her somewhere else, we should be rid of her. That showed how little we knew her!
The task of notifying her of this decision was given to Captain Ladoux, head of the military Counter-Espionage Service. He had her brought before him, and, without wasting words, he warned her that that very evening she would be shipped to Holland, where she was born. The spy, seeing that she had been found out, swore by all the gods, that, far from being in the employ of the Central Powers, as she was accused of being, her one desire was to enter the service of France.
She went even further. She said that as her relations with the Crown Prince and the Duke of Brunswick (she had been his mistress also) were so intimate, she would go to Stenay, the headquarters of the German General Staff, and perform any mission that we might entrust to her.
Because she insisted so vigorously, and with such impudence, it was decided to take her at her word. She was therefore sent to Belgium where von Bissing was then indulging in his pet cruelties. According to what she said, there was nothing that he would not do for her.
Mata-Hari Starts Work
To accomplish what she was sent out to do, she had to worm her way into a place that was, apparently, very difficult to get into. However, we knew what went on there through some of our other agents.
We were suspicious of certain of these other agents. The reports that they sent in often contained the most startling inaccuracies. Sometimes they were entirely erroneous. One of them was what we call a "double" agent. That is, he added to his salary by working for France and for Germany at the same time. There were six of these doubtful agents, and we put Mata-Hari in touch with them, being careful not to give her the names of the agents in whom we had confidence and whose work was satisfactory.
This is what happened. Five of these agents who were giving us false information were left entirely alone by the Germans. The sixth, the "double" agent, was shot. As Mata-Hari was the only one to know their names, it must have been she who told the Germans about them.
But all the same she had given us some useful information:
1. As the five agents reported by Mata-Hari to the Germans had not been disturbed, it meant that they were in their service and that they had confidence in them.
2. Since they shot the "double" agent, it must be that they had found proof of his treason. However, as the information he gave us was unreliable (as had often been proved), and as, consequently, this information could do Germany no harm, it followed that this agent was giving a third nation, which was neither France nor Germany, information that was accurate. This third nation must necessarily be England. Almost at once this inference was confirmed by a dispatch from the British Intelligence Service informing us that a German spy named Mata-Hari had betrayed an English resident agent in Belgium.
At last we had definite evidence against Mata-Hari, but it was not enough. We decided to get still more. For a long time we had known the code used in the correspondence between the German agents in Madrid and the Thiergarten. Nothing passed between them that we did not know and make use of. Perhaps if we sent Mata-Hari to Spain she would do something that would provide incontrovertible proof of her guilt.
It was decided to send her to Holland via Bilbao. Instead of getting off at Bilbao, where we were waiting for her, she landed at Vigo. She went at once to Madrid where she put up at the Palace Hotel, a rendezvous for international spies and, as such, carefully watched by Allied Secret Service agents. As soon as she got there, Mata-Hari got in touch with the German military attaché at Madrid, Major von Kalle. This latter gentleman is now directing the German bureau for propaganda in foreign countries. She also had at least one interview with the German naval attaché, M. von Kron, but of this we had no legal proof.
When these gentlemen had got all the military and naval information out of her that they wanted (and some of it was of real importance), she was requested to get into "as intimate relations as possible" with the French naval attaché. We warned the latter and he kept her at a distance.
When, after several weeks, he saw that this was not working, Kalle decided to get rid of her.
One day he thanked her for the services she had rendered the Reich during her stay in Madrid---according to him, several transports and a number of neutral freighters, some of them Spanish, had been torpedoed---and passed on to her a wireless that had just come in from Berlin ordering her back to Paris where her services were required. At the same time von Kalle told her that a check for 15,000 pesetas would be sent her "through the usual channels"---in other words, through the man in the neutral legation, to whom I referred above.
In accordance with these orders Mata-Hari left at once for Paris, and went to the Plazza-Athénée Hotel, Avenue Montaigne.
On the morning of February 13, 1917) M. Priolet, an agent in the Counter-Espionage Service in Paris, went there for her. Mata-Hari received the officers of the police, lying naked on her bed. M. Priolet told her that he had been sent by Captain Ladoux.
"Oh, yes! It must be about that Belgian business," she remarked.
