Musings Inspired by my Journey to Vienna Part 3


My Alma Mater, University of Vienna

On the Ring Boulevard, driving by the main university building of my alma mater, I remembered my uncle Bobble, the younger brother of my father, Alfred Wilhelm Freiherr von Kap-herr. Uncle Bobble was the highest ranking member of the Federal Department of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection, promoted to the position of Chief of that department in Vienna in the early 1940s, when he came to live there with his wife and three small children. He recognised early on that the war in Russia would end in a miserable defeat for Germany, and that Vienna would be subject to a brutal occupation by the Red Army. With this foresight, he brought several trainloads of dried peas, a non-perishable staple, from Bulgaria, and had it stored in warehouses across several districts of Vienna. And as it turned out, when the Russian army invaded Vienna, they raided every food store, but left the peas to the populace to sustain themselves.

Market peas

Market peas

However, food resources were still a terrible problem. By April 1947, the people of Vienna were becoming desperate, as the Austrian government was no longer able to distribute any rations. On the 5th of May, this state of near-starvation culminated in a violent food riot. The people of Vienna, driven mad by their exclusively pea diet, exploded. To mollify them, the Russian occupation forces began to allow the purchase of a particularly intoxicating alcoholic beverage, ominously called ‘Sturm’. Translated to English, it means ‘storm’ and consists of fermented freshly pressed grape juice.

Quick fermentation in oak casks. Peels and all

Quick fermentation in oak casks. Peels and all

Thankfully, before the Viennese starved to death, the United States government released $300 million in food aid. My uncle left Vienna with his family before the end of the war, so did not witness the survival of its people, mainly thanks to his wisdom and his conscientious contribution of provisions. When I returned to Vienna from my summer holidays in Salzburg to resume my studies in September, I was impressed by the happy-go-lucky spirit of the Viennese people. Of course, they were spared from their depression by a pleasant fog of spirit fumes and flatulence.

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To be cont.

Musings Inspired by my Journey to Vienna Part 2

Vienna Streets

Vienna Streets

When grandmother died in 1923, there ensued a battle over her estate, a prolonged legal battle waged between expensive lawyers who, having control, began to sell off parts of the estate to cover their own exorbitant fees. My uncle, Ludwig Jauner, who was on my mother’s side, had a friend. This friend suggested that my mother sell the valuable pearl necklace that my grandmother had left her in the interest of salvaging what remained of the estate. My mother agreed, so he took the precious pearls with him to Amsterdam and sold them, but before he boarded a steamer to South America, he sent my uncle a postcard with just one short message:

Dear Mr. Jauner,

I am sorry, but pearls just bring tears.

Your friend, XYZ


My mother had another idea. Just before the lawyers tried to sell my grandmother’s apartment house in Vienna, at Strohgasse 10, she decided she would move there to live and give birth to me. During the journey she contracted puerperal fever and it nearly killed her, however, she recovered under the tireless care of an old friend. They shared a bedroom at the Sacré Cœur nunnery in Baden near Vienna until my mother was well and had borne her child. That lady, whom I called Aunt Liesl, also took care of me and later let me stay at her apartment, rent-free, during my years of study from 1946 to 1949.

When my father sold his share in a business in Salzburg early in the 1930s in order to join his old comrades from the First World War, the family moved to Munich, then to another city in Germany before settling in Berlin. I first attended a boarding school in Bavaria, then went to a high school in Berlin, which, when the Second World War began to rage, transferred its student classes to safer places. I was billeted, along with my classmates, in Leitmeritz, Czechoslovakia, but I applied for military service in the Luftwaffe. However, I had to forego a three-month stint with the Nazi Arbeitsdienst to help build a stretch of highway in the province of Silesia instead. In the meantime, my mother relocated the household, including her two concert pianos, to a villa in Mödling, a suburb of Vienna, to escape the bombing raids.

My Mother

My Mother

My oldest brother, Benvenuto d’Albert, instead of following the orders of the Swiss government to relocate back to Switzerland and perform his military service there, joined the German Mountaineers troop with his friends. He went to war in Russia and later fought against the partisans in Yugoslavia. On one of his leaves he came to Vienna to stay in our mother’s villa. One night, there was an air raid, and rather than seek refuge with the family in a bomb shelter, he stayed at the house. He had not witnessed the onset of these city bombings, having been on the front lines. Curious, he went out onto the terrace to watch the bomber formations in the sky, but when he heard the tell-tale whistling of the bombs falling, he dove back into the living room and crouched between the two pianos. This decision saved his life. A bomb exploded on the roof and the second floor of the villa collapsed, burying my brother under the debris. The pianos saved his life, but only just, as a bolder from the chimney had lodged itself against his neck and shoulder. He was paralysed for several hours in the hospital and later said that he was probably safer at the front than in the city, although by the end of the war he had been wounded nine times and had earned the golden hand-to-hand combat order, a decoration which was awarded only three hundred times during the course of the whole war.


