When I was a very young boy Germans wore boots and dueling scars, and, if they were spies spoke in harsh sibilants. Female spies were either butch with hair enbrosse, or else dark and sinisterly beautiful and smoked thin cheroots.
Old memories came back as I reread the remarkable history of Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe. As the picture illustrates she doesn’t match my childhood vision, though J Edgar Hoover threw a hissy fit when he realised she was in America.
Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe
He referred to her as ‘worse than ten thousand men,’ and placed her under 24-hour surveillance. So not the Nazi spy of my dreams though she did have a habit of smoking Havana cigars, striking the requisite match on the soles of her shoes.
She divorced her husband in 1920 but retained the title. After that there was no holding her back. In 1922 she moved to Nice, began a relationship with The Duke of Westminster, and then moved on to John Warden of Standard Oil, before moving to Paris and Sir William Garthwaite, a British insurance tycoon.
Rich, but not rich enough.
In 1927 she met Lord Rothemere, the third richest man in Britain. He was impressed by her assets, she with his playing style. The relationship endured and, after being accused of spying for Germany, she moved from Paris to the Dorchester in London. Rothemere was besotted with her, and his newspapers, the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail praised the genius of Adolf Hitler and argued that The Treaty of Versailles was unjust, and that Germany should have its former territories restored.
It should come as no surprise that the Princess was promised £350,000 if she canoodled Rothemere to champion German claims upon Poland.
By this time Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe was on very good terms with Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Ribbentrop. Hitler called her his ‘favourite princess’ which bears tribute to her beauty, magnetism and manipulative charm.
Perhaps because Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe was part Jewish. No matter. Heinrich Himmler declared her an ‘honory Aryan,’ and Hitler awarded her the Golden Insignia of the Nazi Party, along with a castle in Austria. In 1938 British Intelligence reported ‘She is frequently summoned by the Fuhrer, who appreciates her intelligence and good advice. She is perhaps the only woman who can exercise any influence upon him.’
It is not surprising then that she became a key conduit of secret messages between Goering, Lord Halifax (British Foreign Secretary and arch appeaser) Lord Rothemere, and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.
Lord Rothemere, George Ward Price, Hitler, Fritz Weidemann, Joseph Goebbels, Magda Goebbels and Princess Stephanie Hohenlohe
Her star waned when she began an affair with Hitler’s aide-de-camp, Fritz Wiedemann, a man ‘exuding eroticism.’ Hitler removed him – to San Fransisco, where he served as German Consul.
In 1939 Stephanie Hohenlohe joined him sharing the Weiderman household with Weiderman’s children and wife, Anna Luise.
From this point on she was hounded by the FBI who were convinced, probably rightly, that she was set upon increasing Nazi influence in America. In 1940 she was ordered to leave the country. She fought against it, declaring her innocence, her love for America and when that failed experienced a ‘nervous breakdown.’
On the point of being expelled as a German spy, she played her final card, beginning an affair with Major Lemuel Scholfield, head of the Immigration and Naturalisation Service, a senior figure in the State Department.
Hmm, I wonder what she sees in me?
She saw enough to marry him, much to Roosevelt's profound annoyance.
And then what? What happened to ‘the most dangerous woman in Europe?’
After the war she returned to Germany and began a new career in the media. Maybe not a good life, but a life fully lived.