Lorne Thyssen – Buying Scholarship or: ‘does money smell’?

While both ThyssenKrupp and the Thyssen Bornemisza Group continue to pay academics and charitable foundations to rewrite their past, one member of the family has additionally been funding scholarship in order to buy an exalted academic identity for himself; with wealth polluted by the same tarnished history.

Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza was born in Switzerland to the Scottish fashion model Fiona Campbell-Walter, who by the time of his birth was already separated from Lorne’s legal father, the Hungarian, Dutch, Swiss, German, Catholic, industrialist and art collector, Baron Hans Heinrich (Heini) Thyssen-Bornemisza; a man with his own identity problems, for whom Fiona had been his third wife.

As his second son, Lorne was also encouraged to adopt the ‘theatrical’ Austro-Hungarian title of ‘Baron’, despite the fact that in Switzerland (where waiters refer to him as ‘Mr Baron’), Austria and Hungary, the title has no legal status and Heini claimed his adopted son’s biological father was actually the American, Jewish, TV producer Sheldon Reynolds. But that didn’t stop Heini from accepting Lorne as a legal heir and supplying him with a dangerously generous allowance.

Lorne was educated at Le Rosey, a cosmopolitan, Swiss school that is perhaps better known for the wealth of its students’ parents than their off-springs’ academic achievement and from where he was expelled prior to completion of his International Baccalaureate studies. However, he did subsequently complete his basic Swiss Military Service while displaying less enthusiasm for gainful employment at the Thyssen Bornemisza Group´s corporate headquarters in Monaco.

Having adopted English as his first language, Lorne then established his colourful and extravagant social presence in London before endeavouring to read politics and philosophy at Edinburgh University. But as a result of the social distractions afforded him by his generous allowance, he failed to devote sufficient time to his studies and was obliged to abandon his academic ambitions.

He then moved to New York where he attended acting classes and even achieved some small measure of success in an off-Broadway Shakespeare play before moving on to Paris and from there to Beirut; where he acted in, and directed, a multi-million dollar, Thyssen-Bornemisza funded movie. He also adopted Muslim faith and became involved in Islamic mysticism, via the Sufi movement; whose funds he contributed to.

His generosity and the size of his inherited fortune were doubtless also instrumental in his being awarded a seat on the board of the Muslim Cogito Scholarship Foundation.

By now it must have begun to occur to Lorne that he could ‘procure’ academic status without the time-consuming inconvenience of having to study or take exams.

Heini had also taught him that cultural status could be obtained by the simple expedient of loaning out parts of his inherited art collection. A policy that would save on the cost of art storage and insurance.

So it was that he chose to loan his inherited collection of Muslim carpets to the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin; which resulted in a considerable enhancement of his standing amongst Germany’s cultural elite.

Considering the amount of time and effort that the Thyssen-Bornemiszas had invested in avoiding being considered German and denying their historic connections with the country, particularly during World War II, Berlin was, despite being the recognised centre of oriental carpet dealing, an extremely strange choice of location. Presumably it was an attempt to enhance his profile in Germany while his adopted family history was coming under academic scrutiny.

But given that Lorne wanted to achieve academic status in the UK, his choice of Oxford was logical, entirely predictable and possibly offered tax advantages to both parties. Given the Thyssens’ history of support for the Reich, use of industrial slave labour, involvement in violent anti-Semitism, profits from arms manufacturing in two World Wars, avoidance of reparations and retrieval of German assets by means of manipulated nationality and use of covert international banking, Lorne’s acceptance as an Honorary Fellow by the Wolfson College, Oxford University, in return for setting up the ‘Lorne Thyssen Research Fund for Ancient World Topics’, was nauseating; particularly as the College was originally founded and funded by Isaac Wolfson, a devout orthodox Jew and committed Zionist.

This was certainly not the first time that the Thyssens had used philanthropy to enhance their academic status while hiding the less palatable details of their past, which doubtless led to great aunt Amelie Thyssen’s creation of the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and aunt Gaby (Gabrielle Bentinck nee Thyssen-Bornemisza) giving money to Tel Aviv University via Lord George Weidenfeld, who developed a masterly skill in brokering such philanthropic deals. This process may also have encouraged Yad Vashem (Israel’s Holocaust Commemoration, Documentation, Research and Education Centre) to overlook the Thyssens´ involvement in the slaughter of one hundred and eighty Jewish slave workers as after dinner entertainment at their castle in Rechnitz, Burgenland, Austria, on 24./25.03.1945. For one of the unfortunate by-products of academic philanthropy is that in protecting their benefactors, seats of learning are often encouraged to participate in historical amnesia.

