On January 10th, I was being reminded by fans from all over the world that it was my father’s birthday. Indeed, he would have been celebrating his 108th. I am so happy that you all remember him, enjoy his films and care enough to send me notes and write comments about how much you love him, cheer for him, cry for him and sing along with him. Thank you. My heart is full.
It was suggested that I start a blog so, here we go … I would like to tell you a story … his story … well, the beginning of his story.
It was the turn of the 20th Century, The Belle Epoch, and Austria was booming especially Vienna. Art, Music, Modern architecture and design, progressive liberal thinking … the time of Klimt and Mahler, Freud and Jung.
However, there was a dark cloud hovering…the dark cloud of old Russia and the Czar…the cloud of ethnic cleansing, long before there was such a phrase. Jews were being eliminated, exterminated. Families were fleeing, abandoning their homes or at the very least, changing their names.
Emil and Laura Hirsch still managed to have a fulfilling life. Laura’s family had already changed their name so when in 1904 all their sons but one were ready to change their name, it didn’t come as a surprise. And so Hirsch became Hernried. Karl, Erwin, Robert, Theo and Rudolph were now Hernrieds . Otto and his parents held to Hirsch.
Karl married Maria who was born into a Roman Catholic family from Lemberg (now Lviv, Ukraine) and so their sons, Paul born in 1908 and Robert born in 1909 were raised as Catholics. Both boys were born in Trieste, which was then a bustling cosmopolitan city and the major port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As this was also considered the Austrian Riviera and gathering place of the upper classes of Central Europe, it attracted artists and philosophers and a then ‘starving artist’ writer by the name of James Joyce.
The well bred and demanding Maria seemed to enjoy motherhood. She attended to the boys at her convenience as there was a Nanny. However, she doted on Bobby. He was becoming the favorite.
With Karl’s career as a banker and appointment as financial adviser to the Kaiser Franz Josef, they lived more than comfortably in the heart of the old city. Soon Karl was relocated to Prague and ultimately back to Vienna.
The First World War had begun. The city was tense, the populous on edge.
Karl being a strong minded, strong willed man did not always stay within the rules of the Kaiser. He was shot by a guard when refusing to tell his coachman to reroute his carriage. The bullet didn’t kill him but the following years of reduced health did. He died napping in his favorite chair. There he was discovered by his eldest son, 8 yr old, Paul.
And so the story of my father begins. This event changed his life … changed the status of the life he had lived and the direction his life would take in the future.
There has been some speculation among my associates and fellow researchers that Karl was ‘an agent’ of the Kaiser. As a banker, he could easily have traveled to and from the Hapsburg Empire’s three most important cities,Trieste, Vienna and Prague, without much question or attention….even during WWI. We know he received his title Ritter von Wasel Waldingau, not because he was of noble birth, but rather for services ‘above and beyond’ for the Kaiser and Crown. Unfortunately we have not come across an accurate paper trail as yet because so much has been destroyed between and because of the two wars. However, we are delving into the official bank and three city archives while I’m there this winter.
If you would like to help me, check out our webpage and check out the Donate link. Join me and become part of the process, part of the story … http://henreidbeyondlaszlo.com