The Winner Takes It All – The Fate of Adolf Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Twelve)

Hope and fear, expectation and trepidation, optimism and desperation. These mixed emotions kept Adolph Schwarzenberg on edge when World War II ended. The Nazis were now history, but they had left many of the Schwarzenberg properties in a state of disrepair. What he expected to find back home was anyone’s guess. Six years of occupation and warfare had taken its toll. This was the case at Adolf and his wife Hilda’s favorite residence, the Stara Oborna hunting lodge. It had been turned into a sanatorium where German officers convalesced. The Nazis had long since taken anything of value from the Schwarzenberg holdings, so that by the time Allied forces occupied Czechoslovakia in May 1945 there was little left of great value.

Part of Schwarzenberg’s vast pre-war holdings were occupied by American troops. This must have offered some hope for the future. Adolph had spent the majority of the war on American soil. His time there had been productive. Among his achievements was a dissertation he had written for a doctorate degree at Columbia University. The dissertation was on one of his greatest ancestors, Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg. Prince Felix had helped restore Habsburg power in Central and Eastern Europe after the 1848 Revolution. Adolph must have hoped that his own efforts to restore his family’s fortunes in postwar Czechoslovakia would meet with the same success. He was certainly on the right side of the Americans. Unfortunately, their presence was temporary, more sinister forces were already at work on creating a permanent presence. The war may have been over on the battlefields of Europe, but a new front was being opened by the Soviet communists. One of their main targets was to be the bourgeoise of Bohemia. Tragically, they were not the only problem Adolph Schwazenberg would be facing.

Down Payments - Edvard Benes & Adolf Schwarzenberg at Cesky Krumlov in 1937

Down Payments – Edvard Benes & Adolf Schwarzenberg at Cesky Krumlov in 1937

From Survivable To Terminal – Postwar Postmortem
Adolph had experience keeping many of the Schwarzenberg properties intact following a worldwide conflagration. In the aftermath of World War I, his fervent support for Czech independence coupled with his service in a Czech legion of the Austro-Hungarian Army had helped him hold on to much of the family’s properties. This was quite a feat of shrewd diplomacy considering the Czechoslovak government abolished all noble titles and effected a major land reform after the war. Schwarzenberg was likely hoping that he could use his negotiating skills to do the same sort of thing again. He was sadly mistaken. The war had damaged the prewar system beyond repair. The virulent toxin of communism had been injected into Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union. The Red Army was on hand to put down any resistance. The odds were stacked heavily against Adolph Schwarzenberg carrying out another negotiated settlement. He would discover that while the aftermath of the First World War had been survivable, the aftermath of the second would be terminal.

Whatever plan of action Adolph had for trying to reclaim the 55,000 hectares of land, castles, hunting lodges and palaces that had been taken from him by the Nazis was pre-empted by the Czechoslovak government. Ironically, the property was nationalized under the Benes Decrees. This was before the communists had total control of Czechoslovakia’s governmental apparatus, but that hardly mattered. The Nazis treatment of the Czech civilian population during the war had transformed the populace’s mood to one seeking both restitution and revenge. Anyone who was an ethnic German or had a German surname was suspect. In Adolph Schwarzenberg’s case it hardly seemed to matter that he had been a lifelong support of the Czech cause or that his estates mostly employed Czechs, including in management roles. This time his lifelong loyalty was met with indifference. Instead, his lands were confiscated by decrees named for and promulgated by the same Edvard Benes who he had given one million crowns just eight years earlier to protect the Czech homeland. None of that mattered now. The years of venal wartime occupation had changed everything for anyone associated with ethnic German interests in Bohemia and Moravia.

Liberation by Occupation - Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev entering Prague at the end of World War II

Liberation by Occupation – Soviet Marshal Ivan Konev entering Prague at the end of World War II (Credit: Karel Hajek)

Lex Schwarzenberg – The “Official” Perspective
Adolph Schwarzenberg was not going down without a fight. After all, he was heir not only to incredibly valuable properties, but to a family legacy that stretched all the way back to the early 18th century. His attorney immediately filed an appeal against the decision to confiscate. The next year, a government committee commissioned a report on Schwarzenberg and his holdings. He was exonerated from any accusations of being a German sympathizer or traitor to the Czech cause. The report also directed the authorities to pay Schwarzenberg a sum of 100,000 Czech crowns for his expenses until the case was resolved. He would never get so much as a single crown. The communist government had been slowly, but inexorably tightening its grip on Czechoslovakia. They would have sooner arrested or murdered aristocrats rather than pay them off. Adding insult to injury, the government passed a special law that came to be known as the “Lex Schwarzenberg”. Since there was no legal justification for the state to confiscate Schwarzenberg’s business assets they passed a law allowing them to anyway.

