Journal Volume 4 2004
Major Hermann Goertz and German World War 2 Intelligence Gathering in Ireland (continued/2)
The first serious German military intelligence gathering mission to Ireland was that of Major Hermann Goertz, probably the most successful of all the German operatives that landed in Ireland even though, generally speaking, German intelligence activities in Ireland were not successful and fell very short of what they were intended to achieve for a variety of reasons.
Hermann Goertz was born in 1890 in Lubec, the son of a wealthy and distinguished lawyer, and learned English from his governess. In keeping with family tradition, he studied law but the outbreak of World War 1 interrupted his studies. During this conflict he served with the German Army and in Christmas 1914 was wounded while serving in Russia, receiving the Iron Cross for valour. He then enlisted in the Luftwaffe and served as a reconnaissance officer and later as an interrogation officer. In 1916, he married Ellen Aschenborn, daughter of a German admiral. Goertz was highly cultured, an excellent sportsman, gifted at mathematics and excelled at hill walking.
When the war was over he returned to law, studying at Heidelberg, Paris, Edinburg and Kiel, specialising in international law and acquired a doctorate in this field after completing the necessary course in the United States of America. While in America, he met a number of prominent Irish people, some of who were members of the IRA. or had connections with it and from these he acquired knowledge of Irish affairs. He qualified as a solicitor in 1925, and was appointed a notary in 1927. That same year, he visited Ireland with his wife as part of a touring holiday covering Wales and Ireland with the beauty of Co. Wicklow and the Lakes of Killarney making a deep impression on him. In 1929, he was appointed a solicitor of the Hamburg Law Court. Between 1929 and 1931, he travelled to Britain on a number of occasions representing the Siemens Company, which was engaged in a legal action against the British Government.
In 1928, he joined the “Shadow Luftwaffe", an organisation created to provide aviation training for Germans to circumvent the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, which prohibited Germany from having an air force. He served with this organisation until 1935 when he rejoined the Luftwaffe on a full time basis at a time when military conscription had been re-introduced in Germany. He held a strong belief that the Royal Air Force (RAF) was establishing a fleet of bombers along the East Coast of England and was sent to England on an intelligence gathering mission with the cover story of researching a book and under this pretext toured the East Coast of England observing the RAF bases and the activities in progress at them.
On August 28th 1935, he arrived in Britain with a female companion, Ms Marianne Emig, and embarked on a tour of Britain collecting information on British airbases, taking photographs and drawing sketches. After a number of weeks, Ms Emig, who could not speak English, became uneasy about this activity and asked that they return to Germany which they did on October 24th 1935 leaving in such a hurry that he left a suitcase behind him full of documents and sketches. At one location, the landlady of the accommodation where he was staying had been suspicious of his activities. Following his departure; she received a postcard from him requesting her to mind the suitcase for him, as he would be back within 2 days to collect it and some other personal belongings. Goertz was delayed in Germany and was unable to return as scheduled and when he sent her a note from Germany asking the landlady to forward some of his belongings, she notified the police of her suspicions. When the police opened his suitcase, they were amazed to discover the true nature of his research and the type of activities he had been engaged in. No immediate action was taken but a watch was maintained for him and the next time he returned to England on November 8th 1935, he was arrested on landing and charged with espionage. Following a brief trial in March 1936, which was a minor sensation at that time, he was found guilty as charged and sentenced to 4 years penal servitude, being released early in February 1939, having earned remission for good behaviour. He returned to Germany and rejoined the Luftwaffe in August 1939.