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FLIP VERSION The Baroness LA_EJ 2 copy (1) 10-02-21 Flipbook PDF

FLIP VERSION The Baroness LA_EJ 2 copy (1) 10-02-21






eirian j williams electrolysis of water 2H₂O→2H₂+O2


Eirian J Williams

DISCLAIMER This work is fiction. All characters and events in this publication, other than those clearly in the public domain, are fictitious, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written consent of the author, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Copyright ⓒ 2020 Eirian J Williams. All rights reserved. This work is registered with the UK Copyright Service UKⒸCS Registration No 284734100

EDITED by Les Arany (Ottawa, Canada)

FRONT COVER IMAGES Tulip Field photo by Avery Nielsen from Pexels. Negative film strip by Sealed envelope photo by Oliver Gruener from Freeimages. Yellow Star of David from

Every effort has been made to fulfil requirements regarding reproducing copyright material. The author and publisher will be glad to rectify any omissions at the earliest opportunity. Any net proceeds from the sale of this publication will be donated to numerous International Charities for children.









Chapter 1: Chapter 2: Chapter 3: Chapter 4: Chapter 5: Chapter 6: Chapter 7: Chapter 8: Chapter 9: Chapter 10: Chapter 11: Chapter 12: Chapter 13: Chapter 14: Chapter 15: Chapter 16: Chapter 17: Chapter 18: Chapter 19: Chapter 20:

Ottawa Canada, 1995 Sittard, The Netherlands Leaving Home Germany 1933 The Nazis Leaving Germany Escaping Franco Towards Paris Escaping the Third Reich Chemin de la Liberté Telemark Führer Headquarters 1943 (Führerhaupquarttere) Barcelona 64 Baker Street, London Fleeing Barcelona 1943 “Señora es va escaper” Catalonia SS Fritz Meyer Was this Gibraltar? Captain Alexopoulus Brize Norton

Chapter 21 Canada Epilogue

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am indebted to my good friend Les Arany for his research, maps and illustrations and great enthusiasm.

Dow’s Lake is a small artificial lake, part of the historic Rideau Canal in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. At the south end is the University and to the west the Dominion Arboretum, near the Experimental Farm part of the Canadian federal government’s agricultural department. The word Dow comes from the name of an American settler, Abram Dow who originally owned the land. During winter, the lake freezes and becomes part of the largest skating rink in the world where thousands enjoy the winter sun. Springtime brings the annual Canadian Tulip Festival, with some 300,000 tulips and over 50 varieties donated by the Dutch Royal family. The gift was to show their appreciation for the role of Canadian forces played in liberating the Netherlands from the Germans, and to celebrate the birth Princess Margriet at the local hospital on January 19, 1943. On May 11, 2002, she unveiled a sculpture by Henk Visch called “The Man With Two Hats”, on the north shore of Dow’s Lake. The monument is a replica of the statue in the Dutch city of Apeldoom, named “De man met de twee hoeden”. The twin statues exemplify the strong ties between the Netherlands and Canada. Scenic driveways pass on both sides of the lake. On the south side the driveway is called Colonel By Drive, named after a British soldier Lieutenant Colonel John By, the man who was in charge of building the Rideau Canal between 1826 and 1832. There are walking and bicycle paths and seating benches along the lake. Dow’s Lake is Helga’s favourite spot in Ottawa. Her spiritual home. It is late spring; the ice had melted and patches of persistent snow on 1

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the flower beds had disappeared. Ducks scrambled eagerly for breadcrumbs thrown by passers-by. Canadian geese return from their winter habitat down south. They flew above in a V shape formation, heading north to their summer grazing grounds. Young tulips and emerging buds dominated the landscape around Dow’s Lake. Nature had re-awaken from a frosty, long, and hard winter.

Dow’s Lake,Ottawa,Ontario,Canada. Photo by Les Arany.

Helga sat on a park bench, as she did every spring, overlooking the lake in her long scarlet coat, black hat, and scarf, with just her face visible. Now a retired librarian, she could afford to pause and reflect on 2

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her life. Being Dutch, she loved Dow’s Lake due its historical and Royal Dutch connections. A University student in her blue jeans, green winter jacket and ski cap walked by and decided to sit next to Helga. She opened a worn-out textbook from her dilapidated backpack. “The tulips are nice,” said the student, speaking to Helga. “Yes, they are. I feel at home amongst the tulips. You know, after the war in 1945, the Dutch Royal family, as a thank you, sent 300,000 tulip bulbs here for sheltering the future queen, Queen Juliana, for three years during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Still today, she sends thousands of bulbs,” said Helga. “That’s sincere gratitude,” replied the student. “You sound German with your accent.”

“Everybody has an accent, even the Queen of England. I am Dutch but educated in Germany. I now consider myself Canadian. What are you studying dear?” enquired Helga. “I am a third-year history student at the University. My father tells me that history is a waste of time, and that I’ll never get a decent job, even if I do graduate,” said the student. “Well, tell your father that those people without the knowledge of their past, origin and culture are like trees without roots. A famous philosopher once said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’,” replied Helga. “What is your name?” asked Helga. “Aamina,” she replied. “My mother is Hungarian, and her name is Zsófia. Her parents came to Canada in 1956 when the Soviets invaded Hungary to put down a revolution and freedom fight. My other grandparents came to Canada from Palestine when they were forced to 3

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leave during the creation of the Jewish state. Aamina means ‘peaceful’ in Arabic. I am now a proud Canadian.” “Yes, the Palestinians and the Jews have all suffered greatly. History tells us that in the event of invasions, land grabs, linguistic, cultural, and religious differences, there will always be conflict and tension until respect, responsibility and justice is seen in a different light. Look at Yugoslavia today, or indeed the land where we sit. Some believe that this land belongs to the indigenous people, the Iroquois, and the Algonquin. Those First N4ations people would tell you that man cannot own land as it belongs to nature alone,” said Helga. “When did you come to Canada?” asked Aamina. “During the Second World War in Europe in 1943,” said Helga. “We are fortunate to live in such a peaceful country like Canada. Firstly, there were the indigenous people followed by the French and English and then the British invasion. Canada has attracted people from all continents. We have all creeds, colour, race, religions, languages, and cultures in this multi-cultural society. We may not agree and have different opinions, but we show respect to one another in this mosaic. Our strength lies in our diversity” said Helga. “You must have lived through an amazing piece of history. I would love to hear more if you would be willing to share. It would be a privilege and an honour,” said the curious student. “But what about your next class? You would miss it,” responded Helga. “Oh, I have only a short seminar on the downfall on Ancient Mesopotamia, which I have already read,” said Aamin.


Secrets of a Dutch Baroness

Helga’s favourite park bench. Photo by Les Arany.

Tulips at Dow’s Lake.Photo by Les Arany.


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Tulips in the spring at Dow’s Lake,Ottawa Photo by Carlos Fox on Unsplash.

The Man With Two Hats and tulips at Dow’s Lake,Ottawa Photos by Les Arany 6

My name is Helga. This is not my real name. It is too dangerous to disclose my real name, even after fifty years following the war. Let us start at the beginning. I was born on the 13th of October 1913 at Sittard, Province of Limburg in the Netherlands, near the German border. It is sandwiched between Belgium and Germany. Sittard was then a small town with a market called Markt, a church called St. Michielskerk, a Hotel de Prins and a Cafe. In town, everybody knew each other. Today it is different. It has a large population of over 35,000. In Sittard, everybody was very proud of being Dutch and part of the Netherlands. The local river, where I played a lot with my friends as a child, is called Geleenbeek. We spoke Limburg at home, but elsewhere mostly Dutch. We all could speak German and French as well. Speaking several languages was the norm. My father, Gustaff, was the town’s oldest pharmacist. My mother, Emma, looked after me while my father was attending customers. The shop was in the Market Square and we lived upstairs in the same building. The Market Square was always busy with the constant traffic of vehicles and people. On market days especially, you could hardly move. The boy next door was my age. His name was Fritz. He was handsome with golden blond hair and sparkling blue eyes. He was always full of energy, keen and wanted to be first at everything. He lived over the grocery store with his father, Mr. Meyer, and his grandmother. There 7

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was no Mrs. Meyer. Nobody explained to me what had happened to his mother. They said she was German and was very unsettled when she married and arrived in Sittard. She eventually left her husband and young son and returned to her village in Bavaria. Fritz and I would walk together to school and play after the classes were over. We played in the Market Square during the evenings as well. I would often help Fritz’s father in the shop to restock fruits and vegetables. He always gave me an apple, or some grapes, for helping him. However, these happy times soon ended. I was only one year old when the First World War broke out. I do not remember much about those times. During the First World War between 1914-1918, the Netherlands was neutral. Our then Queen Wilhelmin was sympathetic towards France and Belgium. Her husband was the prince consort, Henry Duke zu Meclanenburg-Swerin, and as you can imagine, very pro-German. My first recollection was that we were very poor during the war days. Food was rationed. Meat and dairies were always in short supply. It was difficult to obtain even the basics like soap, paper, candles, buckets, and spades. All the surrounding countries wanted steel and all metals for the war effort. Every young man in the town left. They were called up to defend the Netherlands in case we were invaded. My mother would prepare simple meals, mostly soups. Food shortages and lack of imports caused many disruptions. In July 1917, the authorities in Amsterdam held back potato supplies, which led to large riots. Some rioters broke into warehouses and took the potatoes. The troops had to be called in. Chaos raged. There was no waste in our household. We had to be extra careful with everything we did. The Germans invaded Belgium in August 1914. As a result, a flood of Belgian refugees arrived in the Market Square with no provisions but the clothing they wore, a few prams, bikes, and buckets. My father allocated two spare rooms in the flat for two families from Liège. The families shared our small kitchen and made their own food. My father 8

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managed to get bits and pieces of clothing for them and some groceries. These poor folks were penniless. Occasionally there was some pilfering of bread, cakes, potatoes, cutlery, and small items. These people were destitute. My mother could not and would not do anything about it. As the flood of refugees continued to arrive, my father could not take any more people in. Many of these unfortunates were forced to move on, tired, hungry, and overwhelmed by the invasion of their country. One morning a little boy appeared on the doorstep of our shop. He was only about 5 or 6 years old. He was confused and had lost his parents. He could only repeat his name as “Aba”. His name tag on his worn jumper read “Abraham Emmanuel”. My father and our neighbours searched everywhere for his family, but could not find anyone, or anybody, with any knowledge about the little boy. My parents took him in, as one of ours. He cried every night and was always asking for his Mama and Papa. He and I became the best of friends. We had lots of friends in Sittard. Many were French, German, and Jewish, but most were Dutch. My Jewish friends were special. I remember playing with Joseph and his sister in the nearby meadows. We played hopscotch or hide and seek amongst the trees. There was Naomi, Rina, Moriah, and lots of other Jewish friends. After Mass in church on Sundays with my mother, as my father was agnostic and did not attend Church, we would go for walks with the Bernsteins. Sometimes we would picnic in the park where we could swim in the nearby river. My mother was very nervous when we swam, but the water was very shallow. Nevertheless, she would closely supervise us. I would dress up in my Sunday best for Mass every weekend. Most of the townspeople would attend the service which was conducted in Latin. I was always impressed by the sound of the organ and the colourful stained glass windows showing Jesus Christ and his disciples. 9

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I could never understand why Christ had allowed refugees to enter our country and made them poor and hungry. Somebody said that this was man’s fault and doing, not Christ’s. Despite being surrounded by countries at war, and despite being hungry and poor, we were happy. The community was in good spirits, as we helped each other. We respected all our neighbours, our refugees from Liège, our German as well as all our Jewish friends. At primary school, my teacher was Miss Van De Berg. She was very strict. She wore the same grey outfit every day, had thick glasses and a hair bun. She had no sense of humour and expected your utmost attention all day. She would line us up every morning to inspect our shoes and uniforms. Both had to be clean. If you were not up to her standards, she would send you to see the headmaster, a Mr. Janssen, who had one crippled leg. People said that he was injured by the Zulus in the Boer war in South Africa and had been dismissed by the army. I loved learning about my country and all the colonies in South America, Africa, and Asia. I loved languages and learnt to speak some English, in addition to the German, French, Dutch and our local Limberg I already spoke. Some of my Jewish friends also spoke Yiddish. They never attended school on Fridays as they were expected to be in the synagogue. I would miss my friends on Fridays. I was still good friends with Fritz, an excellent artist. He was after all, my neighbour. However, as he grew older his personality changed. This was because his father had met another woman and she had moved into the flat above the grocery store. Fritz resented this development. We could always hear Fritz and his father arguing. He became disruptive. I noticed that he was too proud to confide in me, the little girl from next door. He was always in trouble in school. He would arrive late, interrupt the class, throw things in the classrooms and was very cheeky even to us, his friends, and his classmates. He would often be seen outside Mr. Janssen’s room in school. As he became more 10

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aggressive, rude, and unpleasant, I stopped our friendship and ignored him. One day Fritz was even caught shoplifting in the market. His father was furious with him, as we all respected the merchants in town. Another time, he was caught stealing clothes in one of the shops and reselling them for a profit. The last straw was that he was caught stealing ornaments from church. I lost contact with Fritz, but in later years I learnt that he had left home and travelled to Vienna where he joined a group of artists. There, he failed to enroll into art school and hung out with several dropouts. They apparently smoked and drank heavily. He later moved to Munich with a few of his artist friends and joined a right-wing political organization called the National Socialist party. I knew he was a talented artist. He would often paint landscapes in the Netherlands. I do not recall him ever showing any interest in politics. After that, I do not know what happened to him.


In 1923 I left home to attend St. Gertrude School in Geilenkirchen Germany, a town in the district of North Rhine Westphalia, not far from the Dutch border on the River Wurm. This was a Catholic girl boarding school, with an excellent reputation. I do not know how my parents could afford the tuition fees, but they wanted the best for me and must have spent all their savings on my education. They managed somehow. Most of the girls at the school were from wealthy German families, which were few. The First World War destroyed the economic infrastructure and had left most Germans very poor. Also, the value of the German Mark was in freefall. The girls came from Aachen, Köln, Düren and Mönchengladbach and several of the local towns. The focus was on pristine teaching. The girls were dressed immaculately. The school was an oasis, surrounded by poverty and a lost population. We were forbidden to go to town as there were beggars, unemployed former soldiers, gypsies, and undesirables everywhere. The school was a beacon of hope for the future. We were restricted to the school’s compound. At one time I needed to see the dentist. There was only one in town, as many professionals had been killed or injured in the war and those who survived had lost their equipment for the war effort. I was escorted by a member of the staff to see the dentist. The principal was a nice lady called Frau Fischer, who would often cry, as her husband had been killed in 1914 while serving in the army in Belgium. She would encourage me to learn as many languages as I could manage. She is the one who introduced me to Spanish and 12

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science. At school, we all slept in the same communal room, which was very basic. We shared a row of washbasins, toilets, and bathtubs. We were allowed a bath each week, but the water had to be shared as it was scarce. Breakfast was served each morning at 7.30am. This was usually just a small piece of bread with jam. If the local farmer had visited, a treat was an egg, but this was very rare. Lunch was served in the canteen at 12 noon, and tea at 4 o’clock. Supper started at 6 o’clock. Many of the girls were starving. Their families sent parcels of food and even locals could be seen at the gates passing to us some fruit and bread. We were compelled to read for an hour before lights out at 9pm. There were no cars available after the war, and apart from visiting my great uncle who lived nearby, I could not escape from the confines of the school. I did manage a lift back to see my parents in Sittard once, in the back of a dirty smelly van, on a cold wintery Saturday afternoon. We played a lot of games, mostly rounders. Almost every weekend we were confined to our dormitories, where we played draughts, and some could play chess. We also played “I spy” games and other guessing games. Most girls speculated on who they wished to marry. We were taught how to dance, knit, how to dress and play the piano and to obey the gentlemen, as little servants. We were also taught how to curtsy and to address those people who were aristocrats. There was little equality in gender in the schooling system. Girls were expected to become wives and mothers. Boys were encouraged to study science, physics and to compete in the sports and military subjects. Most schools during this period had a garden and students were taught to nurture plants. Religion was no longer a compulsory subject. Patriotic songs and poems were recited daily. I would attend Mass every Sunday with most of the girls and staff members. My main interests were words and languages.


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One Christmas, my father bought me a Spanish dictionary which was very rare. I was delighted with this gift. I kept it near my bed for years. My friends at school were called Emilia, Sophia, and Lena. In 1933, I graduated with distinction and qualified as a secondary school teacher. We were congratulated by the principal and allowed to celebrate at a local restaurant.


The First World War ended with an armistice on the 11th of November 1918. I remember the celebrations on the square as a five year old. Everyone was in a joyful mood, drinking, dancing, and kissing. Kaiser Wilhelm II was exiled as the creator of the Weimar Republic and Germany surrendered with the acceptance of the Treaty of Versailles. In 1921, Germany was forced to pay for the war. The Weimar Republic accepted the punishment from the Allies which included significant reductions in the military, payment of war reparations and the loss of territory. Hard line Germans blamed the defeat on the socialists and the Jews. The German Mark was devalued. French and Belgian troops occupied the Ruhr Region. Many resisted the occupation by refusing instructions, demands and orders. German currency further disintegrated. By 1923, one thousand marks only bought a loaf of bread. Germany had lost the war and most Germans were vulnerable. The Treaty of Versailles was harsh on the German people. Germany had lost 13% of its territory.Hungary lost control over 75% of its territory. By 1933, the situation worsened. The world was a victim of the Great Depression. As the currency shrank, unemployment increased and Germans looked for inspiration, leadership, and hope for a better future.


Adolf Hitler was born in Braunau am Inn in Austria. As a student, he was refused admittance to the Vienna Art school. He blamed the Jews for crowding the establishment. He was a soldier in the First World War and believed that Germany should have continued fighting. He was critical of weak leadership and dismissed the surrender terms as a betrayal. In Munich, he started speaking about Germany’s weakness in the local clubs and bars, which generated a lot of interest and support A far-right group emerged criticising the Weimar Republic. It was called the Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP), also known as the Nazi Party. Its members were from Germany’s working class and blamed Germany’s loss and status on capitalism, liberals, socialists, communists, and trade unions. They also believed that all Jews should be stripped of German citizenship. Hitler became the leader of the Nazi party in 1921. By 1923, Hitler had managed to increase membership of his party from 3,000 to 15,000. He also organised a private army of ex-soldiers called Storm Troopers, or SS. They adopted the swastika as their emblem, an ancient Hindu religious symbol for good luck. Hitler’s political party kept increasing and growing in popularity. Here he was,perceived as a proud German who inspired nationalism, promised work and prosperity, and gave Germans the hope they desperately sought. On the 30th of January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed the German Chancellor. The Nazi State was born, known as the Third Reich. Hitler was worshipped, as his policies brought employment and prosperity to all Germans. He announced the creation of the people’s 16

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car and called it the “Volkswagen”. He built the autobahns, a network of motorways and restored German pride and honour in the world. Little did we know at that time that he would turn into the greatest human monster that ever lived. My German friends blamed the Jews for Germany’s past problems. They were responsible for nepotism, corruption, and instilled misery on the German people. I disagreed with them, for it was nothing to do with the Jews. It was Germany’s fault for invading Belgium in the first place in 1914. Germany was trying to copy its Saxons cousins across the Channel, together with imperialistic France and The Netherlands, in seeking global colonies and attempting to be an imperial power. We would often debate these issues, but most often would agree to disagree. The debates were reasoned, but I could not help to vehemently disagree that it was a group of people, a race, that was responsible for German ills. I often thought of my close friends in Sittard, especially of Joseph, Naomi, Rina, and Moriah, and all my other sincere Jewish friends. These were good generous people. I thought of happier times with the Bernsteins, picnicking by the river, telling stories, jokes and sharing lots of laughter. The publication of Hitler’s book in 1925, called ’Mein Kampf’, or ‘My Struggle’, resulted in negatively influencing and corrupting German minds. In his book, he described himself acting as the Messiah, as the Creator, by fighting off the Jews. He claimed that he was doing the Lord’s work. How evil I thought. In April 1933, members of the SS, the elite guard of the Nazi State, stood in front of Jewish businesses to inform the public at large that the owners of these premises were Jewish. The word “Jude” was smeared on store windows with the star of David in yellow and black painted across the doors. A Jewish lawyer was killed in Kiel. Anti-Jewish slogans and party songs appeared. The propaganda against the Jews and other minorities had begun in earnest. 17

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I still went to Mass every Sunday and saw many of my old schoolteachers and classmates. I had digs with a Frau Muller on Karolinngerstrasse, which I shared with three other girls. Hilda attended nursing school, Amelia was a shop assistant and Marie, had numerous boyfriends and worked for an accountant. Sometimes we would go out together and share a few drinks. The discussion always turned to the rise of the Nazi Party and to Adolf Hitler. They all blamed the Jews for Germany’s problems. Some anti-Jewish slogans started to appear on shop windows locally. I was unhappy with this propaganda and the emergence of racism and hatred against non-Germans. I was Dutch and I wondered if they would turn against all foreigners, including myself. Although I spoke fluent German, by now Germany was a dangerous place to live and I decided to leave in 1935.



