Koets me if you can

05 Oct


Dear fellow Flynn fans,

here is what Vienna authorities and libraries have to offer on Dr. med. Hermann Friedrich Karl Theodor Erben aka. Dr.Gerrit H. Koets, Errol Flynn`s travel companion on his wicked, wicked ways.

Born on November 15th of 1897 in Vienna to Dr. jur. Hermann Erben Sr., General Manager of one of the largest steele factories in the K & K monarchy and Jeanine Reichel, daughter of a rich cotton manifacturer in Prag. His mother was of Jewish descent, she had her son circumcized, otherwise the whole family was baptized into the evangelical faith. His sister Grete(l), was 10 years his minor.

He served in WWI as lieutenant along the Italian frontline. Soon after the war was lost, his father was let go from his post in the once weapon producing factory. Erben Sr. died from tuberculosis in 1919 leaving his family national state bonds 400.000 Kronen, the equivalent of four loaves of bread.

Like his uncle Fritz he joined a duelling student fraternity- the Corps Symposion, “earning” himself a gash wound on his left cheek he would parade proudly for the rest of his life.

Erben was one of the first members in Austria of the DNSAP- the German worker`s Party and pre- NSDAP, the political wing of the Nationalsocialists. Back in 1922 the agenda was to reunite Austria with Germany for the better good of both countries.

In June of 1920 he married his first wife, Klara, who was from Leipzig in Germany. Four days later she gave birth to their son, Kurt.

He tricked himself into a passage to Brazil in 1921, securing a construction worker`s job in Rio de Janeiro (where the World Fair of the year thereafter was prepared) even though he knew nothing about any hand craft.

This trip triggered his travel bug, a neurosis as he later claimed himself. Since he couldn`t back up on his working claim, he was forced to return a stowaway. The stage was set for more impostering to come.

Upon his return, he learned that Klara had given birth to another son. He consulted his diary in which Brazilian city he had been on the day of his second son`s birth and announced that his name therefore should be “Santos”. The marriage ended in a divorce on grounds of “incompatibilty”. To spare alimony payments, he let Klara and the boys live on in his apartment while away on his trips. Whenever he was home he consumed their in court dissolved marriage, washing, cooking and else, as if nothing had happened.

He claimed to have been an extra (then again who had not, given the monumental mass scenes) like many other Viennese University students on the Michael Kertesz film “Sodom and Gomorrah”.


In 1923 he worked at a medical facility, studying on diabetes, in the United States. His announcement, that he was off to “Jew York” got him the laughs of his Corps Bros. He instantly applied for American citizenship, but managed only to get a sailor`s ID, while befriending dock workers.

His promotion to medical doctor at the Vienna University was on the 23rd of July in 1926. The original certificate shows his name in latin: Arminium Erben.

Two years prior there were first hints of substance abuse. When questioned by police, then and later he will always claim that the amount of morphium in his possession was for medical purposes only and strictly within the official limits. This is like being stopped for exceeding city limit speed restrictions, but pleading innocence for having stayed within the tachometer.

He went back to the US almost immediately after his promotion, fibbing he had a job lined up for him, but managed only to get a 20 day visa. He was advised to respect this timelimit, otherwise he would be warranted and deported. He stayed for two years, taking the Medical Board exam in Tulane and Seattle and passing twice with impressing results (>90%). He was employed at various hospitals, for example the Medical Lake Hospital in Spokane, Washington. He was fired once for misbehavin´ with a nurse on duty, other times he just wandered on.

After illegally alienating everybody, he requested an application form for reentry to the United States. He stated to the Office of Immigration and Naturalization that he intended to go on a one year world trip. He produced the passport he had shown when coming to the US the first time and not his second one where the short term visa would have had him ousted immediately. Reentry after a longer absence was granted. A pattern had been established. Erben-Koets had beaten the system and was off to Hongkong, Shanghai, the Philippines and Australia. His scientific achievements as a missionary doc were featured also in American newspapers. This may have contributed to reaching his primary goal: to settle in the US of A.

When he reentered North America in San Francisco, he at last got his first American passport (No. 9486) on grounds that a local medical doctor, Dr. Emil Otto Jelinek, originally from Austria and a friend of his father vouched for him. Erben claimed to have left the United States only twice in the last five years, both times to visit his ill mother. He would lose the American Citizenship after being blacklisted for drug distribution and when his lies about his residental periods in the US backfired on him.

In the years to come, he would work as a ship doctor, encounter, infatuate and influence Errol Flynn. In Shanghai though the circle of exiled Germans regarded him as oddball and instigator. Pastor Prof. Dr. Fritz Maass will remember him coming uninvited to bible rounds and clearing the buffet. “Wherever he went he caused a commotion. With Communists he bashed Nazis, and with Nationalsocialists he blasted the Reds.” That way in official hearings later on he could always claim that back in the days he was regarded anti- this AND anti- that.

He provided himself with an additional income for documenting naval activites everywhere he went for the German Abwehr (the defence ministry). He may, just may have worked for Stalin too, keeping a photo lense on Trotzky, while in Mexico at the time of the assassination of the Comrade of the first hour.

He stood trial for treason after war was over, awaiting a sentence on death row, thrived on matching minds with the prosecution, got pardoned for naming Nazi names, reunited and rebonded with these names in a US detention camp in Ludwigsburg. Somehow this charismatic, highly intellectual and multicoloured turncoat managed to return to his hometown of Vienna and opened a doctor`s office.

He received the golden merit award by the Austrian Republic in 1974 for his 40 plus years of international scientific research. A year later he would stand accused for the death of a patient due to negligence on his behalf. Nothing could be proven and nothing came of it. Koets me if you can, gentlemen… He would practice medicine for ten more years.

On January 16th of 1985, Dr. Hermann F. Erben was found dead on the kitchen floor of his unheated apartment. No port, no partner, no prison had managed to hold this uninhibited free and fraudulent spirit for long. Cardiac arrest had finally put him to rest.







— shangheinz


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  1. Gentleman Tim

    October 5, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    WOW, shangheinz!!! What Tremendous research, information, and writing!!! Thank you. You deserve, at very least, a platinum merit award for such a brilliant and informative post!

    • shangheinz

      October 5, 2014 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks Tim, very gentle of you. It´s my turn to whoo my compatriot the late Rudolf Stoiber, a bona fide investigative journalist, who caught Koets and Dr. Astrid Freyeisen, whose doctorial dissertation “Shanghai and the policy of the Third Reich” provided me with the information above. If I can find more material about the last years of Dr. Erben in Vienna, there will be more to come.

      • Gentleman Tim

        October 6, 2014 at 12:30 am

        Magnificent research, shanghaiheinz. This fleshes out so much about Erben. For example, it better explains how he probably rationalized his reportedly extreme anti-semitism, in that, though his Mother was Jewish, he may not have regarded himself as such, nor having been religiously or culturally raised so. In one the interrogations included in the link below, his biggest complaint to intelligence investigators about his world travels was that he once had to “suffer the indignity” of eating in the same dining room as Jews. He expressed no remorse whatsover (that I saw) about reporting American naval and merchant ship locations, capabilities and movements to the Nazis – during a time hundreds of such ships were being sunk by the Germans. This when Erben (acting as “Alois Ekhert” for the Abwehr) was claiming American citizenship. For the record, I saw no evidence whatsoever that Flynn knew any of this, and can’t fathom that he did.

        I think the following three (available at the link below) are particularly helpful in determining Erben’s biographical history, extensive world travels and unlawful international conduct, for the Nazis, as a drug trafficker, and otherwise:

        U.S. State Department report of February 10, 1940

        FBI report of May 10, 1944

        U.S. Army Intelligence Special Interrogation report of December 12, 1947…

        • shangheinz

          October 6, 2014 at 7:09 am

          Terrific Tim, it is interesting to see some of the accusations in black and white- more black than white! Even more because authorities always had a hard time coping with Erben`s razor sharp intellect.
          Say, can these sources (FBI files etc.) be plugged for info on Freddie McEvoy too? I`d love to do a piece on blog on him too.

          • Gentleman Tim

            October 6, 2014 at 8:21 am

            I’ll dig up all I can for you at the local university’s U.S. records repository, spyheinz. I saw info on Freddie Mac that indicated the U. S. had him under extensive investigation for Nazi affiliations and activities, separate from anything to do with Errol. But he, too, appeared to be using Errol – luring him with various types of adventure, always involving women. A primary concern involved one Helga Kreuger (or something like that, I’ll check), a Nazi agent who McEvoy was involved with in Acapulco.

