Eye of Dawn : The Story of Mata Hari, Part 2


The conclusion of my Mata Hari article. It describes her rise to fame and discusses the controversy surrounding her death.

“My dance is a sacred poem in which each movement is a word and whose every word is underlined by music. The temple in which I dance can be vague or faithfully reproduced, as here today. For I am the temple. All true temple dances are religious in nature and all explain, in gestures and poses, the rules of the sacred texts.”

So proclaiming she began the first sinuous supplication of herself before the seated statue of the Hindu god Siva. Dressed in diaphanous gowns, an ornate headdress and bejeweled brassiere she began her reign as the most sought after woman in all of Europe. She used her exotic beauty to captivate both her audience and her patrons, and, while she became famous for elevating the striptease to an art form, remained deeply unhappy.

As the applause grew more persistent, and the accolades and offers were showered upon her in abundance, Margarethe wanted nothing more than to see her daughter Non. In the eyes of the court she had abandoned her family by suing for divorce and so her former husband was entitled to withhold her maternal rights. He would not allow her to see their daughter.

From 1905-1912 she dominated society. She was both loathed and lavished, called a visionary and a harlot. When her age began to show in the thickening of her waist and the loss of elasticity in her muscles she was forced into retirement by her own better judgment. She made the swift transition from entertainer to courtesan and enjoyed the distinction of having her choice from a bevy of admiring patrons. Several sources indicate that she was exceptionally talented in the art of pleasing men and had perhaps studied the Kama Sutra.

She made an appearance in Germany on May 23, 1914. Her show was decried as indecent and the local police were summoned. The policeman sent to investigate the disturbance, Griebel, was also entranced by her performance. The accounts vary but it is obvious that Griebel approached Mata Hari and that through this connection she became acquainted Traugott von Jagow, rumored to have been in charge of German espionage. Some historians believe that Margarethe attended a school of espionage, located in Antwerp, Belgium, at the behest of von Jagow. Those who believe Mata Hari guilty of all the crimes she was accused of insist that it was at this school that she acquired the code name “H 21″.

The tensions between France and Germany were becoming intolerable to Mata Hari. She claimed she felt uncomfortable in Germany as she had lived a considerable time in Paris. She departed Germany on August 14, 1914. Two days after the outbreak of World War I.

After much delay Margarethe ended up in Paris once more. There was substantial fodder in the rumor mill to suggest that her gallivanting about Europe and her intimacy with a German patron confirmed her identity as a spy. She heatedly denied these allegations and was angered to realize she was being followed.

While in Paris she met a Russian officer named Vladimir Masloff. Though he was twenty years her junior a passionate romance developed between them. Masloff received orders to return to the Front and received an injury that resulted in the loss of sight in his left eye. Mata Hari redoubled her efforts to obtain a generous provider in order to protect them both.

Vladimir was recuperating in a military hospital located near Vittel. In order to visit him she had to obtain a special permit that allowed her to cross into the official war zone. She had been denied such access on numerous occasions when she met Georges Ladoux. He was the head of the French Army’s counterespionage organization. He proposed that she consider spying on the Germans for the French. She considered it because it could be a very lucrative profession.

She accepted the offer and was dispatched to Belgium to complete her mission. Three years later she stood accused of espionage by the French courts and faced the penalty of death. The capricious details of the extent to which she contributed to the wartime intelligence effort on either side are unknown. It has been verified that she received monies from both sides but it is unclear as to whether or not useful information was received by them in return. There are those that claim the entire trial was a fabrication and that a great miscarriage of justice occurred when Margarethe Zelle was executed.

The recent release of controversial documents by British intelligence indicates that there was no concrete evidence against her. A case has been opened in an attempt to vindicate her name and establish her innocence. ” Mata Hari was in the wrong place at the wrong time and forced by the French state to take on the sins of an era.”, stated Thibault de Montbrial, the barrister in charge of the investigation. It has been suggested by various contemporaries that she was nothing more than a scapegoat. We may never know the truth of the matter and, for now, it is open to speculation. Margarethe Zelle was a bright,though brief, flame. There is much her life can teach us.

1. Life is joyous and we are deserving of that joy.
2. Our fate is not fully conscripted by a higher power and we do have the means to shape our own destiny.
3. One should never accept treatment from others that is indecent and inhumane. We are all entitled to the kindnesses that show us to be a race of thinking individuals.
4. Respect for oneself is essential to survival.