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On a Saturday morning, in June, I left, with my Dutch passport and luggage. I said goodbye to my flat mates, thanked my landlady and paid her my outstanding rent. She gave me some food and provisions for the trip ahead. With tears in their eyes, they said goodbye. I walked down to the bus station, reluctantly stared in front, and refused to look back. These had been my friends, regardless of what political and cultural views they held. I caught the bus to Aachen. From there, I could transfer to the train on the Deutsche Bundesbahn, all the way to Liège in Belgium. The train proceeded to Lille and eventually to Paris. Looking out through the window, the countryside was bleak with remnants of the First World War everywhere. Children wore old clothing, the women looked poor and frail and the men looked lost, as if hope had vanished.People begged on the platforms, where the train stopped. Uniformed police just walked past them, ignoring their pleas and cries.

Arriving in Paris, very tired, I found a hotel for the night. The hotel was noisy, smelly, and dirty, but I did manage to get a few hours of sleep. When I opened the door of my room in the morning, I found several people sleeping in the corridors. I was glad to leave Paris.I arrived in Tours in a few hours and then went on to Bordeaux. I stayed in Bordeaux overnight. On the way to the lodgings, I had to avoid several drunks on the streets.The following morning, I caught the train to Zaragoza, where I could finally test my Spanish with the train officials.The train stopped at the French/Spanish border. The Spanish official smiled when I spoke Spanish, despite my Dutch/German accent.I finally arrived in Madrid late evening. There was my uncle to greet me on the platform, with a bunch of flowers. He was a teacher of European languages at the Military Academy in Madrid and had lived there for years. He led a simple life. He loved travelling and he was an avid reader. He could speak five languages and he would study from dusk to dawn. I was able to stay with my uncle, so I had a home and a chance to improve my Spanish. He was prepared for me to stay at his apartment for free, as long I 20

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agreed to cook, clean and to act as his housemaid. I gladly accepted his terms. It gave me an opportunity to look for work and to explore Madrid. At the military school, I was invited to attend some of his classes. Most of the men would glance to the back of the classroom with suspicion and curiosity, whenever I attended. There were students and militia at the academy from all over the world, but not many women. There were several people from Great Britain who wished to learn German, Italian and Spanish. Did they know something which would turn the world upside down in a few years? The South Americans were keen to learn English. There was no room however for minority languages, such as Catalonian, Basque, or Galician. One day, I met a handsome man with stunning blue eyes. His name was Gene and he came from Baltimore. He was a Naval Attaché with the US Embassy in Madrid and he was keen to learn about Germany, particularly about the new man on the block, Adolf Hitler. I wondered if Gene’s interests were genuine, or was he on a spying mission? He was curious to know whether I had seen any military build-up on the borders between Germany and France. I concluded that his mission was to ascertain as much information as he could from this new arrival in Madrid. I attended many social functions with embassies. My uncle was often invited to several on a weekly basis. I tagged along as his consort. The embassies were always holding functions, particularly the British, the French and the US. I got to know many of the diplomats and was invited to translate for several embassies. At night, we would enjoy the high life by dining, drinking, and laughing into the small hours. Gene introduced me to my future husband. He was a Professor of Mathematics and Physics and had worked with several eminent scientists in Berlin, Paris, Oxford, and Rome. He was handsome, wellbuilt, with a quiet demeanor. He was shy at first but asked me if he could take me for dinner in a nice picturesque part of Madrid. We met 21

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the following week, and it was love at first sight. He was most amazed and inquisitive that I could speak several languages and could revert from one to another. I called him “Erik”, but his real name was Baron Frederick Kurt Von Essen. He was German by birth, born in Dresden and he held German and French passports. The family originally had Jewish names, but they had converted from Judaism to Catholicism. Consequently, the Holy Roman Emperor awarded the “Baron” title to the family in 1415. “That was five centuries ago,” Erik would quip. “We have kept the title; in case it would be needed someday,” he added.Our romance lasted for weeks. We would dance, dine, laugh, and make love. He was such a romantic and I loved him for it. He would buy me small gifts, flowers and really spoil me. We would walk along the Manzanares River, visit the Royal Palaces and the museums, including the Musea Nacional del Prado. On weekends we hiked in the Sierra Guadarrama National Park, in glorious Spanish sunshine. I would often prepare a picnic to take and enjoy in beautiful surroundings. Erik was reluctant to speak about his research at the University. He would change the subject immediately when I asked about it. He did tell me on one occasion, in bed, that his work was secret and highly confidential. I should have known better at the time, but I was young and innocent and still in my early twenties.Erik did not like the city due to the traffic, the noise, and the increased presence of soldiers. The soldiers looked nervous and agitated. After several months, we were deeply in love, and nothing could separate us. My uncle warned me about men, but nothing could detract me from Erik. We were married in a small Catholic Church on the 5th November 1935, in Madrid. My uncle gave me away. I left my uncle’s apartment and moved in with Erik, but still looked after my uncle during the week. He was very pleased for both of us. We lived happily during the winter months and early spring of 1936, but Spain was about to change.


Secrets of a Dutch Baroness

Madrid.Photo by Jack Gisel on Unsplash on Unsplash


Eirian J Williams

Plaza Mayor,Madrid.Photo by Victor Gracia


Secrets of a Dutch Baroness

Madrid .Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash


During the summer of 1936, Francisco Franco became a dictator and ruled as the Caudillo. The Spanish Civil War erupted and changed the landscape. Franco emerged as the dominant rebel leader and controlled territory held by the Nationalists faction. In 1937, a Unification Decree, which incorporated all parties supporting the rebels, led to Nationalist Spain becoming a single party regime. Franco exercised fascism in areas of labour relations and economic policies and denounced trade unions, as well as enemy residents. He used all non-democratic methods, called ‘guerrade degaste’ (war of attrition), which resulted in the imprisonment and execution of those who supported minorities, liberals, social democrats, free elections, and women’s rights. Spanish became the official and only language. Minority languages like Basque, Galician and Catalan were outlawed and forbidden to be spoken in public and in schools. As a result, there was considerable tension, anxiety, and stress, everywhere. I had already witnessed the emergence and rise of fascism in Germany earlier. Now Spain was changing. King Alfonso XIII had governed Spain with a military dictatorship from 1923 until 1930, heavily influenced and controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. Elections were held in April 1931 when the King was deposed. The Republicans succeeded. They were reformers and had long fought to bring Spain into the 20th century. This meant that the military, the Church, property owners and the right-wing aristocrats would lose considerable power and control. 26

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In 1933 a centre-right coalition won an election. In 1934, Franco sent soldiers from Morocco to Asturias in northern Spain to oust a leftrevolt.The result was catastrophic for Spain as the event left 4000 dead, thousands injured and incarcerated. This situation erupted in street violence in all major cities, disappearance of prominent people both left and right wing, political threats, killings, anti-religious acts, and general chaos. On October 20, 1935, over 400,000 people demonstrated against fascism in Madrid. In February 1936, the left-wing Popular Front won the elections. As a result, a new wave of violence erupted,Franco, now the Army Chief of Staff, with other military leaders organised a coup.Franco made representations to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy, securing arms and military aid to the rebel Nationalists of the right. On the 17th July 1936, the Spanish Civil War started with an uprising in Morocco. Military officers who supported Franco launched an uprising in the Western half of Spain and gained full control. On the night of July 19th and 20th, fifty churches were burned in Madrid. Military volunteers from other countries descended on Spain, to fight for one side or the other. Republicans received assistance and aid from the Soviet Union and International Brigades, while Nazi Germany,Italy, Portugal and the Vatican supported the rebels. Civil War in Spain was the result of decades of polarization of life, culture, and politics. The Republicans were mostly city workers, farm labourers and the middle classes. The Nationalists were mostly Roman Catholics, the Military, landowners, and businessmen. By the 21st July 1936, the Nationalist rebels had control of Spanish Morocco, the Canary Islands, the Balearics Islands (except Minorca) and the areas north of the Guadarrama Mountains and the Ebro river. The Republicans held areas in Andalusia, including Seville, Granada, and Cordoba. Terror and fear reigned throughout Spain.


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In the summer of 1936, we left Madrid and headed northwards.Shortly after our departure,on the the 3rd August the United States urged all its citizens to leave Spain in view of the Civil War.We drove our 1924 Hispano Suiza H6, which was my husband’s delight, to the Pyrenees. The Spanish revolution started in June and July in the south,and quickly spread to other parts of the country.We were stranded in Jaca. As a prominent scientist, my husband was wanted for questioning by the Guardia Civil. We could not return to Madrid, as that was too dangerous. Erik could be questioned, arrested, and detained. Many of our academic friends had mysteriously vanished in the last few months. We were aware that a few had been kidnapped and perhaps tortured by Militia groups. I again questioned my husband as to the kind of work he was specifically involved in, but he remained mute on the subject. He did say that it was ‘scientific research’, which could have meant anything. We decided that Spain was too dangerous and that we should escape and make our way across the mountains to France. I reluctantly agreed and thought about my poor uncle. Would they arrest him? Would they hold him hostage, torture him, or even kill him? All kinds of permutations entered my head in a confused way. We arrived at the Jaca railway station with just our holiday clothes. We caught the last train to leave Spain. Jaca was the rail link to Canfranc. The Pau-Can-franc railway line was opened in July 1928, linking Pau in France to Can-franc in Spain through the Pyrénées, via the Somport tunnel. The long single track was the gateway to France. The station platform was chaotic.It was packed. It was impossible to move. There were families, young and old. People were anxious, desperate, and frightened. Mothers in tears, leaving parents and grandparents. Children were distressed, and no one knew what the future would hold. We embarked on the train. It was ready to leave the platform when the police arrived. There were about a dozen of them. They were no doubt looking for someone specific. Us? The train 28

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started, but stopped almost immediately, within yards of leaving the platform. Taking no chances, we disembarked without any luggage, on the other side of the carriage, leaving fellow passengers looking mystified, scared, and bewildered. We ran across railway lines and hid behind a cargo train, next to the railway sheds.I could hear the police shouting and whistling. They had no doubt discovered the empty seats and the luggage left behind.Shots of gunfire erupted in the distance. We could only surmise what this meant.They were no doubt looking for someone specific. Us? The train started, but stopped almost immediately, within yards of leaving the platform. Taking no chances, we disembarked without any luggage, on the other side of the carriage, leaving fellow passengers looking mystified, scared, and bewildered. We ran across railway lines and hid behind a cargo train, next to the railway sheds.I could hear the police shouting and whistling. They had no doubt discovered the empty seats and the luggage left behind.Shots of gunfire erupted in the distance. We could only surmise what this meant. These may have been fascist militia groups working with the police and looking for armed smugglers, or people escaping from Spain with gold and other valuables. Many of the Guardia Civil by 1936 had changed sides and loyalties to the rebel faction and supported Franco. We could not trust anyone. We stayed quietly behind the cargo train for what felt like eternity. It was but a couple of hours, until the police or the militia had left. The train departed sometime later, but we suspected that they were still looking for us, or for others who attempted unlawfully to leave Spain. Divided Spain between the Nationalists and the Republicans We retrieved our old car from behind an abandoned building and drove north from Jaca. Fortunately, there were no roadblocks or checkpoints outside Jaca, but no doubt there would be some within a few hours. Jaca was near the French border. We managed to reach Castiello de Jaca, Villanua, and Can-franc. We could not go as far as 29

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Candanchú, the border town, as we ran out of petrol. There were no petrol stations anywhere. We had to abandon our car in a roadside ditch, much to Erik’s dismay.

Soldiers were guarding the frontier and border towns. We did not know whether the soldiers were loyal to the Government as Republicans or to General Franco’s Nationalist as they were advancing northwards to the French border.Northern Spain was in turmoil. We knew that we would be stopped and questioned by the guards, interrogated, and likely returned to Jaca and eventually imprisoned. We decided to walk. We walked for many kilometres eastward across farm fields, without any trace of villages, farmsteads, or any other signs of inhabitation. It was now getting dark when we saw a shepherd herding his sheep with his dog. 30

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“Do you want to get over the border to France?” he asked. “Yes, indeed we do,” replied Erik. Could we trust him? Was he a Republican, or one of Franco’s men, or just interested in his flock of sheep? Would he turn us in? All kinds of questions crossed my mind. We had no choice but to allow this kind shepherd to guide us through and over the border. later.

“It will be dark soon, but it is best to walk now rather than Are you hungry? I have some bread and fruit. Here you are.”

“Thank you very much,” I said, “You are so kind.” “I hate Franco and his people. They are destroying our country,” said the shepherd. “What is your name?” I asked.

“I better not say, in case you are captured and tortured. It is best that you don’t know,” he replied. “Hurry now,” he said, “we have many more kilometres to walk.” We kept going up and down through deep valleys, ravines, and hills. Places probably unmapped since there were no roads, only sheep and cattle tracks. In the early hours of the morning we reached a minor road. Another local shepherd arrived in his van.

“He will give you a lift in his van.” said our guide. We thanked the shepherd for all his help and told him that we would never forget him and his friend. We arrived on a back road to the northern outskirts of a place called Frontera del Portalet. We knew that we were now in France, away from Franco’s tyranny and away from the Spanish Revolution. We could at long last relax and sleep, knowing that the police could not arrest us, or question us in France. We hitchhiked lifts in the back of trailers and 31

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lorries. When we arrived in Pau, we asked a kind-looking lady sitting outside a house, if we could rent a room for the night and have a hot bath. Fortunately, Erik had some American dollars, and she was grateful for any guests. We rested that night after a long and exhausting walk. This was our great escape from Franco’s Spain.


Eifel Tower, Paris, France


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Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France

From Pau we took the train northwards through Central France, observing the green orchards, the rich vineyards, and the lush green fields. The journey was a breath of fresh air. People were drinking wine and cups of coffee outside in the little restaurants and bars. The atmosphere was opposite to what we experienced as we left Spain. On arriving in Paris, we stayed with Erik’s friend, Professor Aaron Melhausen. He was a well-respected scientist who had worked in Berlin and was renowned worldwide. Being a Jew, he was very concerned about the anti-Semitism emerging from Germany. Many of his colleagues there were subjected to harassments, threats, and intimidation from the Third Reich. He felt that France was being dragged in the same direction.


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The term anti-Semitism had been coined in 1879 by a German agitator Wilhelm Marr, to start anti-Jewish campaigns in Central Europe. By 1933, the Nazis practiced their racial ideology. They believed that Germans were “racially superior”, and that there were issues between them and the inferior races, which included Gypsies and the handicapped. They claimed that the “inferiors” represented a significant biological threat to the purity of the German Aryan race. In 1933, Jews numbered over 500,000 in Germany. The Germans unfairly blamed Jews for Germany’s economic depression and for the country’s defeat in World War One. In April 1933, German laws were put into place that prevented Jews from holding civil service jobs, university positions and political office. The laws proclaimed at Nuremberg designated Jews as second-class citizens. Jewish properties were seized, synagogues were destroyed, homes vandalised and individuals murdered. Melhausen was a kind man, and generous. He managed to find a job for Erik in Liège Belgium, at the University. I did not know what kind of research work Melhausen did, but as Erik had worked with him in Berlin some years ago, I imagined that their projects were similar, and that they understood each other. We thanked Melhausen and made our way to see my parents at Sittard, in the Netherlands. We stayed there for several months, until we were able to move to Liège.

In October 1935, Erik was appointed as Associate Professor of Physics at the University. We managed to find a small but comfortable apartment nearby. Erik was asked to lecture to students in Liège and other cities in Belgium. His French, English, German and Spanish were perfect. He could converse in these languages on an academic level. He prepared several reports and papers. I never suspected that any of these were of a military significance. Erik’s reputation steadily grew throughout Europe. He was even invited to return to Berlin to teach. One night, an official from the 35

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British Embassy called at the flat to query whether Erik would be interested in a position with one of the colleges at Cambridge, but Erik declined. We were well settled in Liège. We had a good circle of friends, including Dutch, French and Germans. Some were Christians and others were Jewish. It was a good mix, and everybody pulled together. We were very happy in Liège. Erik’s research work was challenging. What concerned us was that many people were sympathetic to the developments in neighbouring Germany. They believed that Germany had received a raw deal under the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and that the Allies were capitalizing and punishing the German people for the first World War. King Leopold III of Belgium had also expressed anti-Semitic views. On Friday, the 10th of May 1940, all hell broke loose. Without warning, Germany invaded Belgium (called ‘Fall Geib’ or ‘Case Yellow’), and the Western Front collapsed. The German Army entered Liège and occupied the city. Thousands left in desperation, to avoid the fighting, the bombing, and the artillery. The Belgian army offered little resistance. People left the city with sparse belongings in prams, trailers, carts, wheelbarrows, or on bikes. Anything that could be used to move things was utilised. Babies cried, mothers struggled, and most of the elderly tried in vain to walk. Many men from the front lines walked westwards. A defeated force in retreat. Within eighteen days,on the 28th May 1940 the Belgian King had surrendered to the Germans, alongside his soldiers. On the same day, at dawn, the Germans also attacked and invaded the Netherlands,Luxembourg, and France.The Netherlands surrendered on the 15th May 1940.The battle of France lasted from the 10th May until the 25th June 1940. Paris surrendered on the 14th June 1940. Europe was now at war.


Secrets of a Dutch Baroness

Sacre-Coeur Church, Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral de Paris 37

Along with the thousands leaving Liège to escape the bombing, the shooting, and the destruction on that Friday morning, we also left everything behind. Luckily, we managed to find petrol and filled up our very old black Citroen and speedily drove towards Namour, the Walloon capital. The roads were blocked with vehicles and hundreds of destitute people, looking shocked. The Belgian army was retreating, and the soldiers looked tired and worn out. Everybody was heading for the French border, but little did we know that the Germans intended to invade France as well.Travelling by any type of vehicle became impossible. We decided that our best option was to proceed on foot. We abandoned our automobile again, this time at a nearby disused yard. With just our belongings, we started to walk. At least we were better off compared to those who had lost loved ones, those injured, those who lost their homes, businesses, properties, and possessions. We walked for many kilometres on the back roads. Eventually we made it to the small village of Ciney. A kind old lady gave us food, somewhat scared and apprehensive. She wished us luck. “Je suis trop âgé pour m’échapper de les Allemands,” (“I am too old to escape from the Germans,”) she said. “Ma famille est ici depuis plusieurs générations et je ne vais pas bouger pour Hitler,” (“My family has been here for generations and I am not moving for any Hitler,”) she added, very determined.


