Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Hitler and the Habsburgs by James Longo

I am of two minds about James Longo's new book, Hitler and the Habsburgs (Diversion Books).    I like the idea of a book about Hitler's personal vendetta against the children of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, whose assassination was a catalyst for the start of the first world war.  But I was driven crazy by the incorrect use of titles and a few factual errors, all of which could have been corrected by an experienced editor.

Franz Ferdinand's three children,  Max, Ernst, and Sophie, were not Habsburgs, but Hohenbergs.  The archduke's marriage to Countess Sophie Chotek was morganatic.  She was created Duchess of Hohenberg and her children had their mother's title and rank.  The children were excluded from court functions, even after their parents' deaths in June 1914.

The Hohenberg children were outsiders but this did not prevent Hitler, who loathed the idea of a multi-cultural empire, turned his wrath toward Franz Ferdinand's sons.  All three of his children were anti-Nazi, and they made their views known.

The children were raised by Sophie's family.   Their beloved family home, Konopiste, was appropriated by the newly Czechoslovakia, which has passed a law that allowed for the confiscation of Habsburg properties.  Konopiste had was inherited by Franz Ferdinand's children, who were not Habsburgs.

Maximilian and Ernst were arrested after the start of the second world war and both were imprisoned in concentration camps, including Dachau.  Their resistance to Hitler and National Socialism was based not only on their political and historical upbringing but also their deeply held Catholic faith.

Longo has done extensive research, digging deep into archives in Europe and the United States.  He also talked with Max, Ernst and Sophie's children and grandchildren, thus adding another layer of personal introspect.

But Longo trips - and trips a lot with the improper use of titles and a few glaring errors. He repeats several times the canard that women did not have succession rights to the throne.    Austria's succession law was semi-Salic, which meant that all the eligible archdukes were ahead of the archduchesses, who, traditionally, renounced their rights prior to their weddings.  These renouncement ceremonies were in the presence of the Emperor.

He describes Franz Ferdinand's half-sisters as his stepsisters.  (They shared a common parent, their father, which made them half-siblings).  Longo has serious problems with how to write titles.  He calls the mother of Max's wife, Countess Elisabeth Waldburg-Wolfegg as Princess Marie Lobkowicz Waldburg-Wolfegg.   He describes Napoleon's second wife as Empress Marie Louise Habsburg.   She was born an Archduchess of Austria, but she was Empress of France.

Waldburg-Wolfegg is also incorrect. The correct way to state the name is von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee.  Elisabeth's father was not Maximilian IV. but the 4th Prince of von Waldburg zu Wolfegg und Waldsee.
George V and Mary were the King and Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, not  England.  Longo made this mistake several times.

My favorite mistake is Count Gutsverwaltung Nostitz-Rieneck, a grandson of Princess Sophie of Hohenberg,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand's daughter, who spoke to Longo about his memories of his grandmother.   One would have thought that Longo would have known that the Count's first name was Friedrich, not Gutsverwaltung, which is a German word for the administration office.

Now that I have vented about the sloppy parts, let me add that Hitler and the Habsburgs is worth reading,  Concentrate on the history and the subject matter and not the titles.

Adolf Hitler held onto his hate for Franz Ferdinand's family until he had the power to release his vendetta on the family.  They survived.  He didn't.

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