Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 14, 2012 6:00pm-7:00pm EDT

6:00 pm
you think you're getting away from them, as we know, they coe with us.he >> so we know about the alcohol in ernest hemingway's life. how extensive was the?what aboee and what about depression? >> does that factor into his life asn. well? questi >> i mean, there is no question that hemingway suffered from esat we would now recognizedepr today as manic depression, bipolar ispo some, with alcoholism. today i think if he were alive today, he might be medicated that would've prevented some of these things and possibly his suicide, which raises a very thorny question. would he have written is brilli brilliantly as he did if hemuch? weren't suffering so much. qu that is a hard question that too many artists to face up to.topiu
6:01 pm
>> paul hendrikson, a longtime reporter for the "washington post." what other topics have you written about? >> i wrote about robert, n mcnamara. a very resident name in the city.architecof an architect in vietnam as well, that book was published in 1996. i wrote a book called sons of mississippi, which is the book previous to this. the study of the south and the integration of the south and i like to pick out topics that have a lot of residents werephy. cultural history. .. critic circle award finalist. thank you for joining us o
6:02 pm
[applause] >> all right. what i'm going to do is, um, read you various excerpts from different points in her life. the first explanation i probably need to give you is that the woman who became mata hari, the stage name under which she danced and lived in the later part of her life, was not born mata hari. she was born margaretha zelle.
6:03 pm
so as i go through readings, i'm going to stop and signal you when you're hearing a name that is not the one you're used to. and i want to start with the prologue of the book to kind of set the stage for the story about her life i'm going to tell you. the most important thing to know about margaretha is that she loved men. the most crucial thing to know about her is that she did not love truth. when it was convenient, she told the truth. when it was not or when she found it was tedious, she invented what might kindly be called alternative truths and unkindly, lies. for her what was factually true never seemed as essential as what should have been true. by the time she had transformed
6:04 pm
herself into mata hari, she was highly skilled at fashioning the world through her liking. she was a creation from beginning to end, the character in a play that she continuously rescripted. she changed her name as often as some women change hair styles. only once in her life did she acknowledge this fact about herself, and it was when she was in prison, in imminent danger of being convicted of espionage and sentenced to death. the severe conditions of her imprisonment, the catastrophic collapse of the world she had created and the brutal destruction of her identity had driven her very near madness. with painful insight sharpened by teetering on the edge of the abyss, she wrote to the man who was her captor, accuser and interrogator, trying to explain. there is something which i wish you to take into consideration. it is that mata hari and madam
6:05 pm
mccloud are two different women. i am obliged to sign the name of zelle, but i consider myself to be mata hari. or for 12 years i have lived under this name, i am known in all the countries, and i have connections everywhere. that which is permitted to mata hari is certainly not permitted to madam zelle mcleod. that which happens to mat rah harry -- mata hari, there are events that do not happen to madam zelle. the people who address one do not address the other. this was probably the moment of her greatest self-understanding. in this telling of her life, i have steered as close to the truth as i am able, but in her case the truth is an ever shifting and elusive wind. now, what those of you who know of mata hari before exposure to this book may remember is that she was known as two things.