Subsequently, Lorne’s freshly-minted academic status may have awarded his recently opened Kallos Gallery in London’s Mayfair some additional degree of credibility in its sale of his ancient Greek artefacts; if only he had resisted having the temerity to announce that he had signed up to ‘read’ Classical Studies with the Open University (having first presented the OU with ‘two fully funded MA scholarships…made possible through the generosity of Baron Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza. The scholarships will provide the full fees for two year part-time MA studentships in Classical Studies at the Open University’) presumably in an attempt to acquire some small measure of legitimate, academic achievement.

Though I doubt that professional image builders would have encouraged such a revelation, as it could only serve to demote his elevated status as a ‘Fellow’ and ‘Honorary Fellow’ elsewhere.

I admire the Open University and used to respect Oxford University as what I believe I should expect it to be; an incorruptible seat of learning. But I don’t admire or respect academic whoring. There is too much of it about and, in this case, it is in clear contradiction of the old Latin adage, ‘Pecunia non olet.’




(p.s.: Lorne Thyssen is also a Fellow of The Royal Numismatic Society. At its 2012 International Congress held at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem he acted as a chairperson with presentations given by members of Staatliche Museen Berlin, Tel Aviv University and Oxford University – thus closing the circle of – what we have the right to consider – duplicity).

Lorne Thyssen-Bornemisza pretending to be British and clean (www.thyssenpetroleum.com).

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Why I am angry with the Thyssens (by Caroline D Schmitz)

When I left Germany to live in England in 1992, my fatherland was only just beginning to get over the end of the Cold War, during which the Aufarbeitung of the Nazi era had been put on hold. In England, I got the amazing opportunity to work with David Litchfield on a biography of the Thyssen family which took us 14 years to complete and publish in England, Spain and Germany.

Now I am back in Germany and am delighted to see that a new wind is blowing as far as the renewed Aufarbeitung is concerned. But still it meets with opposition from those scrutinised. And yet, the time really is over-ripe for the descendants of those once in power to come clean and say „yes, what happened was terrible, and our families are admitting exactly what important role they played in it, and we are sorry“.

Instead, the Thyssen family in particular is still spending vast sums to produce sanitised versions of their history and this is particularly hurtful for me as a German whose family members were soldiers in Hitler`s war, who died or were maimed and never ever received any support whatsoever to cope with their horrific wartime experiences. This tragedy has had an overarching and enduring negative effect on German society. And this is why I am so angry with the way the Thyssens are behaving.

Heini Thyssen`s widow Carmen Cervera this year brought out his „memoirs“ in Spain, which is mostly theatrical nonsense but has a few unintended, highly interesting pieces of information, which we will present on this website in the new year. In particular, we will contrast her „effort“ with the other big Thyssen Whitewash Project that has seen the first fruits ripen in 2014.

As our manuscript was circulating in 2006, Heini`s son Georg Thyssen set up the „Thyssen Industrial History Foundation“ and later teamed up with the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the ThyssenKrupp Archives under Manfred Rasch. They commissioned more than a dozen German academics under Margit Szöllösi-Janze, Günther Schulz and Hans Günter Hockerts to write a series of books on the Thyssens in the 20th century. So far, two volumes have appeared: „The United Steelworks under National Socialism“ by Alexander Donges and „Slave Labour at Thyssen“ by Thomas Urban. A third volume, “The Thyssens as Art Collectors” by Johannes Gramlich, is set to appear in March 2015 and some five more volumes thereafter.

Although these books do contain a number of admissions, the overall theme is still a denial of any wrong-doing on the side of the Thyssens. The smoke-and-mirror style convolutedness of the project`s mission statement can be seen from the summary of a conference held at the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences in June 2014.

Based on our research and in the interest of historical truth, we will in the coming months and years on this website provide our readers with a detailed critical analysis of this Thyssen-financed „Aufarbeitung“.

Freiburg im Breisgau following a British bombing raid, November 1944

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Warum ich mich über die Thyssens ärgere (von Caroline D Schmitz)

Als ich 1992 Deutschland verließ und nach England zog hatte mein Vaterland gerade erst begonnen, den Kalten Krieg, während dessen die Aufarbeitung der Nazi Vergangenheit zum Erliegen kam, hinter sich zu lassen. In England hatte ich die unfassbare Gelegenheit mit David Litchfield an einer Biographie der Thyssen Familie zu arbeiten, für deren Vervollständigung und Publikation in England, Spanien und Deutschland wir 14 Jahre benötigten.

