Sunday, September 4, 2011

Die Habsburger Ohne Reich by Dieter Kindermann

In November 1919, Emperor Karl I of Austria lost his job.  The new rulers  -- Socialist politicians -- provided no compensation  nor severance pay.  Karl and his family left the country to live in exile with limited resources. 

Karl and his wife, Zita, lived peripatetic lives following exile as they tried (and failed) to regain the Hungarian throne. After Karl's death in 1922,  Zita turned her attention to regaining the throne for the couple's eldest son, Otto.

Otto's hopes and dreams were carried outside of Austria.  He and his family were forbidden to return to Austria unless they recognized the republic.  Some Habsburgs, largely from collateral lines, did that, and settled into more normal lives, establishing careers, raising families and eschewing politics.  To this day, members of the Habsburg family are not permitted to run for political office in Austria.

Dieter Kindermann, a political journalist for an Austrian newspaper, has written a well-researched book, Die Habsburger Ohne Reich Geschichte Einer Familie seit 1918 (K&S: 22.90 Euros).  This German-language book does answer the question: so what happened to the Habsburgs.

This book was published several months before the death of Archduke Otto, who was givven a state funeral in Vienna.  Resigned to the fact that he would never reign in Austria, Otto, who lived in Bavaria, devoted his life to Pan-Europeanism.  Today,  his younger son, Archduke Georg, lives in Hungary with his wife and children.  Archduchess Gabriela is the German ambassador to Georgia, and Archduchess Walburga has been a member of the Swedish parliament since 2006.  She is married to a Swedish count.

Kindermann also examines some of the lesser known members of the family, including Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen, a morganatic descendant, who has been fighting an uphill battle to run for office in Austria.   Most of the book, however, deals with Otto and his career and family.  Otto von Habsburg, who eschewed his archducal title, played an active role in European politics for nearly all his life 

K&S is a Viennese-based publisher.  There are no plans to translate the book in to English.   There are about a dozen or so black and white photos.  I wish there were more. 

Although the Habsburgs have not reigned for nearly 100 years now, family members still find ways to serve.

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