"Yes, that's it," answered M. Priolet, desiring to avoid the scene that would have been forthcoming had he told her that she was under arrest.
She got up and proceeded to dress with an immodesty that greatly shocked those present.
She was taken to the office in the Ministry of War. As soon as she was in the room, M. Priolet handed her the warrant for her arrest that he was carrying. It read as follows:
One Zelle (Marguerite), alias Mata-Hari, domiciled at the Plazza-Athénée Hotel, born August 7, 1876, at Leuwarden, capital of the district of the same name in Holland, daughter of Adam Zelle and Antje van der Meulen, is hereby arrested on the charge of espionage, attempted espionage, aiding and abetting spies, being in unlawful communication with the enemy in an attempt to further his interests.
Mata-Hari took the warrant and, without reading it, smilingly asked one of the officers around her,
"I'm sorry, but to which of you gentlemen should I give this piece of paper?"
Then Captain Ladoux walked over to her and asked,
"First of all, H. 21, tell us how long you have been in the service of Germany."
Swept off her feet by the unexpected preciseness of this statement, Mata-Hari shrank back. But she retained sufficient composure to reply:
"Why, sir, I don't know what you are talking about! "
He gave her a few pointers to help her understand, and then had her conducted to the prison of Saint-Lazare.
We shall follow her there, for there is still something of a legend to be destroyed.
She Pays the Penalty
Once safely imprisoned in Saint-Lazare, the head of that penitentiary put a special guard over Mata-Hari and took the further precaution of putting her in solitary confinement.
A few days later she was placed in cell number 12, the very one formerly occupied by Madame Steinheil and Madame Caillaux. This is a large cell containing two good-sized windows and three beds---one for the prisoner, the others for the two women who were placed there to "observe" their companion. Mata-Hari did not leave this cell until she was taken before the court-martial, and, after that, not until she was taken out to the fortifications at Vincennes. . . .
The court-martial that tried her on July 24 and 25, 1917, was presided over by Colonel Semprou, of the Garde Républicaine.
During the trial it was established that Mata-Hari had had lunch alone with the head of the Berlin police on the very day war was declared; that she had been in the German service for a long time; that she was registered in the German Secret Service under the number "H. 21," that, outside of France, she had been in close touch with important Germans who were well known to be the directors of the Secret Service; that since March, 1916, she had been receiving large sums of money for information furnished by her to the directors of the German Secret Service.
Having followed attentively the prosecution of Lieutenant Mornet and the defense of Maitre Clunet, the court-martial unanimously pronounced the death sentence.
Mata-Hari, it should be mentioned, expected an acquittal.
Because she knew that both in France and in other countries influential people would intercede for her.
When this did happen, M. Poincaré was able to set forth definite proof that along with other information given the Germans by this spy, was some concerning the French offensive in the spring of 1916. Far from relenting, the President of the Republic let his petitioners know that at a time when so many of our soldiers were meeting death at the hands of the enemy, he could not be lenient with a spy who was stabbing them in the back.
Among those who petitioned him was M. van der Linden, the Dutch Premier, a man who had not objected to the establishment in his own country of two of the most important German espionage centers! One at The Hague, where they forged passports, the other at Scheveningen, where they took charge of passing on information.
Be lenient under such conditions? Impossible!
The plea of Mata-Hari was rejected, and her sentence was turned over to the department of Military justice for fulfilment. The order for her execution was signed on October 14, 1917.
It is well known that Mata-Hari died courageously.
It has been said, and this is the legend that I previously referred to, that Mata-Hari thought she would not really die, that the shooting would be a mere pretense, and that the guns of the firing squad would not be loaded with balls.
That is altogether untrue! Mata-Hari was so sure she was to die that on the very morning of her death, before leaving her cell, she disdainfully rejected the trick that her lawyer proposed, that she should say she was pregnant.
It is well known that in Book 1, Chapter I, article 27, of the Penal Code there is a provision forbidding the execution of a pregnant woman.
I repeat, Mata-Hari refused to make use of such a subterfuge.