6:06 pm
one is that she was an extremely famous dancer, and you see her over there in one of her costumes. from 1905 until her death in 1917, she was as famous a celebrity as someone like marilyn monroe. she was recognized everywhere, she was considered to be the most desirable and most beautiful woman in europe, and i've put up a historic photograph of her here simply to show that even out of costume, she was a stunningly beautiful woman. and she was an immensely charming woman. the other thing people know about her is that she was arrested, convicted and executed for espionage. she was accused of spying against the french for the germans, and now that all of the documents are in the public domain, it is clear that the evidence against her was as
6:07 pm
transparent as the veil she's wearing in that photograph. the evidence against her was pathetic. so we need to consider why she was convicted. but first, i'd like to take you back and go through a little bit of her life. she learned from her father, literally at her father's knee, that the way to make the world pleasant and wonderful and golden was to please men. she was her father's favorite child. he spoiled her unabashedly. he encouraged her to be flamboyant and outstanding, and one of the things that figured very prominently in her life was that, as you can see from these photographs, she was very dark for a dutch person. she was born in the north of holland, she lived there, and stereotypically and quite literally people in the north of holland tend to be very fair-skinned, very fair-haired,
6:08 pm
blue-eyed. she had a, what was called then swert think or dark complexion which isn't unreasonably dark by today's standards but certainly was then and there. she had dark brown or black hair, dark eyes. so she was physically very striking. even in childhood one of her schoolmates called her an orchid in a field of stand lions. dandelions. so she was different from everybody else from the beginning and was taught to be different and was taught explicitly or implicitly that men had everything in the world, and the way to obtain it was to charm themment and she learned -- them. and she learned her lesson very well. she married very young, at 17, a career military soldier in the dutch east indies army, now
6:09 pm
indonesia. but he was a captain. she loved men in uniform. she loved officers particularly. he was older than her. he came from a very good family, and she felt she would be assured a life of luxury. in fact, she answered a newspaper ad that he placed looking for a wife to take back to the indies with him. this turned out not to be quite such a great deal as it seemed. they became engaged six days after meeting which gives new meaning to the phrase whirlwind romance. and married very shortly thereafter knowing very little about each other and having a lot of false assumptions. but they both loved partying, they both drank, gambled, danced, had a wonderful time. the problems were several. he was certainly not faithful to her and started being unfaithful very shortly after they married. certainly in her later life with
6:10 pm
him she was not faithful to him, and it's not clear when she started having affairs. he was greatly in debt because of his gambling and drinking and high living. so she was not going to live the life she anticipated. even though he was an officer. and he had syphilis. syphilis was extremely common in the dutch east indies army. it was incurable at the time, although there was believed to be a cure, and although the evidence is extremely circumspect, it's likely that he believed he had been cured by the time they married. he was not, and he gave it to her. and this led to a lot of hostility in the marriage, let us say. [laughter] he perhaps felt that she had given it to him when he thought
6:11 pm
he was marrying this young, virginal bride. she, quite reasonably, felt he had given it to her. and they were terrified for the health of their children. one of their children died in the east indies almost certainly of treatment for syphilis. and, of course, the treatment wouldn't have cured it, but it also involved mercury compounds which are highly poisonous,ing and the child wasn't -- and the child wasn't even yet 3 years old. this took a marriage that was already deeply troubled that went from romantic lust gaiety, high living to absolute, vicious anger and hostility and, eventually, after the child died her husband began beating her. he was at all times pretty
6:12 pm
insulting and abusive to her, won't let her have money -- wouldn't let her have money. she was a very frivolous woman in many ways. when they left the indies, they separated and eventually divorced, and she was then faced with the issue of how to support herself. now, there were not a lot of options available to a woman in the early 1900s who chose not to live with a husband and be supported by him. there were not a lot of professions open to women. one of them, of course, was prostitution. she veered away from that sometimes by greater distances, sometimes by lesser distances. but eventually began riding in an equestrian circus which was a very popular event in paris at the time. she said, by the way, that she ran off to paris. she was asked, why paris, why
6:13 pm
didn't she stay in the netherlands, and she said, i thought all women who left their husbands went off to paris. [laughter] it was as good a reason as any. the man who ran the circus eventually suggested to her that she might do better at dancing than riding, although she was a superb rider. and she managed to reinvent herself as the original exotic what was then known as oriental dancer. she borrowed costumes, costume ideas from dancers she had seen in the indies. she certainly did not reproduce the dances wholesale, but she did borrow many of the costume effects. although as you can see from that photograph, she specialized in showing off her body. and the traditional dancers
6:14 pm
cover themselves a little more thoroughly, shall we say, than this. but she did, um, borrow much from them. and brilliantly, she cast her dances as sacred temple dances from the east. which proved to be very important. her debut was march 13, 1905, and she performed at a museum of asian art. and i'll read you a bit about her first performance. invited a carefully-selected 600 of paris' most far bl to attend the debut. there were intellectuals, officers, diplomats, ministers, bankers, writers, hundreds of powerful men with their well-dressed wives or bejeweled
6:15 pm
mistresses on their arms, all crowding into the museum to see this extraordinary new dancer of whom everyone was speaking. those who had already seen her in a private performance at madam coup jeff sky's were anxious to establish their credentials as among the first to have seen her. those who had not yet experienced one of her performances were eager to know if she was as mesmerizing and beautiful as gotham claimed. the domed library had been transformed into a semblance of an indian temple with flowers and vines wrapped around the columns that supported the dome. the room was dimly lit by dozens of candles that provided enough illumination. forearms extended in strains and sinuous postures with a circle of flowers sounding his body like a bizarre halo. a hissen orchestra -- hidden orchestra performed music with an aiz grab flavor -- asian
6:16 pm
flavor. there was a brief introduction, and then the performance began. mata hari entered the spotlight wearing a costume of the type that would become her signature; an elaborate, golden, jeweled head address. held dress. a metallic-beaded bra wrapped around her shoulders, torso and waist. she worry large, dangling earrings, a necklace, bracelets of an exotic design and armlets. her feet were bare, and her flimsy garments did little to conceal her naked body. her dances we motional, voluptuous, erotic and utterly novel. the symbolism was obvious enough for the public to understand, subtle enough to support her claim that these were ancient sacred dances of the orient. above all, she was a consummate and captivating performer.