Jetzt bin ich zurück in Deutschland und freue mich zu sehen, dass ein neuer Wind in Sachen Aufarbeitung weht. Aber dem stehen die Hinterfragten teils immer noch mit erheblichem Widerstand entgegen. Dabei ist die Zeit nunmehr überreif für die Abkömmlinge derer, die damals in verantwortlichen Positionen waren, zu sagen „Ja, was passierte war schrecklich, und unsere Familien geben zu, was genau ihre Rolle dabei war und wir bekennen, dass es uns leid tut“.

Statt dessen geben speziell die Thyssens immer noch große Summen aus, um geklitterte Versionen ihrer Geschichte zu produzieren. Das ist besonders schmerzhaft für Leute wie mich, da meine Familienmitglieder Soldaten in Hitler`s Krieg waren, getötet wurden oder verletzt, und sie zu keinem Zeitpunkt auch nur die geringste Unterstützung erhielten, um mit ihren höchst traumatischen Kriegserlebnissen zu Rande zu kommen. Das ist eine Tragödie, die einen überwältigenden Langzeiteffekt auf die deutsche Gesellschaft hat. Und darum ärgere ich mich so über das Verhalten der Thyssens.

Heini Thyssen`s Witwe, Carmen Cervera, hat dieses Jahr in Spanien seine „Memoiren“ veröffentlicht. Das Meiste davon ist theatralischer Unfug, aber das Buch enthält auch einige, unbeabsichtigte interessante Informationen, die wir im neuen Jahr auf dieser Webseite vorstellen werden. Besonders konstrastieren werden wir dieses „Werk“ mit einem anderen, größeren Thyssen Weisswasch-Projekt, welches 2014 die ersten Früchte getragen hat.

Als unser Manuskript 2006 zirkulierte gründete Heini`s Sohn Georg Thyssen die „Stiftung zur Industriegeschichte Thyssen“ und schloss sich später mit der Fritz Thyssen Stiftung und dem ThyssenKrupp Archiv unter Manfred Rasch zusammen. Sie beauftragten über ein Dutzend Akademiker unter der Leitung von Margit Szöllösi-Janze, Günther Schulz und Hans Günter Hockerts, um eine Reihe von Büchern über „Die Thyssens im 20. Jahrhundert“ zu schreiben. Bisher sind zwei Bände veröffentlicht worden: „Die Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG im Nationalsozialismus“ von Alexander Donges und „Zwangsarbeit bei Thyssen“ von Thomas Urban. Ein dritter Band, “Die Thyssens als Kunstsammler” von Johannes Gramlich, soll im März 2015 erscheinen und danach mindestens fünf weitere Bände.

Obwohl diese Bücher in der Tat einige Eingeständnisse enthalten, so ist der überwiegende Tenor jedoch, dass eine direkte Verantwortung der Thyssens weiterhin nicht akzeptiert wird. Die verschleiernden Verschachtelungen der Missionsaussage können der Zusammenfassung einer Tagung entnommen werden, die zu diesem Projekt im Juni 2014 in der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften stattfand.

In den kommenden Monaten und Jahren werden wir, basierend auf unseren Forschungen und im Interesse der historischen Wahrheitsfindung, unseren Lesern auf dieser Webseite eine detaillierte, kritische Analyse dieser Thyssen-finanzierten „Aufarbeitung“ zur Verfügung stellen.

Freiburg im Breisgau nach einem britischen Bombenangriff, November 1944

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Back again & the story so far.

The most recent event in Tita’s endless odyssey of contradictions followed her sale of The Lock, the inherited Constable painting which she claimed only to be selling due to her shortage of liquidity resulting from Spain’s refusal to pay her for the ‘magnanimous’ loan of her pictures to the Thyssen Bornemisza Museum. Presumably she assumed the threatened sale of such an iconic, if rather boring painting would loosen Spain’s purse strings. However, the Spanish government remained steadfast. But Tita soon forgot her claimed liquidity crisis and long before the cash from the sale could possibly have arrived in her coffers, was soon celebrating her financial sponsorship of an archaeological project in Costa Rica and rebranding of herself as, would you believe, a philanthropist!

The sale itself was in fact rather a damp squib. For after much pre-publicity on the part of Christies to convince everyone that collectors would be falling over themselves to bid the paintings price up to stratospheric levels, there turned out to be only one buyer and the only reason it went for the ‘claimed’ £20 million (hammer price) was that according to the auction house, the work was guaranteed to sell courtesy of a third party ‘irrevocable bidder’ that dealers identified as one of Christie’s Russian clients and the UK press refused to mention. Newsweek proved more honest and even quoted Richard L Feigen, the NY based dealer as saying ‘The Constable sold for the price of a second-tier Warhol. It’s ridiculous!’ (A Rothko asking price at Basle Art Fair was $78 million while the Munch pastel drawing on paper went for $120 million at auction.)

