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Netherlands: Famous WWI Spy Mata Hari's Dutch Birthplace Destroyed By Fire

Mata Hari in Paris
Over the weekend the home in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands, where exotic dancer and WWI spy Mata Hari was born was totally destroyed by a fire.

One person was killed by the fire on Saturday evening as it engulfed several buildings in Leeuwarden, about 140km (87 miles) north of Amsterdam.

Local media said the victim was thought to be a 24-year-old man who had lived in a flat in the buildings.

Mata Hari was born Margaretha Geertruida Zelle in August 1876, to a shopkeeper and a Javanese ( Indonesian) mother.

In the early 1900s she left her husband and travelled to Paris where she found fame as an exotic dancer. Her work brought her into contact with many high society figures.

But she was arrested by France during WWI, accused of being a spy for Germany.

Her defense attorney, veteran international lawyer Edouard Clunet, faced impossible odds; he could not cross-examine the prosecution's witnesses or directly question his own witnesses. Under the circumstances, her conviction was a foregone conclusion. She was executed by firing squad on 15 October 1917, at the age of 41.

German documents unsealed in the 1970s proved that Mata Hari was truly a German agent however. In the autumn of 1915, she entered German service, and on orders of section III B-Chief Walter Nicolai, she was instructed about her duties by Major Roepell during a stay in Cologne. Her reports were to be sent to the Kriegsnachrichtenstelle West (War News Post West) in Düsseldorf under Roepell as well as to the Agent mission in the German embassy in Madrid under Major Arnold Kalle, with her direct handler being Captain Hoffmann, who also gave her the code name H-21.

Several films have been made about Mata Hari's life, most famously in 1931 where she was played by Greta Garbo.

Also read more in: BBC News - Mata Hari's Netherlands birthplace destroyed in fire

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