Jane Horney was a multifaceted adventurer who is best known for having been a spy during the Second World War.
Ebba Charlotta (known as Jane from the age of 16 onwards) Horney was born on 8 July 1918 in Stockholm into the Gustav Vasa congregation. Her father Fredrik Horney was a civil engineer (born 1888) who hailed from Gråmantorp congregation in Scania. Her mother Nina, née Schröder, was born in Copenhagen in 1889. The family lived in an apartment which was located near the crossroads between Odengatan and Stjärngatan. Jane Horney was an only child until she was eight years old when her brother Johan was born in 1926. Three years afterwards her baby sister Britt-Marie was born.
The family often travelled to Copenhagen to visit relatives there. Dring the summers in the 1920s and 1930s they spent time at their summer cottage in Mölle. Jane Horney was a clever pupil who was both curious and keen to learn. When she was 14 years old and had completed her education at public school she became keen to see more of the wider world and she convinced her parents to let her attend a boarding school in London.
Her London period became rather more eventful than her parents had imagined it would be. Jane Horney ran away from her school, taking refuge in the Swedish Seaman’s Mission church where she helped to serve food. Her parents had her sent home to Sweden. Following her return to Stockholm she spent a year attending a girls’ school and in 1933 she qualified as an animal keeper with Svenska Röda Stjärnan (now known as Svenska Blå Stjärnan, an animal welfare organisation). During the academic year of 1934–1935 she was enrolled at Hässleholm coeducational school.
Jane Horney finished school without gaining her school-leaving certificate and then returned to live with her parents in Stockholm. She spent a period of time in Copenhagen. In 1929 she took a job onboard the Svenska Amerika Linien vessel Drottningholm, working as a cabin maid on the Gothenburg to New York passages. In 1938 the opportunity arose for Jane Horney to join an expedition to Greenland. She mustered on M/S Disko and subsequently completed four journeys, out and back, working on the boat. However, after the fourth trip she signed off on Greenland, where she then lived for six months. During this time she hunted polar bears and travelled across the ice by dog-powered sleigh to Canada. She documented her time in Greenland by taking a lot of photographs and writing a lot of letters. Once she had returned home she produced several reports on Greenland which she then sold to the Stockholms-Tidningen newspaper. Herje Granberg was the editor of the Sunday supplement in which Jane Horney’s reports were included. The two of them entered into a relationship and subsequently married on 27 December 1939. Herje Granberg was 15 years her senior and had a large network of contacts within the inner circles of the Stockholm cultural sphere. The couple socialised with actors, writers, and artists at popular establishments such as Konstnärsbaren (KB) on Smålandsgatan.
The outbreak of the Second World War led Jane Horney to take on an active role. She joined the women drivers’ corps and learned to drive an ambulance. She also began to train as a nurse, although she quickly tired of this and dropped it after two months.
In 1940 Jane Horney travelled to then occupied Denmark were she undertook interviews on behalf of her husband. She also helped him by providing images for various reports. In 1941 Herje Granberg was invited to become the Berlin correspondent for the Aftonbladet newspaper and Jane Horney went with him. Their social circle included both those who were critical of the leading regime as well as Nazis and several journalists from across the globe. They would meet at the German Foreign Ministry’s press club which lay on Fasanenstraße. Many Danish journalists attended this club and it has subsequently been revealed that the anti-Nazis among them viewed Jane Horney with suspicion.
In February 1943 Jane Horney and Herje Granberg separated. Jane Horney then travelled to Copenhagen on a tourist visa and, on deciding to stay there, she contacted a German major of the Abwehr named Horst Gilbert, an SS-Standartenführer who ran Skandinavisk Telegrambureau, the German-funded news agency in the city. The two of them became friends. Later on, in 1943, when Jane Horney registered her intention to become an agent for the Swedish secret police, she took a job at Skandinavisk Telegrambureau in order to report to the Swedes on German activities in Denmark. The codename that she used in her reports was “Eskimå” (Eskimo).
Jane Horney had several contacts within the resistance in Denmark. In November 1943 she met a man from De frie Danske group called Jörgen Winkel. He worked in the textile industry and the two of them became lovers. When Jörgen Winkel was captured by the Gestapo in December that year she sought the help of Horst Gilbert in an attempt to get Winkel released. Jane Horney made several visits to Dagmarshus, the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen, as part of her efforts to gain Winkel’s freedom. The Danish resistance took a very suspicious view of these visits which they then added to their list of her alleged crimes against the Danish people. More and more members of the resistance became convinced that she was a traitor who was working for the Germans.
The suspicions about Jane Horney’s real motivations only grew stronger during 1944 and the resistance printed leaflets to warn the public about her. Newspaper articles were also published which singled her out as a spy. Jane Horney, who was at the time in Germany seeking to obtain the release of Danish prisoners from the Theresienstadt concentration camp, was extremely upset by these developments and travelled home to Sweden to defend herself in the local press. The Swedish secret police had a list of the Danish accusations levelled against Jane Horney and they took her in for an interrogation in Stockholm on 28 September 1944. The questioning carried on until 14 October, by which point the Swedish secret police were convinced she was innocent. Nils Bjarke Schou, captain of the Danish intelligence agency in exile, obtained a copy of the 140-page report which absolved Jane Horney of all accusations. The matter was considered closed. The Danish resistance movement, however, took the opposite view and prepared to have Jane Horney assassinated. In August they sent their most efficient assassin, Bent Faurschou-Hviid, to eliminate her but at the very last moment his mission was aborted.
In January 1945, however, another plan to kill her was put in motion. Two members of the Danish resistance, Sven Aage Geisler (codename Store Bjørn) and Ingolve Asbjørn Lynhe (codename Lille Bjørn) travelled to Stockholm along with Bodil Frederiksen in order to collect Jane Horney and bring her back to Copenhagen to appear before members of the Danish resistance and clear her name. Jane Horney did not suspect the motives of the three Danes with whom she embarked on the night-train to Malmö on 17 January. Bodil Fredriksen and Jane Horney stayed at the Grand Hotell on Norra Vallgatan when they got to Malmö, where they remained until 19 January. Then they travelled by car to Höganäs where they boarded a Swedish-registered fishing vessel named Tärnan. Onboard were the skipper Edvard Lyse as well as two students named Erik Pedersen and Hjalmar Ravnbo. Speculation as to the exact events of the night between 19 and 20 January 1945 continues to this day. In 2015 the Danish government released previously classified archival material which has helped to provide a probable course of that night’s developments. Hjalmar Ravnbo was most likely the person responsible for shooting Jane Horney, using two shots, once the vessel they were on entered international waters.
It is most likely that the end of Jane Horney’s life occurred in the waters of the Sound between Sweden and Denmark, and that she died at the age of 26. She is however still listed as ‘missing’ and has not been registered as ‘dead’.