This contravened both national and international laws. That hardly mattered, Czechoslovakia was no longer a free nation or one where the rule of law was respected. It was a case of might makes right, at least from the “official” perspective. This was also a case of “victor’s justice.” The Czechs were not in any mood to be making amends for all they had suffered from 1938 to 1945. The scars of those grievous wounds could only be salved by ridding themselves of the German problem once and for all. The Soviets were more than happy to help them. The state’s actions were followed by a total communist takeover of the government in 1948. With that, Adolph Schwarzenberg’s hope of justice died. Two years later he did as well, dying at a home he owned in Italy. It was a sad end for a great man. One who had wholeheartedly supported and worked to protect his true ancestral homeland among the Czechs in Bohemia. The illegal seizure of his property has never been settled. After seventy years, hopes for restitution have faded.

Family Remains - Adolph & Hilda Schwarzenberg leading a procession on their wedding day in 1930

Family Remains – Adolph & Hilda Schwarzenberg leading a procession on their wedding day in 1930

A Few Takeaways – The Pleasures Of Theft
Today, many of Adolph Schwarzenberg’s properties can still be visited. They are still under the administration of the Czech state. Hundreds of thousands of tourists come to visit them each year, pouring money into the coffers of the Czech Republic’s tourist industry. Capitalism has long since trumped communism. An entrepreneur and shrewd businessman like Adolph Schwarzenberg would find much to admire in this state of affairs. The sumptuous glories of the House of Schwarzenberg are now open to the world. Sadly, their ownership is closed to Adolph’s heirs. This is one state of affairs that is likely to never change.

Click here for: Crowded Out – Cesky Krumlov: Mass Tourism In A Small Town (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Thirteen)

It Will All End In Fears – The Fall Of The House Of Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Eleven)

“It will all end in tears.” That expression might best describe the course of human history. Nothing lasts forever, far from it. The same expression also applies to Central European history, specifically the House of Schwarzenberg in southern Bohemia which took a mighty fall during the first half of the 20th century, one from which it would never recover. Surely there were tears shed by the Schwarzenbergs who were unfortunate enough to live during a time of radical upheaval. It is likely that at some point they broke down, unable to cope with the totalitarian forces which stole their property and stripped them of their livelihood, the only one they had ever known. Such was the insidious nature of the Nazi and Soviet regimes that were responsible for ending the House of Schwarzenberg’s supremacy in the region.

To Fight Another Day - Adolph and Hilda Schwarzenberg

To Fight Another Day – Adolph and Hilda Schwarzenberg

Duty, Honesty, Loyalty – Ideology, Insecurity, Depravity
Perhaps it is only right in a world where almost everything went wrong that a bit of word play on the lead expression is in order. The end time for the House of Schwarzenberg might also be called, “It will all end in fears.” That is because fear ran the family off their ancestral lands. Fear of occupation, fear of theft, fear of imprisonment and fear of even worse to come. This was how one world ended, with both a whimper and a shiver. Ironically, that fear cut both ways. The Nazis and Soviets were in many ways the flipside of the same coin. Just as much as their tyranny arose from radical notions of ideological superiority, their fear was born from deep rooted insecurities.

The Nazis feared the Schwarzenberg’s loyalty to the Czechoslovakian state and their fervent opposition to fascism. The Soviets feared their democratic ideals and the refined sense of noblesse oblige that was diametrically opposed to the vulgar degradation of Stalinism. These fears led the two regimes to cast the Schwarzenbergs as enemies of the state when in fact they were guardians of it. The state that the Schwarzenberg’s stood for believed in duty, honesty and loyalty. And the Schwarzenbergs would not stand for anything less. Totalitarianism feared these values as much as anything else. Thus, the Schwarzenberg’s had to fall. In a sense, they were felled by fear. Both that of their own, as well as that of their enemies.

The Resistance - Adolf Schwarzenberg and Edvard Beneš at Cesky Krumlov

The Resistance – Adolf Schwarzenberg and Edvard Beneš at Cesky Krumlov

Photo Finish – Sizing The Situation Up
There are hundreds of photos on display in Cesky Krumlov. Many of these can be found in two of the town’s major attractions, Cesky Krumlov Castle and the Regional Museum in Cesky Krumlov. Two photos remained in my memory long after I visited these sites. I happened upon the first photo in Cesky Krumlov Castle, where the main exhibit is filled with artifacts that represent the three families (Rozmberks, Eggenbergs and Schwarzenbergs) who owned and developed the castle. On display are weapons, uniforms, hunting trophies and paintings along with hundreds of other items. Each preciously crafted and meticulously presented, unique in their own way. Many of the items, such as the decorative weapons from around the world must be of great monetary value. It was all very impressive, but what caught my eye was a simple black and white photo of a couple taken at chest level. The man is wearing a pinstriped suit, has his hair slicked back and looks at the camera with an expression stuck somewhere between serious and skeptical. It as though he is sizing the viewer up. His wife looks straight ahead at the camera, her expression one of placid sincerity.

