Why Mata Hari Wasn't a Cunning Spy After All

Margaretha Zelle was a Dutch woman who became the exotic dancer Mata Hari after she lived in the Dutch East Indies with her first husband. She became a sensation in Europe, grew fabulously wealthy, and charmed many lovers in the early 20th century.

As Mata Hari aged and her dancing career began to wind down, she was still in demand as a courtesan and enjoyed the company of rich and powerful men. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 did not alter her extravagance. She seemed not to grasp that ordinary people resented her ostentatious lifestyle while French families were doing without basics: coal, clothing, and foodstuffs. They were sending their fathers, husbands, brothers, and sons to be killed in the war while she continued to live in comfort and plenty.

Mata Hari continued to travel, which brought her to the attention of the counterespionage world. The fall of 1915 found her in The Hague, where the exotic dancer was paid a visit by Karl Kroemer, the honorary German consul of Amsterdam. He offered her 20,000 francs—equivalent to $61,000 in today’s currency—to spy for Germany. She accepted the funds, which she viewed as repayment for her furs, jewels, and money the Germans had seized when war broke out. Even so, she did not accept the job.

So Mata Hari was paid to be a German spy, but never spied for them. Later, she was recruited to spy for the French, but was never paid, nor was her efforts taken seriously. It was the French military that arrested and convicted her for spying for the Germans. An article at National Geographic explains how Mata Hari's trial was more about her immoral lifestyle than her actual crimes. -via Digg

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