Beatrice B Shoemaker gave a more informed, if damming explanation: ‘Third-party guarantees have been distorting the market for some time – conflict of interest being an unknown concept in these parts. The Constable actually sold on its putative reserve. Although Christies boasted this as the best ever Old Master Painting sale, the actual results show that over 50% of the lots sold (hammer price) at or below the low estimate…Current estimates reflect vendors aspirations. The 25% buyers premium is included in the published price, distorting perception, since the vendor gets the hammer price minus whatever fees he managed to negotiate (10/20%)…So next time around, at the time of the resale, the collector naturally wants to recoup his original costs within the reserve. Result: ever higher figures but (with a few spectacular exceptions) illusory profitability for the punters. Cheers!!!!’… In my book Heini Thyssen is quoted as saying: ‘The art business is the dirtiest business in the world.’

Francesca (Habsburg nee Thyssen) criticised Tita for selling the picture but didn’t feel sufficiently concerned to make a bid, while Norman Rosenthal pretended it was the reason he was resigning from The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum board. The more likely reason was in fact the loss of the museums sponsor, Caja Madrid and its lack of any replacement.

Meanwhile, back in Germany ThyssenKrupp’s shares continued their relentless downhill slide as steel demand slumped and their Brazilian and North American plant ‘investments’ spiralled. Rumours of buyers came and went while the organisation finally admitted it was considering withdrawing from the steel business altogether. Their share price fell even faster following the news that ThyssenKrupp, having forgotten one of the first rules of business and ‘shat in their own nest’, had been found guilty of the price fixing of railway lines in Switzerland, Austria and Germany. Presumably these were the same railway lines that had been found to contain hairline cracks and had to be replaced by a cheaper and better quality Polish equivalent.

Down the road in Monaco the family firm was suffering from less tangible problems. ‘Baron’ Heini Junior’s Asset Management lost 350 million Euros via Bernie Madoff but more importantly having made the same mistake as ThyssenKrupp by also shitting in his own nest, Georg had accepted 34 million Euros in Monogasque investment in Bernie’s little financial pyramid. Well it turns out that he did so without the appropriate license which not only means that he will be obliged to pay the money back, presumably with interest but could also face five years in the Monaco slammer.

All this appears to have had a positive effect on sales of my book, in both the UK and Germany. And Spain? Well Spain is Spain and much as I love it and the Spanish people, working with the publisher Groupo Planeta has not been easy and I thus find it somewhat predictable to discover that they had been under considerable pressure from Tita to curtail pulication of our book and replace it with hers. As this is the publishing company whose other Thyssen book ‘Carmen Cevera La Baronesa’ accused her mother of being a madam and Tita’s sexual status being perhaps more professional than amateur one presumes that will also shortly be ‘out of print’. All this without even a hint of litigation. Anyway the latest news is that they are scheduled to be bringing out yet another Thyssen book in October which is, according to Tita, Heini’s official memoirs. Well it was certainly not something that he wrote himself, so God knows who did.

And finally, ever since I pointed out to a very grumpy and highly dismissive Francesca that some of my family heirlooms were decorated with a coat of arms that bore an uncanny resemblance to that of the Thyssen-Bornemisza’s, the historian, Rosemary Thorburn has continued to research my family history. Well I can now reveal that the Hungarian Baroness Ottilie von Schossberger was my great (step) grandmother and that the Schossberger girls married into both the Bornemisza and Batthyany families. The former being where both my and the Thyssen’s coat of arms came from. It also gives me as much right (if any such thing actually exits) as any of the existing Thyssen-Bornemiszas to adopt the title of ‘Baron’ David R L Litchfield. If only this family history had been known in 1939 things might have turned out somewhat differently for the Bornemiszas, Batthyanys and Thyssens, for the Schossberger’s were Jewish!

Scloss Schossberger

Schloss Schossberger

Carmen Thyssen’s Salon des Refusés

So finally her museum has opened in Malaga. The international public don’t seem particularly interested despite the initial free entry and guest appearances of thirty pictures from Tita’s Madrid collection. But the most important event was the subsequent signing of the contract, which should of course have taken place prior to the pictures’ arrival and the museum opening. The spokesman for the United Left in Malaga’s city council, Mr Pedro Moreno Brenes, even went as far as stating that the signature only happened once the town council had agreed to supply yet further millions to cover running costs.