It has also been said that while the spy was in prison she gave Sister Léonide, her guardian while in Saint-Lazare, a ring that one of her lovers had given her as a last token of his esteem. That also is a legend made up out of whole cloth. One of the strictest rules of the prison is that under no circumstances may a prisoner have about her either money or jewels. Therefore, Mata-Hari could not have given away a ring, because she had none to give.
After all, is there anything that has not been said about this woman?
The Germans, whom she served so faithfully and who were so furious at her execution, tried, and are still trying, to establish her innocence. In several of those pamphlets with which their propaganda bureau (one of the best organizations of the kind in the world) floods the world, they have had the audacity to draw a parallel between Edith Cavell and Mata-Hari.
It is the easiest thing in the world to answer them., and to do so, as usual, with facts.
When Edith Cavell was condemned to death, Pope Benedict XV, Alfonso XIII, and the American Ambassador interceded on her behalf. When Mata-Hari was condemned to death, they were careful to make no such move.
Still better, although the Prince Consort besought her to do so, Queen Wilhelmina refused pointblank to ask clemency for the spy. When, in turn, her Minister, Van der Linden, attempted to persuade her, she bluntly told him to "go take a walk for himself!"
These are the facts of the case, and no amount of denial on the part of German propagandists can change them. And it is for this reason that I have devoted so much attention to Mata-Hari.
Now, may I introduce you to a few other types of German spies?
AGENT Z. U. D. 160
AMONG the women "working" for our enemies, Madame Tichelly, née Dufays, should be noted. In the records of the German Secret Service she was "Z. U. D. 160." Although she was born in Paris, Madame Tichelly's parents were Germans. At heart she too was a German, if one is to judge by the harm she did to France.
When arrested she was living at the Hotel de la Marine, 59 Boulevard Montparnasse. Her prosecution was very much worth while; during the course of it we learned some extremely interesting facts.
For instance, among other things, we learned that this woman passed on to the spy Gruber, head of the Secret Service headquarters at Lörrach, some information about the 117th Regiment of Infantry which resulted in their suffering heavy losses. One of Madame Tichelly's sons was in this regiment. If this fine chap escaped death at that time, it was certainly not because of anything his mother did! This a woman, as you see, was not too proud to get money at the cost of blood, even when the blood was that of her own children.
I think that it was particularly due to this dreadful discovery that she was sent to prison. However, she had several other grim little tricks that were less disgusting, but no less serious.
Gruber hired Madame Tichelly in 1915 when she was a chambermaid in the Grand Hotel at Mannheim. After putting her through the usual course of instruction, he sent her to France on the pretext that she was returning to her three sons.
At first she devoted her attention to factories producing war materials. Her methods were of the simplest and well calculated to avoid attracting suspicion. She pretended to be an ardent patriot and passed much of her time railing against the Boches, as was testified by one of the witnesses called in her trial by court-martial. She would get a job in a munitions factory and study everything about the place very carefully, taking in every detail. In the evenings she would prepare her reports for Gruber.
When she had finished with one factory, she would get fired for some reason or other, and would start again somewhere else.
But, like so many of her colleagues, Madame Tichelly made the mistake of flouting the postal censors at Pontarlier. Finally an agent connected with this service uncovered her little trick. (France will never know how great is her debt to the agents whose headquarters were on the Rue des Saussaies.)
As was the case with the Scandanavian spy whose activities I have described, Madame Tichelly wrote her messages in invisible ink underneath the stamps on the envelope.
She was placed under observation and we discovered that, not satisfied with giving the Germans information about our factories, she was passing on extracts from letters written home by poilus at the front. The men would write their wives or mothers about the thousand and one things happening in their sectors. Happy to have news from their loved ones, these women, most of whom were working in factories, would pass on such information to their comrades, without thinking that a spy might make use of these involuntary indiscretions. It is easy to see what could happen when such information got into the hands of the enemy.
By watching Madame Tichelly's correspondence, we discovered two new ways of communicating information.
One was the placing of a sheet of paper, with a message written on it, between two postcards glued together.
The second was, if anything, even simpler---cutting the notches around the edges of the stamps according to a prearranged pattern.
Of course, when we had obtained definite proof of the criminal activities of Madame Tichelly., she was at once arrested and brought before the court-martial.
