Reading material for those who love the camping life

By: Bjarne Eikefjord
Caravan and Caravan magazine, No. 6. December 2017

Mata Hari - legend lives on

15. October 1917 lifted 12 uniformed men's weapons and aimed at a figure 10 meters away. A suboffice gives a command and lifts the saber. 14. October 2017 opened the Fries Museum's own exhibition on the centenary of the execution of Mata Hari, the spy still a legend.

The shots in a muddy military camp outside Paris killed a beautiful woman at its best age, but created a legend that still lives. And many questions are still unanswered: Was Mata Hari guilty or was she killed because she lived after freedom standards that were unheard of for women? There are many theories, one of the judges in her trial, 30 claimed years later that there was not enough evidence in the case of "judging a cat for whipping." The exhibition in the Fries Museum in Leuwarden takes care of the life of Mata Hari from birth to death, but without making any answers.

freedom Trang

Mata Hari was born as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in Leeuwarden, 7. August 1876. The father went bankrupt, her mother died, and Margaretha and her three brothers were sent to different relatives. It was a strong young woman with great freedom as 19, married to an elder Dutch officer, and joined him to Nederlands East India. 9 years later, the man left her surviving daughter, and Margaretha escaped to Paris and took the artist name Mata Hari, "The Eye of the Day", when she created herself as an exotic dancer and took the Parisian strip-tease salons by storm with her oriental lingerie and frivolous style. And not just the crowds. Many were the ones who seduced Mata Hari's beauty and openness. In that way, she did not make a difference to friend or enemy when she was able to visit both the warring sides with her Dutch passport.

Referred as a spy

Only outside were the French. The legal documents of the case, including Mata Hari, have been locked in the French military archives in Vincennes for hundreds of years. They are now set in the Fries Museum in the exhibition "Mata Hari, the myth and the virgin", and can help shed light on the mysteries of Mata Hari that historians for decades have tried to solve. What we know is that she was served by Georges Ladoux in the French Intelligence Service to spy on the Germans. A number of German officers were willingly seduced. A careless remark of a German military attache during a nightly visit made him enthusiastically send a message to Berlin that the Germans had a valuable intelligence contact. This was captured by the French, who then listed Mata Hari as a double pioneer.

Captive, accused and convicted

13. February 1917 was ending - if it had been a game at all. Mata Hari was arrested in Paris and accused of espionage for Germany. Despite the fact that she stubbornly categorically denied that she had ever spied to the Germans. A kurtisane, yes, she acknowledged that she was, but never spy. She was equally charged with a French military court. Many believe it was Mata Hari's sexual morality, which was actually charged with the fact that her crime was "collaboration horizontal" and that the French military needed both a scapegoat and more at a time when the war caused them a huge loss. Actual evidence appears to have been inadequate during the court talks.

The legend is coming

The senior officers in the military tribunal did not bother with the obvious lack of evidence or lack of confession. After 45 minutes, Mata Hari found guilty of espionage and sentenced her to death by shooting, according to Mata Hari Biography. In retrospect, writers and historians have tried to figure out the riddles around Mata Hari. In summary, the conclusion is that the tribunal was only concerned with weak indifference, and that Mata Hari was actually innocent, as the Dutch author Tomas Ross noted in his book "Mata Haris Tears", which was given to the 90-year of execution.

eyewitness Description

The world press brought the news of Mata Hari's death, the New York Times described her as a "woman with high attractiveness and with a romantic history". The mysteries were brought to new heights through the film about Mata Hari from 1931, where Greta Garbo had the lead role. But there is also an eyewitness account of the execution, written by journalist Henry Wales, published by the International News Servide on October 19, 1917 and repeated by Russel Warren in "Mata Hari, The True Story", published in memory of the 70th anniversary in 1987.

The last day

Henry Wales's story begins when Mata Hari is waking up the 15. October and is told that this is her last day. She dressed in her most beautiful clothes, and carried out stretched hair into the car which then drove her through the sleeping city to Caserne de Vincennes. The soldiers waited with loaded guns. Mata Hari refused to tie to the pile and refused to bind his eyes. She wants to see her killers right in her eyes. When the officer lowered the sword, the shooting alpine brought. Mata Hari sank down on his knees with his head still kneeling. For a moment it seemed as if she threw a last glance straight at the men who had taken her life before falling backwards and remained impervious, as described by Henry Wales. Mata Hari was dead, but the legend is still alive.

Archive opens

Mata Hari's life has become a number of books. Film stars such as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Sylvia Kristel are all featured in the film role as Mata Hari. Friesland Museum in Leuwarden, where Mata Hari was baptized Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in 1876, opened the biggest exhibition about her ever. The museum has access to so far secret documents from the French military archive in Vincennes, from The National Archives in London, Musee Guimet in Paris, the Bibliotheque nationale de France, the National Archives in the Netherlands and a number of private collections.

historically travel

The museum will take visitors on a journey through six exhibition halls and tell the whole story of Margaretha Geertruida Zelle's life. The exhibition itself was designed in collaboration with Studio Louter, and the theater design was prepared by Opera Amsterdam. The Friesland Museum hopes that the exhibition will shed light on whether Mata Hari was guilty of espionage, or finally met because of patriarchal dogmas over a young woman who lived her life freely and at her own head at a time when this was considered unheard of.  

Friesland Museum in Leeuwarden has been around for 190 years. In 2013 the museum moved to a whole new and the first Dutch museum building designed for the 21. century. In addition to the exhibition about Mata Hari, visitors can admire artwork from the old masters, several centuries-old treasures, and the living story of the relationship between the hate-love of Friesland and the sea, which has repeatedly laid large land masses underwater. Perhaps a good destination for caravanists along the way?

More information can be found here: https://www.friesmuseum.nl/en/collection/blog-mata-hari/

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