According to an article in Diariosur Newspaper it also appears that Mrs Thyssen has the right to remove 10% of the pictures permanently and another 15% for up to nine months. So what the Andalucians believe they have invested more than 36 million Euros in may not be quite what they end up with. Already there seems to be some doubt as to the museum’s potential profitability as six million euros of the investment is infact a subsidy for the running of the museum for the next two and a half years. After which the museum is expecting to be able to self-finance – but only fifty percent of the running costs -, which basically means the council will probably have to invest at least another fifteen to twenty million for the full fifteen-year loan, from which Tita claims she will not receive a penny.

At the signing of the agreement a small but vocal group of protesters made their opposition to such extravagance obvious. They were members of a recently formed national group of protesters who are unofficially known as Los Indignados.

There is still no news as to why Tomas Llorens and his assistant, Maria Lopez, left the Carmen Thyssen Museum Malaga in such a hurry. One can only presume it was something they considered financially or legally advisable, or possibly both, while Tita must now be somewhat embarrassed by the fact that Llorens remains on the board of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. It is also rather confusing that the current director of the Madrid museum, Guillermo Solana, continues to promote Tita’s collections despite the fact that the Spanish government has apparently already succeeded in a legal action regarding the passing-off of the Thyssen-Bornemisza “brand”, obgliging her to call her museum Museo Carmen Thyssen rather than Museo Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza. God knows how much that cost her to defend or who paid the legal bill for her Malaga venture, considering the tax complications involved with pictures owned by three different offshore trusts!

Anyway, Carmen Thyssen has finally confirmed the rumours that she, like Spain itself, is experiencing financial difficulties. She has even warned the Malaga city council that while she is at present loaning her pictures for ‘nothing’ she will eventually, of course, have to receive some form of recompense. There have also been accusations that she has failed to show-up for a number of museum-related, social events. Hopefully because she was busy with more profitable pursuits.

Drawing by Alagram at STATE Magazine (www.state-media.com)

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The Thyssen Dynasty – “As seen on TV”

Back in June 2010 we predicted that Germany was due to be subjected to a whitewash documentary about The Thyssen Dynasty; made by Broadway TV for transmission by ARD. We hoped our prediction would be proved wrong, but not a bit of it. In fact the program was even more of a ‘hagiography’ than we had foreseen. It appeared to have been yet another attempt by ThyssenKrupp, doubtless with the assistance and encouragement of The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, to clean-up their past, mainly by omissions rather than lies. Even the members of the Thyssen-Bornemisza main branch of the dynasty were obviously too embarrassed by the whole ghastly project to want to take part. The only exception was Francesca Habsburg who appeared in support of the accusations against Tita Cervera and charges of her responsibility for attempting to steal the family fortune and polute the Thyssens’ ‘noble’ reputation.

Meanwhile the same old historical myths were reheated and served up yet again. We were encouraged to believe that Fritz Thyssen had seen the error of his early support of Hitler and the Reich and paid a heavy price for his resistance. No mention was made concerning his tax evasion and illegal foreign currency transactions. They also claimed him to be considered a German hero for opposing the Versailles Treaty, the allied occupation of The Ruhr and the stringent reparation payments imposed by the allies. This was of course hardly something that could be considered unique. In fact Germany as a nation has been ‘somewhat remiss’ in paying their debts for either World Wars. We were also asked to believe that Fritz had really rather liked Jews and even had some as personal friends.

At the same time, Heini’s father Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza was treated with a great deal less generosity, presumably because, following our revelations, they were obliged to admit that throughout the war he had continued to profit from his industrial contribution in supplying armament for the Reich. It was also made to sound like an activity entirely independent of the Thyssen organisation. Predictably, no mention was made of his banking and financial contribution. They even got Federico Zichy-Thyssen to claim that his uncle’s behaviour had rubbed off on Heini and that his grand-mother had warned him ‘never to do business with Heini’. He didn’t mention that the same grandmother had joined the Nazi party three years before her husband and returned from South America after the war to take charge of the Thyssen organisation and found The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung. But he did remind us how much unhappiness his fortune had brought him and how his children constantly fought over their inheritance; which must have sounded familiar to Francesca.

Then the story moved on to the Rechnitz Massacre for which the program makers wheeled in none other than Wolfgang Benz, the retired professor of antisemitism research at Berlin University; the same Wolfgang Benz who originally reacted to my feature in FAZ by denying that the massacre had ever taken place. Making no mention of his original claim, or why he had changed his mind. In an effort to eliminate Margit Batthyany-Thyssen as a suspect he insisted that only uniformed Nazis had been involved in the massacre, though he gave no evidence to support his claim. The program even claimed that Margit hadn’t known about the massacre until she was told the following morning. Paul Gulda, of all people, then insisted that Franz Podezin, one of the main perpetrator, had only been ‘following orders’! He even mentioned the ficticious telephone call that so many apologists claim to have instructed Margit’s lover to shoot the Jews. But the fact that she had helped two of the guilty to escape justice was ignored. I was mentioned as the author of ‘The Thyssen Art Macabre’ which was dismissed by the program as being inaccurate and disregarded by ‘experts’. They also claimed that I had accused Margit of actually shooting some of the victims of the massacre herself, which I didn’t, despite being quite convinced she did, but unable to prove such an accusation. They insisted it was not a book that should be taken seriously, without giving any reason why they were mentioning it in the first place.