She was shot at Vincennes at dawn on March 15, 1917, and died courageously, refusing to have her eyes bandaged.
Like all such people, until the very end she was confident that she would escape death. When she was about to be taken from Saint-Lazare to Vincennes, it was extremely difficult to make her understand that, although she had not actually killed anyone, she had been the direct cause of the death of thousands of our soldiers. Her last cry as she was being bound just before she was shot was,
"You ought not kill me! I have never killed anyone!"
The unfortunate woman died without ever realizing the heinousness of her crimes.
NEW METHODS OF COMMUNICATION USED BY THE GERMANS TOWARD THE END OF THE WAR
THE revelations that I have been making would be incomplete if I failed to mention one more method of communication which the enemy agents employed in getting information to Berlin. Few of their methods were more reliable.
This was their practice of using the "classified advertisements" in the daily papers. Nothing could have looked more harmless than these little advertisements, and yet the Germans made of them a weapon that time and time again caused us extreme annoyance, to put it mildly. As so often happened, we discovered this particular deviltry of theirs largely by luck.
For some time postal censorship offices all over the country had been noticing that the correspondence of people who had seemed more or less suspicious was coming through in a most irregular fashion. Soon, in some of these cases, it stopped completely. They at once reported this irregularity to the Counter-Espionage headquarters, and an investigation was started to clear it up.
We had, for various reasons, become quite fond of some of these people; there was almost always something interesting in their letters. When for an entire month they had neglected their correspondence with their friends in Berne, Zurich, Barcelona, or wherever it happened to be, we had them shadowed by our best agents.
At first they discovered nothing worth mentioning.
As a matter of fact none of these suspects were really dangerous, for we had taken steps to make it impossible for them to do any real harm. Now that they were being watched, they acted just as they had before. But they wrote no letters!
We became more worried by that when we received reliable word from various sources that at least two of these Germans had communicated information of minor importance, which, even so, they should never have been allowed to send out of Paris.
It was time the thing was cleared up! How was it to be done?
While our agents were so sadly floundering about, the English discovered that a suspicious character named Müller (he was later shot) was sending his information by means of the classified advertisements in various London papers. As I said before, the correlation between the two services was so perfect that each knew everything that happened to the other. In this way we learned of this new trick.
The inquiry was again started, and we soon became convinced that these people in France were making use of the same plan in getting their information outside the country.
As the daily papers circulated everywhere, nothing was easier than for German agents living in Switzerland, Holland, or Spain to receive messages from their Paris correspondents in these classified advertisements.
Unless one was gifted with second sight, it was very difficult to detect the difference between ordinary advertisements and those in code. Here, for instance, is a message that caused the censors a good deal of agonizing:
FOR ZOE.---Jean came on the seventh at about two o'clock. He wants an appointment with you on the eleventh at three o'clock, for mother is sick and Germaine demoralized.
What could be more innocent than this? How suspicious a person must be if he thought it anything more than a commonplace appointment!
Well, here is an exact translation of it:
FOR ZURICH.---An airplane flew over Paris on the seventh at about two o'clock. It dropped eleven bombs in the third district, doing much damage and frightening the people.
After all, the German aviators who flew over Paris knew perfectly well in what part of the city their bombs dropped. Therefore, the only use of such a bit of information was in checking up on them.
The following is of quite a different character. We were able to catch it before it appeared.
JEAN TO BERTHA.---Our uncle in London will come to Paris on the sixteenth of this month. Try to be either at the Invalides at about three or at the Opera in the evening. Mamma has received the various things you have sent. She wants you to come to this meeting, and to bring with you, as we agreed, your young friends in the boarding-house.
Here is the translation of this one:
FOR JAEGER IN BERNE.---The king of England will be in Paris on the sixteenth of this month. That day he will be at the Invalides at about three and at the Opera in the evening. The last raid was successful. Be sure not to miss this chance either at the Invalides or the Opera and come, as we agreed, in squadrons.
It is easy to imagine how serious this was. What made it still more serious was that we had no idea where it came from. The paper in which it was to be printed had received it in an anonymous letter; enough money to pay for it was enclosed. There was no way to identify the sender!
