Thursday 6 August 2009
Trebitsch Lincoln-Crowley in another Form
Now well into my explorations on the life of Aleister Crowley there were certain aspects of his career that reminded me of another supremely theatrical figure and opportunist, a man by the name of Treibitsch Lincoln. Anyway, here below, is a copy of a piece I wrote about this character, which I would like to preserve here.
To write a story about Trebitsch Lincoln one would have to scale down the real truth to correspond to the forms of verisimilitude demanded by any decent fiction! His is a life so fanciful that it really could not be made up; or to do so would be to risk accusations of absurdity and implausibility. A Hungarian Jew by birth, he went on to become a Liberal MP in the British House of Commons, who subsequently took part in an abortive right-wing coup in Germany, meeting Hitler in the process, finally dying in China in 1943 as a Buddhist monk and a Japanese agent!
Ignacz Lincoln was born in the town of Paks in Hungary in 1879, subsequently moving with his family to Budapest. After leaving school he enrolled in the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, but was frequently in trouble with the police over acts of petty theft. In 1897 he fled abroad, ending up in London, where he took up with some Christian missionaries and converted from Judaism. He was finally baptised on Christmas day 1899, and set off to study at a Lutheran seminary in Breklum in Schleswig-Holstein, destined for the ministry. As restless, and as shady as ever, he was sent to Canada to carry out missionary work among the Jews of Montreal, first on behalf of the Presbyterians, and then the Anglicans. He returned to England in 1903 after a quarrel over the size of his stipend.
He seems to have had a quite unique ability to talk himself into virtually any situation, and into any company. He made the acquaintance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who appointed him as a curate in Kent, his last ecclesiastical post.
Soon after he met Seebohm Rowntree, the chocolate millionare and prominent member of the Liberal Party, who offered him the position of his private secretary. With Rowntree's support, he was nominated in 1909 as the prospective Liberal candidate for the Parliamentary constituency of Darlington in Yorkshire, even though he was still a Hungarian citizen at the time! In the election of January 1910 he beat the sitting Conservative, whose family had held the seat for generations. However, despite this dramatic entrance to political life, Trebitsch failed to make much of an impact, and did not stand when a second general election was called in December.
In the years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War he was involved in a variety of failed commercial endevours, living for a time in Bucharest, hoping to make money in the oil industry. Back in London with no money, he offered his services to the British government as a spy. When he was rejected he went to Holland and made contact with the Germans, who employed him as a double-agent.
Returning to England, he narrowly escaped arrest, leaving for the United States in 1915, where he made contact with the German military attache, a man by the name of Franz von Papen. Papen was instructed by Berlin to have nothing to do with him, whereupon Trebitsch sold his 'story' to the New York World Magazine, which published under the banner headline REVELATION OF I. T. T. LINCOLN, FORMER MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT WHO BECAME A SPY. The British government, anxious to avoid any embarrassment, employed the Pinkerton agency to track down the renegade. He was finally returned to England, not on a charge of espionage, which was not covered by the Anglo-American extradition treaty, but of fraud, far more apt in the circumstances. He served three years in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, and was finally released and deported in 1919.
A penniless refugee, he worked his way bit by bit into the extreme right-wing and militarist fringe in Weimar Germany, making the acquiantance of Wolfgang Kapp and Erich Ludendorff among others. In 1920, following the Kapp Putsch, he was appointed press censor to the new 'government.' In this capacity he met a young politician, who flew in from Munich the day before the Putsch collapsed. His name was Adolf Hitler. He was never to forget his encounter with the notorious Trebitsch.
With the fall of Kapp, Trebitsch fled south, from Munich, to Vienna to Budapest, intriguing all along the way, linking up with whole variety of fringe political factions, finally taking part in a loose alliance of monarchists and reactionaries from all over Europe known as the White International. Entrusted with the organisation's archives, he promptly sold the information to the secret services of various governments. Tried and acquited on a charge of high treason in Austria, he was deported yet again, finally ending up in China, where he took up employment under three different warlords.
After a mystic experience in the late 1920s he converted to Buddhism, becoming a monk. In 1931 he rose to the rank of abbot, establishing his own monastery in Shanghai. All initiates were required to hand over their possessions to Abbot Chao Kung, as he now called himself, who also spent his time seducing nuns.
In 1937 he transferred his loyalties yet again, this time to the Japanese, producing anti-British propaganda on their behalf. After the outbreak of the Second World War, he also made contact with the Nazis, offering to broadcast for them, and to raise up all the Buddhists of the east against any remaining British influence in the area. The chief of the Gestapo in the far east, SS Colonel Joesph Mesinger, urged that this scheme receive serious attention. It was even seriously suggested that Trebitsch be allowed to accompany German agents to Tibet, Indiana Jones style, to implement the scheme. Himmler was enthusiastic, as was Hess; although it all came to nothing after the latter flew to Scotland in May 1941. After this Hitler put an end to all crackpot, pesudo-mystical schemes. Even so, Trebitsch continued his work for the German and Japanese security services in Shanghai.
As I have said, this is a life that could never have been invented. :-)