Otto von Habsburg: A Noble European with Christian Values
On July 3, 2011 Otto von Habsburg, aged 98, passed away at his home at Lake Starnberg near Munich in Bavaria.
The son of the last Emperor of Austria Karl went into exile with his family in 1919 and spent several years in Washington DC during World War II, where he loved to pass his days studying and reading in the Library of Congress and met another refugee from Europe, Dr. Fritz Kraemer, who inspired the establishment of the World Security Network as a global elite network for a safer world.
Otto von Habsburg like Fritz Kramer had an animosity towards the Nazis which occupied Austria after the “Anschluss” in 1938. Another Austrian-born, Adolf Hitler, was his counterpart from the 1920’s to 1945. These men represented opposite worlds: one noble, the other low class, one with all privileges in high-society, the other homeless, one rooted in deep Christian believes, the other full of hate - the proletarian dictator and the noble heir.
Returning to Europe after World War II Otto von Habsburg promoted a united and free Europe including the East, a conviction he would stick to tirelessly during his long life, rooted in Christianity and democratic values.
The designated crown prince never complained about loosing the ability to become emperor of Austria after his home country became a republic. For legal reasons he was not allowed to return home until 1966 and also lost his noble title, now simply called “Herr Habsburg”.
He was always noble in his manners, humble and human.
His new “Heimat” and virtual kingdom of hope become the Paneuropa Union, founded by Richard Graf Coudenhove-Kalergi. From 1973 to 2004 he served as the International President of this organization. For the conservative CSU in Bavaria he joined the European Parliament in 1979 and remained active in the Foreign Affairs Committee until 1999.
For decades too many people in Germany and Europe as well as the media smiled at him and judged him as a “reactionary dreamer” of a free Europe including the forgotten East.
He disliked appeasement policy and any dictatorship while others approved it as part of Realpolitik.
Whenever he spoke at large conferences of his loved Paneuropa Union - like in the Kaiserpfalz in my home town Goslar in 1986 - he was speaking Hungarian as well. The East German Secret Police, the Stasi, started a smear campaigne against him even in the 1980's. The Stasi understood the threat of freedom to their rotten dictatorship.
But he prevailed all of his adversaries and his Golden Age started in 1989.
At the Hungarian-Austrian Iron Curtain, the Paneuropean Union, inspired by him and with the help of his daughter Walburga (now a member of the Swedish Parliament), launched the “European Picnic” in 1989 in Sopron. The border fence was cut and 600 East German citizens could flee to the West - the Iron curtain was opened for the first time. This hole expanded, initiated the fall of the Warsaw Pact in the East and symbolized the reunification of Europe. This picnic was his moment of glory and satisfaction, his virtual Hungarian crown.
Otto von Habsburg proved that he was right to include all Europeans into his vision of a united Europe of democracies.
His legacy is a united Europe of freedom, justice and Christian values and the will to advance its development step by step.
He is a role model for freedom fighters all over the world as well as for “noblesse oblige”.