Broadview TV then moved on to more recent times by claiming that Heini, who Simon de Pury described as the best collector of his time, had ‘donated’ his art collection to Spain, while Francesca insisted that the only reason why the Bermudan court case had collapsed was because his children had withdrawn all charges so that their father could die a happy man, despite Tita’s attempts to get her hands on all his money.

Finally the program makers brought ThyssenKrupp back into focus by getting its long-time Chief Executive Dieter Spethmann to say what a deeply wonderful company it was and how much it had contributed to Germany’s wealth, well-being and economic miracle. Since the documentary was shown, the company has announced plans to cut its global workforce by some 25% and admitted that the recent sale of shares was an effort to reduce its enormous debts.

It is doubtfull that even such a misleading documentary could have any effect on the fortunes of ThyssenKrupp or the Thyssen families (either Zichy or Bornemisza) but if the program had been more accurate and less misleading at least, ThyssenKrupp, The Fritz Thyssen Stiftung, ARD and Germany’s academia may have retained some degree of credibility.

Portraits of Elisabeth and Dieter Spethmann by Warhol.

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At 17:00 hours on Sunday, 20 March 2011, one week before the sixty-sixth anniversary of the massacre of 180 Jewish slave workers by guests at a party given by Margit Thyssen-Bornemisza, I received a telephone call.

The caller, a resident of Rechnitz, informed me that the location of the victims´ burial was ´to the left (north-east) of the town´s Catholic cemetery´.

Apparently, after the war, following the relocation of the military war heroes cemetery, a decision was made to refill their empty, unmarked graves with the remains of the Jewish victims. The decision had been made by the local authorities who had arranged for the temporary release from jail of Hildegard Stadler, one of the perpetrators of the atrocity, who then led them to the site of the original burial.

Despite previous denials, it now seems reasonable to assume that the local authorities, the Austrian Ministry of the Interior, some members of the Thyssen-Bornemisza and Batthyany families and many residents of Rechnitz have always been aware of these facts.

If the residents of Rechnitz are now admitting the truth, hopefully the Austrian authorities and the two families involved will follow their example.

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Um 17 Uhr am Sonntag, 20. März 2011, eine Woche vor dem 66. Jahrestag des Massakers an 180 jüdischen Zwangsarbeitern während eines von Margit Thyssen-Bornemisza gegebenen Festes, bekam ich einen Telefonanruf.

Der Anrufer, ein Einwohner von Rechnitz, teilte mir mit, dass die Grabstelle der Opfer sich ´links (nord-östlich) vom katholischen Friedhof´ befinde.

Anscheinend wurde nach dem Krieg, nach der Überführung des Heldenfriedhofs, die Entscheidung getroffen, dessen leere, unmarkierte Gräber mit den Überresten der jüdischen Opfer aufzufüllen. Die Entscheidung wurde durch die örtlichen Behörden getätigt, die kurzzeitig Hildegard Stadler, eine der Akteure des Massakers, auf freien Boden setzten, um von ihr zur ursprünglichen Grabstelle geführt zu werden.

Trotz bisheriger Leugnungen scheint es also, als dürfe man annehmen, dass die örtlichen Behörden, das österreichische Innenministerium, manche Mitglieder der Familien Thyssen-Bornemisza und Batthyany und viele Einwohner von Rechnitz sich dieser Fakten schon immer bewusst waren.

Wenn die Einwohner von Rechnitz nunmehr die Wahrheit zugeben, dann werden die österreichischen Behörden und die beiden Familien hoffentlich ihrem Beispiel folgen.

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Kommentar am 23.03.2011 von Herrn Dieter Szorger, Abteilung 7 – Kultur, Wissenschaft, Bildung – Burgenländische Landesregierung, A-Eisenstadt:

Sehr geehrter Herr Litchfield

Ich würde mir wünschen, dass die im Artikel skizzierten Fakten stimmen und dass das Grab endgültig gefunden wird. Vielleicht sogar im Zuge der Grabungsarbeiten, die am Gelände um den Kreuzstadl in den nächsten Monaten starten werden, wenn das Open-Air-Museum des Vereins Refugius eröffnet wird.