Secrets of a Dutch Baroness

Divided France between the German occupation and the Vichy Government in the south.

The sounds of war, led by artillery fire, kept coming closer. It was time to move on. We walked towards the French and Belgian border, fully aware of the Maginot line. This was a French line of defence, constructed along the country’s border with Germany. It was named after the Minister of War, André Maginot. The line extended from La Ferte, along the Rhine River, to the Italian border. It included several underground fortresses, bunkers, and railway lines.


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The French did not expect the German invasion of Belgium. Neither did they think that the Germans would invade France. The French expected Belgium to not surrender to the Germans and believed that the Maginot line was secured. Unfortunately, the Maginot line did not extend along the Belgian border. Consequently, France was weak and vulnerable. If Germany intended to invade France via the Ardennes, any resistance would be futile. The Maginot line was easily outmaneuvered, despite all defence efforts and strategy. We reached the small village of Onhaye, on the western side of the Ardennes. It is in the province of Namur, near Dinant, the birthplace of Adolphe Sax and the home of a famous citadel. Here, a local farmer noticed that we were distressed and lost. He suggested that there would be a better chance of escape at night, if we went through the forest called Domaniale de Hargnies-Laurier. We rested in an agricultural building, sharing it with some curious cows and pigs until nightfall. The kind farmer returned when it was dark. He brought several torches and told us to use the light, only if necessary. He led us through fields by following animal tracks. Eventually we reached the forest. It was cold, misty, and scary with the wind howling through the branches. A crow or two would croak. We treaded carefully, slowly, but steadily. A family from Liège joined us as we walked parallel to a stream. A barbed wire crossed the stream, denoting the boundary. The farmer used cutters to make an opening in the wire, big enough for us to be able to cross into France. If caught, we would have been shot instantly. After walking a few kilometres in the dark forest, we could hear some French soldiers speaking and singing. What would become of these young men I thought? We left the forest and made it to the French front lines without any major difficulty. We dodged between the tanks when a young soldier on guard saw my face. He smiled and quietly said 40

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“Bienvenue en France.” How many of these young soldiers would survive the oncoming invasion, I wondered. The farmer left us to go back home to Belgium. We thanked him profusely. He said that he would repeat this trip every night, until hostilities had stopped. We arrived exhausted at a town called Hargnies. Many of its inhabitants were fleeing westwards. Most French civilians near the border with Germany had already been evacuated. “Les Allemands arrivent!” (“The Germans are coming!”) shouted a lady on the street corner. “Défendez votre pays!” (“Stand and fight for your country!”) another responded.

“Nous n’avons ni de fusils ni de balles,” (“We have no guns or bullets,”) said an old man, sitting on a front step of his home. We joined the citizens of Hargnies, walking towards CharlevilleMézières. At Charleville, there was only one overcrowded bus to Reims. “Ma femme est enceinte,” (“My wife is pregnant,”) announced Erik. “Elle doit avoir une banquette dans le bus. Elle á marché toute la nuit à travers la forêt.”) (“She must have a seat on the bus. She’s been walking all night through the forest.”) Two seats suddenly became available on the bus. I was annoyed with Erik for lying. I was not pregnant. 41

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“You could have been. At least there was a half-truth. You have been walking all night. That was the only way to escape from the border.” We reached Reims. A kind businessman stopped his car. “Où allez-vous?” (“Where are you going?”) he said. “Paris, avant l’arrivée des Allemands,” (“Paris, before the Germans get there,”) I said. “Montez vite!” (“Jump in!”) he said, “Je vais à Paris pour m’assurer que Maman et les enfants sont saufs.” (“I am going to Paris to make sure that my mother and children are safe.”) The German army had by now simply by-passed the Maginot line. The Nazi Panzers swept through the Ardennes. Early in the invasion, the Wehrmacht guns bombarded one of the Maginot fortifications in the South for four days. All occupants of the garrison were killed. The Germans stormed other units along the Maginot line as well. Resistance was impossible. The German Panzers had now crossed into France, via the Ardennes and were heading quickly towards Paris. As we drove towards Paris, every town was on high alert. “Ils arrivent!” (“They are coming!”) shouted a mother with a baby in her arms. Everyone was panicking. Tension was everywhere. “Où sont nos soldats? Ils devraient être ici pour nous défendre!” 42

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(“Where are our soldiers? They should be here defending us!”) cried someone. We arrived in Paris, late in the evening, on the 11th of May 1940, hungry and tired. Unfortunately, there was no time to rest. Paris was on high alert and the people were panicking. Government officials threw papers, documents, and whole cabinets from windows to lawns below, to burn in enormous bonfires. Thousands were fleeing the city. Erik wanted to see his old colleague, the prominent scholar, Professor Aaron Melhausen. He worked at the École Libre des Science on Rue Saint Guillaume. Erik and the professor were very close. He was instrumental in Erik obtaining his position at the University in Liège when we were escaping from Franco’s Spain. We made it to the professor’s apartment on Boulevard Saint Germain, on the left bank of the River Seine. The short and stocky man with a beard and thick glasses was pleased to see us, but he looked very worried. 5e “Baroness, the two of you are always escaping,” he said. “First from Franco, now from Hitler!” “Will you be all-right?” asked Erik. “Look, I am Jewish. I have worked for military intelligence and on military projects in Berlin and other cities. I have been imprisoned several times in the 1930’s, like yourself, for insubordination. I have refused to work on certain military projects for the Third Reich. They know I am here in Paris. My life is now in extreme danger. They have arrested all the Jewish academics and scientists in Germany. They will do the same in Belgium, and here in France. I know you have just arrived, but you should leave at once, before they get here. France will surrender in days. The British are weeks away. The Americans are yet to declare their allegiance. Go south, but avoid areas controlled by the Vichy Government. My driver will take you as far as he can.” 43

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He informed Erik that during his time in Berlin, he had helped to design, with several others, the Vemork Hydroelectric Power Plant at Telemark Norway. It was built by Norsk Hydro in 1911, but in 1935 it was redeveloped and became the world’s first power plant to mass produce heavy water. Prior to the German invasion of Norway on the 9th April 1940, the French Deuxième Bureau (French Military Intelligence) with the agreement of Norway, removed some 185 kgs of heavy water from Telemark. Norway and France had agreed that France could keep the heavy water for the duration of a war with Germany. The Norwegians were afraid that Germany would use the plant for military purposes, rather than peaceful means, and develop a bomb. Norway wanted to limit German operations at the plant if they invaded. Knowledge of the French acquisition of most of the heavy water infuriated the Germans. The French managed to secretly transport the heavy water first to Oslo, then to Perth in Scotland and finally to France. The French also obtained blueprints of the plant, as well as the microfilm electrolysis code for operating it. These were deposited with Melhausen in Paris. “This plant was meant to be used for peaceful purposes such as the production of electricity and the manufacturing of fertiliser along with medical, biological, health and commercial research, but I fear that the Germans will use this plant for military purposes and exploit the scientists who work there. I have shared my concerns and warned the Americans, as well as the British, that Telemark might be changed into a weapons factory,” he said. Heavy water (D₂0) is different from ordinary water (H₂0), because in heavy water the hydrogen molecules are replaced by the isotope deuterium. The deuterium changes the chemical properties of water and makes possible its use for the manufacturing of nuclear weapons. Ordinary water is turned into heavy water by electrolysis. The process passes an electric current through ordinary water and decomposes it. The result is oxygen and hydrogen containing normal gas, along with 44

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deuterium. Then the hydrogen is liquidised and distilled, leaving behind oxygen and deuterium, or heavy water D₂0. The creation of heavy water requires large amounts of power, massive electrolysis chambers and abundant water supply. Melhausen had put the “Telemark Code for electrolysis” on microfilm and destroyed the hard copy. He pleaded with Erik to take the sealed tiny envelope containing the microfilm Telemark Code, to ensure that it would not fall into the wrong hands, particularly the Third Reich. As the professor’s life was now in danger, it was imperative that a third party should retain the Telemark Code. Erik reluctantly agreed. Melhausen also gave the Baron his silver cigarette lighter as a token of his appreciation and a memento of their friendship. “You must take extra care of both the micro-film and the lighter, “said Helga.

“Professor, did you know that my family some centuries ago were also Jewish, before converting to Catholicism? Maybe I will be in danger also if they investigated my ancestry. I have been imprisoned for insubordination in military projects too, “said Erik. “Yes, but you have a much better chance than I do to survive, “said Melhausen. “Why won’t the British destroy this plant? “asked Erik.

“They need evidence first and then corroboration, but it may be too late by then. The Nazis might develop the bomb before that. We cannot take any risks. This will be in your hands. Don’t let anybody have the Telemark Code. I have only kept it for my own security. This work represents years of research. It should have been used for peaceful means, but now the world is changing. My life is in grave danger. Go now please and be very careful with the envelope,” replied Melhausen. His driver arrived to take us south west of Paris. We thanked the professor, wished him well and arranged to meet after the war. We 45

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would never see him again. Germany invaded France on May 10th 1940.Jews in Paris were immediately forced to wear the Star of David.They were barred from certain professions and public offices. The arrest of Jews started in earnest after the invasion.These included individuals and general roundups.The first raid took place on the 14th of May 1941. All Jews and foreigners were interned at the first transit camps at Pithiviers and Beaune-la-Rolande.On the 14th June 1940,German soldiers paraded down the Champs-Élysées.The second roundup took place between July 20-21 and August 1941, which led to 4,232 French and foreign Jews being taken to Drancy Internment. Amongst those rounded up during the first raid were several scientists from the various universities, including our friend and distinguished scholar, Professor Aaron Melhausen.

We left Paris along with streams of people also leaving the city. Where could they go to escape the invasion? South or west, but certainly not to the east, or towards the north. The way to escape from the invaders was to walk, or drive, or even ride on horseback to smaller communities. The goal was to avoid being caught in the middle of fighting and heavy bombing and suffering injury and misery. With streams of people on both sides of the road, Melhausen’s driver drove as fast as he could through the crowds, overtaking recklessly all other vehicles. The mass of people included the disabled, newborn babies, elderly men who could hardly walk and young children protesting and crying. Most had little provisions and little luggage. They had left Paris on a biblical scale, in a rush, deciding it was best to escape with nothing, rather than to stay and be subjected to tyrannical rules. As we left Paris, we did not know what would happen to our friend, but we feared the worse. Our only option was to attempt, reluctantly, to go back to Spain, the place we escaped from four years earlier, in 1936. 46

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We wondered if we were still wanted in Spain. Were we on Franco’s hit list, four years later? Was Franco still collaborating with Hitler? Was Spain safer than occupied France? These were the questions we asked ourselves, but we had no answers. Erik was a prominent scientist and a target for the fascists. We opted to return to Spain as our chance of survival there was greater than in occupied France. The question was, how to return. We could not use the ordinary channels or routes. We must re-enter Spain illegally. The driver took us to Nantes. At that point he wanted to return to Paris to care for his family. We stayed overnight in Nantes and caught a bus towards the southwest early next morning.Our next destination was La Rochelle and then Bordeaux. This part of France was relatively peaceful compared to Paris, but for how long? Would the Germans conquer all of France? There was a demarcation line between the Germans and the Vichy Government in the south, but this was a sham. These French citizens supported the German regime. This forced many French people against each other. Fathers would argue with sons and daughters. Brothers and sisters would fall out. The crisis was destroying family units all over France. Resistance fighters especially were targeted by agents of the Vichy Government. Even in the western part of France, there were groups loyal to the Vichy Government, including fascists, right wing sympathisers, and anti-Jewish organisations. It was imperative to keep dialogue to a minimum, remain silent and avoid any suspicion, or detection. We reached Bordeaux by bus in the middle of the afternoon.There were very long queues outside the Spanish Consulate seeking visas to Spain. Most were refugees from Paris, among them many Jews. The men wore a skullcap known in Hebrew as a Kippah, or yarmulke in 47

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Yiddish. Many looked fearful and tense as the news kept coming about the German army advancing through France. While in Bordeaux we purchased a baguette. We devoured it and rushed to catch a train to Toulouse. The German army had not arrived yet in this region of France, but it was only a question of time. Toulouse was an important railway station and the gateway to the Pyrenees. At Toulouse, we rested outside at a Café on Rue de Bayard near the Toulouse-Matabiau Railway Station. Two stern looking, middle-aged Gendarmes approached us. “Vos papiers s’ils vous plaȋt,” (“Papers please,”) demanded one. These were policemen, now part of the Vichy Government, supporters of the Third Reich which occupied most of France.

I presented my Dutch passport and Erik his German passport. “Vous venez d’arriver en train?” (“You have just arrived by train?”) said the officer. “Oui,” (“Yes,”) I replied. “Pourquoi êtes-vous à Toulouse? Où allez-vous?” (“Why are you in Toulouse? Where are you going?”) he enquired. “Nous sommes partis de la maison à Liège, en Belgique juste avant l’invasion par les allemands,” (“We have left our home in Liège, Belgium as the Germans have invaded the city,”) I replied. “De quelle nationalité êtes-vous?” 48

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(What nationality are you?”) the second Gendarme asked, without looking at our passports. “Je suis Néerlandaise et mon mari est Allemand,” (“I am Dutch, and my husband is German,”) I responded. “Pourquoi ne servez-vous pas comme soldat pour votre pays?” (“Why are you”) he said, looking at Erik (“not a soldier for the fatherland?”) The questions were now becoming more intense and probing. Would they arrest and retain us, I wondered? I didn’t know how Erik would respond. Before he had a chance to say anything, a small black Citroën Traction Avant sped around the corner, with the driver and passenger shooting randomly. “Allez, allez vite, il y a des gens armés dans cette voiture-là. Ils tirent sur tout le monde.” (“Get away fast. There are gunmen in that car. They are firing at everyone.”) yelled the older Gendarme. The two Gendarmes took off in pursuit of the gunmen. I wondered if the two occupants were members of the resistance opposing the Vichy Government. Was this a random attack, planned, or just a coincidence? We had no idea. We were left stranded, shocked, surprised, and feeling somewhat fortunate. There was no time to question the motive and no point in staying put in case the Gendarmes returned to query us further. During the war, many escaping airmen, shot down from the RAF and USAF, used Toulouse as a gateway to the mountains. They would regather initially with members of the Resistance in Paris, making contact in Gard du Nord and other railway stations. Along with Resistance fighters, these airmen were placed in safe houses throughout the city. Their contact at the station was always a girl, wearing a blue beret. These ladies were placing their lives at risk every time. If caught, 49

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they would be summarily executed, usually on the spot. Groups escaping from Paris to Toulouse would take the train. Escapees were told not to speak, taught to walk in un-American ways, shown how to smoke the French way, and instructed to avoid all British customs and politeness, as well as firm handshakes. They were introduced to the two kisses greeting. On the right cheek first in Paris. Elsewhere in France, the greeting would be three or four kisses. The British airmen were told to shave their moustaches as to not look like the RAF stereotypes. They were told to look firstly to the left when crossing the road.Those driving in France were warned to give way to any traffic from the right on any T junctions.Unless they could speak Parisienne French, the British, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Czechs,and Poles were told not to speak any French, particularly those with thick English accents. The English were advised not to use such phrases and words like “I’m terribly sorry”,”cheerio”, “my old chap”, “good show old boy”, “frightfully”, “awfully”, and “spiffing”.French Canadians were told not to speak their outdated French with their North American accents. Black Americans were taught to speak French with a North African accent.All US personnel were told not to use common phrases such as “Gee-whiz”, or “Have a nice day”, or “You’re welcome”. Americans were taught to use a knife and fork properly. Those who had been circumcised were warned of the perils if they were captured and stripped. After Toulouse, most escapees made their way to Saint-Girons, at the foot of the Pyrenees and then took one of the freedom trails across the mountains. If the German army, or French police were occupying the railway platform on arrival, then the train driver would sound his hooter three times to warn the airmen to jump from the train before arriving at the platform. We made it to Saint-Girons in Ariège by bus. Here I had to sell most of my jewellery and some rings to buy clothing, hard wearing boots and food for the perilous journey across the mountains. Erik kept the sealed envelope containing the Telemark Code safely concealed on the inside of the back of his vest. It was 50

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unlikely that anyone would suspect that he was carrying a secret Code for making an atom bomb. Saint-Giron was the starting point of Le Chemin de la liberté,some 104 kms south of Toulouse in the département of Ariège.The river Salat runs through the town.Just above Saint-Girons sits Saint-Lizier where from a nearby vantage point one can see the escape route to the snow capped mountain of Mont Valier which is nearly 2300 metres.The region is mostly unknown to outsiders.It is full of mystic, legends, comprising of several valleys, gorges,ravines,green foothills,fast flowing rivers and unparalleled beauty.Near the Arize river close to Saint-Girons,there is a vast network of historic caves called the Grotte du Mas d’Azil,which historically has provided safety and security for early Christians,smugglers and escapees for thousands of years. We were escaping to Spain, from one enemy to another. We dared not to speak to anyone and kept our distance. The locals knew that their town was a strategic place for escapees. Amongst the locals were many informers, keen to collect financial rewards. Some were officials of the Vichy Government. Silence and discreetness were the order of the day. At Saint-Girons, we rested on a park bench by the River Salat. Only the ducks were present. Now tired, Erik turned to me.

“We were very lucky in Toulouse to escape. Maybe I should carry a gun,” he said. “You, a pacifist? You have never used a gun in your life,” I replied. “It is a good deterrent,” he said. “Would you have killed that Gendarme?” I asked.


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“We all have the right to defend ourselves, but as Christians we should not kill anybody. No human being has the right to kill another,” he answered. “So, If Hitler passed by now, and you had a gun, would you kill him?” I asked. “He should be arrested, tried in a court of law and convicted. Justice should prevail,” replied Erik. “That is very naive and simplistic of you Erik. So, if Hitler killed your parents, your children, you would allow him justice through the judicial process?” I asked. “That is a difficult one! Mahatma Gandhi of India once said, ‘An eye for eye ends up making the whole world blind.’He also said ’the weak can never forgive, forgiveness is the attribute of the strong’,” said Erik. “Even as a Catholic, I would kill the bastard and then ask for forgiveness. So, Hitler, in your opinion can walk into Belgium, France and kill all those innocent thousands, collect all the Jews, place them in prison camps and get away with it?” I demanded to know. “Certainly not. Look, Hitler was the result of and a grave mistake in a weak political system. He has climbed to the top, by imprisoning and executing those who disagreed with him and then like lava flowing from a volcanic rock, destroyed and fortified his own position. He took retribution of Germany’s failure in the First World War.A saviour to many.A monster to others. He blames the Jews for everything. He believes that the Aryan race is superior.He bribes, corrupts, and brainwashes the German people as their saviour. Germany has produced brilliant musicians, scientists, engineers, but all human beings are equal and deserve full respect. We have more in common with one another than differentials. The top German scientist is no better or worse than a starving child in Africa,” he said. 52

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“But you as a scientist has helped to build the Telemark, to make an atomic bomb, to kill people!” I said. “The purpose of the plant was to increase fertiliser capacity for the agricultural industry in Norway and no more. The Germans have misused it for their own military purposes. Look, war is a mistake. It shows man’s failure to discuss and to communicate with one another,” he concluded. “But you cannot reason with a man like Hitler. He is evil,” I interrupted. “He wasn’t evil as a baby. Something happened during his life. He became a leader of a nation. Look, many nations have always been imperialistic. Start with the Romans, the Ottomans, the British, the French, the Austro-Hungarians, even your own Dutch. All imperialists with empires, which come and go over time. They seek, whether they are fascists or communists, to control and dominate. History tells us, it is a question of absolute control and power.The early Christians massacred the Muslims by the Crusaders in the Holy Wars between 1100 and 1300, in the name of God. Some 12,000 died in 1898 in Sudan with Kitchener in charge and look what Belgium did in Congo. Millions were killed. World War One and the list is endles.Even today in1940 there are atrocities,mass killings,shootings,violent crimes,theft,rapes,tortures,those inflicting harm on others”. said Erik. “So man is evil,”I said. “Some men are evil.Some are good.Evil is not a permanent state of mind.Man is capable of changing, reforming or can face justice” he said. “So death is inevitable for all of us?” I asked. “Yes,we shall all cease one day,but as Gandhi said ‘death is a true friend.It is only our ignorance that causes us grief’ he said.”

