Goertz, Herman (1890–1947), German spy, was born 15 November 1890 in Lübeck, Germany, son of Dr Heinrich Goertz, lawyer and Reichstag deputy. He initially attended the Abiturium Johanneum in Lübeck before studying law at Heidelberg, Kiel, and Paris; he entered Edinburgh University (1912) and qualified in English law two years later. At the outbreak of the first world war he joined a Prussian Guard regiment but transferred to the air force in 1915, initially serving as an observer. He saw service in East Prussia and on the western front, and was awarded the Iron Cross (1st class) in 1917. In the same year he became ill, and on recovery was posted as an instructor to the flying school at Schwaring. On his return to the western front he was posted to 5th Army HQ as an intelligence officer, his primary duty being to interrogate captured British and American pilots. He later stated that directly after the war he served with the Freikorps, fighting against communist groups in Germany.
During the interwar years he worked as a lawyer in Germany and briefly in the USA (1925). He also visited Ireland on holiday (1927), which by his account gave him an insight into political tensions in the country. From 1928 to 1931 he worked in London, representing the Siemens company. When Hitler came to power, Goertz attempted to join the fledgeling Luftwaffe as a pilot but was refused on age grounds. Due to his language abilities he was employed as an intelligence officer by the Abwehr and made several visits to England gathering information on RAF bases. Working with his female accomplice, Marianne Emig, he travelled through England gathering information, but during his absence in Germany (October 1935) his rented house at Broadstairs, Kent, was raided. Drawings of RAF Manston and other compromising material were uncovered, and on his return (November) he was arrested. In March 1936 he was sentenced to four years for espionage and served his sentence in Brixton and Maidstone prisons. Released and deported (February 1939), he returned to Germany, was attached initially to the staff of a Luftwaffe reconnaissance group, and was then transferred to the supreme command (OKW) as a staff officer with the rank of major.
In January 1940 he was approached by the Abwehr with a proposal that he parachute into Ireland, contact IRA leaders, and coordinate the disruption of ports in Northern Ireland. On the night 5/6 May 1940 he flew to Ireland, originally intending to parachute into Co. Tyrone. Due to cloud cover he was forced away from his intended landing zone, and parachuted over Co. Meath, landing at Ballivor. He soon made contact with IRA members but felt that they were too disorganised and badly armed to carry out attacks on the Northern Ireland ports. Also his whereabouts were constantly betrayed, and during the next eighteen months he narrowly escaped arrest on several occasions. On 27 November 1941 he was arrested in a raid at Blackheath Park, Clontarf, Dublin, and was interned at Athlone till September 1946. On release he asked to stay in Ireland, where he had made many friends, and worked as secretary of the Save the German Children Fund. The Irish government, however, agreed to an allied request that he be returned to Germany. Goertz appealed this decision through the courts but, on reporting (23 May 1947) to the aliens office in Palace St., Dublin, was informed that his appeal had failed and that he must report to Mountjoy gaol to await repatriation. Convinced that he would be treated unkindly by the new administrations in Germany, whether allied or Soviet, he immediately took poison and, despite the efforts of the doctors at Mercer's Hospital, died within the hour. He was initially buried in Deansgrange cemetery but his remains were later reinterred at the German military cemetery in Glencree, Co. Wicklow.
He married (1916) Ellen, daughter of Vice-Adm. Aschenborn; they had three children. In August–September 1947 a series of articles by him, outlining his Irish experiences, were published in the Irish Times. There is a collection of material relating to Goertz in the military archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin.