Birthplace of World War I spy and exotic dancer Mata Hari gutted by fire

THE HAGUE - A fire in the Netherlands has gutted the birthplace of exotic dancer and World War I spy Mata Hari, Dutch media said on Sunday.

One man reportedly died in the blaze that broke out Saturday evening in the Frisian city of Leeuwarden, about 140 kilometres (87 miles) north of Amsterdam.

It destroyed several buildings, including the one where Mata Hari was born as Margaretha Geertruida Zelle on August 7, 1876, the daughter of a local shopkeeper, NOS public television said.

Zelle travelled to Paris in 1903 where she became famous across Europe for her exotic eastern dances and liaisons with various men while moving in high society.

Her stage name became synonymous with the archetypical femme fatale. Mata Hari was arrested and executed by firing squad in October 1917, aged 41, after being accused of being a German spy during the First World War.

Several movies were made about her life and her character was played by various star actresses including Greta Garbo, Zsa Zsa Gabor and Sylvia Kristel, who was also Dutch.

Kristel, who died aged 60 last year, became famous in her own right for her role in the 1974 French movie Emmanuelle, one of the first-ever soft focus erotic movies to be shown in mainstream cinema.

In all eleven homes and five shops were consumed by flames, including the hair salon that now occupies the place of Mata Hari's birth, before they were brought under control early Sunday morning, NOS public television said.

It showed firefighters battling the flames and a huge plume of smoke billowing across the city.

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