Adolph Schwarzenberg was born in Hluboka on the 18th of August 1890 as the first of eight children into the Schwarzenberg family and was educated to eventually take over the management of extensive landholdings, real estate and industry, as well as substantial art collections and extensive archives from his father. The family owned numerous noteworthy castles and residences, amongst them Český Krumlov, Hluboká and Třeboň in South Bohemia, Schwarzenberg Palace and Salm Palace in Prague, as well as Palais Schwarzenberg in Vienna and Schwarzenberg Castle in Bavaria.
He completed a law degree at the Czech University in Prague. He fought in the First World War and later served in the Czechoslovak army.
The First World War brought many changes to the Czech Lands. The First Czechoslovak Republic was proclaimed in its wake, on October 28, 1918. The 30 year old Adolph Schwarzenberg seemed better equipped than his father to deal with these new developments. From 1923 onwards, he took over full responsibility for the running of all family business as his father’s plenipotentiary. The land reform threatened to completely eradicate the family’s estate. Adolph Schwarzenberg negotiated with the state and managed to safeguard a large part of the original property; the remaining estate still covered some 90.000 ha and important real estate. Adolph Schwarzenberg inherited the family estates after his father’s death in 1938.
Marriage and family life
Adolph Schwarzenberg married Princess Hilda of Luxembourg and Nassau (15 Feb 1897 - 8 Sep 1979) in 1930. The couple shared a passion for agriculture, wildlife and botany and spent much of their time at their Stará Obora hunting lodge near Hluboká. They acquired Mpala Farm in Laikipia, Kenya in 1933. Apart from bringing modern farming methods to the estate, Adolph built a hydroelectric power station there (some of the machinery was imported from his native Hluboká) and made exceptional improvements to his workers’ living conditions.
German occupation and exile
Adolph Schwarzenberg’s stance against the Nazis and the Third Reich was clear even before the occupation of the Czech Lands and the outbreak of WWII: in 1937 he invited Edvard Beneš to Český Krumlov castle, where he gave him a million crowns, at the time a very considerable sum, for the defence of Czechoslovakia against Germany. During the Anschluss, he ordered black flags to be flown over his Vienna Palace and, when Vienna’s public gardens were closed to Jews, he had “Jews welcome” signs put up in his palace garden.
After the German occupation of the Czech Lands, he and his adoptive son Heinrich refused to receive Hitler at Cesky Krumlov castle. Neither did he consent to replace his Czech managers with ethnic Germans. He was considered pro-Czech and anti-German by the Nazi administration. All this inevitably made him a target for persecution and arrest. Adolph Schwarzenberg left occupied Czechoslovakia and settled temporarily at his house in Bordighera, Italy. He gave his adoptive son Heinrich responsibility for his property and emigrated via Switzerland to the United States of America. Heinrich Schwarzenberg, representing his adoptive father, proved no more inclined to the new rulers and on 17 August 1940 the Gestapo confiscated all of Adolph Schwarzenberg’s property within the reach of the Third Reich. Heinrich Schwarzenberg was arrested on direct orders of Heinrich Himmler and taken to various police prisons before being incarcerated in Buchenwald concentration camp. He was released in 1944 and survived the remainder of the war as a forced labourer.
The entire Schwarzenberg property was placed under the control of the Gauleiter of Oberdonau, August Eigruber. Hermann Göring was also eager to benefit from the estate; a correspondence concerning the fate of the property ensued between various officials including Martin Bormann and Hans Heinrich Lammers, head of the Reichskanzlei. Hitler decided in favour of Gauleiter Eigruber. Eigruber was a major Nazi criminal, who was executed in 1947 for crimes committed at Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp.
During his stay in the USA, Adolph Schwarzenberg supported the resistance and was an outspoken opponent of the Nazi regime, as confirmed by both Jan Masaryk and Consul General Karel Hudec. He enrolled at Columbia University to study for his second doctorate. His dissertation, a biography of Felix, Prince Schwarzenberg, was published in 1946. Adolph also worked with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace carrying out various activities in support of the organisation.
Return to Europe and post-war period
After the end of the Second World War, Adolph and Hilda Schwarzenberg prepared for their return to Europe. They had spent almost five years in the USA.
They expected to return to Hluboká nad Vltavou and their Stará Obora hunting lodge, but were soon disappointed. National administration had been declared over his Czech estates in Adolph Schwarzenberg’s absence and all his Czech property had been confiscated under the so called Beneš decrees of 1945 by letter of 5 October 1945 – notwithstanding the owner’s track record of being a loyal Czechoslovak citizen and, in the words of Jan Masaryk, “a passionate anti-Nazi”. An appeal against the decree confiscation was lodged by Schwarzenberg’s lawyer within the prescribed deadline of two weeks and is still pending after more than 60 years.
In 1946 The Provincial National Committee in Prague compiled a report concerning the question of Adolph Schwarzenberg’s property confiscation and stated that the owner could not be considered a traitor or a German and that consequently his property was not subject to the decree in question (No. 12/1945, coll.). Furthermore it ordered that Schwarzenberg be paid 100.000 crowns to cover his expenses while a conclusion of procedures relating to his property was sought. This, however, did not deter the Czechoslovak government, increasingly under communist influence, from pocketing the estate without any compensation to the owner. In view of the fact that there was no legal basis for expropriating Adolph Schwarzenberg, on July 10, 1947 the Czechoslovak parliament promulgated a special law, 143/1947, coll., later to be known as Lex Schwarzenberg to secure his business assets for the state without giving a reason or offering compensation. This law has proved to be highly controversial as it is a piece of arbitrary ad hominem legislation. As such it contravenes the Czechoslovak Constitution of 1920, which was in force at the time, as well as the current Constitution of the Czech Republic. Numerous ministries pointed this out to President Benes and further urged him not to sign the act, as they found it to be so badly drafted that it would not be possible to enact it.
By the time Lex Schwarzenberg came into effect, however, Czechoslovakia was well on its way to becoming a communist system; Klement Gottwald, who would become the country’s Stalinist dictator, had been Prime Minister since 1946. The Communist Party controlled many of the important ministries, while some of the non-communist members of the government, such as Zdeněk Fierlinger, were communists in all but name. The ministries of agriculture and the interior were jointly responsible for the decision concerning Adolph Schwarzenberg’s appeal file under the provisions of decree No. 12/1945.
Last years and death
The Czechoslovak authorities’ behaviour towards him came as a distasteful surprise to Adolph Schwarzenberg, which is best illustrated by a conversation he had as early as January 1940. On a train journey to Switzerland, he met an acquaintance, the banker Holzer, director of Escompte Bank in Prague, who engaged him in conversation and wanted to know Schwarzenberg’s motives for leaving the Reich. He explained that since the takeover of the Nazi regime life at home had become opprobrium, and that he could only live in a free country. He went on to say that Germany would certainly lose the war, and “all that nonsense” of a “New Regime” would finally come to an end; only then would he return to his estates. Holzer promptly reported this conversation to the Sicherheitsdienst.
While Schwarzenberg’s predictions concerning the outcome of the war and the long-term prospects of the Thousand Year Reich were correct, post-war developments proved his optimism regarding his own return to Czechoslovakia to be misguided. He was never allowed to return to his home country.
Therefore he made his last home in Katsch, a small village in Austria, where he and Hilda once more lived in a hunting lodge, and occasionally spent time at his house in Bordighera, Italy, where he died on 27. February, 1950.