“But violent death is no friend,” I replied. 53

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“If death is a friend,what is the purpose of life?” I asked. “Life is a series of experiences.There will always be ups and downs and difficult circumstances,but circumstances can change.The purpose of life is hope,faith and to be happy.Look at the rising sun at dawn.It is a sign of hope and happiness.To achieve happiness you must help others in the community.Love thy neighbour.”

“Not if Hitler is my neighbour!” I remarked.”What if there are no communities,but just individuals?” I asked. “Maybe there are no such individuals”,he replied.”Human beings have always relied on each other.There has always been interaction.A dependency.” he said. “Where is God in all this?” I asked. “God is everywhere. He is suffering with us. Killing, torture and war is of man’s making, not God’s,” he replied. “Is there a ‘just war’ as Saint Augustine advocated, a ‘time for war’ as the scriptures in the Book of Ecclesiastes show?” I asked. “And it says also, ‘a time to love, a time to hate, a time for peace’. Look, the scriptures contain a series of metaphors. The truth may not be the word. The truth maybe in the word,” he answered. “Do you believe in God?” I asked him. “Nobody has seen him. Look at the creation around you. The rivers, the green meadows, the trees, the snowy mountain tops, the wildlife, and the little children. I have no proof of his/her existence except for the surrounding creation. As a scientist I have no evidence or empirical knowledge. But to put it another way, I cannot deny that he does not exist. As a Christian, it is a matter of faith,” he said. “It’s getting late, we have a long journey in front of us and the wind is picking up,” said Erik. 54

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“Can you see the wind Helga?” asked Erik. “No,” I replied. “You see, the wind is like God. You cannot see it, but you can feel it. What is important for us is to follow Jesus’ teachings and to help others,” he stated. “Helping others! We are unable to help ourselves, let alone others with Hitler on our tail. Can you imagine if Jesus met Hitler?” I asked. “He would expose his deeds, his acts, his injustices and his cruelty,” replied Erik. “And Hitler would have imprisoned Jesus for being a Jew. We must go. It is getting dark,” I responded.


Photo by Andy Holmes on Unsplash 56

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There were several freedom trails across the Pyrénées. Among them was the Pat O’Leary, the Basque Comète and the Françoise. One of the first routes was known as Basque Comète, or Comet Line, crossing from Bayonne to San Sebastian in the Basque country. This was initially used by a group and families from Belgium. A highly motivated 25-year-old called Dédeé de Jong has escorted some 300 Allied military who were stranded in Dunkirk across the mountains. As the Germans became aware of one trail, another had to be found, with greater risks in higher terrain. The Pyrénées freedom trails were hostile, dangerous and well-guarded. There was little shelter. The objective for escaping Allied airmen was to reach Gibraltar and then to return to Britain. Escapees would be escorted by well-trained guides. They would pass groups from one guide to another in a complicated network. This helped approximately 5000 airmen from Allied countries to escape from occupied France to ‘neutral’ Spain. More than a 100 volunteers mostly French and Spanish refugees helped in the operation of the escape lines. Spain was supposed to be neutral, but in fact was morally occupied with Germany. Members of the Gestapo, together with Spanish officers, laid in waiting on the Spanish side of the Pyrenees. All escapees faced the possibility of being captured by the Spanish authorities and ending up in prisons in various locations, including Lerida, Barcelona, Figueras, Zaragoza, and Sort. These prisons were filthy and overcrowded. Some prisoners were released if they could prove that they were not evaders, but escapees under international law. Between 1940 and 1944,some 33,000 people, among them Allied airmen, troops, gypsies,Jews and others, made it to freedom over the Pyrénées mountains. A famous escape line eventually became known as the Pat O’Leary line. It was based in Marseille and organised by Captains Fitch and Murchie, Lt Sillar, Ft Lt Treacy and later Captain Ian Garrow, a Scottish soldier. He recruited hundreds for the escape line, found funds 57

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for housing and transport and kept records of allied soldiers and airmen. Garrow and these brave men were responsible for hundreds of people escaping. They used several routes and many different mountain guides. Garrow at one point was betrayed and compromised. In order to escape, he had to follow his own route out of France. Following Garrow’s departure, Albert-Marie Guérisse took the helm. He was a Belgian Army Doctor who helped thousands cross the border. His adopted code name by British Intelligence was Patrick Albert ‘Pat’ O’Leary, named after a Canadian friend and the escape line became known as the Pat O’Leary line. Once the Germans took control of the unoccupied part of France in 1942,they increased surveillance significantly. Consequently, the freedom trails moved to the central Pyrénées. In early 1943,Marseille was compromised and most of those involved, including Guérisse (code name ‘Pat O’Leary’) and many other leaders were captured and arrested by the Gestapo. Another route was formed by Françoise Dissart. It became known as the Françoise Line. She hired new guides, mostly Spanish, Basque, or Catalan and used old smuggling routes. These were very difficult trails, but less likely to be patrolled by Germans. The starting point for most trails was St.Girons. Some of the routed headed for Andorra, but the destination for the majority was Spain. Andorra is a small sovereign principality landlocked between France to the north and Spain to the south. Covering just 181 square miles, the Andorran people are of Romance ethnic group of Catalan descent. Many Republican refugees would act as guides but were more interested in overthrowing Spain’s General Franco than fighting the Germans. Being involved in assisting escapees would inspire them against the anti-fascists, enabling them to recruit and strengthen their units and arrange for ambushes and sabotage work.


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On reaching Spain after a perilous journey, some airmen were placed in safe houses organised by the British Diplomatic Service. Several were even collected by diplomatic cars, put in the boot and hidden from sight until the cars reached the safety of Gibraltar. Today, there is a museum in Sort in Catalan, at the old prison where many escapees were held, to commemorate the end of “Chemin de la Liberté”. At Saint-Girons in France, another museum features the start of one of the freedom trails. We obtained supplies and contacted the resistance in Saint-Girons. The town eventually became the starting point for hundreds of airmen, soldiers, Jews and gypsies fleeing occupied France.


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The Germans had not yet arrived in this region,but this was no time to waiste, as officials from the Vichy Government were everywhere. Eventually the Gestapo would set up its headquarters near the railway station. There were many informers and people willing to betray the resistance and support the Vichy regime. We met up with our guide and started the perilous journey in the early hours. We were joined by other families, some Jews, some Dutch, as well as airman from the British Expeditionary Force who had crashed or parachuted to safety after being shot down in Northern France. We walked at night to avoid detention. Fortunately, with clear skies, the moon was visible and provided us with light. From Saint-Girons, we crossed over the river Salat towards Mont Valier in the far distance. We followed the Gorges de Ribaouto passing Lacourt and Alos village. We climbed steadily to some 1000 metres to Col de Plantach, and then descended.The walking pace slowed down considerably. We reached Aunac at 700 metres and then through the Esbinté Valley and the wooded trails of Cole de la Core at some 1400 metres.We were now at the foot of Mont Valier.The mountain roads and tracks had long disappeared,leaving us with just sheep and goat trails. It was cold. Our coats were just adequate,but what would it be like on extremely high terrains,beyond the tree line in the snowbelt? We feared what was ahead of us.Would we be discovered and shot, or would we freeze to death and remain in some mountain ridge forever? We were passed from one guide to another.They were shepherds and knew these mountains well. We were not allowed to speak, nor sneeze or cough, in order to not attract attention. It was now in the middle of the night.It was bitterly cold.There were twenty of us in the group, including two small babies,four young children and two elderly men.This was no place for babies,or young children. 60

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We managed to change clothes,eat and rest until dawn.The temperature continued dropping at night.After a few hours of rest, we were told to move.This area offered a reduced risk of being discovered during daytime.We walked higher and higher,until we were above the tree line.Only sheep and goats grazed here.Some of the children cried,but their mothers consoled them quickly. Most of the group was ill equipped and totally unprepared.Many had just a backpack and a walking stick.On the journey we had bread,sugar and meat,but water was a problem,despite an abundance of snow nearby. Most of the group showed exceptional mental resilience and determination to flee. We reached the snow line exhausted. Each deep step took much longer.This was indeed a test of endurance which demanded mental and physical discipline and determination.The snow,even in mid-summer covered our lower bodies but we finally managed to reach the mountain pass known as Col de Craberous at around 2400 metres.Next came the steep descent to Cabane des Espuges.This was extremely dangerous.The terrain was full of rolling rocks and stones,coupled with icy winds battling against our faces.There were no clear paths and we had to scramble across huge rocks and boulders in the dark.The moon did assist since it shone on patches of ice which we avoided. We walked slowly along the sheep trails and passed three mountain lakes called Étang de Milouga,Étang de Arauech,Étang de Cruzous all at over 2000 metres.We had now arrived on the eastern slopes of Mont Valier.After climbing up to Col de Pecouch at somewhere near 2500 metres,tired, exhausted, fatigued and confused due to lack of oxygen.We continued walking step by step, in a daze,but still managed to negotiate gigantic granite boulders and huge rock formations.A geologist’s dream, but not for the exhausted faint-hearted. We followed the trail towards Mont Valier and rested at Refuge les Estagnous,exhausted, hungry and delirious.We were fortunate that this was summer.Traveling through these mountains would be impossible 61

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in mid-winter.The group was resilient despite some frostbites,foot sores, hunger,snow,ice and hypothermia.During the following war years, thousands died on this perilous journey. At dawn,an aircraft noise was heard.The guides told us to huddle together and not move.This was a surveillance plane looking for groups of escapees on the mountains.The plane flew some distance away, but the guides warned us that it could return at any time.I thought, if we were caught at a later stage,then all our efforts would be in vain and futile. We arrived at a snowy mountain pass called Pale de la Clauère at roughly 2500 metres.The snow was deep in some places with ice on the trail.People would slip often.Even on top of the ridges,the children had to be quiet in case their cries could be carried through long distances and echo through the valleys.We pushed on, tired, exhausted, marching through snow, steep ravines, streams and gullies, up and down valleys and across woodlands.The mountain mist assisted us. We walked nearer to the Spanish border,slowly, one behind the other in an orderly single file and descended steeply through snow and ice,eventually reaching La de Clauère. The guides were magnificent.They risked their lives to help others. Most spoke French, Catalan or Spanish.The moon at night was our compass.It enabled the guides to work out our position and vantage point, by just looking at the moon.We rested in small abandoned chalets and isolated sheep sheds.These made perfect resting places for a few hours of sleep.Unfortunately,an elderly man in the group died on the first night.He had to be buried.The burial delayed us for a dayThere was a quick service for the departed, but we had to continue.In later years, many others would die also from exposure,frostbite, exhaustion and a variety of illnesses. In the distance we could see down the valley to the river Palleresa. The descent was precarious and difficult.We proceeded with extreme 62

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care until we reached treelines and streams and green valleys.Surely, no aircraft could spot us now. We passed several small farms and could see even some power lines. We knew now that we had reached Spain,but the peril was not over.Relief yes,as in Spain we were free from occupied France.The enemy now was Franco’s Guardia Civil and groups who sympathised with Hitler.If caught,the escapees would either be imprisoned, or taken straight to a concentration camp.With all the stops and delays, the journey over the Pyrénées had taken nearly a week,but I lost count of the days. We passed Alos d’Isil, a small village and arrived in Esterri d’Aneu, deep down in the valley. All of us thanked our guides and gave them some money, although it was not enough to show our true appreciation for saving our lives. We told them that we were eternally grateful and would remember them in our prayers. To avoid suspicion, we separated into small groups, couples and individuals. We wished the others well, as we had become good friends over the mountains, despite hardly being able to speak on the journey. Erik and I with one other person accepted a lift from a local priest to Balaguer and Lleida. He knew where we had come from. Nothing was said in the car, but a little prayer to thank God for our health and safety. He gave us some money for the journey ahead and said, “God be with you.” We caught a bus to Barcelona from Lleida.Spain had changed in the last four years. We had left here in the summer of 1936.It was now the summer of 1940. Many Republicans and leading scientists had fled during the civil war and tribunals were established to try those who remained. Thousands were executed and many more imprisoned. General Franco was now the supreme authoritarian Nationalist leader. Catholicism became the only religion as he reversed the secular process. Spanish became the only language as others were outlawed. 63

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Trade Unions were abolished, and he created a huge network of secret police to report on citizens. His kind of introverted nationalism was dangerous. There are many forms of nationalism. There were those prominent in an imperial age in Europe when some countries invaded, colonized, dominated, exploited and controlled smaller and weaker nations. These activities lead to empire building and is mostly expressed in right wing extremism as seen in Nazi Germany, Fascist Spain and left wing authoritarian regimes as in the Soviet Union. Empires of Britain, France, Belgium, Ottoman, Austro-Hungary and historical Portugal and Spain are further examples. There are other type of nationalism as well, those which have no ambition of international expansion. These are all about self-determination, recognition of social equality, justice and respect for cultural and linguistic heritage. For example, the Baltic, the Balkan and Celtic nations are examples of such nationalism, along with the Basques and Catalonia. Madrid fell on the 28th March 1939,when the Republican forces surrendered. On the 1st April 1939, Franco declared full victory on all Spain and continued his dictatorship and Nationalist regime until his death in 1975.During World War Two, he sympathised with Hitler and Mussolini, stayed neutral, but agreed to send thousands of troops to fight along the Germans on the Soviet front. As well, he allowed German submarines to use Spanish ports.

On his deathbed in 1975 he appointed the grandson of King Alfonso XIII, Prince Juan Carlos, to succeed him as king. The first task of the new king was the recognition of different political parties. After the elections held in 1977,Spain become a democratic nation. Spain was now poor in 1940. Houses, buildings and shops had been destroyed during the civil war. The towns and villages we passed on the bus all showed the relics of war. There were unaccompanied children in rags. Horses and mules were used to carry household effects and


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garden produce. There were only a few vehicles in this war-torn and poverty-stricken land. People looked dazed and wondered aimlessly. The elderly sat on benches, reminiscing about the old days.The Catalans and Spanish had witnessed appalling acts of terror during the civil war. Their faces reflected this.The conflict had left a deep mark on the people. It would take many years to recover. Only in January 1939 after the fall of Barcelona, a vast exodus of Republican refugees walked northwards across the Pyrenees to France. The numbers were of biblical proportions, estimated to be half a million, consisting of wounded soldiers, women and children. Arriving in the Toulouse area some 30 internment camps (called ‘Centres d’accueil’) were created to house the refugees. Many were starving, cold and destitute and had barely survived crossing the mountains in winter.The soldiers,many amputees, were destitute, suffering from fatigue after a grueling war with the Spanish Nationalists. The French mistrusted these alleged ‘communists’. They were resented, treated with hostility and were given but limited rations. After the commencement of World War II on the 1st September 1939,many returned to Spain.Those remaining found employment in local factories and farms, as Frenchmen were called up to join the French Army. When France fell to the Germans,they ordered hundreds of Spanish Republicans to forced labour camps in Germany in August 1940. Two years later in 1942, an estimated 150,000 Spanish refugees in the Pyrenees lowlands were forced to work for the Vichy Government and some 8,000 were deported to Mauthausen labour camp in Austria.


We kept the Telemark Code well hidden in a secret place, in case our flat was searched. We also had worked out several hiding options for taking the tiny sealed envelope with us, in case we had to leave in a hurry. Following the German invasion of Norway, the Allies were concerned that the Germans could use the Telemark plant to produce heavy water. Rolf Pedersen, a Norwegian physics professor was persuaded to join the Norwegian Resistance movement led by Knut Straud. Pedersen and Straud were smuggled to England, to have the plans and codes microfilmed. The Allies were determined to destroy the Telemark plant and launched a series of sabotage raids between 1940 and 1944. These operations were named Grouse, Freshman and Gunnerside. Operation Grouse in October 1942, organised by the British Special Operations Executive, placed four Norwegians, including Dr. Rolf Pedersen and Straud as part of an advance party in the region of Hardanger Plateau near the plant. The following month Operation Freshman, which consisted of British paratroopers, was launched. The plan was to meet up with the Norwegian Resistance. The tug gliders carrying the paratroopers fell short of the landing strip and crashed. Apart from the crew of one Halifax bomber, all those involved were killed in the crashes, or captured, interrogated, and summarily shot by the Gestapo. TELEMARK,the target of Operation Grouse (1942)Operation Freshman (1942)Operation Gunnerside (1943). Ronneberg was born in 66

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1919 in Aalesund. He had fled Norway after the invasion in 1940. As a 21-year-old, he had escaped with eight friends on a boat to Scotland but wanted to return. He was determined to fight for his country. Ronneberg chose a team of five commandoes for the Allied operation.

The raid succeeded in destroying the production facility. The Allies followed up with heavy bombing raids. TELEMARK, the target of Operation Grouse (1942) Operation Freshman (1942) Operation Gunnerside (1943) 67

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The raid on the plant was later recognised as the most successful act of sabotage in all of World War Two. Ronneberg was recognised as the man who stopped Hitler’s A-bomb. The Germans repaired parts of the production plant, but eventually ceased operations and started moving the remaining equipment from from Telemark to Germany. During the move, Norwegian Resistance fighters were able to intercept and sink the heavy water laden ferry SF Hydro on Lake Tinn in Norway. It was carrying 600 kg of heavy water. At a later day, divers accounted for 18 barrels at the lake bottom.


̈ 1943 was a hectic year for Adolf Hitler. In mid-January, the Soviets broke the Wehrmacht’s siege of Leningrad. At the end of January, the first US involvement took place. Fifty American bombers attacked Wilhelmshaven. In February, the German 6th Army surrendered to the Soviets in the Battle of Stalingrad. The same month saw the Battle of Kasserine Pass in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia. On the 16th of February, the Soviets recaptured Kharkov, but lost the third battle. On the 18th February, members of the White Rose movement were arrested. They were a group of students led by a professor from Munich University, who believed in non-violence and opposed the Nazi regime. They painted graffiti on businesses, dropped leaflets in the streets and distributed them to the public. Four days later they were executed by guillotine. On the 19th April, the Warsaw Ghetto uprising took place. On the 28th of February 1943, Hitler sat in his private quarters listening to Wagner, his favourite composer, on his gramophone. He adored several composers including Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Liszt, and Rachmaninoff and Jewish soloists, Polish born violinist Bronislaw Huberman and Austrian pianist Artur Schnabel. He stood up and looked at his wall map, showing the lands occupied by his army. He was interrupted. “We have news from Norway Führer,” said his assistant. “What is it?” he asked. “This is bad. The heavy water plant is destroyed,” said the officer.


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“That’s impossible!” responded the Führer. The Führer was outraged and furious. This development ruined his long-term plans. The German nuclear program, known as the Uranium Society, was led by prominent scientists in Germany. Its goal was to develop nuclear weapons during World War Two. The first breakthrough occurred in April 1939, when nuclear fission was discovered. However, research was halted just before the invasion of Poland. A short time later, leading scientists were drafted into the Wehrmacht. A three-pronged work programme resumed in September 1939, consisting of: 1) nuclear reactor construction; 2) uranium and heavy water production; and 3) isotope separation. The work was divided among several institutes throughout Germany, with the involvement of many scientists. As the war continued, the number of scientists were reduced. Most Jewish scientists were prohibited to do any of the work. “Get me the blueprints of the Telemark project immediately. We will build another one, a much greater one here in Germany!” said the Führer. “We have copies of the plant design on microfilm,” said the Major. “Good! Then there is no problem. We shall rebuild at once!” affirmed Hitler.