Fortunately we had just appointed a special censor for classified advertisements, and he was able to catch it before it appeared. In passing, I should mention the fact that the editors of the papers realized the importance of this discovery and were always the first to point out to the censor, texts that seemed to them in any way suspicious.
The German agents did not persist long in this attempt. Realizing that their trick had been discovered, they tried to find one that would be still better. And they actually succeeded.
One night when he was flying above Paris, one of our aviators noticed to his amazement that some of the government buildings, among them those housing the offices of members of the Cabinet, were outlined with lights that formed a triangle. They could not be seen from the ground, but they were plainly visible from the sky. This interested him, so he noted exactly where these mysterious lights were, and the next day, accompanied by two agents in the Counter-Espionage Service, he went out to look for them.
The dome of the Invalides was at about the center of one triangle. The sides were about a hundred meters away. It was therefore easy enough to reconstruct it. After the three men had climbed about the fire-escapes of a number of buildings without seeing anything that looked suspicious, they noticed on the roof of a nearby building a tub, or rather a barrel sawed in two, which seemed to have no reason for being there.
At the risk of their necks, they got on that roof and found at the bottom of the barrel a steel or nickel-plated cylinder, at the bottom of which was a high-powered electric-light bulb. Of course, it was a new kind of reflector, that worked only at night. By this means airplanes and Zeppelins flying over Paris could pick out the exact places they were to bombard.
Thanks to the presence of mind of this aviator (he was one of the "aces" of the Fifth Army), we had once more been able to break up one of the enemy's little schemes; Do you think this discouraged the Germans? Not at all!
But no matter what they tried to put over, we usually got wind of it in time to prevent its doing any harm.
However, Miss Doktor, some of whose activities I shall now tell you about (it would be impossible to finish a book like this without telling you of this devilish woman), accomplished some very real mischief. Unfortunately, she is still alive! May we never have occasion to regret it!
MISS DOKTOR, A WOMAN SUCH AS IS SELDOM SEEN
IN A previous chapter I mentioned that mysterious woman, Miss Doktor, who so cleverly and so intelligently directed the German Secret Service headquarters at Antwerp.
Despite the claims of some, Miss Doktor was not a fashionable woman. She was not related to any of the great families in Germany. She was, originally, a demi-mondaine, and nothing else. It might be said of her, as it was of Mata-Hari, that she had "slept" as often as she pleased with many of the most distinguished people in the Empire. It was in that way that she got her first influence.
Eight or nine years ago Miss Doktor was very pretty. She is said still to be so; it may be so, if she makes use of the proper artificial aids. The only time I ever saw her was in Antwerp, where she was living at the time. I must confess that I didn't feel myself to be in the presence of a great beauty. But one thing about her did strike me her eyes!
Her eyes were steely. They looked not only at you, but all the way through you. They were alarming eyes. A thousand years from now, if Miss Doktor were hidden in a crowd I am sure I would recognize her because of her eyes. Is it because of them that she had such power over the agents she employed during the war? Perhaps. But I don't think so.
I rather think that it was because of her instinctive knowledge of how to do things, because of her boldness, and her fierceness. It is impossible to imagine how ferocious she was. She gave frequent examples of this fierceness. May I mention two of them? They will be enough to give you an idea of the character of this extraordinary woman.
Among the agents in her service was a Lieutenant-Colonel Count von T-----, for whom everyone predicted a brilliant future. Colonel von T----- was her technical adviser, and paid special attention to questions involving artillery. One day Miss Doktor called him in and, spreading out before him a report that one of her spies had sent in regarding the tanks, she asked,
"What do you think of that?"
At this time nothing at all was known about tanks. Colonel Estienne had guarded the secret of their manufacture with the greatest care. He wasn't a man to proclaim such an invention from the house-tops.
The officer picked up the report, went over it, and then, shrugging his shoulders, remarked,
"That's puzzling! I admit the Allies may have built a contraption of that sort, but it can only be a kind of laboratory experiment. What makes you think that an armored car---and the one described here must be tremendously armored---could move about and actually take part in maneuvers over plowed fields, that it could rip through barbed wire, and over trenches and shell holes?"