Bezüglich des Wahrheitsgehalts der oben skizzierten These bin ich aber eher skeptisch, muss aber zugeben, dass ich die örtlichen Rahmenbedingungen dafür zu wenig kenne.

Comment on 23.03.2011 by Mr Dieter Szorger, Department 7 – Culture, Science, Education – Burgenland County Government, A-Eisenstadt:

Dear Mr Litchfield

I would hope that the facts sketched in the article were true and that the grave can finally be found. Perhaps even during the excavations, which will begin within the next few months in the area around Kreuzstadl, when the open air museum of the Refugius society will be opened.

As to whether the above sketched thesis contains any truth, I remain somewhat sceptical, although I have to admit to not being familiar enough with the specific local conditions.

Further comments:

Silvia Hl, Madrid: ´Hopefully the massacred Jewish will find justice after all. Hopefully the assassins will also find themselves in front of that same justice.´

Eva Dabara, Tel Aviv: ´Startling, staggering story you´ve brought here, David´.

Michel van Rijn, Western Cape: ´Great work, David. What a story!´ 

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Dr Josef Hotwagner ist tot

Wir trauern um Herrn Dr Josef Hotwagner, aus Rechnitz, der am gestrigen Tage im Kreise seiner Familie verstorben ist. Sieben Jahre der Freundschaft mit diesem geradlinigen, menschlichen, hervorragenden Mann waren uns vergönnt. Wir werden ihm allzeit ein ehrendes Andenken bewahren. Unser Mitgefühl gilt seiner Frau Marie-Luise und seinen Kindern Eva und Eugen. Die Gemeinde Rechnitz, das Land Burgenland, sowie das Land Österreich haben einen ihrer Allerbesten verloren. Unser Mitgefühl gilt auch ihnen.          +++ 

We mourn the sad loss of Dr Josef Hotwagner of Rechnitz, who died yesterday surrounded by his family. We were extremely privileged to be able to call Josef our friend since meeting him seven years ago and will always honour his memory. Our sympathies go to his wife, Marie-Luise and his children, Eva and Eugen. The community of Rechnitz, the county of Burgenland and the country of Austria have lost one of their very best. We mourn their sad loss also.

Visiting Spain? Looking at Art?

Go and see Picasso’s Guernica at the Reina Sophia Museum to be warned of the horrors of war.

Go and see Ghirlandaio’s Giovanna Tornabuoni and 999 other paintings at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum to be reminded of the profits of war.

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Is B r o a d v i e w TV’s Sebastian Dehnhardt helping the Thyssens to white-wash their history? (by Caroline Schmitz)

Back in February we learned that Broadview TV in Cologne was producing a documentary on the Thyssens to be shown on German television (ARD channel) later this year as part of their ‘German Dynasties’ series. This was interesting news, as we knew that for several years such a venture has been planned in Germany but had so far failed to materialise.Following the publication of our book, a major rewriting of the family and corporate history was initiated, co-sponsored by the Thyssen corporation (via Fritz Thyssen Foundation) and the Thyssen family (represented by Georg Thyssen-Bornemisza). Now Broadview TV was announcing that their film (see this Scanned Document) would feature ‘August, Fritz and Heini Thyssen’, making no mention of either Heini’s father Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza, a key figure of the story whose role we have researched and reported extensively, or Fritz’s wife Amelie, who was a committed Nazi, yet regained ownership and control of the corporation after Fritz’s death in Argentina (not in Germany) in 1951, while never publicly recanting her political beliefs.

Instead, Broadview TV announced that their emphasis would be on ‘Fritz Thyssen’s TRAGIC embroilment with the Third Reich’ as well as ‘the patron of the arts Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza’.

For a brief moment we paused to think what Heinrich and Heini Thyssen, who had spent most of their lives aggressively denying their Germanness, would think about being turned back into ‘Germans’ posthumously! And hadn’t Fritz and Amelie always insisted they were stateless? In my opinion as a German it is wrong for the German public to be asked to accept this family back into their national consciousness as one of their own, without being given the chance of seeing an unbiased picture of BOTH their achievements AND their failings.

We are not in any way denying the Thyssens’ achievements. They created a vast industrial empire, thousands of jobs and careers as well as wealth for the German nation and beyond. To be more precise, August and his brother Josef did those things, as well as their workers, foremen and managers. But Fritz (& Amelie) and Heinrich Thyssen were big cogs, very big cogs indeed in the process that brought Adolf Hitler to power.  As such, the Thyssens’ ‘embroilment’ with the Nazis was NOT, I repeat NOT tragic for the Thyssens. The Thyssens were not victims. They were perpetrators. They supported the Nazis because they wished to eradicate Communism and Socialism and ensure their own profits and lifestyles.

