The Kindle Bookstore at amazon.com has recently published two eBooks pertaining to the human history of the Galápagos Islands. Since both are highly distorted versions of reality, this page offers some comments about each one.
The page concludes with some comments about Vasconez Hurtado's fictionalized account of life on Isla Floreana in the 1930s.
Kindle Edition Covers
Above & Left: Title page and “Ritter” cover—a copy of a photo taken from Ritter's Als Robinson Auf Galapagos, with added coloring.
Right: The cover photo is cropped from a 1999 photo of Margret Wittmer by Dan Sehnal.
From the cover and title page, the reader would assume the author is Frederick Ritter. But in fact, the text is for the most part a copy of the 1936 edition of Dore Strauch's Satan Came to Eden, with numerous changes made by Egnal. In the entire work his name appears only once, where he claims the copyright for himself:
All rights in this book are reserved. No part of the book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. Copyright 2013 by George Egnal
Things get off to a bad start in the “Foreword” which mentions the “mysterious” death of Frederick Ritter—mysterious only to Egnal, since everyone else knows the cause of his death.
There are numerous other changes within the chapters which follow, a few of which are summarized here:
And then there was another danger—Lorenz himself, the murderer.
And then there was another danger—Lorenz himself and Frau Wittmer, the murderers.
Egnal does not acknowledge that he, not Dore, added Frau Wittmer's name (in his “Murdered Margret the Baroness?” chapter) and changed the last word to plural.
Elsewhere, Dore speaks to Frederick about the Baroness: “Can't you see the woman's a criminal and a whore?” And as for the Baroness herself, Dore “quotes” her as “I confess that I'm a real slut and I'm horny say [sic, day] and night.” Needless to say, these and other lurid details are the invention of Egnal.
Historical details are also distorted, as in this example comparing Dore's original text with Egnal's version.
One of the crew was a young Norwegian named Nelson, who asked us to let him spend a day with us at Friedo. He seemed fascinated by the whole idea of our idyllic settlement. The mate of the Mary Pinchot said we ought to have a boat of some kind for our own use, and not be wholly dependent on visitors to take us round the island. We made the usual answer that one makes to such impractical suggestions, but could hardly contain our astonishment when two days later we saw on the beach at Post Office Bay a trim little rowing boat, fully equipped with oars and life-belts, and a letter telling us it was for us, and wishing us luck. The Mary Pinchot had sailed, so I never knew whether our thanks ever reached these generous friends.
One of the crew was a young and beautiful gay Austrian sailor named Nikolaus Muehlberger, who asked us to let him spend a day with us at Friedo. He seemed fascinated by the whole idea of our idyllic settlement. Normally, he lived in the provincial town Kronach in Upper Franconia in Bavaria, but the economic crisis forced him to work as a sailor. Accordingly he left his boyfriend and was very unhappy about it. I was acquainted with a lot of gay men in my hometown Berlin. So I knew about the importance of a stable relationship for them and therefore I was full of sorrow for Mr. Muehlberger's deplorable fate. This pitiful mate of the Mary Pinchot …
The distortions continue: In her original Satan Came to Eden, Dore Strauch tells of leaving Floreana on Allan Hancock's Velero III. Egnal changes this to the arrival of “my friend Nikolaus Muehlberger” on the yacht Mary Pinchot.§ In Strauch's original, she wrote that “Captain Hancock had, of course, received no word from me. But he had a presentiment that all was not well with us, … ” Here, and throughout the text, Egnal replaces every occurrence of Hancock's name with Muehlberger's, and of Velero III with Mary Pinchot. He does the same thing with the name of Vincent Astor and his yacht Nourmahal.
§ The Mary Pinchot visited Galápagos during Gifford Pinchot's 1929 South Seas cruise, but Pinchot does not mention Dore. Nor is there any reference to a Nikolaus Muehlberger in his book.
And finally, Egnal's ludicrous “Postscript:”
Dore returned to Germany in February 1935. Meanwhile, their [sic, her] parents were executed by the Nazis. Her nasty cousin, Mr. Andrew Christoph from Berlin-Karlshorst, dumped her into a madhouse in Berlin-Wittenau. In 1942 Mr. Christoph asked the Nazis for a mercy killing for Dore, because the charges of the clinic became to [sic, too] expensive for him. Poor Doctor Ritter was forgotten by the world, whereas happy Margret Wittmer lived another 65 years on Floreana and advanced to the position of the “Queen of Floreana.” She died on March 21, 2000. §
§ Margret's date of death is correct, but the rest of the above appears to be the invention of Egnal. Dore Strauch actually died in 1943 in Berlin, of complications from multiple sclerosis. There is no known record of her ever being placed in an institution.
This one “borrows” liberally from Margret Wittmer's published and unpublished works, without giving credit. As above, some of the text below compares Margret's original text with Sinep's version.
Much of Sinep's own “creative writing” serves little purpose other than to inject pornography into Margret's story. At one point, he has her describe Dore Strauch as Ritter's nearly-nude mistress, wearing nothing but “a bra out of wood.” Next, she places syrup and fire ants on her chest—now apparently bra-less—and is “obviously enjoying this torture” which Ritter explains as “a kind of medical treatment.”
Sinep tears himself away from smut for a moment to tell us—again, via Margret—that “Ritter admires Adolf Hitler. Dore too. I was shocked” There is no known record of either Ritter or Strauch ever mentioning Der Führer.
But to get back to porn, Sinep introduces a chapter (“Kinky Sex Games”) in which Margret reports hearing “a terrible scream” from Dore, as she and Ritter indulge themselves in their perverted pleasures.