After that bombing raid, my mother could no longer bear to stay in Vienna. When I completed my service in the Arbeitsdienst, I went back to stay with her for a week, to help pack whatever belongings could be salvaged, then to drive the delivery truck to Salzburg where my sister Wilfriede was living with her two girls. My mother’s things were stored in a farmer’s barn.

I then received my orders to join the Luftwaffe and to report at a camp near Munich on August 23rd, 1943… However, that is another story, to be related some other time, as it does not pertain to my reminiscences of Vienna during my recent trip.

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To be cont.


In the saddle of thousand horses

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My Father, Officer/equestrian rider

Rudolf Georg Binding

An excerpt of an old Newspaper article written by this German Poet, about the “most noble animal of God’s Creation.” Binding was a family friend and the photo is of my father who was a cavalry officer in the first world war.

“Here, on the back of thousand horses, I learned patience which no one else could have taught me. Here I learned the never-to-give-up, the never-to-slack attitude. Here I learned to concentrate, to be fair, never to become angry. Here I learned all my consideration, my appreciation of any natural reaction. Here I learned to love every elementary, untamed. At last, here I learned all which rewarded me, and all which punished me. Here I lost all vanity and self-importance. Here ruled a will, you do not ignore, not to circumvent. Here was sovereignty of superior power and my leading with tenderness Here I gained control over myself, the discipline within my body and soul. The noblest creature on Earth took me in its silent school, where it was no longer just a riding horse, not a bearer of a load, no longer master of its will, but itself the school of a perfect harmony, of an accord, a dissolution into a dance. Only the noblest horse, a thoroughbred, is able to accomplish this art… I did not love the old-fashioned knight riding; nor did I have a competition spirit, nor did I care for a slow trot on a trail. I loved the élan of a flight on the arched back of a racing body. But also the long stretched canter, as well the swinging two step trot. IT no longer was just riding, it was no longer just a sport. The physically part dissolved into the spiritual ecstasy of a young soul. Here I found myself: with an inferior life, trained by a superior Being.”

Rudolf Georg Binding (13 August 1867 – 4 August 1938) was a German poet, born in Basel, Switzerland and died in Starnberg near Munich. He studied medicine and law before joining the Hussars. On the outbreak of the First World War, Binding, who was forty-six years old, became commander of a squadron of dragoons. Except for a four-month period in Galicia in 1916, Binding spent the whole of the war on the Western Front. Binding’s diary and letters, A Fatalist at War, was published in 1927. His collected war poems, stories and recollections were not published until after his death in 1938. Binding was never a member of the National Socialist Party and publicly dissociated himself from one of its actions; but his relationship to it was not unambiguous, for he saw it at times as an aspect of national revival.

Schloss Lockwitz in Dresden

Here is the story of the photo on my home page, Schloss Lockwitz.

The suburb of Dresden called Lockwitz was for the first time mentioned with the name Lucasicz as a Sorbian [Wendish] village in 1288.
The centre of Lockwitz was always the knight’s estate with the knight’s manor for the first time mentioned in 1349. In the course of the following centuries, the estate changed hands to at least twelve families. (Knight Karras, von Ziegler, von Osterhausen, von Schönberg, von Racknitz, Count von Schall, von Wirsing, J. C. G. Steinhäußer, Preußer, and Freiherr von Kap-herr)my family. Part of the estate belonged in 1402 to the Dresden middle class family Ziegler, the other part belonged to the family von Alnpeck, who became sole owner in 1512. Some of their tombstones are still today in the Leubnitz church, to which Lockwitz was once attached.

The first description of the castle, with the recording of alterations, is going back to Johann Georg von Osterhausen, who enlarged the castle in 1621. He also brought together upper and lower Lockwitz into one municipality. At the same time the Schlosskapelle became replaced with a full size church attached to the castle, which became the centre of a church community in 1623. A curiosum is the church steeple which formed the connection between church and castle; which provided direct access from the castle to the patron’s church lodge – in existence until 1945.
Freifrau von Racknitz acquired Lockwitz in 1726, demolished the mansion built by J. G. von Osterhausen; and built instead a two storey castle with a mansard roof and an harmoniously structured Baroque façade.

