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Love and the Secret Service

07 Apr 2014

Rose De Waldeck (born 1898) was German, Jewish, and a banker’s daughter. She had a PhD in Sociology from Heidelberg and became countess during her third marriage. In the 1930s, De Waldeck moved over to the US where she practised journalism, travelling to the USSR and North Africa as a news correspondent. Due to her several visits to Germany post-1933 when Hitler ruled, as well as her various links to top figures around Hindenburg, she was under FBI surveillance as a potential German spy working for Canaris.

However, across the pond, in Germany, De Waldeck was seen as part of the American, Russian or French espionage. In 1939, she became an American citizen and an adept of Catholicism. When Paris was taken over by the enemies, Rose De Waldeck checked in at Athenee Palace Hotel in Bucharest – a top spot for the high society, prime ministers, ambassadors, generals, writers and celebrities, as well as the frauds and members of the international espionage. She went to Bucharest in order to write about the events shaking Europe as a Newsweek journalist. In fact, she chose the best vantage point: a country at the crossroads between Russia and the Balkans. At the time, Romania was not occupied and had diplomatic links with all the countries at war. She lived in Bucharest for 7 months, a time when Romania went through its toughest moments. From June 1940 to January 1941 – when Bessarabia and Bucovina were occupied by the Red Army, the Vienna Treaty and the loss of Transylvania, King Carol II’s stepping down from the throne, the beginning of the military state led by Antonescu and Sima, the German troops entering Romania, the November earthquake, the Jilava killings and the rebel legion. At the end of January, De Waldeck rushes out of Bucharest. Back in New York, she wrote the book that made her famous: Athenee Palace (released in 1942).

There’s one story missing from the book, however – her love affair with a German senior officer, lieutenant, from the high society, Johann von Ravenstein. His grandfather was Blucher’s aide de camp during the battle of Waterloo. Athenee Palace Hotel was the venue of their affair. It’s hard to say how she fell in love with him, given her knowledge of what the Jewish community was going through back in Germany. Johann Von Ravenstein was dispatched to North Africa in 1941, where he fought under Rommel’s orders in the 21st Panzer Division. In 1943, he was taken hostage and sent to a camp in Canada. Rose De Waldeck wrote him and she also visited him at the camp. This was yet another opportunity for the FBI to suspect her of espionage and keep her under surveillance. The two kept in touch nonetheless. When von Ravenstein was freed in 1949, he went back to Germany (in Duisburg), where his family was. He passed away in 1962, when he was 73 years old. Rose De Waldeck lived in New York until her lonely death in 1982, in a monastery. Following her book, Athenee Palace, she did not release any major work. She is still an enigma to this day – was she an American, Russian, French or German spy? Or was she never a spy at all. What some may suggest is that she tended to play spy in order to get the attention.

Source: "Amorul în serviciile secrete" (‘Love and The Secret Service’) Stelian Tănase, 7th April 2012


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