Birth Place of the Infamous WWI Double Agent, Mata Hari, is Burned to the Ground in Fire


Straits Times reports: Saturday evening, October 19, 2013, Leeuwarden’s mayor, Andries Ekhart reported that five homes and 3 shops were destroyed during a blaze. As a result of the fire, one man lost his life. One of the shops that burned down turned out to be the birth place of the WWI spy, Mata Hari. Outside of the shop sits a statue that depicts the woman mid-twirl.


Mata Hari was the stage name of a Ms. Margaretha Geertruida Zelle and she was born on August 7, 1876 in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Zelle moved to Paris in 1903. It was there that she became Mata Hari. She was known through out Europe for her exotic Eastern dancing style and various liaisons with influential men.

The stage name, Mata Hari, became the femme fatale stereotype. Some notable actresses portrayed the seductress in films. These women were Zsa Zsa Gabor, Greta Garbo, and Dutch actress Sylvia Kristel.

At the age of 41, Mata Hari was arrested and executed on October 1917. She was accused of being a spy for Germany during   WWI. In a book written by Sir Basil Thomson entitled, Queer People (written in 1922), he states that Mata Hari eventually admitted to working for French Intelligence. It is unknown if she lied during this account, or if she was telling the truth. If it was true the French authorities could not acknowledge her due to the backlash it would cause.

How did she become noted as a German spy? The German military sent radio messages to Berlin describing the help activities of a German spy, code named H-21. When the French intercepted the signals, they concluded that H-21 was Mata Hari.

With this information and the alleged admission of working for the French, Mata Hari was known as a double agent, This lead to her execution by firing squad.

Mata Hari's Executed on October 15, 1917 by firing squad.
Mata Hari’s Executed on October 15, 1917 by firing squad.
Mysteries and Myths 20th Century: Mata-Hari, Spying in World War 1 (1 of 2)
Mysteries and Myths 20th Century: Mata-Hari, Spying in World War 1 (2 of 2)


Evette Champion

Evette Champion is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE