Supreme Court of Justice, Vienna.
Friday 20 May, 1921.
My application for legal counsel has been denied once more: I will continue to represent myself. This week, the court heard of my experience as a British member of parliament and leader in the German putsches. Reaching Vienna last September, I was knocked down by a horrendous fever. Appendicitis? An assassination attempt? I do not know. I was laid in the sick bed, while Bauer and Miss Engler went off to Villach. Two weeks, thinking I would die. In that room was my custom-made large leather travel bag. It was usual for me to carry the paperwork. Yes! In that bag was the key correspondence and plans of the White International movement. Dirty deals struck with the Hungarian government, Russian emigres and German paramilitaries. The conspiracies of Bavaria, and Italy, seeking revenge: it was all there! And something I had not seen: evidence Bauer re-employed my would-be assassin, Stephani. Well, my friends, too often was I caught in the company of thieves and killers. I resolved to have nothing more to do with them. I did the only thing I could do. I took the papers and ran!
While the people of Vienna were enjoying their wonderful balls and green parks, I registered at the Archduke Charles Hotel under the name Thomas Lorincz. It took only a fortnight for Pál Prónay’s men to locate me. Giczy. Faber. Men who once guarded my life, now sought to end it. ‘Return with us.’ ‘Bauer and Prónay merely wish to talk.’ Well, you have read of the White Guard’s cruelties. They hack off women’s’ breasts, whip men to death, if they are Jews or Communists. When we were in Budapest, Giczy boasted to me of using socialists as fuel in the boilers of their trains. You can understand why I denied I had the papers, why I did not go. They were nervous about killing me on Austrian soil. I am a very lucky man and also a very smart man. As soon as I was able, I gave them the slip. I went to another hotel and they went back empty-handed!
Nevertheless, the race was on. I reasoned that the French would be very interested in a plot to re-ignite the Great War. I met with their attaché, then a minister, and they were on the brink of buying when the deal fell through. As you know, I eventually found a buyer in the Czechoslovakians. In going to them, my actions prevented a new rising. How can it be that they have brought the charges to me of high treason, and fraud? The Czechoslovakian government have asked you to decide the White International papers are forgeries. Yet the French, and the rest of the world, know they are real. Miss Engler and General Krauss, key figures in the movement, said the very same before this court. Two men were prepared to kill me because they are genuine. You have no doubt heard some dastardly lies about me, perhaps even believed a few. Yet the Czech government have me locked in a Viennese cell and they ask your complicity in keeping me there. I see the clock is against us. On Monday I will explain how the British government, which also hates me, believes I am innocent.
Thank you, your honour.
Monday 23 May, 1921.
Hello and thank you for being here. There are a few making their way in I see. Come, come in!
Last week I told you the British government framed me with a tale of monetary fraud and forgery to suppress real intelligence. Today, the Czechoslovakian government insist key intelligence is a forgery, in order to commit monetary fraud against me!! When the documents I sold them are proved genuine, and I am freed, I will sue them for the reward I was promised.
Let us begin to examine the role of the British in the current matter. I approached Reginald Bridgeman at the embassy. I knew it would not be an easy sell, so I asked Bridgeman to cable London. I wanted them to grasp my readiness to make amends for past mistakes. Europe was on the eve of an action on a much larger scale than the Kapp Putsch, I said. Let me help. Would Britain extend a forgiving hand toward me? No. She would not. Definitely not! Word reached me Bridgeman was sternly rebuked by his superiors for daring to mention my name! It was rebuffed by MI5’s Basil Thomson, Lord Kilmarnock in Berlin, Eyre Crowe of the Foreign Office; probably even Admiral Hall, who particularly hates me!