"It would certainly seem difficult to me," Miss Doktor admitted. "However, the report comes from a very dependable source."
"That may be so, and yet your informer may have been taken in."
"Perhaps, but that would surprise me greatly."
They said no more about it that day.
A second report arrived, and with it diagrams and photographs. Miss Doktor was greatly alarmed and went at once to Count von T------ and showed him the new documents. He examined them, hesitated for a moment, and then stated,
"The details about this machine that have been sent you are certainly quite disturbing. From a technical point of view the thing is possible. It would be silly to deny that. It would be just as silly to think that such a thing would be of any practical use."
"If I send that report on to Headquarters, will you be responsible for it?"
"Yes! I'll take the responsibility for that statement."
"Fine! That's all I wanted to know."
A few days later the Allies made use of the tanks and the Boches suffered an overwhelming defeat. Not only were they forced to evacuate several vitally important positions, but they also suffered tremendous casualties.
When Miss Doktor received word of this disaster, she sent Count von T----- a copy of the report of the German G. H. Q. about this defeat, and with it an ordnance revolver. On the margin of the report she had written, "You know what you must do! "
The officer understood her. That very evening he committed suicide!
Miss Doktor did not allow her assistants to make mistakes! She used to say, "The higher one's social position, the more capable one should be. Upon occasion a mistake by an underling may be overlooked. A mistake by a capable man in full possession of all his faculties is unpardonable!"
And as you see, she put her theories into practice!
The Tragic Fate of Van Kaarbeck
Among Miss Doktor's agents was one poor Hollander, named Van Kaarbeck. He had been a Jack of all trades. After being well educated and inheriting a comfortable income, his vices, which he cultivated with zealous care, soon succeeded in putting him on his uppers. He was an outstanding gambler, drunkard, and roué. These vices handicapped him greatly.
He had done almost everything calculated to lead to a man's degeneration. He had been croupier in a Casino on the Italian Riviera, a dancing master, a tutor in the house of a nobleman, a ticket seller in a theater. Falling steadily lower and lower, at the beginning of the war he was washing cars in the garage of a sixth-rate hotel at Spa.
It was there that an agent of Miss Doktor's found him. Her investigation showed that this chap, who had been a real personage once, was now a good-for-nothing, but she hired him all the same. He was, taken on at the time when, due to the remarkable work of our admirable agents, spies of German descent found it impossible to get into France any longer, and the enemy, willy-nilly, found it necessary to replace such agents by citizens of neutral countries.
Van Kaarbeck was given an intensive course of instruction by the Secret Service agents in Antwerp, and was generally "spruced up." When he had again become a presentable being, Miss Doktor called him in and, without wasting words, informed him that his apprenticeship was over, and he was to be sent to Paris. He accepted the more readily as he had spent a large part of his fortune around the cabarets in Montmartre, and still had many friends in that section on whom he thought he could count to help him in performing the tasks outlined by Miss Doktor.
Following instructions, he returned to Holland and from there went to England, finally proceeding to France and landing at Dunkerque. Unfortunately for him, he was spotted by one of our agents who had previously kept track of the doings of Miss Doktor, and who knew by sight most of the people in her group.
At first we wondered whether it wouldn't be a good plan to ship such an undesirable person back to England. But as it might be that he was charged with some mission, we decided that, by shadowing him, we might uncover some new German dodge. He was handed over to one of the best agents in the service, and, after spending a couple of days at Dunkerque, was allowed to proceed.
The agent who had him in charge had lived a long time in Holland, and had been born in Flanders. As a result he spoke and wrote Dutch perfectly. The most amusing thing about the story is that Van Kaarbeck spotted him in the diner on the train to Paris, and, thinking him a compatriot, was at pains to strike up an acquaintance with him at once.
By the time they got to Paris, the two men were the best of friends. As both had plenty of money, they decided to start things off by having a little celebration in the cabarets of Montmartre that very night. They also decided to go to the same hotel in the Rue Lepic.
As you see, Van Kaarbeck was in good hands. He was destined to be in worse.
That evening the two friends visited a large number of the cabarets in Montmartre, and, toward two o'clock, found themselves stranded at the "Live Rat." Van Kaarbeck was completely drunk, and had made up his mind to have supper with some of the pretty women about.