6:17 pm
between dances she would give a little explanation in four languages or possibly five. [laughter] explaining what she was doing and, in fact, keeping her from being arrested for indecent exposure. my dance is a say red poem in which each movement is a word and whose every word is upside lined 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. one must always translate the three stages which correspond to the divine at tickets of brahma, visual new and sheave v.a. by means of destruction toward
6:18 pm
creation through incarnation, that is what i am dancing, that is what my dance is about. this went over with the audience phenomenally successful. i am not going to read many, but i will read you part of one of the first reviews she got because we don't see reviews like this of performances of any kind anymore. people were entranced, in love, overwhelmed and, of course, there was always that safety that these were religious temple dances, and if you thought they were dirty, that was in your mind. one of the reviews. mata hari does not perform only with her feet, her eyes, her arms, her mouth, her red lips, mata hari dances with her muscles, with her entire body, thus surpassing ordinary methods. wearing a cask on her head like a peacock's, the mark of a god, the sharp sword in her first,
6:19 pm
the crisp between her teeth, she coils around her waist an opaque and gleaming belt throws around her hips transparent material marked with the emblem of a define bird. this time she penetrates alone into the sanctuary. she goes to implore -- [inaudible] god of the stars to deliver an unfaithful lover. she cries for vengeance, asks how to grasp the traitor. slowly, skillfully she poisons the two blades, then she watches like a pie, penetrating her victim. then the purple belt unrolls, slowly imitating the flowing blood. the weapon trembles until the hand of the priest plunges it that's into the heart of the cursed lover. savagely, she brandishes her victorious blade. that's a review to be admired, and she continued for yours to be one of the most sought after,
6:20 pm
highly-paid dancers in europe. she danced in all of the capitals of europe, many of them several times over. she had parts in opera that were suited to her kind of dances and her personality. she commanded enormous fees. and in addition to dancing, as always, she had gentlemen friends. even when one gentleman would set her up in a country house in france with horses and stables and servants and beautiful furniture, that was not a guarantee of exclusive access. this was the era when men had mistresses that were flaunted. certainly rich men always had mistresses who were flaunted. and she was. and men all over europe were more than delighted to spend what time with her they could. she was, for example, kept for a
6:21 pm
while by a german, alfred kieprert, who when his family forced him to give her up through legal action, gave her a parting gift of what would now be $220,000. so this was a liddy who lived high. and spent every dime she ever got. a later lover actually squandered most of her $220,000 gift, but that was part of the game. there was always more money, there was always another gentleman. in 1914 she had been at the top of theater stage in europe for almost ten years. there were many other people who suddenly began doing oriental dances in imitation of her. she was scathing of them. there was what was regarded as the battle of the tights in
6:22 pm
germany between -- sorry, in vienna, between her,ist doer rah duncan and -- [inaudible] who did dances very reminiscent of matahari, and mata hari was declared the hands-down winner. in 1914 she was in berlin keeping company with various lovers and awaiting a stage engagement. there she began to feel more acutely the change that was coming over europe. the golden era of art, science and culture in france that began around 890 and last -- 1890 and lasted until the beginning of the first world war was an era of lavish spending and open luxury. in 914 a darker, more puritanical mood was sweeping across europe, and the days of exuberant living were drawing to a close. when she told kieph phert of her
6:23 pm
upcoming engagement, he remarked cryptically, you will be there before then, and so will i. he was a military man. something great was happening that would transform the world in a way that was anything but pleasant. in late july, shortly before the invasion of serbia by the austrians, mata hari was dining one evening in a private room, reserved by wealthy men, of a fashionable restaurant with one of her lovers, the chief of police, harold grable, and she talked of this evening later. we heard the noise of great disturbance, the demonstration was certainly spontaneous, and grable, who had not yet had any warning of it, took me in his car to the place it was held. i saw an enormous mob in front of the emperor's palace and shouting -- [speaking in native tongue] germany over all.