And of course we mustn't overlook the Baroness and company: As Margret puts it, Lorenz told her Philippson was bisexual—he and Valdivieso are abused by him nearly every night. As for the Baroness herself, she enjoys herself with “black slaves”—and the bigger the better.
But all is not filth, even for Sinep, and in his description of Margret delivering her first-born child, we can compare her account with his own:
[no date given] Then I heard a cry. It didn't come from me. A short, shrill, squeaky, penetrating cry. … It didn't come from me, nor from Heinz—it was the first cry of our new-born child. The child was there. … Heinz laid me gently on my bed, bathed the child and wrapped it in a big towel that was lying ready. Then I and the child fell into a deep sleep.
Sunday, December 26, 1932—Day after Christmas. … At last, three o'clock in the morning, the child is born—crying lustily and taking its time for its entrance in the world. At 3:50 our youngster can be washed and the father puts a jacket on him, bundling him up and lays him by my side; and almost at once mother and child sink together into a deep sleep.
Repeat visitors to this website may recognize Sinep's text, which obviously was not swiped from Margret's published Floreana Adventure. Instead, he swiped it from her earlier unpublished What Happened on Galápagos? manuscript, which is available nowhere else but here. For reasons known only to himself (one hopes), Sinep makes Margret's original “Sunday, January 1, 1933—New Year's Day” one week earlier. And later, on naming the new arrival, he applies a sick twist to Margret's text (this time swiped from her published work):
We couldn't agree on a name for the boy, till Harry [Margret's stepson] suggested Rolf, which we all thought was just right: Rolf Wittmer, it went very well.
I called the Baby “Rolf,” which was a combination of “Robert (Phillipson [sic, Philippson])” and “Rudolf (Lorenz).” To my mind, this was a good joke!
At one point, the narrator abruptly changes from Margret to Heinz:
The next day, Grete [Margret] and I go down to Post Office Bay, …
This is taken from the “Out of Heinz Wittmer's Diary” chapter (last paragraph) of Margret's unpublished What Happened on Galápagos, as clearly noted by her but not by Sinep.
It doesn't get much better in subsequent chapters. But in any case, much of the above should be enough—perhaps more than enough—to give the viewer an idea of the quality of this opus. And in the meantime, keep in mind that all the nonsense comes not from the pen of Margret Wittmer, but from the keyboard of Peter Sinep.
Given that Egnal's “Queen of Floreana” title matches Sinep's eBook title, it might be suspected that Egnal and Sinep are one. There are other clues to support this:
Finally, the poorly concealed phallic references in both last names § strongly hint at being just another clumsy invention of the creator of this mess.
§ Egnal > lange="long" in German; Sinep > (Well, you get the idea.)
Not exactly plagiarism, this sloppily translated/edited work of fiction is a distorted account of the lives of Frederick Ritter, Dore Strauch, the Wittmer family, and of course the Baroness, her assorted lovers and others. The author changes their names, as seen here:
|Actual Name||Renamed by Vasconez|
|Frederick Ritter||Doctor Karl Weinhardt,|
Professor Winhardt (rear cover)
|Dore Strauch||Grete Riedel|
|Heinz & Margret Wittmer||Gunter Lindemann & Matilde Reinhard|
|Harry (Heinz' son)||Christoph|
|Baroness Wehrborn de Wagner-Bosquet||Baroness Lote von Rath|
|Robert Philippson & Rudolf Lorenz||Jack Colvin & Paul Wernolf|
|Trygve Nuggerud||Varanger (and a Communist Party member)|
|Alan Hancock & Velero III||Captain Harrison & Stratheden|
Note: With one exception, all other characters suffer the same name-changing fate. That exception is Captain Manuel Rodriguez of the tuna clipper Santo Amaro, who remains “Captain Rodriguez.” To minimize confusion, the comments below use the actual name of each person, not the name given by the author.
Reality is also a victim here. But as noted, this is a work of fiction so there's no need to stick to the facts, which are few and far between in this opus. For example, all the major characters are spies: Ritter, for the Nazi Party—of which he was one of the founders,§ Wittmer for the anti-Nazi Socialist Party, the Baroness for Japan and her lovers for the French Communist Party. Ritter and Strauch had “one set of stainless steel dentures between them, which they used alternately in accordance with the circumstances.” (Not so: Dore's own teeth were intact when they arrived in Galápagos.) The doctor had a radio transmitter hidden in a tree, and reported the presence of a “North American navy” fleet of seven battleships, thirty-eight destroyers, nine submarines and numerous support vessels. Later on, Wittmer is told of a WWI battle between German and British squadrons close to a non-existent Coronel Island—a mixed-up version of the 1914 Battle of Coronel in Chilean waters off the city of that name, some 2,700 miles SSE of Galápagos. There is an Isla Coronel Madrid some 1,000 miles farther south of the battle site.
§ Perhaps the author of The Queen of Floreana had read Isle of the Black Cats, for he has Margret Wittmer state that “Ritter admires Adolf Hitler.”
Vasconez has a bit of trouble keeping his story straight: on one page he has Nuggerud living on Isla Santa Cruz, while on another his wife awaits him on San Cristóbal. Geography also falls victim to the author's pen. In the highlands of San Cristóbal he has “frightened livestock … gathered into herds to be driven to Guayaquil”—quite an accomplishment considering some 600+ miles of water separating the two locations.
Black Cats concludes with an “Epilogue” which presents more wacky accounts of island history, including the news that American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ordered Victor Wolfgang von Hagen to be sent to prison as a dangerous Nazi spy.
The “Epilogue” also offers just one more name-change: Tomás de Berlanga, Bishop of Panama, becomes Manuel Berlanga, Bishop of Castilla de Oro.
And on a closing note, throughout the book Señor Vasconez Hurtado refers to the reptiles that gave the island its name as “turtles.”