The couple is Adolph and Hilda Schwarzenberg, the last owners of Cesky Krumlov Castle and many other properties scattered throughout what was then Czechoslovakia. The photo was taken during the 1930’s. By the end of that decade, the Schwarzenbergs would be in exile while fleeing Nazi Germany’s takeover and dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939. They first fled to Italy. After a brief sojourn there, they traveled to the United States. This was where they would spend the next five years. It would save their lives, but not their property. Several years later, the Soviets would finish what the Nazi’s started. It was not as easy as one might believe. Adolph Schwarenberg was not a man to give in easily, no matter what the odds were facing him and his family’s legacy.

The Appearance of Strength - Adolf Hitler in Cesky Krumlov

The Appearance of Strength – Adolf Hitler in Cesky Krumlov

To Fight Another Day – Warm Welcomes & Cold Shoulders For The Fuhrer
The second photo that lodged memorably in my mind was in the final gallery at the Regional Museum in Cesky Krumlov. Adolf Hitler was shown during his visit to the town on October 20, 1938, following the German annexation of the Sudetenland regions of Czechoslovakia. In the photo, Hitler is reviewing German troops in the main town square (namesti Svornosti). He strides forth between flowers laid out in two parallel rows atop the cobblestones. His right arm is stretched forth in the Sieg Heil (Hail To Victory) salute. In the background can be seen the Town Hall, where a Nazi emblem and several banners have been attached. People peer out intently from open windows. The photograph is a powerfully frightening celebration of occupation and dominance. I found it even more startling because it portrayed the same square where I stood an hour earlier drinking hot chocolate at the annual Christmas market. Times have changed so much that the scene depicted by the photograph is almost inconceivable.

One person who was not there to greet Hitler during his visit to Krummau – as Der Fuhrer and the town’s ethnic German population called it – was Adolph Schwarzenberg. He had refused an invitation to meet Hitler upon his arrival. This was not surprising since Schwarzenberg was a loyal supporter of Czechoslovakia. A year earlier he had met with Czechoslovak President Edvard Benes for breakfast at Cesky Krumlov Castle. At that meeting he gave Benes a substantial sum of money, one million crowns, for Czechoslovakia to defend itself against German aggression. Schwarzenberg was not about to give up his lifelong commitment to the Czechs. He refused to fire Czech workers from his estates, offered support to the Jews and made his contempt for Nazism well known. He was forced into exile due to well- founded fears that he and his wife would be arrested or worse. Schwarzenberg was smart enough to know that he needed to live long enough to fight another day. I got that much from looking at his facial expression in the first photo.

Supposed Strength – The Façade Of Immaculate Superiority
As for the Hitler photo, I would later have second thoughts about my initial impression that it was a show of dominance. All those uniforms, emblems, placards and posturing now seem to me symbolic of a man, an army and a people wanting to give the appearance of strength. It is all too much macho, self-conscious toughness. The idea was to intimidate the opposition and at the same time make the German people swell with ethnic pride, but beneath that façade of immaculate superiority lay a deep rooted fear. Fear that perhaps the German nation was not good enough or strong enough, a pervasive inadequacy that caused it to show off for itself. An arrogance formed from false confidence. The rush to occupy, dominate and unleash war was born from a supposed strength. A strength that in a not so far off future met its match on the Eastern Front. Then it would all end in fear for one regime and begin all over again under another.

Click here for: The Winner Takes It All – The Fate of Adolf Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Twelve)


Accidental History – The Deadly Destiny of Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Ten)

Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was a very lucky man who met with terrible misfortune. That statement may seem contradictory, but so was his life and death. He would become the first in a long line from the powerful House of Schwarzenberg that make Cesky Krumlov Castle their prime residence. The Schwarzenberg’s were the third and final family to own the Castle, along with numerous other estates in southern Bohemia. Adam Franz’s rise to power, prestigious reign and sudden demise is a microcosm of the Schwarzenberg’s three centuries in power. One day, one event, one moment can change everything for the better and sometimes for the worse.

Heir To Cesky Krumlov - Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg

Heir To Cesky Krumlov – Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg

On The Hunt – Building a Power Base
Adam Franz’s name has become synonymous with Cesky Krumlov Castle. He managed to acquire the castle, along with many other valuable possessions in the surrounding region, because he was nephew of Marie Ernestine von Eggenberg. Marie Ernestine was last in the line of the Eggenberg family that reigned over Cesky Krumlov. She and her husband, Johann Christian, failed to produce an heir. Thus her closest kin, Adam Franz, inherited the family’s vast holdings throughout southern Bohemia in 1719. Adam Franz was already extremely powerful. His holdings included the estates at Trebon and Hluboka. Adding the Eggenberg estates to his own added made the Schwarzenberg’s one of the most powerful aristocratic families in central Europe all the way until the mid-20th century.

