Bob Lemke wrote:
My father's commander in the Freikorps was Major von Stephani, a Guards officer and the son of a Prussian general. In the early 1920's he, radically right-wing, was a plotter with Ludendorff and Col. Bauer in Hungary trying to cook up a radical right revolution, after the Kapp Putsch failed. Bauer had a personal assistant, one Lincoln Trebisch, a (former) Hungarian Orthodox Jew, who, I must say, was almost a characture of the anti-Semitic Jewish appearance found in Nazi propaganda later. Von Stephani was shocked that Col. Bauer had such a man as his aide, and got rid of him by giving Trebitsch an unsealed letter for Bauer (knowing that Trebitsch would read it), telling Bauer to have the disgusting guy killed, that in Hungary one can have a Jew killed in a minute. Trebitsch took off, unfortunately taking Bauer's files with him.
I have just finished reading Bernard Wasserstein's The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln
(Yale University Press, 1988), which deals with one of the most fascinating and colorful scoundrels that appeared as a bit player in the tumultuous events of the first half of the past century. He was born as Ignácz Trebitsch , one of 14 (or 16) children of an Orthodox Jewish family then living in a small town in Hungary. An incurable peripatetic, he moved to England, then back to Hungary, and in sequence to Germany (where he purported to convert to Christianity and was baptised as Ignatius Timotheus Trebitsch), Canada, the US, Canada again (where he was known as the Reverend J.T. Trebitsch), back to England where for a while he was curate in a small Anglican village church, which he gave up (assuming the name I.T.T. Lincoln) to become private secretary to a very wealthy and influential businessman active in the Liberal Party for whom he travelled extensively in Europe, and in 1910 was quite astonishingly elected (as I. T. Tribich Lincoln) to the British House of Commons as the Liberal MP for Darlington, by a majority of 29 votes over his Unionist opponent.
His tenure as an MP lasted less than a year, he ended up insolvent leaving his creditors with unpaid debts of many thousands of Pounds, and then embarked on a series of outrageous financial shenanigans involving investments in purported petroleum and related interests in Galicia and Rumania, thereby fleecing his investors of probably well over 100,000 Pounds. As a youth he had been sought by the police of Budapest and Trieste for petty thievery; he was convicted by a Rumanian Court of misappropriation of assets, and by 1914 he was sought by Scotland Yard for fraud and forgery. So at that point he decided to forgo (at least temporarily) his role as thief and con-man, and to embark on a new profession, whereby he proffered his services both to the British and to the Germans as a double (or perhaps triple) secret agent. Without either country taking the bait, and with the British police hard on his heels, Trebitsch Lincoln fled to the US. There he was arrested, jailed and ordered extradited back to England to stand trial. He escaped, was rearrested, shipped back to England, tried and sentenced to 3 years penal servitude.
At the end of Trebitsch Lincoln's jail term in 1919 he was released and deported to Germany, where his association with Oberst Max Bauer referred to by Bob Lembke in the above quote began. Primarily on the basis of articles which Trebitsch Lincoln was able to have published in the violently right-wing newspaper Deutsche Zeitung
he was befriended by Bauer and ultimately became his press secretary and closest confidant - despite the fact that Bauer was a rabid anti-Semite and Trebitsch Lincoln made no secret of the fact that he was a Jew. Through his extremely close relationship with Bauer, Trebitsch Lincoln became an influential member of the "Nationale Vereinigung" which also included Ludendorff, General von Lüttwitz, Hauptmann Papst, Wolfgang Kapp, Hugo Stinness and other extreme right-wingers among its membership. As Bauer's assistant, he was among the inner circle of the instigators of the Kapp Putsch in March 1920 and was assigned (or assumed) the position of "Director of Foreign Press Affairs" and censor for the new "government" - which is an excellent example of the fatal naïveté and - yes - utter stupidity - of the plotters of that comic-opera fiasco.
After the collapse of the Kapp Putsch Bauer and Trebitsch Lincoln fled to Bavaria, where Bauer composed a pamphlet about the Putsch which Trebitsch Lincoln returned to Berlin to attempt to peddle to a publisher. There he was arrested, escaped, fled back to Bavaria and together with Bauer soon headed off to Hungary with the police at their heels. During this period and later Trebitsch Lincoln delighted in travelling under a host of assumed names: e.g. Wilhelm Ludwig, Heinrich Lamprecht, Vilmos Ludwig, Karl Lamprecht, Dr. Tibor Lahotzky, Theodor Lakatos, Dr. Johan Lange, Thomas Lorincz, Thomas Longford, H. Trautwein. In Budapest the two joined forces with a group of Hungarians to form the "White International" which was to be an alliance of German and Hungarian reactionaries, with the ultimate (hare-brained) design of renouncing the Versailles Treaty and Treaty of Trianon and, in union with White Russians, forming a Cenral European counterbalance to the British-French Entente and to the Communist International.
At this point Wasserstein's book departs somewhat from the description of events provided in Bob Lembke's above quotation. Based on the diary of Oberst Bauer's Secretary, Louise Engeler, it was a letter from Major von Stephani to Kapitän Hermann Ehrhardt (he of the famed -or infamous- Ehrhardt Freikorps), who was visiting in Budapest at the time, that recommended the assasination of Trebitsch Lincoln, not on the grounds that he was a Jew - although von Stephani opined that it should be easy to execute a Jew in Budapest at that time, when the White Terror post-Bela Kun's Jewish dominated régime had not yet abated - but rather that Trebitsch Lincoln was personally a scoundrel who, if not eliminated, could never be gotten rid of. Ehrhardt gave the letter unsealed to Trebitsch Lincoln for delivery to Bauer, which led to a furious confrontation between the two friends, in which Bauer assured Trebitsch Lincoln that he would never allow him to suffer such a fate. A few weeks later, however, Trebitsch L:incoln fled with a large suitcase full of secret White International documents, which, after trying to peddle them to the French and then the British without success, he managed to sell to the Czechs for a promised 500,000 crowns, of which the Czechs held back 300,000 crowns and ultimately refused to pay - leading to lawsuits and countersuits, the arrest of Trebitsch Lincoln in Vienna and his eventual deportation, his flight to the US without a valid visa, his arrest and subsequent deportation from the US from where he landed up in Japan and on to China in 1922.
In China he became close to several of the then reigning War Lords, embarked on financial escapades similar to those previously engaged in, and frittered to and fro between China and Europe on ventures and itineraries too complicated to describe here, but including a reconciliation with Oberst Bauer which led the latter in 1927 to become a military advisor to Chiang Kai-Chek. In 1931 Trebitsch Lincoln ended up ordained as a Buddist monk under the name Chao Kung, to which he added the title Abbot and attempted to recruit a religious following of his own. In the late 30s and early 40s he attempted through a local Gestapo agent in Shanghai to establish a relationships with Nazi Germany as an espionage agent, but the effort was rebuffed by Reinhart Heydrich, who chided his agent by the query "Don't you know he is a Jew?" Trebitsch Lincoln died in 1943 after an intestinal operation in Shanghai.
Wasserstein is (or was) Chairman of the History Department at Brandeis University. His book is well written, illustrated, researched, annotated and documented. I recommend it as a rousing good tale of a minor but extremely interesting rogue, the likes of whom can probably no longer be duplicated in the present age.