Mathilde “The Cat” Carre (1910-1970) was a French double agent during WWII. Carre makes for an interesting study in that her treason is based on nothing more than self-preservation and possibly the desire for a long hot bath.
Carre was born in France, educated at the Sorbonne, became a school teacher, married, and moved to Algeria. Pretty uneventful stuff. War soon broke out and Carre’s husband was killed during the campaign of Italy.
Carre returned to France as a nurse just in time for it to fall to the Germans, took up with a Polish military officer, and joined the Franco-Polish resistance movement of the Interallie. Carre proved very useful in being able to determine and size and location of Luftwaffe and SS Panzer divisions in the region. Some say it was Carre’s green eyes and shapely gams that got her intel from German officers in her area.
Carre was taken prisoner by the Germans during a catastrophic decision to recruit a female into the Interallie who turned out to be a double-agent for the Abwehr. Carre herself was turned into a double-agent and released back into the field.
Carre, still believed to be a trusted member of the Interallie, was summoned to London with a cohort. The Abwehr believed they were about to get their chance to infiltrate the infamous British SOE, but Carre was instead arrested and imprisoned during the duration of the war where she served her time as an informant against other detainees.
After the war, Carre was sent back to France to face trial. She was initially sentenced to death but eventually had her sentence commuted to 20 years. She was released in 1954, penned a book, “I Was Called the Cat”, in efforts to explain her side of the story, and passed away 1970.
During her trial, the prosecution read from Carre’s diary: “What I wanted most was a good meal, a man, and, once more, Mozart’s Requiem.” Interesting. We view treason through the lens of money, ideology, compromise, and ego, but this hints at something more. Fatigue.
Certainly, Carre was compromised into turning double agent, but that implies something that is still against her will and I think Carre’s will was long gone. With her husband dead and her country devastated, Carre strikes me as someone so demoralized that she became bent on doing whatever she perceived it took to just get the war over with and she had given up caring which side won.
Too bad really. Carre was called “The Cat” because of her elegant manueverings and stealth like ways of gathering intel. Perhaps a more concerted effort at sublimating that demoralization might have resulted in an entry celebrating this dame’s accomplishments instead of writing about a lady who gave up, gave in, and turned coat.