Adam Franz built upon his good fortune with sound management practices that kept his estates economically prosperous. He was especially interested in forestry, where he displayed a talent for cultivation. His leadership and management capabilities, along with his aristocratic lineage, brought him into the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. There he held a series of high positions. Adam Franz eventually rose to become the Emperor’s chief advisor. Both men had a shared passion for hunting. Royal hunts were an elite sporting pursuit for the upper echelons of Central European society during the Renaissance era. Emperor Charles, Adam Franz and a host of others would spend many days together in the Bohemian forests hunting game. These hunts brought them closer together, but in one tragic case tore them apart forever.

One Last Shot – A Fatal Mishap
After visiting Cesky Krumlov In the late spring of 1732, Emperor Charles, Adam Franz  and an entourage traveled to the Bohemian countryside not far from Prague. Together they would take part in a deer hunt at Brandys nad Labem, an estate and chateau located on the left bank of the Elbe River. In an area thick with underbrush Charles and Adam Franz positioned themselves to await deer which would be driven to them by beaters. Charles and Adam Franz were only 60 meters (65 yards) from one another. The undergrowth must have camouflaged the spot where Adam Franz was standing. Charles failed to realize just how close they were to one another. When Charles sighted a deer, he took aim and fired. His shot rang out through the underbrush followed by the wounded cries of Adam Franz. The Emperor had shot him.

For all the good fortune Adam Franz had enjoyed in life, he was now beset by the ultimate in misfortune. The bullet had first struck his left hip, then passed through the intestines and a kidney before lodging in his right hip. The best medical care at the time was useless when faced with such a wound. An initial examination by an on-sight imperial physician concluded that the wound would surely prove fatal. While in wrenching pain, Adam Franz was transported by carriage back to Brandys nad Labem. In the evening, a priest was called for and last rites administered. In the early morning hours of June 11, 1732, twelve hours after he had been wounded, Adam Franz slipped out of consciousness and was soon dead. He was fifty-two years old at the time.

The Huntsman - Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Charles VI

The Huntsman – Holy Roman Emperor Emperor Charles VI (Credit: Johann Gottfried Auerbach)

Taking Aim – The Emperor’s Exoneration
Meanwhile, Emperor Charles VI was wracked with guilt. He had just killed one of his closest confidantes and longtime companions. An account taken by Adam Franz’s valet states that he did not blame the Emperor. He said that it had been an act of God. All Adam Franz asked was that Charles see to it that his 10 year old son, family and servants be well treated and receive their just inheritance. The Emperor would make sure Adam Franz’s family was treated with the utmost regard in the years to come.
Of course, the usual rumors cropped up concerning conspiracy theories. Rumors began to circulate that the Emperor purposely murdered Adam Franz. Despite, or perhaps because of Charles’ position as emperor, a special commission was created to carry out a thorough investigation.

The cause of the accident was obvious to investigators, the men had been stationed much to close for comfort, but not for tragedy. They should never have been that close to one another within shooting range. Coupled with ground cover, this was a recipe for an accidental shooting.  Charles VI was exonerated of any wrong doing. There is no compelling evidence to the contrary that it was anything other than a tragic mishap. One does have to wonder, if the shooting had been the other way around, with Adam Franz committing accidental manslaughter, what would the consequences have been for him? It is likely that the investigation would have turned out differently.

One Final Shot - The coat Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was wearing when he was accidentally shot by Emperor Charles VI

One Final Shot – The coat Adam Franz zu Schwarzenberg was wearing when he was accidentally shot by Emperor Charles VI (Credit: Cesky Krumlov Castle)

An Astonishing Reminder – The Misfortune Of The Fortunate
An astonishing reminder of Adam Franz and his untimely death can still be seen today. The coat he wore during the hunt is on display at Cesky Krumlov Castle. A small hole can be spotted on the right side of the coat. This is where the bullet first struck before it then tore through Adam Franz’s body. The coat is part of the Castle’s museum collection.  These holdings contain thousands of items related to both the great and terrible times that the House of Schwarzenberg endured at their numerous estates in southern Bohemia. Like Adam Franz, the House of Schwarzenberg enjoyed great fortune until they too were suddenly swept away by misfortune. The difference was that their demise took place in the mid-20th century. It was one from which they would not recover. Proof that historical forces are much more powerful than any individual or family.

Click here: It Will All End In Fears – The Fall Of The House Of Schwarzenberg (A Czech Winter’s Journey: Part Eleven)