“There is one serious problem. We have no Telemark Code,” said the Major. “Why do we need it?” said the infuriated Führer. “The Vermork Hydroelectric Plant at Telemark uses heavy water. Heavy water is separated from ordinary water by a process called electrolysis. The difference in mass between the two hydrogen isotopes translates in the speed at which the reaction takes place,” explained the Major.


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“Don’t get technical with me, Major. Why can’t we proceed?” the Führer demanded to know. “We need the Telemark Code for electrolysis. This is a fundamental requirement. Any plant cannot function without the basic Code,” replied the Major. “Get it at once!” hissed the Führer. “Our code burned in the fire when the plant was destroyed. Another one was given to the French before we conquered Norway. It is believed to be with a Jewish scientist called Professor Aaron Melhausen at the “École Libre Science in Paris,” said the shaken officer. “Schweinehund!” growled the Führer. “Are there other copies anywhere else?” asked the impatient Hitler. “We don’t know for certain, but our intelligence indicates that other copies likely exist in England,” replied the Major. “Where is this Melhausen now?” the Führer demanded to know. “He was arrested and interrogated but has since died,” answered the officer. “Such fools! Have his place searched now!” ordered the Führer.

“I have already sent a telegram to our units in Paris to search for the Telemark Code,” responded the exasperated Major. “Good. Report to me at once when it’s found!” barked Hitler. “Jawohl mein Führer,” said the officer while saluting. SS officers arrived at Melhausen’s flat and at the institution where he worked. Dozens searched the premises, but nothing could be found. They were ordered to look again for a second time, but again to no avail. The lack of news further infuriated the Führer. He threatened that 71

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there would be serious repercussions if the Telemark Code could not be found. One of the leaders of the SS in occupied Paris was a Sturmbannführer (Major) Fritz Meyer.His mother was German;his father Dutch and had been raised in a small Dutch town near the border with Germany.He left school at an early age. Despite being an excellent artist, he had been refused entry into art schools throughout Germany, suffering the same fate as Hitler. He also blamed the Jews for his failure. SS Major Fritz Meyer had joined the Nationalist Socialist party while a teenager in Munich. He was a close friend of Adolf Hitler. Hitler had rewarded him with several promotions for his loyalty and dedication. SS Major Fritz Meyer was considered fierce, with no emotion, or compassion. He worked strictly to orders. He would not tolerate any disobedience. Anybody who crossed him would be severely punished. In short, he was vicious. Three days after the first visit,Meyer acting alone in civilian clothing, returned to Melhausen’s apartment. There, seated on the stairs was a man in his forties,obviously in some distress. “What’s the matter?” enquired SS Major Fritz Meyer. “They have taken my family. Why? I don’t know. We are not Jewish. We are Algerian. The Germans are interrogating everybody who are not Parisiens,” he responded. “Did you know a man named Melhausen?” asked Meyer. “Yes, I was his driver for years, but he is gone,” said the man. “Maybe I can help you to have your family released,but I need you to help me first with information. Is it a deal?” said Meyer. “Yes, of course, anything to have my family released,” replied Melhausen’s driver. 72

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The driver gave a detailed account of Melhausen’s last visitors before the invasion. He talked about the journey to Nantes and his belief that they were heading for the Pyrenees to return to Spain. He recalled Melhausen saying something to Professor Von Essen about taking care of the envelope but had no further details. SS Major Fritz Meyer was convinced that this envelope contained the Telemark Code.This information was conveyed to the Führer immediately. Meyer was ordered to track down and arrest Von Essen and his wife and to retrieve the Telemark Code at any cost. This mission was designated as a matter of national security and priority.The following day, the driver’s family was released from custody. The driver was executed on Meyer’s orders.

SS Major Fritz Meyer ordered immediately a full profile on Von Essen and his wife, from Berlin. The report arrived by special courier the next day. Meyer opened the envelope to discover that Von Essen had worked with Melhausen in Berlin on various German military projects, including Telemark. He also found out that he had worked in other countries before the war, such as in Paris, France, in Rome, Italy, and in Oxford, England. No doubt he would have had security clearance in those countries and therefore access to military developments and other secretive work for the French, the Italians and the British. Von Essen’s heritage was Jewish, but he was now Catholic and a Baron. This was a scientist that had to be found in order to rectify Germany’s Atomic Project. Melhausen must have given the Telemark Code to Von Essen in Paris before the invasion, thought Meyer. Even if he had not, Von Essen would have remembered from memory the layout and the infrastructure of the plant and the Telemark Codes for electrolysis as well. He was probably responsible for formulating the Telemark Code in the first place. He must be found. He continued to study the report. On the second page, he was shocked to discover details about Von Essen’s wife. “Believed to have 73

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married to a Language Translator called Helga Van Diem, born in Sittard, October 13, 1913 Province of Limburg, The Netherlands. Educated in Germany. Left Spain for Liège but returned to Spain in 1940. Wanted by Spanish Authorities.” The report concluded with a sentence that read: “Von Essen and his wife are suspected to be in,or around Barcelona.

Meyer gazed out the window. His childhood friend Helga was now married to this prominent scientist. She, a Baroness, and her husband possessed the Telemark Code that held Germany’s future.Major Fritz Meyer ordered the detention of Helga’s family and friends in Sittard. People he knew very well. He also ordered a military plane. Four SS officers and Meyer left Paris for Barcelona that afternoon. He was now in pursuit of the couple holding a secret of supreme importance to Germany.


Barcelona: Photo by Logan Armstrong on Unsplash Our flat was not worthy of notice and we hoped that no one would take notice of us either. The street was usually quiet. We had neighbours, but everyone kept to themselves. The shopkeeper around the corner was curious, since we both had German accents, but we tried to disguise this whenever we were in public. Erik spoke with a passable posh Oxford accent, thanks to the fact that he spent a considerable amount of time there. I could speak Catalan and tried to be as local as possible.


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We believed that there was surveillance but refused to let this fact influence our daily lives. What especially concerned us was what list the Germans may have passed to Franco’s Guardia Civil and to the Spanish Authorities. Was there a list of prominent Jews believed to be living in Spain? Although Erik’s family were loyal Catholics for centuries, his pedigree would still be classified as Jewish. A renowned scientist, along with a family background of conversion from Judaism to Christianity, would surely be listed and thus a target for the authorities. Was Hitler in cahoots with Franco? Would the Spanish cooperate with the Germans? We kept the sealed tiny envelope containing the microfilm of the Telemark Code safely hidden, sown on the inside of my black cape. We had considered destroying it, but Erik was keen to preserve it. It contained the results of years of research and could be used for peaceful purposes. To not arouse any suspicion,I worked as a barmaid in a local tavern.It didn’t pay a lot.Erik researched at a nearby library and cleaned dishes at a local restaurant.We managed to pay the bills on time.Occasionally we went on for long walks around the city. SS Major Fritz Meyer and his four officers in civilian clothes, landed at a military field just outside Barcelona. The Spanish military who checked their papers allowed them quick entry. The Spaniards had been given advanced warning of their arrival. They were escorted immediately to Barcelona’s Military Police Headquarters. “Guten Tag. Ich bin SS Sturmbannführer Fritz Meyer vom Dritten Reich Deutschland. Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” asked Meyer. (Good day. I am SS Major Fritz Meyer of the Third Reich of Germany. Do you speak German?”) “Ich spreche kaum Deutsch. Nosotros hablamos español aqui. Hablas español?”


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(“I don’t speak much German. We speak Spanish here. Do you speak Spanish?”) the Colonel responded. “No, I do not. Can you speak English?” asked Major Meyer. “I spent some time in Gibraltar and I learnt the language. What is your business?” asked the Spanish Colonel. “The Allies, led by Norwegian commandoes, have destroyed the Telemark production facility in Norway. The Führer has ordered it to be rebuilt,” said the Major. “What has this to do with us in Barcelona? Norway is many thousand kilometres away,” replied the Colonel. “One of the scientists who designed the plant is Baron Frederick Kurt von Essen. He is believed to be in the Barcelona area with his wife, a Helga Van Diem. He is German of Jewish descent and she is Dutch. They both escaped from Liège before we invaded Belgium. They have stolen the Telemark Code for electrolysis from a Paris institution. This is now German property. These people must be arrested and executed for high treason. We also seek the return of the Telemark Code at once, as ordered by Herr Hitler,” responded SS Major. “If this Code was located in Paris, it belongs to France,” said the Colonel. “I perhaps have not made myself clear,” said the irritated visitor. “France now is under German control. Everything, including all papers, research and studies are the property of the Third Reich. Do you not understand me?” asked the now angry Meyer. “This is Spain. You have no authority here. The Code, if it exists, belongs to Spain. Get out, you arrogant fool!” responded the Spanish Colonel.


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‘What is your full name Colonel? I will report this and you to the Führer,” said SS Major. “What is your Führer’s name?” asked the Colonel with a sly smile. He turned and retreated with his officers, slamming the door behind them. A few minutes later,Meyer returned. “Do you know where they live?” he asked. “I have no idea. Now get out and don’t come back!” grunted the Colonel. Major Meyer left again, in a huff, obviously annoyed, frustrated and very angry because of the lack of co-operation from the Spaniard. The Colonel turned to his assistant. “Conoces a este Barón y su esposa?” (“Do you know this Baron and his wife?”) “Según algunos informes, se cree que viven en Barcelona.” (“According to some reports, they are believed to be living in Barcelona.”) “En ese caso, hago que la politico local los entreviste sobre el código de Telemark. Ni una palabra a nuestros ‘amigos’ Alamanes.” (“In that case, have the local police interview them about the Telemark Code. Not a word to our so-called German ‘friends’,”) “Si Colonel!” responded the assistant, as he saluted, turned, and retreated.


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Barcelona. Photo by Afons Taekema on Unsplash 79

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Hidden Streets,Barcelona.Photo by Collins Lesulie on Unsplash. 80

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The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), commonly known as MI6 (Military Intelligence, Section 6), is the foreign intelligence service of the Government of the United Kingdom. Before the outbreak of war, MI6 had a cordial relationship with the Nazis. It assisted the Gestapo, the Nazi Secret Police, with the exchange of information about known communists and sympathisers. Even some members of the Royal Family, such as the Duke of Edinburgh, had siblings who had married prominent members of the Nazi party. His mother, Princess Alice of Greece,who dressed as a nun,and as a compassionate humanist, had sheltered the Cohens,a Jewish family during the war in Athens, despite several of her daughters marrying Nazis. Prince Phillip, as a 16-yearold,who had a lonely and difficult childhood attended a funeral in 1937 behind a swastika draped coffin of his sister Cecilie, her husband, her two young sons, and her newborn infant. They were tragically killed in an aircraft crash in Ostend. The Queen’s great uncle, King Edward VIII, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry Wallis Simpson. He was faced with accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser.He and his wife met with Hitler in 1937, as Duke and Duchess of Windsor,in an effort to improve Anglo-German relations and to avoid war. The SIS had several sections. Section 5 was responsible for foreign counterespionage. It would collate reports from overseas stations. Section 7 was responsible for trade, industry, and drug trafficking. Section 8 handled communication with agents overseas. Section N examined diplomatic bags, and section D conducted political covert operations and direct paramilitary actions overseas. SIS was expanded during the early years of the war.Churchill 82

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ordered the formation of the Special Operations Executive (or SOE) in July 1940. SOE Headquarters was located at 64 Baker Street.This organisation’s purpose was to conduct espionage, sabotage, and reconnaissance in occupied Europe. It would assist Resistance movements throughout Europe. It was “Churchill’s Secret Army”, but only a few knew of its existence. There was considerable tension between SOE and SIS. The latter preferred a soft approach to obtaining information, through formal channels, while the SOE was far more robust and took direct action to gather intelligence by any means. SO1 dealt with propaganda. SO2 was responsible for operations and SO3 oversaw research. The organisation was dissolved in January 1944. A memorial to the brave agents of SOE who performed daring spy operations on the mainland, was unveiled in October 2009, on the Albert Embankment by Lambeth Palace,London. The operations of the SOE intensified during World War Two. Not only did it sabotage and subvert the enemy’s war machine but was also involved in direct military objectives. In Operation Harling, it cut off supply lines to enemy troops in North Africa. Other objectives of the organisation included fueling hatred between the occupied population and the occupiers, forcing the enemy to expand its manpower and limiting their resources. Major Tommy Lee, Head of Operations, sat next to his desk on a cold March morning in 1942, reading out loud the intelligence report from Norway. His assistant listened carefully to his every word. “The Telemark plant has been destroyed. Operation Gunnerside has been successfully carried out by Norwegian commandos. We understand that Hitler is furious and is determined to rebuild. The French have the Telemark Code in Paris. The Germans will be searching for this.” “Get me agent Foxtrot at once!” said the Major to his assistant. Within an hour, secret agent Foxtrot appeared before the Major. 83

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Foxtrot was a strong, sturdy man with hard features. He showed no emotion. Obviously highly trained and motivated. “We have an urgent matter of national importance which could determine the outcome of the war, Foxtrot,” said the Major. “Norwegian commandos, with our help, have destroyed the Telemark Atomic Plant, which Hitler was using to develop an atom bomb. He is determined to build another plant. We have a microfilm of the Telemark Code for electrolysis. No new plant can function without the Telemark Code. We believe that another copy of the Telemark Code is in a scientific research facility in Paris, in the possession of a professor. Your mission is to obtain that Telemark Code to ensure that it does not fall into enemy hands. The Germans will be desperate to find it. They will leave no stone unturned. You must succeed! You will be met by our agents in Paris.They have the support of the French Resistance.You will join up with Squadron 161 at RAF Tempsford. Your plane, a Westland Lysander, leaves tonight for a field, some fifty miles west of Paris. Your equipment, armoury, pseudo name and false papers are all downstairs. The Resistance will have the B2 radio. This will be a top-secret undercover operation. If you are caught, you must follow the operations code. Is this clear?” “Yes sir,” replied Foxtrot. “Cheerio and good luck Agent Foxtrot,” said the Major.

Most agents in occupied territories were transported there by the Westland Lysander MK III (SD). These were versatile aeroplanes, used for numerous special missions. Submarines were also employed to take agents near coastlines occupied by the enemy. The Welman was a oneman miniature submarine. It could place explosive charges onto enemy ships at anchor, without any noise. Initial trials took place at Queen Mary Reservoir at Staines. The production of the midget submarine was contracted to Morris Motors at Cowley in Oxford. Final sea trials


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of these were completed successfully at Goodwick, near Fishguard in West Wales in 1943. Most communication was based on a B MK II receiver and transmitter, commonly known as the B2 radio. All Resistance circuits included one wireless operator. The controlled communications went through radio stations at Bletchley House, Buckinghamshire, North London. Starting in 1942, the underground station at Grendon and Poundon were used. BBC radio was also a conduit for coded messages for agents. Agents were equipped with various weapons. Some used suppressed assassination weapons such as the De Lisle and Weirod (developed for SOE at Station IX). The Sten machine gun was also part of an agent’s arsenal. For sabotage operations, limpet mines, time pencils and plastic explosives were used regularly.

Most SIS operations were successful, some in part, but several had failed. In 1939, Operation Venlo, named after a Dutch Town, failed as SIS agents were tricked by agents of the German Army. Called the Abwehr, they were counterespionage specialists of the Reich’s Sicherheitsdienst (SD). They pretended to be high ranking officials, involved in the assassination plot to kill Adolf Hitler. The SIS agents met the alleged traitors, who were ready to arrest the SIS agents, but had to abort because of the presence of Dutch Police. In the following meeting no police were present. The two SIS Agents were captured by the SS. Agent Foxtrot arrived at RAF Tempsford. He was greeted by the pilot and briefed on the mission. Within the hour they were airborne, flying above the calm night skies of a March evening in Sussex. The English Channel was quiet and calm. With lights turned off to avoid detection, the plane cautiously descended towards the French coast. “We are over the French coast,” announced the pilot.


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“In another half hour we’ll make our rendezvous. Prepare yourself. When we land, you’ll have just 3 minutes before I turn the plane around and head back to England,” he continued. “Roger and understood,” replied Foxtrot. The plan was that once the Lysander reached destination, an agent from the French Resistance on the ground would signal by flashing a pre-arranged Morse Code letter. The Lysander would respond with another Morse code letter. The Resistance would then mark the field with three landing lights. These were torches placed on wooden poles. Lamp ‘A’ was the landing ground base. Lamp ‘B’ was positioned some 150 meters away. Lamp ‘C’ was located approximately 50 meters to the right of ‘B’. The lamps formed an L shaped landing area. If the pilot was satisfied with the codes, he would land and taxi to lamp ‘A’. With the engine running, the passenger would disembark with gear and luggage. The pilot would turn the plane around and take off immediately. “Codes received and sent. Lights seen. We are about fifty miles west of Paris. Get ready to land,” said the pilot. The plane descended on a makeshift airstrip, surrounded by mature trees on both sides. The pilot slowed the aircraft after a bumpy landing. “That’s it, cheerio Foxtrot! Disembark! Good luck old boy!” said the pilot. Foxtrot climbed down with his equipment and headed for the nearby trees. The aeroplane turned around, quickly accelerated and rolled down the runway. Within a minute it was airborne and disappeared into the black night sky. Foxtrot rested near the tree line. He could see members of the Resistance switching off the torches and collecting the poles. Within five minutes the whole area became completely dark and quiet. Only the occasional owl and crow could be heard through the forest. 86

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“Bonsoir monsieur, ca va?” came a voice from the dark. “D’accord, et vous,” responded Foxtrot. “Parlez-vous français?” the voice continued. “Un peu,” replied Foxtrot. “You English, all the same. You expect the world to speak your language. You must learn other languages. Unless we stop the Germans, we all speak German soon, including you Englishman,” said the Frenchman. “Bienvenue en France. My name is Pierre,” Pierre continued. “Agent Foxtrot,” responded the Englishman. “Je sais,” Pierre said. “Follow me. The Germans hear the plane, and they search through these woods soon,” Pierre gestured and added in a lowered voice. “Let’s go,” said Foxtrot. Foxtrot walked behind Pierre and two others who were members of the French Resistance. It was very dark. They followed an animal track through the woods. “I hear a camion. They look for us. Quickly Monsieur, we hide in ditch flat faced,” said Pierre. The lorry was coming closer. Search lights hovered about their heads. They could hear a voice from the loudspeaker in a thick German accent. “Englander, give yourself up. We know you are here.” They remained in the ditch for close to an hour, until everything was quiet, except for a few ravens and crows croaking. The four of them moved on in total darkness, all the way to the edge of the woods. They 87

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left the Forêt de Rambouillet and reached the village of Montfort L’Amaury. The place was quiet. No soldiers were visible anywhere. “We stay in a safe house until morning. Then, you go to Paris,” said Pierre as he quietly unlocked the door to a small house on Rue de Dion. Foxtrot, now very tired, stretched his legs and fell onto a couch. “We talk while other two look out for soldiers,” said Pierre. “What do you want to talk about?” enquired Foxtrot. “Your mission. We know you are in France to get Telemark Code of Norway Atomic Plant,” said Pierre. “How did you know?” replied a surprised Foxtrot. “We have informer inside SOE, and we know all your operations,” said Pierre. “Then we are all on the same side,” said Foxtrot. “Oui but note one thing. If we know about your operations, Germans will too,” responded Pierre. “So, there is a double agent inside the SOE?” asked Foxtrot. “A double agent working for British and Free French, Germans aussi,” explained Pierre.

