Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Archduke's wife feels safe in America

July 7, 1949

Princess Katalin von Habsburg is now living in the Los Angeles area with her two daughters, Sarolta,9, and Ildiko, 7. Katalin, who was born in Hungary, and is a member of a Hungarian noble family, is the wife of Archduke Albrecht of Austria, claimant to the throne of Hungary, who "disappeared in the battle area and has not been heard of since," according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Princess and her two daughters arrived in New York last month, thanks to the help of a former military intelligence officer, Joseph Hall, who, in 1945, helped the princes and her children to "flee ahead of Russian lines in Germany."
Katalin (the paper calls her Catherine) and the two little girls traveled to Arizona to spend some time with Captain Hall's mother. They arrived in Los Angeles a week ago.

Katalin is happy to be in the United States. "This a wonderful feeling, the freedom of America. No furtive looks for ever-present harassing officials. We even can go from one city to another without registering and rigamarole. Fear has almost left our hearts."

The two little princesses have already taken to American life. Sarolta, which is Hungarian for Charlotte, says "Hamburgers for me," when she was asked to name her most outstanding impression of America. Ildiko, however, preferred bubblegum. "I can make it pop like a firecracker," she enthused.

The family's arrival in America, after "living a half-decade in fear, rousting about, uncertainty about a roof over their heads, and sometimes meals far apart."
The princess, who speaks several languages, will now look for a job, but she admits that her rearing "hasn't been exactly toward business. But if bartering gave me business experience, then I am qualified. I even bartered my ski shoes for a goose. I traded linens for eggs. Of course, I had to sell the car in which we fled."

Since the war's end, Katalin and her children moved around Germany, where "as a foreigner, she fared no better than other foreigners and living was miserable even for the Germans." They moved to Switzerland, where Katalin tried to find out what happened to her husband. "It seems almost hopeless. He vanished on a business trip, between Hungary and Austria, in both of which he had properties, now confiscated. Americans have been splendid to us. We like them, their decency. Yes, and their hamburgers and their bubble gum."


Anonymous said...

What happened to the family afterwards? Did they stay in the USA? The archduchess seems to have been very close with her American rescuer.


Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Katalin was not an archduchess as her marriage was not equal. One wonders how much she fudged on her story because her marriage was essentially over before the war ended. Albrecht was a Nazi supporter, and gave money to the SS and the Arrow cross. He was involved in fascist organizations in both Austria and Hungary, ostensibly to get or keep his property in both countries.He was supported those who took part in a massacre in Vojvodina against partisans. Vojvodina was once a part of the the Austro-Hungarian empire, but at the end of 1918, the area became a part of what would become the kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later Yugoslavia). During the second world war, the area was occupied by the Germans. A good chunk of the Duke of Teschen's estate was here, which is why Albrecht was eager to regain it. After the war, Yugoslavia and Hungary tried to get Albrecht to try him for war crimes, but he and his longtime mistress, Lidia Strausz-Dorner. He had not disappeared as Katalin said in the interview ... he had escaped to Paraguay.
He divorced Katalin in 1951 (in Mexico) and then married Lidia in Paraguay. He died in Argentina in 1955
Katalin eventually returned to Europe to live after raising her girls in the USA. She died in 2000. Both girls became US citizens. Sarolta married Joseph Wutholen in Switzerland, where they live. They have several children, including Isabelle, who is married to Purvez Siddiqi. Ildiko lives in Fresno, CA, and has been married twice.

Anonymous said...

Charming fellow, Albrecht. Too bad he was never tried.

Thanks for the very complete answer, Marlene.

Anonymous said...

Marlene --

Do you know whether Albrecht lived openly in South America after the war or did he hide his identity? How did Katalin make a living? (I read somewhere that she had been a teacher before her marriage). Also is there any truth to the story that she tried to shoot Albrecht during an argument?

Also, I've read that his mistress, third wife, and "soul-mate" Lidia's step-parents were Jewish. Have you heard that?

Thanks for an interesting blog....

Unknown said...

Where did you get your information regarding their marriage before the war's end?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

It says right in the article ..