Monday, December 29, 2014

Prince Philipp Talks Jewish Aunt and More

Photo: Milagros Martínez-Flener / NU
Prince Philipp recently gave an interview to NU, an Austrian Jewish magazine for politics and culture. Apart from banking and finance, he also talked about Princess Elsa, the Jewish-born wife of Prince Franz I of Liechtenstein. Below a few translated excerpts from the interview. The full one can be found here.

Not many people know that there once was a Jewish Princess of Liechtenstein. What is the story of Elsa of Liechtenstein?
Franz I, direct predecessor of my father as Prince of Liechtenstein, had a very interesting personal history. He was ambassador in Saint Petersburg, friend of the Tsar, bought whole libraries in Russia and gave them to the University of Vienna. He was a honorary member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. After the death of his brother Prince Johann II in 1929 he became ruler of the Principality. He remained a bachelor for a long time, until he met and later married Elsa von Gutmann. However, their marriage did not produce any offspring and so my father inherited the throne.

How did Franz and Elsa meet?
He visited Vienna regularly and Vienna had a very open society. Thus the two of them met, later married and spent a very happy life together. He moved to Prague in 1938 and died there. Then my father took over. Aunt Elsa moved to Switzerland where she spent World War II. She lived near Lucerne until her death.

How aware was your family that she came from a Jewish family?
It didn't play a major role. Of course you have to remember that the society back then was much more open. I find that this is also shown very well in the Jewish museum here in Vienna. Vienna and Judaism were very much connected.

Vienna around that time was heavily influenced by the Jewish bourgeoisie...
...and that was the interesting thing about the city. The diversity, the multilingualism, the many different cultural backgrounds - something few cities had around that time. If I compare that to France: There they only had French, the people rarely knew any foreign languages. Here you only moved little and already spoke Czech, Hungarian, Croatian and so one. Such an immense treasure!

Elsa von Gutman came from an enobled Jewish family: Her father was a knight, enobled by Emperor Franz Joseph I but at the same time very active in the Jewish community, in fact he was their president. 
Yes, this is one of the great signs what an open society Vienna had.

Franz I and Elsa were the first who showed a greater interest in Liechtenstein?
The original main residences of the family were in Vienna, Bohemia and Moravia. Towards the end of the 17th century the territories of today's Liechtenstein were bought. Now and then family members visited, schools were built, the school system reorganised and so on. Franz and Elsa then did a lot for the people of Liechtenstein and to this day Aunt Elsa is considered the "good Princess". My father moved to Liechtenstein in 1938, considering what was happening at that time in the countries around us, I can only say, Thank God.

The interview then continues via Jewish community of Liechtenstein, the country during World War II to Liechtenstein's post-war development and banking and finance.

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