Elsbeth Schragmüller

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Elsbeth Schragmüller, also known as Fräulein Doktor and Mademoiselle Docteur, as well as Fair Lady, La Baronne and Mlle. Schwartz, (7 August 1887, Schlüsselburg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire — 24 February 1940, Munich, Bavaria, Nazi Germany) was a German spy during World War I. For many years she was invariably known as Mademoiselle Docteur or Fräulein Doktor, her actual name being revealed only in 1945 from German intelligence documents captured by the Allies after World War II, by which time she had already died of miliary tuberculosis in 1940. Her nickname acknowledges the fact that she had a doctoral degree in political science – and not psychology as some fictional portrayals have claimed – from the University of Freiburg, being one of the first generation of German women to gain an academic degree.

Life[edit]

Schragmüller was the eldest of four children born to Prussian Army officer and bailiff Carl Anton Schragmüller and his wife Valesca Cramer von Clausbruch. Her younger brother was the future Sturmabteilung (SA) police chief of Magdeburg, Konrad Schragmüller.

Schragmüller spent her childhood first in Schlüsselburg and then in Münster with her grandmother, who educated her. From 1909-1914, she studied political science at Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg. She finished her studies in 1913 and was one of the first women in Germany to acquire a university degree. After her studies she worked for the Berlin Lette-Verein as a lecturer in civic education.

After the outbreak of the First World War, Schragmüller moved to occupied Belgium, where the German Governor General, Colmar von der Goltz, assigned her to Section VII, where she opened and intercepted letters. She later switched to intelligence collection and worked, after a short training period, in Lille for the General Staff's intelligence wing, or Abteilung IIIb. In 1915, Colonel Walter Nicolai, the head of Abteilung IIIb, assigned her as the chief of the Kriegsnachrichten Antwerpen. By the war's end, Schragmüller held the rank of lieutenant and had been awarded the Iron Cross First Class.

After the armistice in 1918, Schragmüller resumed her academic career and became the first female assistant chair at Freiburg University. A few years later, she moved with her family to Munich. Soon after, her father and her brother Konrad, a senior SA officer, were shot during the Night of the Long Knives. Shortly afterward, Elspeth ended her career abruptly for unknown reasons, possibly lack of money.

Schragmüller died in 1940 at the age of 52 years, of bone tuberculosis in her Munich apartment.

Urban legends[edit]

The activities of "Fräulein Doktor" were the subject of various urban legends during World War I but, as she was neither captured nor unmasked during her lifetime, much of her life story remains obscure and speculative, and it is unclear to what extent the various fictional treatments of her life story are accurate. Her death early in World War II makes it unlikely that she contributed materially to the war effort even if, as some have claimed, she again engaged in espionage activities.

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