6:24 pm
several days later war was declared. at that time the police started treating foreigners like animals. several times i was stopped in the street and transported to the station because they were absolutely convinced i was russian. she was anxious to return to paris and her lovely house lest it and her possessions be seized. she was not a french citizen. she attempted to break her contract at the theater arguing that war was an act of god. her costumia seized her furs and her jewelry and refused to hand them over without payment. merger man agent held on to her money, and the bank froze her accounts as she was a longtime resident of france and germany at a time when the war was with france. on august 6th she boarded a train for switzerland, but the german guards would not let her pass the border without a pass
6:25 pm
port signifying her dutch heritage. she had to return to berlin now deprived both of money and a change of clothes. she called grable, but he could not risk being seen to help a foreigner. suspicion of foreigners and open hostility toward them was growing daily. friendless and short on cash, mata hari fell back on her greatest talent. before many days had passed, she had charmed a dutch businessman who listened to her tale of unfair treatment and worry. she would not have anything left after settling her hotel bill, she told him. he agreed to pay her fare back to amsterdam. he left berlin immediately but bought a ticket for her to use a few days later after she had traveled to frankfurt to on tape a dutch -- obtain a dutch passport. in handwritten ink the passport correctly gave her age as 38, which you may think is a little
6:26 pm
old for a dancer who dances without many clothes on. someone at some point, probably mata hari herself, wrote where over the 8 with a 0 to produce a more flattering age of 30. the change was made whout changing her date of birth so anyone could calculate her true age. she was described as five feet, eleven inches tall with blond hair. a blond mata hari is difficult to imagine. if she was bleached blond, it was purely temporary. a remarkable anecdote suggests what was needed at the time of her leaving berlin was the attention of a skilled hairhair dresser to help conceal her age. she eventually took the train from berlin to amster dam. she unexpectedly saw a familiar face. it was her former hair dresser from paris in uniform. he had made a good career in
6:27 pm
paris out of his secret tech anemic for putting henna in women's hair. she called out across the platform, maurice, you must immediately do my hair. she asked him to come to the hoe tell and added, and i did not even know you were an officer in your own land. then stein must have cringed at the attention she was drawing to him. mere weeks before he had enlisted in the belgian army to fight the germans. then as the germans invaded belgium in august of 1914 he had fled across the border into holland as a military refugee. he had been interned in a camp which he found so distasteful that he had decided to break out. he had stolen an officer's uniform and escaped, an act he himself described as reckless youthfulness reasoning people would be less likely to question an officer.
6:28 pm
his plan worked until he was held by mata hari in amsterdam. he assumed officials were looking for him. drawing attention to himself was the last thing he wanted to do. but mata hari drew attention wherever she went, whatever she did. he took her aside and explained his precarious situation to her while she listened carefully. when he wrote about the experiences many years later, he expressed the opinion that she had used her connections to prevent a search for him and, thus, had saved his life. after settling at the hoe tell, mata hari again made contact with the generous businessman. when she met his wife, she assured her that her husband's gesture had not been asked on a sexual relationship. mata hari re plied frankly: because i had only one cha meese left as everything else had been
6:29 pm
taken away from me and, really, i didn't feel clean enough. she was promiscuous, but she had her inviolable standards. and i think that tells you a little bit about her sense of humor which was superb. she was perfectly capable of laughing at herself and her situation, and she was userly un-- utterly unembarrassed about being the mistress of many men. as the war went on, she had the fortune or perhaps misfortune to fall in love with a young russian officer. there was a small number of russians who volunteered to fight for france, and her lover was a captain, one of the commanding officers of this small group of russians. they were almost without exception sent into the worst fighting on the western front and took the brunt of it over and over and over. the casualties were horrendous. and it wasn't even their country that was in danger.
