Baron's black house a public memorial to Archduke Otto
PUBLISHED: 09:32 03 September 2011
© Nigel Sutton email email@example.com
A Hungarian baron whose family was killed by the Nazis has painted his house black as a public memorial to Archduke Otto Von Habsburg, who he credits with unifying post war Europe.
The Archduke, who died in July aged 98, was the final heir of a 640 year old dynasty, a title he renounced in 1961 before going on to have a career in elected politics which saw him become one of the European Parliament’s longest serving representatives.
The poignant tribute, which stands out amidst the red brick homes of Lynmouth Road in Muswell Hill, was put up by Baron Von Dombovary und-Treuenberg, whose family had personal links with great European dynasty.
“With his death, for the first time I came to understand what it means to experience an event that you cannot possible cope with. It is monumental, something unbelievable”, said Baron Treuenberg.
“He represented our home, our country and our hope.”
Baron Von Treuenberg, 81, fled with his mother Lenke from Hungary to London following the 1956 uprising after years of persecution at the hands of first the Fascists, and then the Soviet regime.
His father had died in a forced Labour camp during the war and his cousin, the renowned Olympic fencer Attila Petschauer was murdered by the Nazis in a Ukrainian Labour camp in 1943.
Like many Hungarian émigrés scattered across Europe, Baron Von Treuenberg looked to the exiled Otto as a symbol of hope and possible reconciliation during these tumultuous years.
“During the war, my father took me to a photographer in Hungary who took us downstairs. He made it clear that the authorities shouldn’t know about what he was about to show us, and then unveiled a life size portrait of Otto” the baron recalls.
“This is the moment he made it clear to me that this was my king.”
To step inside Baron Treuenberg’s home is to walk into another era of European political rule.
Dozens of photographs, including one of the infant Archduke sat on his mother’s lap, swamped in his finely embroidered robes and wearing a crown, hang alongside etchings and newspaper cuttings chronicling the Habsburgs’ lives and deaths.
Pride of place are the framed letters personally written to him by the Archduke, including one wishing Baron Treuenberg’s mother a speedy recovery after a fall – a personal touch the baron says epitomised Otto’s humanitarian concerns.
He said: “He didn’t recognise borders between people, between religions. Those are messages that are still pertinent today and for the future.”