And yet the clock ticked. Tick, tock, tick. And the assassins are on my trail. So I went to Prague: a place of great industrial progress, and great history too. The Old Town Square has the Orloj, a mechanical clock with astronomical dial. It is five hundred years old! The ordinary Czech is optimistic and friendly and keen, and this was my initial experience with Jan Hajšman, a senior official in their press department. In a day or two we had a deal. I handed over fifty papers and spent four days with his aide, Novotny, who transcribed my aural commentaries. They would pay me five hundred thousand Czech crowns, two in down-payment, three to come after authentication. I am still waiting for the three and I was prescient to keep some papers to myself! They also furnished me with an identity document in the name of Thomas Lamprecht so as to hide from my pursuers. Hajšman, and Foreign Minister Beneš, had big plans. My revelations were to be invaluable propaganda weapons which would humiliate Czechoslovakia’s enemies. Yet they completely failed to light the touch-paper then. Their own papers ignored the story and they failed in the European press too! In November, one paper carried the tale, a low-circulation Russian rag. I should have taken it as an omen against Hajšman and Beneš.
That’s right. The White International plot, which has since been famous the world over, was not exposed by Czechoslovakia. I suspect as you might, that the Czech government brought this action against me is to mask their own incompetence. I am in no rush to go back to my cell but I find myself quite tired. I would ask that we reconvene tomorrow. Then, I will be happy to tell you how, ironically, it was the British that came to my rescue.
Tuesday 24 May, 1921.
‘The White International – Plans to Destroy Czechoslovakia!’
I expected it to hit the front pages much earlier. When it did, my mind was already elsewhere. From the down-payment, I cabled money to my wife and children in England. Several weeks later, we were re-united in Vienna. Have a look at them now. Margarethe, pretty and wise: her love and support boundless, her hard work an inspiration. Next to her, Clifford, nine years old, handsome, and on any other day, full of joy. Edward, observant and shy. The giant is John, a young man with goodness in his heart; and my eldest, Ignatius. Though not an adult he had to become the breadwinner, since Britain forbid their father entering the country. I wanted to give them the new life they deserved. Our reunion has been full of joy. Picnics in the Prater, a ride on the Ferris wheel, tours of the twin museums of natural history and fine art.
The three thousand crowns were to be paid via the Czech plenipotentiary in Vienna. You have met him already: Robert Flieder. If you thought Flieder’s testimony to this court brief, you have the size of the man. All I got from him were excuses. Truthfully, I do not know what purpose he filled! Back in Prague, the British Consul-General, George Clerk, was doing his job for him. This is how it all occurred. Clerk brought my revelations to Seton-Watson, the pro-independence activist and journalist. What Hajšman and Flieder could not manage in months, Seton-Watson did overnight. The story was in every newspaper across the globe! The secret intrigues of the Hungarian government were out in the open. The powerful machinations of the armies of Germany, Russia and Austria were exposed. New York Times: ‘A New International Revolution!’ The Times: ‘European Plot Divulged – A Three Part Series!’ The vendors and their hoardings all carried it. Many papers rightly guessed the source and printed my name, even the Czech ones. Though not their government. That would be an admittance of guilt. ‘Trebitsch Leaks!’ The matter was being discussed at the highest levels. The Czech president cabled London’s Foreign Office. Only then were the blinders removed from Sir Crowe’s eyes!!
Was I happy? No! Not at all. The job was done and I had not been paid and of course worse. To the men who had been sent to kill me over this information this must have been seen as a bold attack! I had a target on me, on my family too!
I had to think quick and I came up with two actions to slow my demise. I wrote to a friend in Berlin. If Stephani and Prónay were determined I be six feet under, then so be it! At my instruction, my friend spread the story of my demise. Stephani heard of it. Bauer and Weigand too. Had the Czechs not arrested me three months ago they might still believe it. The second course of action was to get out. I took the family by train to Semmering, the delightful winter ski village. Snow covered the forests and hills as far as the eyes could see. Margarethe and I got reacquainted. The boys built snowmen and raced on toboggans. It was an immensely happy time, one I fear I will not see again.
The prosecution promised Major Stephani will appear and it is something of a threat. However, the papers show his role in the coming bloodshed so I cannot see him appearing before this court. He is too deep in this conspiracy. He has too much to risk…
Wednesday 25 May, 1921.