            I’m SURE there were files on Freddie (British & American)!, but I don’t know if I can access them, spyheinz. I’ll try, though!

            • shangheinz

              October 6, 2014 at 6:36 pm

              Timster, there has got to be at least as much material on Suicide Freddie as on Errol in the FBI files. Thanks for the effort.

              • Gentleman Tim

                October 6, 2014 at 10:37 pm

                That’s probably right, shangheinz. I’d bet even much more so with international authorities. All indications are that he was engaged in smuggling operations, doing so in whatever way he saw as feeding his never-ending craving for cash and jet-setting lifestyle. After all, this is the guy who would marry anybody if it paid well. That right there reveals how significantly different he was from Errol.

                Here’s one FBI/EF file for you with some references to Freddie Snakevoy. This is not the most extensive one I’ve seen, but it’s the one I could access at this time – and it does state there”s a “separate” investigation/file tuned specifically to F.M. Another FBI file exists that I have reviewed and can send, but I have to get to another location to do so. I’ll work on that. (It has quite a bit on Acapulco activities, including the alleged German Nazi agent I mentioned – ~ Helga Krueger.)


                P.S. Reviewed today a dizzying array of records officially documenting Erben’s very extensive world travels – commencing in 1913(!) on the “Luci Woermann” out of Hamburg to “Las Palmas, Westkuste, Africa”. Not on that voyage (with his father), but on many if not most others, his documentation is heavily and contemporaneously notated, in a way not seen for other passengers. Clearly, he was contemporaneously regarded a suspicious character. Searches and questioning were indicated, too, even though he apparently always presented his presumably-impressive medical credentials (e.g. “surgeon”), and often cited, but not always, American citizenship – depending it appears on where he was, where he was headed, and what he was up to.

                • shangheinz

                  October 7, 2014 at 7:51 am

                  Team, we are off to a good Le Mans start here on McEvoy. The real scoop seems to me though, that Errol was asked by Fidel to find a capable person who could run the San Souci Casino. I wonder who he contacted…

                  • Gentleman Tim

                    October 7, 2014 at 9:17 am

                    si senorheinz! Isn’t that fascinating. I think Errol’s first meeting about that may have been with Hollywood mobster George Raft backstage at the Abbott & Costello Show, indirect evidence of which can be found at the end of the video below. For Errol’s sake, I hope he first had a sit-down with Santo T & Meyer L!!



                    Actually, I suspect (In)Fidel cancelled the whole deal after he finally got a copy of Cuban Rebel Girls.

                    • shangheinz

                      October 7, 2014 at 5:08 pm

                      Dear Timmy Gun,
                      the footage you deliver at a rapid pace keeps mowing me down. Not only did Errol appear on the show but also Bruce Cabot!! Up to this very moment it was my understanding that they avoided each other. They must have known that evening`s line up in advance. Either one of them could have vetoed and opted for another date. Matter of fact they didn`t and now I keep guessing if they made up that day.

                    • Gentleman Tim

                      October 7, 2014 at 8:45 pm

                      you got me, gangsterheinz. Guess Errol either couldn’t avoid all those dancing gals, or Bruce was originally billed as Etienne. The only dispute they may have had that night was Who’s on First?, and we see who won that.

                      Too funny that Errol stepped on Lou’s leg like that, and that he made fun of UCLA. The Trojans had to love that.

              • Gentleman Tim

                October 7, 2014 at 4:05 am

                I dug deeper on Freddie’s activities in Mexico. The “Nazi spy” he set Errol up with in Mexico was no other than Hilda Kruger, the movie star! I don’t recall the FBI report mentioning her star status, but I easily could have missed that. Anyhoo, here is some fascinating stuff. Looking at the extremely attractive and alluring Senorita/Fraulein Kruger, it’s obvious what Errol was after, and it had nothing to do with state secrets!



                • shangheinz

                  October 7, 2014 at 7:47 am

                  More of the blonde Mexzi spy:…

                  • Gentleman Tim

                    October 7, 2014 at 9:37 am

                    Hilde was definitely hot. I think I have a good idea what kind of undercover work she was doing with Errol in Acapulco. Here she is either reading Edgar & Clyde’s report on her surreptitious activities with Errol, or perhaps a favorable review of her latest film in Nazi Weekly:


                    • Gentleman Tim

                      October 7, 2014 at 9:48 am

                      With all this sensational informational we’re finding on Errol’s secret background, spyheinz, we may have to write and promote a new movie. How’s this for a title?