6:30 pm
but she fell so deeply in love with him that she decided after he went back to his base that she had to go visit him. and the way she settled upon doing this was to go to a spa town, a resort town. the problem with this was you had to have a special permit to go there because it was so close to the front. and she was a foreigner. and it was wartime. she did manage to get there but at an interesting cost. talking about her relationship later, she referred to him as the only man i ever loved and said that e had been gravely injured by the asphyxiating gas, had completely lost the vision in his left eye and was in danger of going blind. one night he said to me if this terrible thing comes to pass,
6:31 pm
what will you do? i will never leave you, i responded to him, and i would be to you always the same woman. would you marry me, he asked me? i responded affirmatively, then i began to reflect. here is my life well laid out. i said to myself, i must ask captain la due -- and i'll explain in a moment -- for enough money that i never have to deceive his love with other men. i will let go of the markey of bow fort, i will let go of the colonel barron. i will reclaim my furniture and my precious objects in holland. i will go to paris and live in the apartment that i have rented. captain he due will pay me, i will marry my lover and be the happiest woman in the world. she was finally, actually, thinking of settling down. who is this captain? this is where the spider's web truly begins. captain he duke was the head of
6:32 pm
the cia equivalent of of the time in france. when she went to apply for her permit to go to vitel to visit her wounded lover, she was routinely turned down, so she would simply go and apply at another office. she was very used to getting her own way, particularly when gentlemen were involved. she was finally advised to go to an office that also housed the bureau of foreigners. and when she, her number -- they had a waiting system. when she was called to go into the office, they did not take her to the office where she would apply for her permit. today took her to -- they took her to he due's office, and he recruited her to spy for france. the first thing he said was that he would give her the permit if she would even consider it.
6:33 pm
she agreed on limited terms but said, expressed some reservations about embarking on espionage which was then not glamorous, not well developed and a very dirty sort of occupation. ladeux describes her situation when she comes back and she's been proposed to, she realizes he's blind in one eye, he may be blind in both eyes, he's going, quite likely, to be crippled for life. she has an inkling that his aristocratic family are not going to welcome his marrying an older woman with a reputation such as hers. and he writes of her returning to him and says she had been the most docile and calm of sick persons in the spa town and had
6:34 pm
never even seemed to notice the presence in her hotel of a special valet for the occasion, nor the attentions of a handsome lieutenant aviator who had never flown. it was in this mood that she found me when she returned to see me again, as she had promised, two days after she returned to paris. she wore the same costume, but her beautiful face be seemed to me more pale and drawn. i made a discreet remark asking if the slightly rough treatment at the spa had not made her too tired. it is not the treatment, she responded. i wish to see my lover again. you love him as much as that? he is perhaps the only love of my life. then you must marry. he wants nothing of me but myself. however, he is from an aristocratic family, and his father, the admiral, forbids this mismatch. a sigh, then a long silence. if only i had money. we shall see about that, i
6:35 pm
thought. now i would like to know something. how much do you need? you could not pay so much. a million. and he is quite appalled at her asking for a million francs for an espionage mission that hasn't even been spelled out. he asks her to penetrate german military headquarters and learn secrets and come back. um, but he provides her with no clear mission, with no money and with no means of communicating with him. and you have to sort of step back from this for a moment and say, well, okay, espionage was not very well developed, but this is a, this is a very strange task. and she is recognized everywhere. think about, you know, this is this is lin monroe d marilyn monroe, this is ma donna, whoever you want to name who's
6:36 pm
all over europe. she's supposed to seduce germans, learn mail tear secrets -- military secrets, and nobody's going to notice? everybody notices her everywhere she goes. it's absolutely absurd. and yet she she agrees, and he agrees, and she simply says when i come back with the great secret, i want my million. now, three days later being a very practical woman she realizes that she has made an error in her calculations, and she writes him a letter not in code and sends it through regular mail asking for money to refurbish her wardrobe since she can't seduce the german crown prince or the head of the army with an old wardrobe. i mean, how could a woman woman do this? and he refuses the money. the whole thing really does take on an absurd notion.
6:37 pm
she sets off to attempt to follow his directions. the ship she is taking stops in england on the way as one of its ports of call, and she is arrested in england, um, being mistaken for another lady who was a dark-haired dancer who was said to be a german spy.
