Mata Hari, an erotic dancer turned spy during World War One, was accused reportedly spying for the Germans and killed in October 1917. Born Margaret Gertrud Zeller, Mata Hari rose to fame in Paris after she proved herself to be an alluring and talented dancer.

Mata Hari's father married a Japanese woman while working in Japan.  When the couple returned to Holland their grown up daughter gained a reputation for exotic dancing rarely seen in Europe. Margaret Zeller attracted the attention of many men - a beautiful linguist and a good conversationalist, it is no surprise that she took the Europeans by storm.

She married a Dutch naval officer but  divorced shortly after and moved to Paris to become a courtesan and dancer. When the war began in 1914 she was still in Paris. Her dancing was new and exciting, and coupled with her aptitude for conversation she became a very successful courtesan, bedding the rich and famous including Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany.

Mata Hari
Mata Hari

However, these romantic endeavours led to her undoing. She returned to Paris from Berlin where she was romantically involved with a German police official. By the time she returned to France counterintelligence suspected her of being a German spy.

When asked later to work as a spy by the French, Mata Hari accepted. She was employed to seduce German officials in order to obtain information about the enemy.

But once it was discovered that she’d taken money from a German officer the French decided that she was a double agent.

Mata Hari was put on trial in Paris on . On 25 July she was sentenced to death for spying against France, despite a lack of circumstantial evidence.Mata Hari was killed on 15 October. She was woken at five and she put on a fur trimmed dress. Mata Hari proclaimed her innocence to the end, refusing a blindfold before she was shot.

See also: Curtis LeMay and Fire Raids

MLA Citation/Reference

"Mata-Hari". 2015. Web.