                      The Past of Robin Hood

                      How about Scarlett Johannsen as Hilda?

          • Gentleman Tim

            October 6, 2014 at 8:57 am

            I don’t know if you’ve seen this link regarding Freddie the “Big Dame Hunter”, or, the German book it references, “Der letzte Playboy” (about Porfirio Rubirosa). This has some very intriguing content about Suicide Freddie, including his possible role as a jewel thief, evidently stealing a “well insured” string of pearls, inter alia.


  2. David DeWitt

    October 5, 2014 at 10:23 pm

    Your post is a fascinating read! I had heard at one time there was to be a book about Erben published but I’ve lost track of that. You give a very detailed and well researched accounting of the man young Flynn found so mysterious and compelling. You can only imagine the stories he had to tell Flynn, and the stories he couldn’t tell!

    • shangheinz

      October 6, 2014 at 6:56 am

      Dear Dave,
      the book is called “The spy that aspired Hitler” and was written by Austrian journalist Rudolf Stoiber, who lived in New York to correspond for our National TV and Radio from there. Unfortunately he passed away last year. I am sure he also would have had a story or two up his sleeve about his encounters with Dr. Erben. The work itself is not a very favourable one for Erben, but well researched. It took him eight years to finish. It was published in 1989, the hightime of the Higham hype, so many false accusations on Errol go unnoticed, because he for once is not the main character. Erben for Errol was a father figure in times of neglect by his own parents. Therefore he was susceptible for the Erben way of life. but what makes a highly entertaining read in MWWW, ultimatly was not the best school of character for our Hollywood hero. They were close friends, brothel brothers, yet no partners in crime.

      • nenabunena

        March 23, 2024 at 3:03 pm

        Hi I’m reading Flynn’s autobiography and just finished reading the part on Koetz so I appreciate this post and many info in it. I always get sidetracked reading up on certain things or people mentioned in books.

        I found that Rudolf Stoiber ebook, unfortunately it’s in German. :(… spion, hitler

        • Inga

          March 30, 2024 at 7:39 pm

          Hello, please do not bother about the Stoiber book, it is absolutely full of lies, he misused the trust of Dr. Erben and made of horrible stories, he is as bad as Higham.

          • nenabunena

            April 1, 2024 at 9:47 pm

            Oh thank you for letting me know! I’m new to all Flynn (well mostly) and have been binging both his films and books. I will keep this in mind and avoid this book then.

            • Inga

              April 2, 2024 at 6:44 pm

              You’re very welcome. You might find the new book by Robert Florczak useful, it is the most comprehensive overview of Flynn’s life and sets straight all the errors that have come up over the years.

              • nenabunena

                April 3, 2024 at 2:37 am

                Is that the illustrated life? I have the ebook, I wish Nora’s book is on internet archive as well. Thank you for the recommendation btw, I watched his interview on yt and it was the last push for me to read MWWW! This site has turned into a grail of sorts for me. I always come here while reading, when I want to google trivia, incidents, or persons mentioned in his book. I accidentally came across this site when I was googling Stewart Granger after I read his book as well. I loved Granger’s book but Errol’s was just wow!

                I’m currently starting Earl Conrad’s book.

                • Inga

                  April 5, 2024 at 6:52 pm

                  Yes, that’s the Illustrated Life Chronology. Enjoy discovering the many facets of Flynn! :)

                  • nenabunena

                    April 11, 2024 at 1:37 am

                    Thank you! I started reading it but started getting spoilers for films I haven’t seen yet. So maybe I’ll leave it a bit later when I’ve seen more Errol films. But I’m enjoying the behind the scenes letters a lot!

  3. rswilltell

    October 6, 2014 at 2:26 pm

    Congratulations Heinz for your brilliant research and eloquent writing on Dr. Erben. The book you mention sounds fascinating and I will get it if available in English. Ralph Schiller

    • shangheinz

      October 6, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      What a rush to hear from you Ralph! Brush up your German, since there is only a German version out. If you are interested in a special aspect of this topic, I will try to clear things up. But “The last of Doctor Erben” has yet to be discovered. There are still some loose ends to this story.