6:38 pm
somebody from france can tell the english government who has arrested her that they may not allow her to return to her country of nationality. again, it's one of those very, very bizarre twists here that is what they do. she manages without much difficulty to become the lover of a german intelligence officer in spain and discovers some
6:39 pm
interesting information which she is then totally unable to communicate back to the captain. and she sends him letters about it, again not coded, through the open mail, and he never answers, and she wants her million francs. it deteriorates. so eventually she goes back to france, you know, saying, okay, you know, here are your secrets. pay up. her secrets are exceedingly vague. the only one that's important, truly of importance, is that the germans know the french have broken one of their codes. and so they have stopped using this code in their communications, but very shortly it becomes extremely important that this is known to be a broken code. she goes back and tries to meet with the captain, sits in his office. he won't see her. i mean, the whole thing, again, is completely absurd. finally, she catches up with
6:40 pm
him, she tells him this information, and he says, oh, that's not important, and, you know, as for this other information you've got about some submarine landing, where is it, when is it, how many men, and she doesn't know those things. it's not easy to get people to tell you those things and, actually, there probably never was a submarine landing. this was disinformation that she was being given to take to back to him. but what the captain does from the moment she's back on french soil is he assigns two beat cops to follow her. this is where it becomes a farce. here are these two ordinary beat cops following around this woman dressed to the nines, going to the best hotels, the best restaurants, the glove makers, the boot makers, the best restaurants, the theater. they're following her pretty much 24/7. all in all, they do this for six
6:41 pm
months. they listen in on her phone calls, they intercept her mails, read her telegrams, interview everyone from her manicurist to the waiter who serves her dinner, and they can find nothing on her that suggests she is spying for germany. because the captain's argument is he knew she was a spy for france, so he was trying to trap her which is a very convoluted kind of argument. and they follow her for six months, and there is no evidence. they can't find anything she's passed, they can't find anything she's passed to merger man lover when she was in madrid and she was sending them letters about her conversations and everything else. astonishingly, early in 1917 she is arrested in a very fine hotel in february at breakfast time, and they seize everything in her
6:42 pm
hotel and begin a massive interrogation and investigation. not only do they have this six months of tailing her everywhere, finding out who she was with at every moment, we see the exception of a few times when she sees somebody high in the french government for dinner in the evening and then somehow the two cops lose her. [laughter] i mean, it's very clear that they know perfectly well who she is with. she meets lieutenant x, and it's written as lieutenant x, but a they can't name him because he's too high up. so then -- and we lost them, you know, we just don't know where they went. or the minister of war, and somehow he picked her up, and we just didn't follow them. so she is arrested, she is interrogated, and she is quite deliberately thrown into the worst, nastiest prison in
6:43 pm
france. it's an old building back to the french revolution or earlier. it's it's heated, it's full of rats and vermin, it's poorly lit. she has, if she's lucky, a bowl of cold water to bathe in daily. she's not allowed any of her clothing, she's not allowed any of her money, um, she is not allowed any of her medicines which she is still taking for syphilis which they know she has. and she is isolated. they do not notify her government. nobody thinks to send -- well, they think nod to send a message to the -- not to send a message to the dutch government saying, oh, by the way, we've arrested one of your citizens for espionage. they will not allow her to communicate with anyone except her lawyer, and they won't often let her communicate with her
6:44 pm
lawyer. early on she still thinks she's going to be let go, and she writes a letter that is absolutely fabulous that i will read to you. now, what is so wonderful about this letter to my mind is you have to think of this woman living under horrible conditions addressing this letter to her interrogator who is the man who controls her life. and she says: i must again ask for my liberty from the military of paris. you see that neither my trunks, nor my letters contain anything improper and never, never have i done the slightest thing like espionage against you. i suffer too much. until i am freed i beg you for the following: one, five -- [inaudible] has at her shelf a cloak of white cloth decorated with black fox.
