Obituary: Eve’s remarkable lifelong quest to find truth behind royal links
- Credit: Timothy Haas
Timothy Haas remembers his mother, writer and author Eve, who escaped from Nazi Germany and pursued her link to her royal patronage
The writer and author Eve Haas has died at the age of 94 – and led a life defined by an event in an air raid shelter in 1940.“I want you to know that you have blue blood flowing in your veins,” were the words spoken by Eve’s father Hans Jaretzki after a nightly World War Two bombing raid. Her father was a Bauhaus architect who had moved his family from Berlin to Hampstead as soon as Adolf Hitler grabbed power in 1934.
Eve recalled the inscription written in an metal clad notebook her father gave to Eve that morning. “The beautiful owner of this book is dearer to me than my life, August your protector.” The book had belonged to Prince August, the great-grandson of George I, and Eve’s great-great grandfather.
Eve’s life began dramatically in June 1924: her mother Margarethe gave birth in the hospital where Hans was recovering from a near-fatal car accident.
When the Nazis came to power, Hans approached his friend, British ambassador Sir Eric Phipps for help, and they arranged a move to London. They then arrived in Hampstead. Eve began working at Mayfair’s Medici galleries and served Queen Mary and Danny Kaye. Winston Churchill’s wife Clemmie begged her for a pencil during the war. Her family also got to know their neighbour Sigmund Freud.
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Her family was accused of being a “warmonger” several times in the run up to the conflict. Hans bought Edward Elgar’s house in Hampstead in 1934 and converted the wine cellar into an air raid shelter. This caused problems during a visit by music hall star Bud Flanagan. When he was shown the air raid shelter he said “you are a war-monger” and stormed off. “But it served us well” Eve said, “because we partied every night instead of tripping down to the Underground”.
It was while taking cover in the shelter that the book changed her life. “Keep it to yourself” Hans said, “because there are no records just a verbal legacy - All we have in the family is this notebook, and a small miniature of Emilie von Ostrowska the love of his life.”
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She pursued this in her later career as a journalist and author of books including Bartholmew to The Rescue.
In 1973, she persuaded her husband Ken to help her discover what had happened to Prince August and Emilie.
To do so, they had to get into East Germany, where she was born, and with whom Britain had no diplomatic relations. A British diplomat in Berlin warned her against returning to the country of her birth, and said she may not be able to leave. But she and Ken tricked their way out of East Berlin to Merseberg and finally Potsdam without any permission.
She discovered the details of her great-great grandmother Emilie and her life with Prince August had been hidden away on the orders of King Frederick William IV of Prussia in an archive that had been closed for 140 years. To Eve’s delight East Germany’s culture minister welcomed them giving her an unprecedented access to the Hohenzollern archive.
She discovered the details of Emilie’s life with Prince August had been hidden away on the orders of King Frederick William IV of Prussia in an archive that had been closed for 140 years. To Eve’s delight, East Germany’s culture minister welcomed them, giving her unprecedented access to the Hohenzollern archive.
But there was to be a twist at the end of the search: despite her birth documents, she was not Jewish. Her true ancestry went back to Emilie, whose descendents had been erased from official records due to the scandal of her marriage to Prince August, in defiance of the king’s order not to She also had exclusive access to the Queen’s private archive. She kept in touch with the palace until her death, receiving great interest from the Queen after reading her book.
A lover of the arts, she was a regular visitor to Glyndebourne with Ken, who died in 1990.
In her final weeks of her life, Eve fought her illness with immense bravery, great heart and determination. Bright, and full of plans to the very end she passed away peacefully with her three devoted sons, Anthony, Timothy and David by her side.
Her funeral will take place on Friday at midday at Hampstead Parish Church.