A prominent guest in this castle was the Prussian King Frederic II, who established here his head quarters during the seven-year war in 1756.
The Lockwitz estate changed hands several times in the eighteenth century until it was acquired by Johann Karl Freiherr von Kap-herr in 1866. His father was Hermann Christian Freiherr von Kap-herr (1801-77), who became highly esteemed and very wealthy as one of the bankers of the Russian Czar Alexander II, in St. Petersburg. Hermann Christian, who made the financial arrangements of the Czar’s extensive construction of a railway network, returned with his family to Germany in the years 1866-68. For his three sons he acquired three estates on the outskirts of Dresden: Lockwitz, the principal residence of Karl Johann (1827-87); the I. Line, Bärenklause, the principal estate of Hermann Friedrich (1830-85) the II. Line; and Prohlis, became the principal estate of Johann Christian (1837-1918), founder of III. Line. In addition there were three agricultural estates purchased in Mecklenburg-Strelitz[16] The head of the family, the banker Hermann Christian, built for his residence in Dresden the Palais Kap-herr on Parkstraße 7 (1872-74), which was destroyed by the bombing raid in 1945. This Palais, designed by Bernhard Schreiber, and the Palais Oppenheimer by architect Gottfried Semper, were one of the most impressive villas in Dresden.

Karl Johann had to create space for his seven children; he had removed the mansard roof, and added a third floor to the castle and had the whole mansion renovated in an Italian Renaissance style. The interior was lavishly transformed with a two storey high hall with large crystal chandeliers, a library containing 2,500 volumes, and a large collection of original paintings. With these alterations, the castle received its shape and structure that had been preserved to this date. The village road became detoured to allow in front of the castle the creation of a garden. Karl Johann Freiherr von Kap-herr also purchased adjacent grounds and forests herewith enlarging the knightly estate by 655 acres.

The oldest son of Karl Johann inherited the Lockwitz estate, and with the Royal Saxon edict of 1892 his estate was add to his name being called, Hermann Thomas Freiherr von Kap-herr-Lockwitz (1854-929). The other sons were Karl Johann II (1856-97), and Alfred Ludwig (1864-1931).[18]
In 1929, Richard Hermann Karl Rudolf Freiherr von Kap-herr-Lockwitz (1889-1961), son of Hermann Thomas, [and father of the author], took over the estate with part-ownership of the other Kap-herr estates in Mecklenburg. The financial difficulties of the time, aggravated by the world wide economic crisis of 1929, demanded severe cuts. The top floor and some of the lounges were rented out, and the hall was converted into a home museum. The large fortune, which was largely invested in Russian railway bonds, became worthless after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Therefore, two of the agrarian estates in Mecklenburg as well as the Kap-herr Palais in Dresden had to be sold. Nevertheless, Richard Hermann was able through diligence and thriftiness, to maintain the Castle and give his family an amicable existence. Country living, freedom, and a metropolis at the door, allowed his children to bicycle to their high school; and enjoy a unique beautiful childhood.

After World War II, in September 1945 the knightly estate became expropriated, and the family evacuated to the island of Rügen. The castle became occupied by the East German authorities. Everything that was of the castle’s specific architecture was striped, stolen, or sold.
At first, there had been a firemen’s school set-up In the castle; thereafter they installed working facilities for schooling cartographers and students of geodesy. Later schooling barracks and garages were installed in the castle park for the voluntary Lockwitz fire brigade. At last, a school for surveyors of the department of land surveyors of the province of Saxon, which was closed finally in 2001.

After forty-five years, the director of the school gave Gabrielle a friendly tour of her former home. Proud to walk the familiar rooms, but shocked to find that nothing familiar had been left inside.

[In the early 1950 I had the opportunity to meet the Baroness Martha, mother of Gabrielle, in a village near Hannover, where she had been waiting for her husband to return to her. She told me the sad story of his attempt to save the estate Lockwitz for the family. Between the Russian occupation force and the Communist East German government there was a deal made that privately owned estates could only remain the private property if the landlord remains occupying the estate. Therefore, when my uncle had safely escorted his family to the West, he returned to Lockwitz, to defend his ownership right. However, the Russian army rounded up all the estate owners and put them into a concentration camp near Wolfsburg, adjacent to the West Germany border, and incarcerated them without enough food. The Russian guards did not stop anyone escaping to the West. The inmates had the choice, to stay to try to claim their rights and starve, or to give up their rights and escape to the West. With his escape to the West, the inevitable loss of the Kap-herr estate was sealed.]

After the flight from the island of Rügen, the community of joint heirs had spread all over West Germany. After the German reunification, they considered to regain the family castle. However, the castle without the attached land and forests [which had been already parceled and sold to several families], there was no feasible opportunity to make the purchase reasonable, especially when we would have to pay more than one million Deutschmarks. In 2005 we were advised that a purchase would include the need of an additional two millions to renovate the 47 room castle to make it commercially viable.

Since then a new Autobahn with a direct exit to Lockwitz could entice a hotel chain to purchase and restore the castle to its magnificence. It would make us happy [Gabrielle and me], if we could still see this in our lifetime.