6:45 pm
i have 25 or 30 francs for her to repair. could you get this garment and pay her 50 francs? two, the chamber maid of the first floor of the palace hotel must have received my lingerie from the lawn dress. would you, please, go look for this? would you ask what they have done with my gold earrings which were found in the drawer of the right of my dressing table. four, madame -- [inaudible] millier in, for my -- [inaudible] with white plumes, there are 15 francs left to pay. would you like to arrange all of this? i would be so grateful. and the permission to see my fiance, i cannot find words to ask you for more. i have never, never done anything bad toward you. give me my freedom. now, you think, i mean, this is, you know, this is ludicrous. he does it. he actually sends the police
6:46 pm
inspector to do these errands and pay her bills. now you get an idea, you begin to see how this woman ranged her whole life. men did everything for her. even patently absurd things like this. i mean, crazy things, ridiculous things. they did it, and they were happy to do it. and what can i say? they went away happy. almost all the men she was with went away happy. [laughter] as time goes on, she really begins having a nervous breakdown in prison, and she is described as crying all the time, extremely nervous, she begins spitting up blood which she had probably contracted burke low sis from somebody. her syphilis was not being very well treated although there wasn't much one could do. she writes at one point just to
6:47 pm
give you a sense of, you know, where she is, what it was like. the horrible food and the lack of chenlyness, these are the cause of policewomen irks on -- blemishes on my body. that, of course s a lie. she's having safe littic lesions. i would rather hang myself from the bars on my window than to live like. i beg you, please, speak to the investigating magistrate and tell him that he cannot degrade a woman used to cleanliness from from from one day until the next until she lives in dirty misery. where will it end. does he wish to kill me? must he kill me or give me my liberty? one day it will be too late, there will be nothing left to do. it is horrible, horrible. if you could see how i am forced to live here, it is shameful, shameful. have pity on me, i beseech you. and she really is, um, losing it badly. now, i would like to just read
6:48 pm
you a little bit -- i see i'm taking much longer than i thought i would, but i hope you're spell bound -- and read you about the end of her life. the crowd of men woke her in the darkness just before five a.m. her hated interrogator was there along with jean you stays si, the prison director, the prison doctor, the chief of military staff in paris and her dear old attorney. the prison pastor was waiting for them with the chief military recorder of the council of war. and it was the third council of war, military tribunal, that convicted her. her time had come. she may have been fuzzy-headed from the chloral hydrate that had been slipped into her drinking water the night before. she quickly realized that he had known what would happen on this morning, and she understood why the doctor and sister had asked her to dance a little for them
6:49 pm
the night before. there were two nuns who looked after her. they had wanted to see mata hari, the true mata hari once before she died. she had shown them as best she could, though her long, wretched months in the prison had stolen most of her grace and loveliness. the last appeals and her quest for pardons had failed. there was no other reason they would awaken her in the dark hours, she was to be shot at dawn. the nuns hovered in the background as she heard the dreadful news. she had perhaps already decided to die as she had lived, with flair and courage. she had nothing left but pride and dignity. she would die as matta hard ri. the men left the room while she dressed slowly and carefully for this, her last performance. she wanted to look her best, but she had no extensive wardrobe to choose from, only what her captors had allowed her.
6:50 pm
she asked permission to wear a corps set, which was given -- corset which was given. she also donned the only decent clothes she had been allowed, the ones she had worn to her trial; stockings, a low-cut blouse and fashionable ankle boots. a story there the little parisian which would be appeared on october 16, 1917, had it not been suppressed by the censor, described her outfit as a very elegant one trimmed in floor. the sisters helped her dress, but soon their wrinkled faces streamed with tears, and mata hari had to comfort them. then she pinned up her unwashed hair carefully, slowly, as high and elegantly as possible. the gray hairs were beginning to show badly which hurt her vanity. she would conceal the gray with her hat. she had no need for last minute confession, no pastor. accompanied her to the -- she
6:51 pm
was not a religious person. she had done nothing wrong, in her view. she had only loved a man and let them love her. where was the harm in that? hurriedly, she wrote three last letters, one to her daughter and two to gentlemen friends. she trusted her captors to see to their delivery. she handed them over to the pastor, but the letters were never seen again. her jailers were taking no chances. she made no will. she checked her hat, angled it just so, drew on long, elegant, buttoned gloves. she threw a vivid blue cloak over her shoulders like a cape and stood erect to look in the mirror. her skin was sallow and wrinkled, her once-luxury rant hair now thin and dull, but her carriage was still proud. it would have to do.