“A triple agent? That would be impossible. That person would never pass security,” said the startled Foxtrot. “Anything possible in war, Monsieur. Now sleep and we brief le matin,” said Pierre. Discussion over, Foxtrot fell into a well-earned sleep. The next morning Pierre awoke when “Le facteur” knocked on the front door. He answered. It was only a letter from the Mayor’s office to


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the occupier. A few vehicles passed the property, but no one suspected that this little maison was being used by the Resistance. “Time to wake Monsieur. Washbasin and bucket in back room for you,” said Pierre. Foxtrot returned, expecting more surprises. He wondered how the French knew about his mission. Was Pierre telling the truth about the triple agent? Was Pierre trustworthy, or was he himself an agent provocateur? “You will go now to Paris. Van will be full of pigs. It collect us around ten o’clock. You probably know the French got Telemark Code before Germans invade Norway. It was given to École Libre Science in Paris. We searched this place, Germans search too. The Directeur of the Libre was Aaron Melhausen, a Jewish scientist. We think he had Code, or that he hide it. We searched his apartment too. Not any documents. He disappear when Nazis come to Paris in 1940. Probablement executed. Most Jewish scientist either executed or take to Auschwitz in Poland. Melhausen driver, he too was executed by the SS. We traced driver family. His wife tell us her husband helped a couple escape Paris, before Germans come. The name of man Kurt Von Essen. He scientist worked with Melhausen in Berlin. We know too Von Essen work in Liège before Germans invade Belgium. He before work in Madrid,” said Pierre. “Where are they now?” asked Foxtrot. “We do not know. Maybe they escape. Probablement to Spain. Less danger there but we find that Von Essen is wanted by Franco police,” replied Pierre. “Do they have the Code?” asked Foxtrot. “We think oui. Melhausen know the invasion and he know danger on him. Jewish scientist, he trust former colleague. Von Essens probablement last people see Melhausen alive,” said Pierre. 89

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“Why are you telling me all this Pierre?” asked Foxtrot. “Telemark Code belongs to France, n’est-ce-pas?” said Pierre. “But France is now occupied, and the Vichy Government supports Hitler,” replied Foxtrot. “Yes, but after war we must have it. Will you return Code to France?” responded Pierre. “Look,” said Foxtrot, “the Germans, the British, the French, the Americans, and if they are in Spain, Franco will all want this. I cannot speak for my government. What is important is that it does not fall into German hands. Agreed?” “Oui Monsieur. If they are in Spain, we need your assistance mon ami,” replied Pierre. “The van is here. Time to go,” said Foxtrot. “We take backroads to Paris, to not see checkpoints,” said Pierre. “Get me to Melhausen’s flat,” said Foxtrot. Foxtrot and Pierre arrived at the flat. It looked bare, dark, damp, abandoned, with stacks of unopened mail on the floor. The place had not been lived in for some time. There was a desk, stacked with papers, drawers, and their contents all over the floor. Books and notes were scattered everywhere. A real mess thought Foxtrot. He looked around for any clues. There were none. “SS certainement searched all,” said Pierre. “They indeed have so,” agreed Foxtrot. Foxtrot looked behind a worn-out sofa in a corner. A book on a shelf above it caught his eye. He reached for it. It was titled “Torah”. The book was written in Hebrew, widely known as the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses. It forms the basis of Jewish law and tradition. It is 90

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dedicated to Moses and considered as being the original revelation from God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Foxtrot thought that Melhausen must have treasured this book. He fingered the pages. Suddenly a note dropped to the floor. It read: “Thank your driver. Reached St. Girons. Proceeding over. Merchandise safe. Freedom in sight. Kind regards.” This must be from them. They must have crossed the Pyrenees and reached the next city. They must be in Barcelona, thought Foxtrot. He turned to Pierre. “Please inform London, that I am on my way to Barcelona,” he said. The next moment Foxtrot disappeared onto the streets of Paris.


It was springtime in Barcelona. People emerged from their homes and went for long strolls along the winding esplanades, late into the evenings. The smell of spring was in the air, the skies were light blue, and the sun warmed the hearts and souls of Spaniards. The swallows had returned from their winter nesting retreats in North Africa, and the flowering buds appeared in all shapes and sizes. We enjoyed the spring in Barcelona.Spring turned into summer and the long summer nights in June were glorious despite the rest of Europe being at war and in turmoil. Erik and I were relaxing in our apartment. I had just finished reading Marca, the Spanish paper. It described the recent game between Barcelona and Real Madrid, two great rivals in the La Liga, the Spanish top football division. Real Madrid had thrashed Barcelona 11-1 in a Cup game. Erik had just finished eating some toast when two officers from Franco’s police knocked on our front door and asked to enter our apartment. They had no warrant but entered just the same. They asked us how we had escaped from France, and whether we had visited Professor Aaron Melhausen in Paris? More importantly, they demanded and kept questioning Erik about the Telemark Atomic project in Norway? We were prepared for this type of questioning and managed to be evasive with our answers. The two officers became more and more aggressive as we refused to cooperate. We did not want to put


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Melhausen in any danger, although we thought that he may have already been arrested and deported. The Nazis knew about my husband’s work. He had several military patents. We wondered if the Spanish had been tipped off by the Germans, or if the Professor had been interrogated, tortured, and forced to disclose our identity and whereabouts. We were not sure of anything, but everything was possible. The officers abruptly left the apartment, empty handed and without any information from us.We now feared that our lives were in danger from Franco’s police and presumably the Nazis. My husband was very frail. The plight over the Pyrenees and then this most recent encounter had taken their toll. I telephoned my friend, the US Naval Attaché in Madrid. “Hello Gene, how are you?” I asked. “Gee honey, it’s great to hear from you. Where are you?” he responded. “In case the line is tapped, I cannot say, but I need you to get us out of Spain and to the US, as soon as possible. Our lives are in danger. We have some information which your government would be interested in,” I explained, “Can you get us some papers quickly?” “You sound desperate. I’ll see what I can do,” responded Gene. The next morning our telephone rang. I answered. “I am a friend of Gene. You spoke to him last night. I am afraid I have some bad news. He was involved in a car accident and was killed outside Zaragosa. Somebody must have tampered with the brakes of his automobile and as a result, he failed to negotiate a corner. His vehicle veered off the road and rolled down an embankment. I am very sorry.” With that, he hung up. I was distraught. Our only chance of escape had now vanished. Questions were racing through my mind. What had happened to Gene? Was he murdered? Had Franco’s police or the Germans infiltrated the 93

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US Embassy, or tapped the phones? Had they heard the conversation last night? In any event, we were now targets, and in imminent danger. Fear crept all over us. We retired early that evening, discussed our situation at length, consumed several glasses of Spanish wine, and made passionate love before falling to sleep. Suddenly, around 2 a.m. we heard a lot of commotion outside. The doors of our flat burst open and three armed soldiers from the Spanish Army entered. They ordered us downstairs. We were naked, and I pleaded with one of the soldiers to let me dress. They took my husband in his dressing gown downstairs. He was huddled into an unmarked vehicle and they drove away. That was the last time I saw him. I quickly dressed in another room, collected a bag and the cape containing the sealed envelope, and fled to the balcony outside. I crossed two neighbouring balconies and entered another apartment. I apologised to the occupier who sat up in his bed, hurried through his kitchen and ran down the back stairs. I could hear the soldiers shouting in the background. I heard a shot being fired. A warning shot? A soldier tried to follow me, but I managed to reach the back street and escaped through several winding alleyways. I was familiar with Sant Andreau. I knew the neighbourhood, but not all the streets. It was still dark when I found a derelict building and managed to force open a side door. Upon entering, I blocked the door by pushing an old pram in front of it. Still breathing heavily, I collapsed on an old sofa and rested. I could hear vehicles franticly driving up and down the main road in the background. No doubt they were searching for me. Yes, I was now a fugitive. I stayed in the building for several hours, cold, frightened, and petrified, constantly thinking of what they would do to poor Erik. He was not in the best of health and could not cope with any interrogation, or worse, torture. As dawn broke, I assessed my situation. I could not return to the flat. It would be under surveillance for certain. In the eyes of the authorities, I was a now a criminal, an escapee. I left 94

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the building, walked carefully along back streets, and arrived at a house of the local Roman Catholic priest. Knocking quietly on the door, I waited. He answered. “What is it my child?” asked the priest. “Father, please let me in. The soldiers are looking everywhere for me,” I said. “Come in, warm up, and have something to eat,” said Father Prado. Father Prado had been a priest for many years. A simple, modest, compassionate man in his early fifties, he was ready to help all in need. I explained my situation. He promised to help. He agreed that it was imperative that I escape from Spain and avoid any other country which sympathised with the Nazis. “Leave it with me. Stay and rest. I will bring you clothing, food and provisions for a journey. We must act quickly. I will make arrangements for you to catch a cargo ship from Barcelona to Gibraltar, or find another way out of Spain,” the priest tried to assure me. I relaxed a bit. Father Prado returned and brought with him a bag full of clothing, some food, and a variety of provisions. He told me to get ready for a long journey. I still wore my original dress in which I escaped and my cape. It had a secret pocket where the sealed envelope with the microfilm of the Telemark Code was kept. Nothing was noticeable when looking at the cape. I checked again. The microfilm was safe. A man in his late thirties with a dark beard, dressed as a shepherd, called at the priest’s house. He spoke at length with him, but I could not understand their conversation. They spoke in a local Catalan dialect that was strange to me. I suspected he was from the Spanish Marquis, or the Catalan Resistance. Both organisations were opposed to the Germans, the Vichy Governments in France and to Franco’s regime in Spain. 95

In 1934, Lluis Companys, the President of Catalonia proclaimed the Catalonia State. He was executed by Franco’s firing squad in the Royal Palace of El Prado on the 5th February 1939. Between 1938 and 1952, a total of some 4,000 Catalonians were executed. A small group, working in tiny cells, whether anarchists, or communists, continued to wage a guerrilla war against Franco. These people were known as the Marquis from Catalonia. After the Spanish Civil War, Franco’s regime dominated everything in Catalonia. Democratic freedoms were prohibited. The Catalan culture and language were totally repressed in public, as well as in private (similarly to the Welsh language in the 19th century and the Hungarian language after World War One,in areas with significant Hungarian populations in Romania, Serbia and in the Slovak region of Czechoslovakia).The objective was to impose a single Spanish language and culture in Catalonia. Catalan was prohibited even from tombstones. The free press was abolished, together with all left-wing organisations.

Many dissidents and even professionals were jailed and disqualified from holding any public office. This was cultural genocide. Catalonia was oppressed. Spanish became the language of law, education, business, and administration. All Catalonian institutions were abolished. The Church was the only organisation that kept the Catalonian culture and language alive. It is a miracle that both have survived. This was not only due to the Church, but also to the resilience of the Catalonian people. They relied on daily acts of resistance and ensured that the oral traditions passed from one generation to another.


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The Spanish Marquis were brave people. Most were Spanish guerrillas who were exiled to France after the Spanish Civil War. They carried out sabotage work. Railway bridges and trains carrying cargo and military equipment were their prime targets, along with telephone and power lines. They had to finance themselves any way they could, including by committing robberies. The Marquis also sabotaged coal mines and factories in Southwest France. In 1944, some 4,000 Marquis invaded Spain through the Avan, but were defeated by Franco. They were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Guardia Civil Officers. More than 2,100 Marquis were reported arrested by the Spanish Authorities up until 1952. Whether the man speaking with Father Prado was a Catalan, or Spanish Marquis, an anarchist, or communist, it did not matter. I had to trust him to get me out of Spain, or else I was convinced I would be arrested, questioned, tortured, or even executed.


A black vehicle arrived in Carrer de Malata, Sant Andrea in Barcelona. SS Sturmbannführer Fritz Meyer stepped out of the car. He made his way up the stairs, towards the flat where Erik had been arrested, and from which Helga escaped the previous evening. He stood in the corridor on the second floor. A neighbour opened her door. “Tenen Señor Gonzales, peŕa ella, Señora, es va escaper,” (“They have taken Señor Gonzales, but she, Señora got away,”) said the neighbour.

Gonzales was our phony and adopted name in Barcelona. Trying hard to remember some of the Spanish he knew, “Qui eren?” (“Who were they?”) asked Major Meyer. “Semblem l’èxèrcit o la policia. No ho sé,” (“They looked like the Army or Police. I don't know,”) responded the neighbour. “Per què arrestarian un home tan simpatic i ens espantaran de la nit? Eren una parella tranquilla,” (“Why would they take such a nice man and scare us all in the middle of the night? They were a quiet couple,” she continued. “Par que de hecho?” (“Why indeed?”) responded Major Meyer. He continued up to the third floor. At the entrance he looked in and saw a ransacked apartment. Every drawer had been opened. Papers 98

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were all over the floor. Furnitures were piled in a messy heap. The kitchen was a disaster with glasses and plates smashed, cutlery strewn everywhere. The bedroom too was in a state of turmoil. Meyer found nothing. He could only presume that Helga had absconded with the Code. SS Major Fritz Meyer walked outside and proceeded down the street back towards his vehicle. A man passed him. He looked at Meyer with suspicion and Meyer curiously noticed him too. Foxtrot, as a precaution, stopped on the street corner, lit a cigarette, and turned to observe the suspicious man getting into his vehicle. As the car passed, the Major looked at Foxtrot with significant inquisitiveness. He would remember his face forever. I am sure that man is German, or he is from the Secret Service, Foxtrot thought to himself. He climbed the staircase to the third floor flat, pushed open the unlocked door and went inside. He also noted the devastation left by earlier intruders. Were they Spanish, or German? Were they also looking for the Telemark Code? Was Spain working with the Germans? Several questions remained unanswered in his mind. The Abwehr was a German intelligence organisation. It worked in Spain and cooperated with the National Government, but relations between the two countries remained tenuous. Franco offered to join, unofficially, the German war effort in 1940. He supplied Germany with soldiers of the Blue Division to fight on the Eastern front,against the communists in the Soviet Union.Spain was indebted to Germany and Mussolini’s Italy for their assistance in the Spanish Civil War.Hitler and Franco only met once at Hendaye on the 23rd October 1940. Franco wanted more defence for the Canary Islands. He also sought grain, armed vehicles, and more aircraft. Hitler was not impressed and threatened to order the Vichy Government to take Spanish territory. As a precaution, Franco ordered field armies in the Pyrenees to deter the Germans from invading Spain. 99

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Churchill had other notions. He offered bribes to Spanish generals, in an effort to influence Franco from entering the war with the Germans. Some $200 million was spent by Churchill on bribes to army and other military officials, ship owners and agents. It was a dark and cloudy night. I was bundled into the boot of a car and told to be quiet. There were check points out of the city with guards everywhere. All I had with me were my meager belongings.

I could detect that we were travelling south along some unpaved and bumpy tracks. The car stopped. I heard one of the guards speaking Catalan. He queried what was in the boot. I could make out that the driver said ‘moldes verdures” (many vegetables). I thought I would be arrested and shot. Then I heard, “Quanter pesetas?” (How many pesetas?). Some money was exchanged, and the driver said “Gràcias meu amic” (Thank you my friend). All the guards were subject to bribes as we continued our journey south. 100

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We arrived in a small fishing village called Port de Garraf, south of Barcelona. I was escorted onto a fishing boat. I thanked the driver and he wished me good luck. The sea was calm. As we went further out in the Balearic Sea, the dim lights of the shoreline kept fading away until all lights disappeared.


Gibraltar: Photo by Klaudia Plasowska on Unsplash 102

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It was quiet, dark, and eerie. Suddenly a naval craft appeared.was not sure whether it was Spanish, German, or British. The crew wore Royal Navy uniforms, and the British Royal Navy Ensign flew on the helm of the vessel. This had to be a British vessel. The Captain was polite and welcomed me aboard. I was shown to my quarters, and had a restful sleep during the night, or what was left of it. In the early hours of the morning, I could hear the crew speaking. I was suspicious that they were conversing in German with a Bavarian accent. Surely, no Germans had joined the Royal Navy! Maybe I was mistaken, and these were reluctant conscripts from occupied countries like Poland, Czechoslovakia, or Bulgaria. On the other hand, would the Germans go as far as dressing up as British Naval officers to confuse the enemy? Was this a phantom ship and had the Marquis been tricked or bribed? I had so many questions.I decided to take no chances. I overheard the Captain saying,

“Sie weib nichts” (“She knows nothing”) I thought he spoke German, but I was not sure.I wondered if they were referring to the Telemark Code of the Atomic Hydro Plant. Little did they know that the microfilm was in my possession. Later that morning, we arrived at a port. I could not see out from my cabin, but it sounded like a busy place. Was this Gibraltar? Surely, a German or Axis vessel would not risk entering an enemy port. Gibraltar was a British colony and a protectorate. General Franco wanted to invade Gibraltar and parts of North Africa with the assistance of Hitler, but his demands were refused. Hitler was reported to be annoyed with Franco and stated, “I would rather have three or four teeth pulled out, than spend any more time with that ungrateful Spaniard.”Most civilians had been ordered to leave Gibraltar in readiness for the imminent invasion


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The Navy and Army had increased defences threefold and was prepared for an attack. Gibraltar had used a network of tunnels for centuries under the rock. These were expanded during World War II. Consequently, the tunnels could accommodate a garrison of some 16,000 men and women. It had a huge storage facility of food which could last 16 months. There were vast areas for equipment and military ammunition. The Royal and Canadian Engineers had carried out the tunneling. Within the tunnels, there was an underground telephone exchange, a power generating station, a water distillation plant, a military hospital, a bakery, and other military workshops and units. It also had one of Gibraltar’s most secret places, a “stay behind cave” built by Operation Tracer, to secretly monitor German Naval sea movements. This was manned by six men, who would be sealed by concrete into the Rock, in case Gibraltar fell to the Germans. They would be hidden from the outside, except for radio communications. This secret observation post remained undiscovered until 1997. I was given some food in my cabin, and later escorted from the vessel, blindfolded. I was not free. Who were these people? Why was I blindfolded if I was in Gibraltar? Were the British the enemy as well? Who could I trust? There was something strange about my captors. There were different accents amongst the crew members. It was not common English and I thought, if not, that they could be Northerners, Scottish, Irish, or Welsh? The English have multiple peculiar accents, some speak with a twang, others, like the upper classes, speak with golf balls in their mouths. Once on land, I was placed into a vehicle and driven away. Following a ride of roughly ten minutes, I was hurled into a building, pushed into a room, and told to sit down. My blindfold was removed. A man, in his early fifties appeared before me. “Welcome to Gibraltar. I am Captain Bernard Millington of British Military Intelligence,” said the man behind the desk. 104

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I could not verify that I had in fact arrived in Gibraltar, nor could I see the Rock from the windowless room. Were these Franco’s Police, the SS acting as decoy, or actors? Had they gone to these incredible lengths to try to retrieve the Code? Were the crew aboard from some other country? They certainly were not British. The Captain here had a posh English accent and must have been educated in Oxford, or Cambridge in pre-war years. Still, I could not trust him. “We know everything about you,” said the Captain. “We know that you had a perilous journey across the Pyrenees in 1940, and that you escaped from the Germans in Belgium and France,” he continued. “You are now in safe hands,” he assured me.