Today, I shall continue to demonstrate how I am not guilty of fraud or high treason, but quite the reverse. Yesterday, I began to talk of January this year. I had returned from Semmering, assumed dead by my pursuers. The papers were still full of it, and there were consequences. The Supreme Council in Paris saw our documents and reprimanded Admiral Horthy. The British also were furious. They took their revenge on Bavaria by demanding Organisation Escherich to be disbanded. Some Austrian ministers took part in early talks with me, and there position is quite precarious. Czechoslovakia is also using the files as leverage against Germany! Oh, except the whole notion is a forgery of mine and none of this bother is really happening. That is the case against me, and there is not much else to it!
We kept a low profile, but almost right away began to notice unsettling things. Ignatius, alone at a restaurant, was asked a good many questions. The men claimed to be reporters, but when asked which paper, they ducked out. A few days later, he noticed two men following us. This happened several times. We had to make sharp moves to give them the slip. There was another incident, one I have not spoken of until now. We lodged at Hotel Viktoria, near Schonbrunn Palace. I had been the last to leave that morning and the first to return. I immediately noticed items were moved around: books, clothing, toiletries, as if part of an inspection. Had housekeeping been? No. Reception saw no-one. The locks were not tampered with. Who-ever it was had gained access by the third floor window balcony! Is that not all the hall-marks of a Secret Service agent, or worse?
And Flieder still rebuffed me: your money is coming soon. It will not be long now. Some days when I could not go, I sent Ignatius. Then one day he came back with a note reading, ‘go away, we do not want to hear from you again.’ told me ninety days. It had been six months! I enlisted a lawyer who wrote to them both, and the Foreign Minister, Beneš. Civil proceedings would be instituted if they did not settle immediately. Well, I had poked the bear. Within ten days, the government responded. They contacted the police here in Vienna and demanded my arrest. It was February 18th… when they swooped on us. Can you grasp the indignity of a father being put in cuffs with his two sons during a Friday lunch? John was barely sixteen for god’s sake and he had committed no crime! It had nothing to do with him! Perhaps I might have been better taking my chances with Stephani and Prónay, if doing right by Czechoslovakia means putting my loved ones lives at risk, and being damned against the wall!!!
I… I am shaking with rage.
Your honour, I would like time to compose myself.
Thursday 26 May, 1921.
I want to begin by thanking you all for your compassion yesterday. My patience was frayed. Upon my arrest, I gave the police a full statement about my activities and the dispute with the Czech government. Had I not, certain warped imaginations may have put a noose around my neck. I have stood, before you all, addressing these charges. The government in Prague alleges I forged fifty-one documents containing precise details of a plot by powerful militias in six countries. You have, I hope, paid more attention.
I demonstrated already how I am backed by the press, by Paris and London, even the men who would want me dead! The prosecution have produced little in the way of evidence. They refused to submit the papers until Judge Ramsauer ordered them to! Surely you find that suspicious? Only at the final moment did they present a mere sixteen of the documents. There are also the items taken during a police search of my apartment: my diary and address books, copies of legal correspondence. All these were examined and corresponded with my accounts. The police also collected a memo I kept in reserve pending payment: document fifty-one, I call it.. It is also known as ‘ Die Neue Taktik’ and outlines Colonel Bauer’s strategic plans and ideas. The police thought it a forgery. They wrote, ‘it served as an indication that Trebitsch committed forgeries.’ It has been the lynchpin of their argument. Yet the prosecution witness, Luis Engler, on behalf of Bauer explicitly stated it was genuine. Engler is loyal to her employer, who has every reason to see me behind bars. They called General Krauss. He testified a certain letter was authentic, that certain talks took place. So Krauss also corroborated many of the details in the evidence!
The prosecution has destroyed its own case!
In a while you will make your decision. I ask you to find me not guilty of forgery: the documents are perfectly authentic. I ask you also to dismiss the charge of high treason. A new era of European bloodshed has been prevented, stopped in its tracks, because I brought the full details to the authorities in good time. I am guilty only of being politically inconvenient.
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