I went into this with both my eyes open, telling myself that a man who has an ideal must be willing to sacrifice everything for it or else the ideal isn’t an ideal at all, or the man isn’t a man at all, but a humble creature who deserves only pity.
-Carl Heinrich Meier, last letter to his fiancee (Source)
Raced into the books in May of 1940 amid Nazi Germany’s onslaught on France, the Treachery Act made it a capital crime if, “with intent to help the enemy, any person does, or attempts or conspires with any other person to do any act which is designed or likely to give assistance to the naval, military or air operations of the enemy, to impede such operations of His Majesty’s forces, or to endanger life.” Naturally the realm had centuries of treason statutes to fall back on; the intent in creating this new capital crime of treachery was to target spies and saboteurs who might not themselves be British citizens — and therefore evade “treason” charges on grounds of not owing loyalty to the British Crown. Instead, the Treachery Act explicitly governed “any person in the United Kingdom, or in any British ship or aircraft.”
Carl/Karl Heinrich Meier and Jose Waldberg were textbook cases. They had rowed ashore at Dungeness on September 3 intending to pose as Dutch refugees while reconnoitering ahead of a potential German cross-channel invasion. With them were two other Abwehr agents with the same intent, Charles Albert van der Kieboom and Sjoerd Pons.
While his comrades were noticed by routine coastal patrols and picked up near the beach, Meier picturesquely showed up that morning at a public house in Lydd where his clumsy command of contextual slang and etiquette led the proprietress to turn him in.
They were tried in camera weeks later, by which time the Luftwaffe was systematically bombing the jurors; despite this radically prejudicial context, Sjoerd Pons was actually acquitted — successfully persuading the court that he’d been forced into the mission on pain of a concentration camp sentence for smuggling. (Pons was detained as an enemy alien despite the acquittal.)
The other three men were not so fortunate. Perhaps most to be pitied was “Waldberg” who was really a Belgian named Henri Lassudry: although he had not presented Pons’s same defense to the court it appeared that he also had been coerced into the operation, in his case by Gestapo threats against his family. But none of the three death sentences was to be abated. A week after Meier and Waldberg/Lassudry hanged at Pentonville Prison, van der Kieboom followed them to the gallows.
“Jose Waldberg” aka Henri Lassudry.
On this day..
- 304: Saint Eulalia - 2018
- 1591: Edmund Geninges - 2017
- 1916: Eric Poole, the first British officer shot at dawn during World War I - 2016
- 1919: Not Joseph Cohen - 2015
- 1965: Andrew Pixley - 2014
- 1875: William Wilson, taking the priest with him - 2013
- 1900: John Filip Nordlund, Mälarmördaren - 2012
- 1852: Jose Forni, the first legal hanging in California - 2011
- 1718: Stede Bonnet, gentleman pirate - 2010
- 1541: Thomas Culpeper and Francis Dereham, the Queen's lovers - 2009
- 1796: Jose Leonardo Chirino, Venezuelan slave revolt leader - 2008
- 1937: Teido Kunizaki - 2007