6:52 pm
with grave dignity she asked the doctor who had tried to win better treatment for her during her miserable imprisonment. at this gesture, sister marie began sobbing. do not cry, mata hari comforted the sister, wiping her cheeks. be cheerful, like me. imagine that i am going on a long journey, that i will return, and we will find each other again. they were words she might have spoken tenderly to a lover, but he had abandoned her in her troubles. now she had only herself to rely upon. the situation was familiar. she had made her life, and now she would make her own death. besides, you will come a little way with me, won't you, she pleaded with the sister. you shall accompany me. she walked down the dank corridor holding the sister's happened. she refused to let the warder touch her. prison rats, their fur dark and matted with grease and filth, scurried past in the hallway. she had become used to them over the months. she who had once lived in the best hotels and finest houses
6:53 pm
like a queen did not flinch at mere rats. at the door there were dozens of strangers; prison officials, journalists, onlookers jostling to catch sight of her. she wondered who they all were. all these people, she whispered to the sister, as if they were best friends from the theater, peeking out through a gap in the curtain. what a success. whoever they were, they were her audience. and she played her role to perfection. she let herself be led to a black car with its windows drawn, blinds drawn, but she would not be hustled or hurried. the cortege of five identical cars sped rapidly through the still streets, losing the gawkers and journalists who tried to follow. the procession went to the muddy fields that were used for drill practice by the cavalry. it was an apt choice. she always favored military men. the bleak autumn light of the
6:54 pm
coming dawn illuminated the somber scene. there was a firing squad of 12 from the fourth regiment in their cocky uniforms and red fezes, and the sergeant major in his navy blue uniform with a black beret. they all looked ridiculously young and nervous. in another time and place, she would have charmed them and flattered them, made them feel like men of the world, won them over. now she felt a little sorry for them. to be responsible for executing mata hari was going to be a burden to live with, she supposed. there was no time to think of that. she had a performance to give, and it required all her nerve and skill. she refused to be tied to the stake, and so she stood lonely but regal in a desolate field on her own. dawn had broken just minutes before, and the light was still soft and pearly. when the senior officer offered a blindfold, she declined with a dignified movement of her head.
6:55 pm
that is not necessary, she said graciously. she waved kindly to the two weeping nuns who had done as much as they could to comfort her. their kindness had been a great gift to her. she blew a kiss to the priest, just a moment of naughtiness, she couldn't resist, and another to her lawyer. she knew he was still in love with her, she knew he would think of her for the rest of his dull life. a sentence was read: by the order the third council of war, the woman zelle has been condemned to death for espionage. his words hung in the quiet, misty air. maas ha -- mata hari awaited her fate. they could not rob her of dignity. by god, the the sergeant major of the dragoon said, this lady knows how to die. he lifted his saber, and the men shouldered their rifles. then the sergeant major shouted, aim, and then after a long
6:56 pm
pause, fire. the squad did their duty. no one knew which rifle shots killed her. she was proud and silent as the bullets struck, then she slumped over bleeding. he walked gracefully over to her flaccid body and administered the coup de grace, firing one shot into her head. the act was a sort of macabre salute. mata hari was dead. they signed the execution orderly signifying it had been duly carried out. pitifully, no one came to claim her body. her head was sent to the anatomy institute museum in paris. four days later, the captain was arrested as a double agent. and there you have it. if you would, um -- thank you for being so patient. if you would like to buy a copy of the book, there's a large
6:57 pm
pile over there, and they ask that you come this way and head out that way, and i would be happy to sign. do we have any questions? we have a mic you can ask your question into. over there, anyone? i've spellbound you all? >> [inaudible] that she was on trial or guilty of espionage? >> no. they covered it up until after she had been tried and executed, and then nearly every newspaper report is close enough to identical that it's quite clear there was an official press release that they were to follow. and there are other, um, press reports that were suppressed, that were pulled because they did not follow closely enough. they gave out that she had been responsible for the deaths of 50,000 young french men and had
6:58 pm
admitted it, both items of which are completely false. and, in fact, the charges on which she was convicted were cunningly framed, so one charge would be she entered the entrenched war zone between this date and that date with the intention of collecting information and passing it to the enemy. now, the the trenched war zone was -- entrenched war zone was paris. and she never denied she was in paris. she had a perfectly legal visa to be in paris. so that they never had to prove the second part of the charge with the intention to gather and pass information. because with all of the surveillance they did, they couldn't come up with anything she'd ever done. so that they never specified information she passed, there was never anything specific she was supposed to have done. but in the, in the summation by the prosecuting attorney they
6:59 pm
claimed she had caused the death of 50,000 good french soldiers. and that was, apparently, believed. >> [inaudible] satisfied the people who wanted some kind of a public, some kind of a public -- >> scape goat? >> scapegoat, e. >>. >> i think it did, and i am very suspicious that, in fact, ledeux was nervous he was about to be uncovered so deliberately set her up to be the spy who could be convicted and blamed and executed in hopes that they wouldn't get on to what he was doing. when he was arrested, it was absolutely and completely suppressed because nobody wanted to announce that the head of their secret service was a double agent.

85 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on