Schloss Lockwitz today


My Ancestors


There is hardly any documentation that gives any clues as to who my ancestors actually were apart from the name itself and the family coat-of-arms. However, there were Grandma’s inexhaustible stories. I recall them as they were told to me when I was only a little, preschool boy.

First, let me clear up the confusion of my last name, which is hyphenated, but not a double name. Often, people in North America seem to feel a need to correct my name, addressing me as “Herr von Cap”, although that may not be far off the mark as the ruling member of my ancestors was indeed called the “Lord of the Cape”, ‘cape’ (in German: Kap) referring to a piece of land jutting out into the sea, usually a high rock surrounded by water on three sides. In ancient times, ruling knights built their fortified castles on the top of a hill or, as in our case, on the top of a cape in the Baltic Sea. Although, now that I think about it, that stretch of coastline does not sport any high cliffs… it might have been on the Swedish side of the Eastern Sea. In any event, the Lord (in German: Herr) and his sons were, therefore, called ‘Kap-Herr’.

Our coat-of-arms is diagonally divided into two fields. The upper left section contains a “rocky, grass-covered, water-surrounded cape”. The right lower section contains, an “armoured, cocked arm holding in its right fist a marshal’s baton fitted with silver crowns at each end”. It is not the peaceful insignia of an honourable merchant. On top of the shield rests a knight’s helmet from which sprouts an ostrich plume. On our seal ring, the helmet and surrounding leafy decorations are replaced with the seven-pointed crown of a Baron.


As was the case in the Middle Ages, these Lords were the rulers over the country, but had to be on their  defensive more often than not, thus building their castles high up, to be defended easily and to have a good  vantage point to monitor the highways and their land (or water) from their ramparts as far as the eye could  see. For the Lords to spot distant invading columns of armed men, as well as travelling merchant caravans,  was essential, to prepare for battle as well as to intercept and extort their toll from innocent travelers.  These Lords, living in fortified castles, would often be branded as highway robbers, and those who  occupied fortified islands or capes, as pirates. My Grandma was not sure whether our ancestors were of the  notorious highway robbers or pirates or, perhaps, both.

In any case, the family appeared to strive for respectability, since the first recorded member in the seventeenth century was a Lutheran pastor in a city called Ramkarsleben (or Renkersleben). However, within a few generations, the first recognized Kap-herr exerted his ancestral energy to regain formidable powers, this time in finance. He established his financial supremacy in the Kingdom of Saxony, where he had a magnificent mansion constructed for himself, and acquired and had several estates built for his offspring.300px-Nicholas_Hall_(rectified)

One thing has always puzzled me. This first Kap-herr, my great-great-grandfather, was knighted by the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt (on July 27, 1868), and was named Hermann Freiherr von Kap-herr; a rank of nobility recognized in northern parts of Germany equal to the title of Baron in the southern principalities and in the Austrian empire. However, his seat of operation was in Dresden as well as in St. Petersburg, Russia, where he must have spent most of his time, being the financial advisor to and banker of the Czars, including the last one, Nicholas II. His children were born in St. Petersburg – Karl Johan (1827), Hermann Friedrich (1830), and Johann Christian (1837), and one daughter, Marie, who will make an important appearance in a later family story.


The connection with the house of Hesse-Darmstadt must have come through the service my great-great-grandfather had given to Nicholas II, who fell in love with and ultimately married Alexandria Feodorowna (1872-1918) in 1894, the daughter of Queen Victoria’s second daughter, Alice, who had married the Grand Duke Ludwig IV (1837-92) of Hesse-Darmstadt in 1862. Apparently, the cultivation of the relationship between the houses of Romanov and Hesse-Darmstadt included some financial transactions facilitated by the Baron von Kap-herr.ForgCol_ArgCentBW

In the nineteenth century there was a lively connection between Germans and the ruling class in St. Petersburg. As in Canada, where the very long winter makes the “snowbirds” migrate to Florida, so did the St. Petersburg people desire to spend the cold months in the subtropical Crimean on the Black Sea. To enable this annual migration, the Russian government ordered the construction of a 2,000+ km railway from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula, and authorized the Baron von Kap-herr to organize a construction consortium and its financing.

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The powerful industrial empire of the Siemens family in Germany wished to be awarded the contract, so the founder of that enterprise sent his son, Karl Siemens, to Russia, where he organised the subsidiary company in 1853, but was unable to obtain the railway contract. According to my grandma’s story, Karl wrote to his father that in the several months he’d been in Russia, he was still unable to arrange a meeting to speak to the Baron von Kap-herr, who held all the strings in his hand. The father responded with a short telegram ordering Karl to marry the Baron’s daughter. After a short courtship, Karl was received by the family to ask the Baron for permission to marry his daughter. The Baron gave his permission and, in addition, gave him the contract for the railway.