Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Madeline Zabriskie Doty and the German Spies

Madeline Zabrisky Doty during the war
Sophia Smith Collection, Smith College
When Madeleine visited a friend at the American embassy in Berlin, he warned her to leave, that her presence would make trouble for them at the embassy. "I shall...break no rules, cause no trouble," she replied, "but I'm in search of the truth, and as a free American citizen I mean to talk to every one I can from the Kaiser to Liebknecht [a vocal peace activist and cofounder, after the war, with Rosa Luxemburg, of the German Communist party]. Her friend, joking that he thought the Kaiser would be safer than Karl Liebknecht, warned her again that she would be watched constantly.

He was right. "The funny thing about German spies," Madeleine wrote, "is that they dress for the part. They are as unmistakable as Sherlock Holmes. They nearly always wear gray clothes, a soft gray hat, are pale-faced, shifty-eyed, smooth-shaven, or have only a slight moustache, and carry canes."

One night, Madeleine and a new companion, a German woman who was a Social Democrat, gave the spies a chase all through Berlin. "We jumped from one car to another. It proved an exciting game. Once we went up to a gray-clad man, and asked him if he wasn't tired. But spies grow angry when spoken to. German officials have no sense of humor. If they had, I wonder if there would have been a war."
But constantly being followed eventually took its toll. Madeline wrote "I feel exactly as though I am in prison. I acquire the habit of looking out of the corner of my eye and over my shoulder. These spies are as annoying to their countrymen as to me. The people detest them. They grow restless under such suppression. Free conversation is impossible, except behind closed doors..."
Excerpt from "Madeline Zabrisky Doty: 'Germany is no place for a woman'" from Women Heroes of World War I.

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