“Unfortunately, your husband has been imprisoned for sedition and taken by Franco’s Agents working for the SS.” How did he know this, I asked myself? They must have informants in Barcelona. “Did you know about your husband’s work?” he asked. “I did some translations for him into other languages, but I did not understand the technical or scientific data,” I replied. “I’ll get straight to the point and waste no further time. Did you know about the Telemark Hydro Plant in Norway?” “Yes. My husband referred to it many times, but that was years ago, when he worked in Berlin. Since then he has worked in Spain, England, and Belgium, on dozens of various projects,” I acknowledged. “You see Madam, the Norwegians and the Allies have destroyed the plant in Norway, with many lives lost. Apparently, the Führer wishes to rebuild the plant using the same design, plans and technical codes. 105

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There is one problem, however. Before the War, the French stole the Telemark Code for electrolysis. This is required as the functional component for the Hydro Plant. We have traced this into the possession of a Professor Aaron Melhausen in Paris. Did you know him? “the Captain demanded to know. “Yes. I had met him on a few occasions,” I replied.

The Captain’s tone changed. “You were more than friends. Your husband and him were close colleagues. True? We suspect that Professor Melhausen had the Telemark Code for electrolysis,” said the Captain. “Then ask the Professor in Paris for this Code. Why interrogate me?” I asked. “That is impossible, because Professor Melhausen was arrested, severally tortured and executed by the Germans,” said the Captain. “Did you travel to Paris and meet with the Professor when you escaped from Liège in Belgium?” he asked. I was now very surprised at how this officer had tracked our movements in 1940. I still could not work out whether he was a genuine British Military man, or indeed an imposter and working for Franco or the Third Reich. “No,” I replied. “We made it to Paris and my husband briefly spoke to him on the telephone. Paris was in turmoil, as an invasion was imminent. We were quite eager to leave the city before the advancing armies, and head south to the Pyrenees.” The Captain was now quite agitated. “Are you sure? Did you not meet in his apartment and were you not given an envelope containing the Telemark Code?” he asked firmly.


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“No,” I replied in the same vain. I had to lie, since I did not trust this man. If Millington knew that we had the Code, then did Erik’s captors know as well? Had Erik disclosed under torture the whereabouts of the microfilm in the flat in Barcelona? They knew that I had escaped from the flat in a hurry, but did they know that I escaped with the microfilm? “We shall speak again in sixty minutes precise,“ said the Captain.

Now, I knew something was wrong. Why would he refer to a rendezvous in precise terms? This was a German characteristic, to be that prompt and concise. Next time, I thought, no doubt, I would be harmed and tortured. I was taken to an adjacent room. As the guard unlocked and opened the door, I said to him ”Vielen Dank.” He replied spontaneously “Bitte schön.”

The cat was out of the bag. This was no British Military Intelligence, but a disguised German operation in a British port. An extremely clever one, pretending to be British. They had gone to the finest of details and lengths to convince me that they were British. The room consisted of a bed, table, and some water. There was no window. A single lightbulb hung from the ceiling for the only source of light. I noticed the word Osram on the bulb, a German make. I sat on the bed and dozed off for some twenty minutes. Then all hell broke loose on the outside. I could hear shots being fired and explosions in the background. I was lying on the floor, when two masked and heavily armed soldiers entered my room. “We are British Commandoes,” one said. “Come with us.” I had no choice. I grabbed my bag and cape. Was this another phantom raid? I was rushed out of the building, coughing because of the smoke and gases. It was total chaos, yet an eerie silence. I saw no bodies, but the 107

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alleged imposters must have been killed. Outside the building, somewhere in dockland, I could see the Rock for the first time, so now I knew that this was indeed Gibraltar. Captain Millington was an imposter, and the interrogation a trick. An astute deception. The vessel, which I left, flew the Royal Navy ensign.


I was whisked away by the commandoes. A car pulled up. I was placed in the back seat, and the driver took me to another area of the dockside. I was pleased about not being blindfolded. As I was whisked away by the commandoes. A car pulled up. I was placed in the back seat, and the driver took me to another area of the dockside. I was pleased about not being blindfolded as I was escorted up a gangway onto a cargo ship. I asked no questions. Spain and Gibraltar were dangerous places. The language of the ship’s crew sounded all Greek to me. I was placed in a small cabin with a bunk bed, a table, and a chair. I noted that the door was unlocked, and that I could escape at any time. The Captain of the cargo ship introduced himself as Christakos Alexopoulous. Greek indeed.

A coal cargo ship in the 1940’s 109

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Greece had been invaded first by the Italians, in October 1940. The Greeks had pushed them back, but the Germans and the Italians joined forces and reinvaded Greece together. The country was occupied by June 1941. The occupation lasted until October 1944, when the Germans and their ally, Bulgaria, were forced to withdraw due to Allied pressure. There was no love between the Greeks and the Germans and Italians. The Greek economy was decimated after the invasions by the Italians and the Germans. Many Greeks joined resistance groups to fight the invaders. Within the hour, the ship was heading west, through the strait of Gibraltar and out to the Atlantic Ocean. I learned from one of the crew, who spoke broken English, that its eventual destination was Barry Docks in South Wales, to collect coal for the war effort. South Wales was a huge exporter of coal. It fueled the mighty British Empire. Many cargo ships would call at Cardiff, or at Barry Docks in the Bristol Channel.

Sunset on the Bay of Biscay 110

I was aware that German U-boats patrolled the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean. Any supply vessel heading from, or towards, the British Isles were targets. Many ships had already been torpedoed. The U-boat was an anglicised word of the German ‘U-boot’ or a shortened version of ‘Unterseeboot’, a military submarine. Their primary targets were merchant supply ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean. They would hunt like wolf packs in multiple formation, staying close to each other. By the end of the war, some 3,000 Allied ships,(175 warships;2825 merchant ships) were sunk by U-boat torpedoes. Once we passed the Spanish coastline, the Captain of the ship announced that we would be sailing through the Bay of Biscay. He warned that the voyage could be rough. He ordered all lights turned off early in the evening to avoid detection. He confirmed also that U-boats from La Rochelle and Saint-Nazaire were operating in the area. He warned us to be vigilant and be on guard always. If all went well, he hoped to dock in Barry in three days. On on the 7th May 1943, another Greek steam merchant, called the Laconikos had been torpedoed by U89 to the west of Porto, Portugal. She was on the way from Freetown, Sierra Leone to Ardrossan, Scotland when attacked. Her cargo consisted of 5200 tons of manganese ore. She sank within 30 seconds and the crew had no time to launch the lifeboats. Of the crew, 23 members were lost. The Captain and 11 crew members were rescued by HMS Shippigan, a British minesweeper. They eventually landed in Londonderry, Northern Ireland on the 13th May 1943. My thoughts turned to Erik. I wondered what had happened to him. Here I was, on a coal cargo ship in the middle of the ocean. He, in all probability, was in a prison cell somewhere in Barcelona, or may have been transported to Germany. I wondered if we would ever see each other again. We were so in love and happy together. This dreadful war had wrecked families, separated loved ones, caused severe hardships,


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destroyed lives, communities, villages, and towns, caused poverty and misery for thousands. For what? I prayed for Erik every morning and every night and thought about his health and welfare. He was extremely depressed about doing research for military purposes. He had suffered ill health crossing the Pyrenees. Finally, having been deprived of an academic posting in Barcelona, left him a broken man. Would he stand up to being arrested, interrogated, tortured, or perhaps tried in a military court of law? Would they know that his family were Jewish originally, or that he had Jewish blood? Would they know about his connection with Professor Melhausen? Did his captors know that he was given the microfilm of the Telemark Code for the Hydro plant? What other military secrets did they know? Did Erik have any other secrets that I was not aware of? The more I thought, the more unanswered questions appeared. I prayed every day, that we would be reunited someday, and live in happier and peaceful times. On board, I was provided with food and clothing, and I felt safe. I was able to catch up on my sleep, although I was worried about Erik all the time. We crossed the Bay of Biscay, mostly in relative calm, aside from a few hours of stormy weather. As we sailed northwards, passing Brittany’s coast in the dark, we heard a loud bang on the starboard side of the ship. “Torpedo, torpedo, hit torpedo!” yelled a crew member. Chaos followed as fires, smoke, and the smell of burning fuel engulfed the ship. Crewmen rushed around with hosepipes and buckets of water. “Stay in cabin,” instructed one of the officers. Roughly twenty minutes past the first explosion, there were two more loud bangs. This time, on the port side. The U-boats must have 112

circled around the ship to the other side. Now we were in great peril. We could sink and drown in the Atlantic Ocean. The ship’s alarm bells continued to ring loudly. The fumes became intolerable, and many had difficulty breathing. “Lifeboats out,” screamed one of the sailors. “Fast, fast,” an officer commanded. In less than half an hour, the ship was tilting dangerously. “Abandon ship. All to lifeboats!” ordered the Captain. “Everybody leave!” he kept repeating. Once on deck, I descended into a lifeboat with my bag and cape along with several members of the crew, and two women from the ship’s canteen. Everyone boarded lifeboats. As we floated away in the dark, the ship slowly disappeared under the waves. Within an hour, there was no trace of the vessel. It was getting colder. Would we survive the night? Would a German U-boat pick us up? Fortunately, the sea was calm. We would have stood no chance in a storm, or in any kind of rough weather. The crew sang Greek songs throughout the night. Dawn broke. We floated aimlessly. There were some debris from the ship on the water. We could also see some smoke on the horizon. Here we were, in lifeboats, shipwrecked in the Atlantic Ocean. We shared some food and drinks and prayed that we would be picked up. The westerly wind was getting stronger. I thought we would be driven towards the rocky coastline of Brittany, hopefully towards the few beaches where we could land. Then the grim reality set in. Brittany was occupied by the Germans. I would be arrested, and no doubt executed immediately. “Ship ahoy!” screamed one of the crew.


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Indeed, a ship could be seen on the horizon. An Allied ship, a German Naval ship? Nobody knew. The small frigate came closer and closer. Our hopes and anticipation intensified. It was a vessel from the Royal Navy. Everyone was delighted that we would be picked up and saved from the peril of the ocean, or from the peril of the enemy. The crew and all the passengers were transferred to the frigate from the lifeboats. Once every survivor was on board, we headed for the English Channel, towards Portsmouth in England. In about five hours, we arrived in Portsmouth, exhausted, but delighted. I thanked the captain for saving us, and the officer who accompanied us in the lifeboat.


As we descended from the frigate, the crew and passengers went their own way. I was escorted down the ship’s plank. A Military Officer met me on the quayside. “Please come with me,” he said. I was seated on the back seat of a black Austin 12. The driver was in full uniform. We drove from the Naval dockland through the streets of Portsmouth. The driver’s steering wheel was on the right side of the vehicle, as we drove on the left side of the road. I knew for sure that this was England. We went through small villages and I saw a red double decker bus for the first time. This was England. The women wore raincoats, despite being summer. Some men wore dark suits and ties. The tradesmen wore brown overalls. The children had pale white faces with rosy cheeks, and the police wore helmets. This was England. The country roads were not straight, but full of twists and turns. The roadside composed of continuous hedgerows. It was impossible to see above these shrubs. The fields were lush green here in summer, due to continuous rainfall. Occasionally we passed through circular junctions called roundabouts.This was England indeed! The military car drove into Brize Norton, a Royal Air Force Base. There were hundreds of soldiers and airmen from many countries. The area was full of military armoury, with planes of all shapes and sizes. Were they planning to free Europe with an invasion? The sooner the better, I thought. I noticed a significant number of US aeroplanes. The US had joined the war effort on December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour.


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The Allied invasion of Normandy, on the northern coast of France, took place on the 6th of June 1944.This was the largest amphibious invasion in history, comprising of 150,000 soldiers from Britain, US, Canada, and Free French Forces. I was greeted by a Colonel who introduced himself as Jack Watson. “Good afternoon,” he said, as I sat in his office, with dozens of photos full of aeroplanes on the rear wall. Another man stood at his side. “This is Agent Foxtrot. He works with our Military Intelligence,” said the Colonel. “You must be tired. Are you ready to speak?” he asked politely. I had no doubt that he was authentic, but who was this Foxtrot fellow?

I had no idea. “Agent Foxtrot has been tracing your movements across Europe. To Paris, then to Barcelona, and finally to Gibraltar. We know that your life is in danger. South of Barcelona, you were captured by a disguised German vessel acting as British. You were taken to Gibraltar, at which point Foxtrot here, triggered Operation Baron to rescue you. You were followed to the place where they interrogated you. The break taken by your interrogator provided a perfect opportunity for us to move in. It was important that we rescue you, and then send you away from Gibraltar. It would have been preferable to rescue you and your husband as well, unfortunately, we were pretty certain that your husband had already been arrested,” said the Colonel. It took me several minutes to process all of what the Colonel just said. He continued “Do you know of a German SS Officer called Fritz Meyer?” he asked.


“No, I don't. The only Fritz Meyer I know was a boy some twenty years ago in my hometown in the Netherlands. He left and became an artist somewhere, but I know of no military person of that name,” I replied. “This SS Officer was one of several responsible for the Vel d’hiv Roundup in Paris. He oversaw the arrest of all Jews on the 16th and 17th July 1942. More than 13,000 Jews were arrested, including 4,000 children. They were held at Vélodrome d’Hiver, in extremely crowded conditions without food, water, and sanitary facilities. We are very concerned, since we do not know what has happened to these people. They may have been sent to concentration camps in Poland. Norwegian commandoes, with Allied help, successfully demolished Hitler’s potential Atomic Plant in Telemark, Norway. Hitler appointed SS Meyer to recover the Telemark Code for electrolysis. It was held by the French. The Germans wanted to rebuild, but in order to activate the plant and potentially develop an atomic bomb, they needed this Code. Your husband may have been given a sealed envelope containing a microfilm, like this one, which I have here,” he said, lifting up an envelope like the one I had in my possession. “Professor Melhausen had it. No doubt he trusted your husband, given that they worked closely in Berlin to design the initial plant. We understand that when you escaped from Liège, you visited Melhausen in Paris. Is this correct?” enquired Colonel Watson. How did he know about this, I thought? Had the Professor been tortured and forced to disclose this information? And how did the British obtain this information?How did they acquire knowledge about the Telemark Code? I replied by saying, “I knew a lot about my husband’s work, but not everything. I translated some of his work into other languages. I did not understand the technical language. Yes. He would from time to time refer to the Telemark Hydro Plant project, as he worked on this in Berlin,” I responded. 117

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“We are certain that the original Telemark Code, and all documents relating, were destroyed when the Hydro Plant was sabotaged. The Germans have a copy of the Plant Design and blueprints on microfilm, but no microfilm of the Telemark Code. No plant can operate without the Code. Before the Norwegian invasion, the French were given a quantity of heavy water, along with another microfilm in a sealed envelope. It was placed in the custody of Professor Melhausen in Paris. It is imperative that Herr Hitler does not get his hands on the missing microfilm, otherwise it could only be a matter of time before London, Moscow, New York, and other places are obliterated and blown out of existence.” We are still looking for the sealed envelope containing the microfilm that Melhausen had,” said the Colonel.

“Do you have the sealed envelope?” he asked. “Why don't you ask Professor Melhausen for the microfilm?” I said. “He was arrested and executed,” replied the Colonel. So, the German was correct on the disguised ship. This was corroboration from both sides, that Melhausen had perished. “Then ask my husband, wherever he is,” I suggested. “Have you any news about him? I am desperate for any information.” “Yes. I have some unfortunate information,“ he said. “After his capture in Barcelona, when you fled, our informers confirmed that he was arrested, drugged, and interrogated. He refused to co-operate for days, refused to eat, or drink. He then went missing and disappeared. We do not know whether he is alive or has died. We cannot confirm either way. I am sorry my dear.” “Oh, my poor Erik,” I cried.


“Get the lady a cup of tea,” said the Colonel to his aide. “He was suffering from depression and very weak from our perilous journey across the Pyrenees,” I explained. “I know my dear,” said the Colonel. “Another fact you should be aware of is that SS Meyer searched Melhausen’s apartment in Paris. As well, he followed you throughout Europe, and even searched your flat in Barcelona. He almost caught you when he bribed the Marquis and was on his way to the disguised British vessel in Gibraltar. An informer from the Marquis told Foxtrot that a lady of your description had been bundled into a car, taken to a local harbour, sold to the Germans, and transferred to a Naval vessel. Our surveillance could not detect any of our own naval ships in the region that evening except one, a possible enemy vessel which we followed and allowed into Gibraltar. That is when Foxtrot here, intervened and invoked operation Baron to save you. No doubt Meyer will be still searching for you, even here in England.” “I am most grateful, Foxtrot. Thank you for saving my life,” I said. “If you destroyed the plant in Norway, you must have had blueprints or microfilms yourselves for the bombing operation,” I suggested. “Yes. We did. But we must ensure that any remaining, and all Telemark Codes are destroyed. We don’t want the Nazis to have access to these.” The Colonel paused and then continued. ”They could rebuild the damn plant again,” he snarled. “I cannot help you further. I have told you what I can,” I retorted. “I am afraid that your life is still in danger. The Germans are adamant that you know the whereabouts of the sealed envelope with the microfilm of the Code. Perhaps you have hidden it, or buried it somewhere when escaping from Paris, or Barcelona.” 119

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He waited for a response from me, but there was none. After a few moments of silence, he continued. “The Germans have agents here and will hunt you for information about the Telemark Code, even if you have none. Unfortunately, Hitler sympathisers are everywhere, even here,” said the Colonel. “For your own safety, I am sending you tonight on a Royal Canadian Air Force plane to Winnipeg, Manitoba. You will not be entirely safe there, but at least your chances of survival will be much greater than in Europe.” “Thank you, Colonel,” I remarked. “Now get some food and some kip prepare yourself, hopefully for a new life in Canada. We shall supply you with a new identity, a new address and wipe out your past and history.”

“Thank you once again Colonel,” I said. As I left the room, I could hear Foxtrot muttering to the Colonel. “The Baroness is lying. She knows about the microfilm and the Code and no doubt about other secrets as well. She has hidden the microfilm. Perhaps in some isolated woods in France, or Spain, or somewhere .


After more than twenty-hours of flying across the Atlantic Ocean, we refueled in Goose Bay, Labrador, on Canadian soil. We made a brief stop at the Royal Canadian Air Force base Trenton, roughly a midway point between Ottawa and Toronto, then continued


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West. Following a three-and-a-half-hour flight from Trenton, we arrived in Winnipeg. The flat lands of the Canadian Prairies looked bare and stark after the green hills of England, but at least there was no peril of an invasion.During the war, Winnipeg was home base for Canadian bombers. It is situated some 70 miles north of the United States border, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers. The name Winnipeg comes after the lake bearing the same name,which is about 40 miles north of the city. “Winnipeg” is a Cree word for muddy water. Arriving penniless, I had to reluctantly pawn my last brooch, which Erik had bought for me in Liège. It was my only jewellery which miraculously had survived. I attended the local Catholic church. With no job, no lodgings, and being destitute in a new country, I turned to the priest for help. My first job was to clean and brush the floors of the church for a few dollars. At least, it was a job, and I could support myself. I stayed in a Catholic home for the homeless, which was quite unpleasant. There were people there who had been forced to leave their homes and farms, due to heavy debts and bank foreclosures. There were others with alcohol and drug problems, as well as battered wives with young children. I was unhappy, but thankful that at least here, I had a roof over my head, and enough food to eat. I stayed in Winnipeg until the end of the war. I attended a teacher’s course and worked for a children’s charity. As immigrants poured into Winnipeg from war-torn Europe, I also became a translator for German, Dutch, French and Spanish people in Family Courts. The Prairie winters were fiercely cold and windy. The summers were pleasant, with long sunny days. In Winnipeg, I heard many stories about Montréal, the most “European” city in North America. Subsequently, I decided to move there. 122

In Montréal, I became a secretary to the German Department at McGill University. I made lots of friends, including members of a Catholic Church, artists, poets, and academics. After a few years in Montréal, I learned about a vacant senior librarian position in Ottawa. I applied. The job was offered to me and I moved to the capital city of Canada. Rideau University was a newly formed University, expanding by leaps and bounds. This was a great opportunity. I became a librarian to a number of faculties. Within a couple of years, I purchased a tiny apartment downtown on McLeod Street, near Bank Street. The location was great. I could catch a bus to the University every day. I could not drive, so a bus was my only means of transportation. I met a lot of people at the University from France, Germany, England, Wales, and Ireland. Some became good friends. I attended many ethnic nights with various cultural societies. I slowly integrated, but the strain and stress of the war years had taken their toll. I aged quickly. I thought of Erik every day and prayed for his safety every night. I enjoyed reading, especially about sculptures, music, poetry, the arts, paintings, and would take long walks along the Rideau Canal to Dow’s Lake. One Sunday afternoon in the spring whilst reading, my telephone rang. “Who’s there?” I asked. There was a pregnant pause. “I think you will remember me from your childhood days in Sittard in the Netherlands,” replied the caller. “I have no connection with Sittard anymore and know no one there now,” I replied.


