Henry Knockavelli is a tall man, about 45 years old, very open, enthusiastic and inexhaustible, a perfect contact for a researcher. We meet at the bar of the hotel, called… the Henry’s Bar by an odd coincidence, and mister Knockavelli, helped by a few old whiskies, tell me this astonishing story:
”I remember very well Tulse Luper. When he came to visit us in Sark, it was always an enjoyment for me and my sister. He was an exceptional story-teller, and when he described us his adventures, generally after supper, we were hanging to his lips for hours! It was always a hard task for our parents to make him stop, for we didn’t want to go to sleep as long as Tulse was speaking!
My father and Tulse were the very best friends, and with the years I learned more and more of the events who marked out and reinforced this friendship. Among others it was this story about Joseph Duveen and Leni Riefenstahl. You know how much my father was involved in art and collections, and through his activities he developed an impressively large circle of contacts related to art, including Jo Duveen. By the way, it’s my father who organized the deal on the Ardabil Carpet between Jo and J. Paul Getty.
Jo Duveen was an old friend of Leni Riefenstahl, that he admired so much for her talent as a filmmaker. If I remember well, it is in November 1939 that Jo presented Leni to Tulse and my father. Leni was a very beautiful woman, with fathomless brown eyes, and before the end of the year she and Tulse turned lovers.
During the years of war my father and Jo, filled with indignation, revolted by the growing excesses of the ‘Gleichschaltung’, decided to react consequently. They engaged themselve actively in a form of economic resistance, bypassing and embezzling a lot of commercial deals initiated by the Nazis in their war effort. As you can imagine the incurred risks were very high, more especially as my father was travelling a lot in Germany, even during that period of trouble. In 1943, on September 16th, he was arrested in Bonn by the Gestapo, and kept for interrogation. During three days, “the longest days of my whole life” as he said after, he was harassed of questions regarding his position, his political opinion, his contacts, kins and so on. If my father was freed and came back from Germany this time, it was only thanks to Leni and Tulse, both using all their relations, cultural, politic and other. Even Albert Speer was involved in the discharge of my father.
Tulse and Leni came to the end of their affair, and a few months later Leni was marrying an officer called Peter Jacob.”
But it’s late now, the whiskeys were good and numerous, and we decide to finish our conversation tomorrow morning after the breakfast.
Daniel CapellettiHead of Research of the Global Connected Researcher Union