The actual tragedy was the one that befell the people of Europe and of the wider world who died in their millions or survived to live on with their haunting memories. More often than not they were offered no support to come to terms with their experiences, while the Thyssens were allowed back into the position of role models. Now they’re reintroduced into the German media and, in our opinion, instead of owning up fully to their historic role, commission sanitised reports which airbrush inconvenient truths out of the public picture. This is evident in recent publications where embarrassing facts were circumvented or ignored.

We decided to contact Mr Dehnhardt to try and find out what kind of course he was planning to take with his documentary. Having written to him early in February we heard nothing. So we wrote to the Head of ARD, Mr Peter Boudgoust. He wrote back a very nice letter, saying he had passed our concerns on to the commissioning editors, in this case Christiane Hinz at WDR in Cologne. But we heard nothing from Mrs Hinz, even when emailing and phoning her.

Finally, after another letter to Mr Boudgoust, Mrs Hinz replied. She suggested our worries were ‘unfounded’, that the ‘POSSIBLE film about the Thyssens’ was still ‘ONLY AT A PROJECT STAGE’, that ‘all relevant historical points’ would be researched and that ‘if any questions arose that only [we] could answer’ they would ‘of course’ contact us. No apology was made for her previous silence.

Now finally – after 4.5 months – Mr Dehnhardt too has chosen to communicate with us, though rather pointedly, he has addressed his reply (see enclosed) to David only, not to myself, his German kinswoman, although our letter came from both of us. Once again, like Mrs Hinz before him, Mr Dehnhardt points out that ‘all relevant themes, including those from the time of the Third Reich’ will be dealt with, but adds ‘you have no right to expect for the interpretations derived from your research to be given an automatic platform in our programme’.  He also bemoans our sceptical approach, stating that it is ‘devoid of any reality’, particularly in view of the fact we ‘know nothing about the concept, form and content of [his] film’. Meanwhile, however, he still fails to communicate any of the concept, form and content in the professional manner that we would expect.

The word ‘interpretation’, of course, is a very interesting choice in this context, as it carries all the connotations of ‘spin’. The fact is that if you leave Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza and Amelie Thyssen out of the picture, you refuse to deal with real historical issues, namely those of managing German companies throughout the war from a Swiss safehaven, including the use of slave labour, international Nazi banking, the Rechnitz Massacre, the Thyssens’ post-war protection from Allied retribution, etc, etc, etc. These are straightforward facts; not ‘interpretations’.

Mr Dehnhardt has been criticised in the past for producing a documentary in which the views were said to have been over-emotional and unbalanced. Kultura Online Magazin found that his film on the battle of Stalingrad did not give a voice to the Russian side and only described the results but not the reasons for the historic developments in question. When confronted with this criticism, Mr Dehnhardt replied: ‘I think the individual [German] soldier also has the right to be a victim, especially in the context of Stalingrad. My film shows that he was only a small cog in a big machine’.

Here Mr Dehnhadt is right. But this statement begs the question as to how he will deal with the ‘big cogs’ when it comes to his documentary on the Thyssens. Will he still have the likes of his father (or my father and uncles for that matter) in mind or will he now bow to the power and influence of the cosmopolitan ‘big cogs’? Will he tell the German public the tale of Fritz Thyssen suffering in a concentration camp, although we established he was under comfortable, protective custody while his brother Heinrich continued to supply the Nazis with coal, submarines and aerial torpedoes from the safety of Switzerland? And will he tell people what an art expert Heini Thyssen was when we showed that Heini Thyssen himself told us his father had bought the collection simply in order to transfer money out of Germany and Thyssen art has been used and abused as a convenient veneer behind which to hide a guilty past ever since?

We shall have to wait and see. But after our experiences of looking into all things Thyssen for over fourteen years, we remain sceptical, particularly since Mr Dehnhardt makes several films on different subjects every year. In this short space of time he could not possibly have enough insight into a vast topic such as Thyssen to offer anything but a simplified view. A view that is in danger of misrepresenting the past in a way that will once again allow the Thyssen big cogs to indulge their privileges while shunning their historic responsibilities.

We really hope to be proved wrong, because for the last seventy plus years the German public has been misinformed regarding Thyssen. We believe that while they may not like the image of the Thyssens that we have revealed, it is up to them, not to what might prove to be a Thyssen-influenced media company, to decide.

The programme was finally aired on 8 November 2010.


eldeadpixel writes: Thanks for this good article. I wonder if that documentary will be shown here in Spain… Keep us up to date!

Sebastian Dehnhardt, film producer and managing director of Broadview TV, Cologne

Four and a half months for a reply - And they call us 'illogical'...

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