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“Do you remember the boy next door?” said the caller. My heart stopped. This was impossible, I thought. Surely, Fritz had been injured, killed, or imprisoned. Was he the artist who left as a young man, or was he the SS officer that Colonel Watson mentioned in Brize Norton, the one that chased Erik and myself across Europe? “Is that you Fritz?” I cautiously asked. “I am now called Peter. Can we meet?“ “Let me ask you one question. Were you an SS Officer stationed in Paris in 1942?” “I cannot deny it. How did you know?” he queried. This was the man who served with the SS. He was responsible for the raids and the arrest of thousands of Jews in Paris, for chasing us through Europe, seeking our arrest, capture and likely torture. The man who caused the deterioration of my husband’s health, and eventual disappearance. I thought of contacting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as this man was a war criminal. I decided not to do that for the moment. I simply froze. I had no desire to meet him, as my heart was full of hatred towards this person. “Are you in Ottawa?” I asked. “Yes, I am,” said Peter. Despite the turmoil inside me, I said “Meet me in an hour at Dow’s Lake on the eastern side, near Bronson Avenue. I’ll be wearing a scarlet coat, cape and a black hat.” He hung up quickly. I hurriedly prepared, although very reluctantly. I locked my flat on McLeod Street and proceeded down towards Bank Street. I waited for the southerly bus at the stop in front of the pharmacy. What irony, I


thought! Here I was, standing outside a pharmacy waiting for a bus, just as I had waited for Fritz outside my father’s pharmacy, years ago. The empty bus arrived. It proceeded down Bank Street, turned West on Catherine St. and South on Bronson Avenue to Dow’s Lake. I descended from the bus and looked towards the lake. There was an old man sitting on the park bench, quite frail and looking tired, with receding silver hair. I walked over. “Why Fritz?” I asked. “We were all under military orders,” he replied. “That is what they all claim,” I said. “You are not even German. You are Dutch.” “My mother was German. Germany had to be reborn. Everybody had destroyed us in World War One. We were bankrupt. Hitler was our saviour. He brought us hope, opportunity, and a chance to reestablish ourselves. We had to work to regain our status in the world. We had to show that we were the best. Others were destroying us,” he said. “So, you killed the Jews, the disabled, the gypsies and many others,” I said. “We were the master race and had to prove it. We had to eradicate all the inferiors,” he said. “So, you had to murder thousands, even millions for the glory of the Fatherland. Innocent men, women and even children?” I demanded to know. He had no answer. “Fritz, your philosophy, if you can even call it that, makes me sick! You have brought pain, destruction, torture, poverty, to millions throughout Europe. You will be judged one day,” I said.


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I tried to forgive him but could not. I forgave myself for trying at least. I deserved that. “I must go,“ he said, as he rose to his feet. “There are organisations, like Mossad, that are following and tracking me for war crimes,” he said.” I was only following orders,” he repeated. “Now you know what it is to be a victim and being chased. There is one thing I would like you to see Fritz, before you vanish,” I said. I brought out our cigarette lighter. This was the one given to my husband by professor Melhausen. I also brought out the sealed envelope from my cape which contained the microfilm of the Telemark Code for electrolysis, which Fritz desperately wanted during the war. I have carried this with me since I left Barcelona. I lit the cigarette lighter and burned the sealed envelope. Then I threw what remained, small pieces of black ash, into the rubbish basket next to the bench. “A microfilm!” gasped Fritz. “A microfilm,” he repeated. “Was it worth it, Fritz?” I asked. “Goodbye Helga,” he said as he walked away and disappeared. I never saw him again. In fact, I never wanted to see him again. I remained seated on the bench, with thousands of images from my life dancing in my head. About ten minutes after Fritz left, two men wearing dark clothes appeared from somewhere in the park. In a Middle Eastern accent, one said “We are looking for a man who calls himself Peter, but whose real name is Fritz Meyer. A former SS Officer of the Third Reich. He is wanted for war crimes. Have you seen him?” “Yes“ I replied. ”He was here. He left, heading south. I hope you will catch him, and that justice will prevail one day.” 126

“Did he have a microfilm, like this one?” he wanted to know, as he pulled from his jacket an exact replica of the one I just burned. “No, he did not, but I had a similar one which I just burned. If you are wise, and referring to the Telemark Code, then you should burn yours as well,” I said. As they prepared to leave, my heart started to beat faster. “Just a minute young man,” I said. “You look familiar. Have you ever been to the Netherlands?“ I asked. “No,” he replied. “But my father who grew up in Belgium had escaped to the Netherlands as a small boy, when Belgium was invaded. He stayed in a place called Sittard and was given refuge by a kind pharmacist.” “Is your last name Emmanuel?” I enquired further. “How do you know?” he asked, astonished and curious. “And your first name is Abraham,” I continued. “Incredible,” said the young man. “I knew your father; he had the same name,” I said. “Extraordinary!” he responded. “By the way, the man you are hunting, was your father’s neighbour during the time he was growing up in Sittard,” I informed Abraham. “Did they find him?” asked Aamina. “I don’t know what happened next, but some say that they saw him in Jasper, Alberta and there was another sighting of a man fitting his description in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia,” responded Helga.


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“Well Aamina, that is my story. I hope you have enjoyed it,” said Helga. “Incredible story. But you have deceived the Germans, the French, the Spanish, and ultimately the British?” said Aamina. “I have deceived no one. I kept the Telemark Code for mankind and for humanity’s sake. I did it to ensure that it did not fall into the wrong hands,” said Helga. “What happened to your Jewish friends and families in Sittard?” asked Aamina. “Like many in occupied communities, they perished. In my hometown, some 160 vanished including all my schoolfriends. There is a remembrance monument for the Sittards Jews at the garden of Ursulines near the Lemniscate Walk,” replied Helga.

“Can I arrange a meeting between you and my history professor?” Aamina asked. “No,” replied Helga. “There are some things about wars that are best kept as secrets forever. Goodbye Aamina. Remember my story when I am long gone from this world. Remember those who fought for freedom against all forms of tyranny. That is your best history lesson ever. “Thank you very much Helga. I will always remember you,” Aamina said, as they departed in different directions.


Mathilde Emma Van De Pas de Goldis was born on October 12,1913 in Sittard, Province of Limburg in the Netherlands.Her parents were Marie Antoine Joseph August van de Pas, born in Heythuysen in the Netherlands.Her Prussian mother, Auguste Amalia Breuer was from Monjoie.They were married on the 19th December, 1908. Her father was a pharmacist and owner of the oldest pharmacy in Sittard.The family, including her only brother, spoke several languages. She was educated in Germany in St. Ursula College, Geilenkirchen, from 19231933 and qualified as a kindergarten teacher in 1934, from Ursuline teachers College in Monschau, Germany. In 1935 she left for Spain to improve her Spanish. She lived with her uncle who was professor of languages at the Academia Superior Militar in Madrid. There, she met her husband, Feodor Goldis Glaser, an Austrian scholar, an engineer, who was also a Professor of Mathematics and Physics at the Central University of Madrid.They married in 1935 in Madrid. Her husband carried the title Baron de Eszenasyi.It was awarded to the family, in 1415 by King Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor elect, when they converted from Judaism to Catholicism. Prior to the Spanish Civil War,Mathilde worked as a translator and language tutor among the diplomatic corps in Madrid. She was aware of her husband’s work which was secretive and sensitive.After the start of the civil war in July 1936,she and her husband were under surveillance by the police. During their summer break in the Spanish Pyrenees in June/July 1936, they managed to escape on the last train out of Jaca. They left all their belongings in Madrid and returned to Sittard in the Netherlands and lived there from August 1936 until March 1937.They then moved to Liège in Belgium where her husband worked as a physicist. 129

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In May 1940, the Germans invaded Belgium and she and her husband escaped once again. As they travelled through France, they narrowly avoided capture and execution in Vichy France. The couple escaped by crossing the Pyrenees on foot, after countless hardships and perils. They re-entered Spain in July 1940. Entry into Spain over the mountains secretly was illegal. She was now 27 years old and he was 28 years old. They were caught and arrested with others attempting to escape the Nazis in occupied Belgium and France. He was placed in the Cervera Concentration Camp where they both claimed the right to asylum. She was detained in Puigeerda Hospital due to a lack of space and was under house arrest. By August 1936, her native country the Netherlands had been occupied by the Nazis and she became a citizen of the Third Reich by default. As a result, it was up to the German Consulate in Madrid to determine her fate. Her husband, the Baron, was an Austrian citizen. His native country was also occupied by the Nazis, but it was a matter for the Guardia Civil to determine his fate as the Germans were dismissive of any persons with Jewish blood. The ‘final solution’ in 1942 had yet been implemented, which would have meant his instant deportation and ultimate death. The conditions at the Spanish concentration camps were appalling. The main purpose of these camps were to detain Republican prisoners of war. By 1940 Spain, although formally ‘neutral’, was pro-Axis. It was concerned that those persons entering illegally would join, or in some cases re-join, Allied forces in Gibraltar, or North Africa, to fight the fascists. By 1940 there were over 70 nationalities in camps. Escape was impossible. It was very hot during summer and extremely cold in winter. Prisoners were often beaten for the slightest misdemeanor. Clothing and food were scarce, and many detainees did not survive.


Having been detained for 2 months, the Baroness pleaded with the German Consulate in September 1940, to be moved to Barcelona. She also begged to have her husband’s position reviewed. He was transferred to and detained at Miranda da Ebro Concentration camp, near Vitoria, a camp for those eligible for military service. Ironically, it was from the Germans that the couple had fled in the first place. Her request to move to Barcelona was granted, but her husband was still detained in the Miranda da Ebro Concentration camp. Various requests and pleas for her husband’s release fell on deaf ears. The Baron declared that he intended to reside in Spain. Consequently, the Army Ministry classified him as a ‘political refugee’, despite the fact he had no historical interest in politics. In another development, the German Embassy expressed interest in the interned scientist, despite his “stateless” status. By 1942 all German (including Austrian) Jews abroad automatically lost their nationality and became stateless. Furthermore, all their assets were confiscated. Whether his distinguished skills and experience as a scientist, an engineer, an innovator, and an inventor came to the attention of the intelligent services, or the Gestapo, is not known. What is on record is his offer of his ‘aviation invention’ to the Spanish Government. Mathilde tried to have her husband repatriated to Belgium, rather than Germany, although Belgium by now was occupied and under the jurisdiction of the Third Reich. By August 1943, permission was granted for them both to reside in Madrid. General Franco now in full charge, required the services of a vast number of young scientists, as many of Spain’s scientists had fled or been killed in the civil war. General Franco sought to restore the Spanish economy and needed the skills of talented technicians and scientist.Feodor Goldis Glaser fitted the bill, even though he and his wife had fled from Spain in 1936.


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He obtained a position with the ‘Instituto Torres Quevedo’ in Madrid, an institution devoted to researching the country’s mining wealth and atomic energy capabilities.His research focused on pyrite or fool’s gold; a brass-yellow mineral composed of iron sulfide. ’Pyrite’ is named after the Greek ‘pyr’ which means fire. It can be used in firearms because of its sparking qualities.Spain had an abundance of pyrite mines and Germany in the 1940, having already signed several mining treaties in the 1930’s, was desperate for raw materials to bolster their economy and military might. Goldis Glaser doctorate called “El Beneficoa de las Piritas de Espana’ was later published in 1949, in Madrid. He signed it as Baron Eszenasyi. According to Mathilde in 1945, due to her husband’s mental and physical suffering during the Spanish Revolution and the crossing of the Pyrenees, coupled with two and half years in a concentration camp, his health deteriorated. She said that one day, during an attack of mental illness, her husband disappeared. All searches for him through official channels proved fruitless. He was presumed lost. Mathilde was utterly despaired. She had lost her only partner. Her mind was in turmoil, and she suffered an anxiety attack. She feared the worst. His long disappearance raised the presumption that he had been killed or committed suicide. Having exhausted the search for her husband, Mathilde sought a new life. She accepted an offer from a close friend, a US Naval Attaché in Madrid, to emigrate to the United States. She returned to Liège to wait for a visa. While there, her mentor was killed in a car accident. She had to alter her plans and went to Canada in June 1949. The Baroness, a devoted and sincere Catholic sought refuge in the Church. She was sponsored by an Oblate priest in Winnipeg who employed her as a domestic, a cleaning lady and housekeeper. She had never been accustomed to menial duties, such as cleaning church floors, but she did what she had,to survive. Subsequently, she found a 132

variety of other jobs, including at the Winnipeg Children’s Aid Society, Manitoba License Bureau, and at the courthouse as a translator for German family cases. In 1952, she moved to Ottawa where she became a language teacher and later an employee of the Canadian Post Office. She received her Canadian Citizenship in 1954. In May 1958, she returned to Europe to look after her gravely ill mother. Her father had died when she was young, and her only brother had died during the war. In 1959 she was appointed Director of a recreational centre for foreign students in Aachen but resigned her post in 1960 due to union interference with her programmes. She returned to Montreal and worked as a Spanish and German well as a Secretary in the Montreal Children’s Hospital. She also worked at St Joseph’s Oratory, translating for the cause of brother André. While in Montreal, she became close friends with Paul André, the distinguished Montreal artist. Mathilde continued to seek employment commensurate with her linguistic skills. She spoke German, Dutch, Spanish, French and English. She became a Secretary to the German Department at McGill University and subsequently worked as Assistant Serials Librarian at the Vanier Library of Loyola College in Montreal. In 1968 she found employment in the foreign languages section of Ottawa’s Carleton University library and worked there until retirement.

Her interests included paintings, sculptures, music, poetry, and comparative religion.In Ottawa she made many friends in the Catholic community, as well as in the German and Welsh societies while attending events and functions. She would travel often to visit her close friend in Tregaron, Wales. Other friends came from Canada, the United States, Holland, and Taiwan. She lived in her own apartment on


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McLeod Street, Ottawa until she died, on June 18th, 1997 at the Élizabeth Bruyère Pavillion. She had stated earlier that her husband, due to a mental attack, disappeared one day and was presumed lost. In July 1984 when interviewed by Mark G McGowan, author of ‘Christianity and Ethnicity in Canada’ Edited by Paul Bramadat and David Seljak (University of Toronto 2008), she informed him that “the Baron was finally captured and as a Jewish convert was killed”. However, there is no evidence, record, or corroboration of his disappearance and death. So, did Feodor therefore survive the 1940’s ? Further research subsequently revealed that Feodor Goldis Glaser, according to the Spanish Patent Office, had several inventions registered in his name in 1947. These include: a) a stepped Differential Micrometer b) a high Vacuum seal for Rotary Bearing c) a differential micrometer d) a high Vacuum Hermetric seal e) a Hermetric seal for Angular Speed Axles. Additional research revealed that Feodor emigrated to Mexico in the 1950’s where he was appointed professor at the University of Guadalajara, in Mexico’s second largest metropolitan area.There is another record in 1957, listing him as an academic member of Itesco, Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara, also known as Instituto Tecnologico y de Estudios Superiores de Occiidente, a Jesuit University in the state of Jalisco, located in the Municipality of Tiaquepaque in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. In 1952 he developed a visual concept of ‘automorphic‘ future for industrial production. Basically, this involves injection of synthetic


plastic materials into molds, a precursor to today’s ‘flip flops’. It seems that his ideas may have been too ambitious for Spain whose economy was still dominant by agriculture. Mexico provided the challenge and scope for this highly skilled innovator. He published several books in Spanish, including:‘Que es la propiedad’(1965) (What is property),

’Tecnica,ente y destino : un ensayo bacia la interpretacion de una doctrina social Mexicana (1969), (Technique, entity, and destiny: An essay towards the interpretation of a Mexican social doctrine). Que es la libertad? (1971) (What is freedom?). Further patents were granted to him in Mexico, including: An enhanced Reactor for Colloids (1976) and a solar cooling system and a fluidic shredder (1986) There is no doubt that Feodor was an able and a brilliant inventor, an engineer, a scientist in his own right and a man before his time. In a well-researched book in Spanish, titled ‘La penúltima frontera: Fugitivos del nazismo en España’ by Rosa Sala Rose, questions were raised about the authenticity of the noble title of ‘Eszenasyi’. The title of ‘Baron de Eszenasyi’ dates from 1411, supposedly granted to the family by the then Holy Emperor elect, King Sigismund of Luxembourg, as a reward for converting from Judaism to Christianity. No such written records exist from over 600 years ago. It is difficult to prove or disprove either way. There were many Jewish Noble titles through the centuries in Middle Europe and such records may have just vanished. Such title may have been used to conceal or camouflage the Baron’s true identity, or to indicate his social standing in the community.


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‘Eszenyi’ is a Hungarian surname.’Szenasi’,or ‘Szenasy’,or ‘Szenassy’ are also Hungarian surnames.’Szenassy denotes nobility.‘Eszenasyi’ is uncommon.The name ‘Eszenyi’ is associated with the world’s first hijacking.In 1919 when the pilot of a two-seater plane, a Miklos Eszenyi, was hijacked by Ferenc Nopsca Felsoszilvasi, a Transylvanian Baron and a paleontologist.He was fleeing the short lived Hungarian communist regime from Budapest to Vienna.Feodor signed his Doctorate thesis as Baron Eszenasyi and Mathilde continued with her title until she died in 1997. Both had endured severe hardship while escaping twice from the civil war in Spain and then from the invasion of the Germans in Belgium. The escape through France, almost being executed in Vichy France, crossing the Pyrenees, and being detained in concentration camps must have placed the marriage under considerable stress and strain. It is not known, whether Mathilde was aware that Feodor had survived, emigrated to Mexico, and had a successful and distinguish career in academia. Likewise, did Feodor know that Mathilde lived in Canada? Was it the case that they agreed to separate, by default or mutual consent? Did Feodor have a break down and suffered from memory loss? How did Feodor secure his release from the Spanish Government? Did he collaborate with them and with the intelligence services? Perhaps Mexico gave Feodor a new life, a new challenge, freedom to publish, invent and innovate and a blank canvass not available in war torn Europe. Canada on the other hand gave Mathilde an opportunity and hope for the future, to live in a free society, to make friends, and to worship without any restraints. There are more issues still unresolved, more secrets untold. Only Feodor and Mathilde are privy to these. These are their secrets alone. We shall never know the details of what really happened. As George Bernard Shaw once quoted:” There are no secrets better kept than the secrets everybody guesses.” 136

Dow’s Lake,Ottawa,Ontario,Canada. Photo by Les Arany.


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The young Mathilde


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Mathilde van de Pas Goldis


Entrance to Carleton University,Ottawa where Mathilde worked in the library. Photo by Les Arany


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Mcleod Street Apartments,Ottawa where Mathilde lived. Photo by Les Arany 142

1951 Publication of “The benefit of pyrites in Spain” Signed by Feodor Goldis Baron Eszenasyi


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