His choice., tactfully directed by his "friend," fell upon one of the dancers employed by the management. A provocative brunette, everyone thought she was Spanish. As a matter of fact, she was born and brought up in Paris. Is there anything I can say that you have not already guessed?
The dancer, as it happened, was in our service; she soon got Van Kaarbeck to "confess" to her by making him think that in her he had found another enemy of France. He admitted that he was a German Secret Service agent, and asked her, if it became necessary, whether she would "work" for him. She asked for time to think it over and, a few days later, accepted his offer.
Van Kaarbeck was overjoyed by this decision, and revealed all of his secrets to her, and showed her the questionnaires that he had. One of them concerned the places hit by the shells from the "Big Bertha."
He went even one better than that! In his pride over his new conquest, he was rash enough to introduce the dancer to two of his "colleagues" in Paris. They, less naïve than he, were alarmed to see their secrets in the possession of such a woman, and warned Miss Doktor. They then disappeared. They didn't get far, however.
The affair ended very unhappily for Van Kaarbeck. The day before he was to be arrested, he was found in one of the unfrequented streets in the old part of Montmartre in a pool of his own blood, a dagger stuck between his shoulders. On the blade of the dagger was engraved the word "Solingen," enough to indicate where it came from.
This was Miss Doktor's way of getting rid of persons who no longer pleased her. A number of persons found their way into her disfavor. . . . Others were stupid enough to get caught by us, and they came to tragic ends before firing squads at Vincennes. Among them were the following:
Léon Wecsler, a Roumanian, shot on November 29, 1917
Sydnet and Bulnet, two Frenchmen working under the direction of the German Secret Service headquarters at Barcelona. They had been commissioned to blow up the Invalides. They were shot on July 24, 1917
Evariste Ascencio, a Spaniard, shot on July 26, 1917
Ricardo and Dorlac, Spaniards, shot on February 9, 1917
Dei Pasi, an Argentinian by birth, and a naturalized Frenchman, shot on February 7, 1916.
Von Meyerem, a Dane (?) who had enlisted in the Foreign Legion. He was shot on January 15, 1917
Hoegnagel, a Hollander, shot on August 2, 1917
Moni, an Italian, one of the most dangerous spies that ever lived, shot on August 2, 1917
Sedanoy Leguizano, a Mexican, shot on October 10, 1919
Rudolph Funck, an Austrian, shot on February 2, 1920.
Liebermann, a Roumanian (? ), shot on April 18, 1917
Michelson, former lieutenant in the Russian Imperial Guard, shot on November 19, 1917
I name only those whose activities were especially unspeakable.
Unfortunately, among the names of these spies, we are forced to list two other Frenchmen. E-----, a captain in the colonial infantry, worked for the Barcelona headquarters. He sold himself to them for 300 francs! He was shot on July 13, 1917. The other, D-----, betrayed thirteen of his compatriots to the Germans. He was shot on August 2, 1919.
We are still unable to understand the reasons these two men had for committing such crimes! There is nothing to explain their treason. They came from good families, and their personal positions were such that they were not in want.
From what I have said, the reader must realize that the secrets of the Germans were not secrets to the admirable officials of our Secret Service. Justly has the service been called the eyes of the army.
Without the unceasing, superhuman activity of these agents working in connection with the army, inside and outside of the country, many catastrophes would have overwhelmed us. Although I have not been able to tell all---some things must still remain unknown---I am confident the reader will give these men the credit that is their due. Among all who served our country, none did so more faithfully. The "war of brains" was fully as bloody as the other, and, in its results, fully as decisive. It was this I wanted to prove to you.
And now may I give you a last word of warning?
If you know any military secrets, take care that they are not stolen from you, for the spies have returned again!
Recent developments have proved that. you can be sure that for every Martha Moreuil who is arrested, a hundred others are at liberty and are doing their "work" on the outskirts, if not in the very center, of our military and naval organizations. Admit to yourself that this is true, and base your actions accordingly. If you do this, you will perform a priceless service to the agents whose duty it is to oppose the sordid activities of foreign spies. And that is the least you can do for them.
Table of Contents