Karel Schwarzenberg

* 1937  

  • “My mother was Anglophone and spoke English to her siblings. One day she called for me and told me in my ten years of age that I was no longer a small child because in England I would have already been a teenager. She told me: ‘All of what you love here – Orlík, Čimelice – we are about to lose. You have to realize this. We will probably need to leave the country.’ That was a shock but a great thing was that I then spent hours walking through the Orlice Valley and I kept the memory. Unfortunately, I will never see it anymore because they flooded it when building the Orlík Dam.”

  • “All of them who signed it were fully resolved. They have among themselves selected František Kinský to pass it to the president. For this, he was then long imprisoned in Germany. I always wondered what it was like when Erich Honecker met uncle František in the hallway since both of them were locked up there but unfortunately he died before I could ask him. Back then the Czech nobility stood firm for the integrity of the Czech state. Some of those who had signed it were closer to the German nationhood but understood that it was crucial to stick together. During the occupation the Nazis would claim that all the nobility is of a German descent and therefore also expected the nobility in Czechoslovakia to claim German nationhood. This had to be resisted. It was interesting to see the declaration signed by many families with non-Czech names but feeling as bound to the territory belonging to the Lands of the Bohemian Crown and later Czechoslovakia.”

  • “At the moment when the Vlajka movement begun to collaborate with the Nazis – before the Munich Agreement – my father resolutely cut off his ties with it. It happened rather comically because during the mobilization he used to live as a cavalry officer with a family in Trenčín who were not all too excited about his presence. One day, to my father’s surprise, there was fire in the stove and the lady told him that he was about to become the Czech king. He then found out that this information was spread by the Nazi propaganda radio in Vienna, realized how dangerous it were, denied it all loudly in Prague and left Vlajka. He retained contact with some of the people but said that in the late years Vlajka took a turn for the worst. Nevertheless, the fact that he joined Vlajka was an important advantage for my development because his example showed me how easy it was to succumb to extremism – either from the left or the right. Because any, especially young, person interested in politics will get across this temptation.”

  • “I had different problems, all newspapers were recently writing about it, yes, my father-in-law was a Nazi. It was therefore a problem for me and for my parents as well. When I then went to see my father to tell him about it, father looked at me and said: ´What nonsense are you talking about? We do not recognize Sippenhaft.´ That was a Nazi term established in the Nazi legal code, but the communists then used it as well. It means that everyone vouches for all the members of his family. We experienced the same thing during the communist regime: when somebody was an independent farmer’s son, he was not allowed to study, and so on. Or if one was in the resistance movement, the Nazis imprisoned him or executed his entire family. That was the principle of Sippenhaft. Father said: ´What we care about is the attitude of hers, and we do not give a damn about what her dad has done.´ My father thus nicely taught me that there was a difference.”

  • “While still at home (in Czechoslovakia – transl.’s note) I received Svojsík’s book and I read it enthusiastically. To tell the truth, I have read it several times, and I even took it with me when we emigrated. I have read it several times. It got lost somewhere during one of our many movings. Svojsík thus had an enormous influence on me, and the other person who has influenced me most was my father. He was not a Scout himself, but he was a supporter of Scouting. He used to go to summer camps. What I remember most was this: in summer 1948, there was a Girl Scouts’ troop in a camp down by the Vltava River. We were still children; my sister was one year older. But all these Scouts knew that it was over after February 1948. At that time, we still had a great patriotic spirit and we thus stood up in the camp and sang patriotic songs like ´Teče voda, teče´ and a ´Ach synku, synku...´ This has had a great impact on us. Anyway, it has stuck in us for many years after. In the early 1990s I accompanied president Václav Havel to Budeč and suddenly an elderly lady approached me and asked me whether I remembered that camp and the campfire. ´Of course!´ said I. She was one of the Girl Scouts who had also been there. Such was my first encounter with Scouting.”

  • “Firstly, I was visiting Czechoslovakia more frequently during the 1980s, and so I had some general idea. Secondly, it was the best period of my life, because on December 29, Václav Havel was elected president. He invited me for lunch after that. From the culinary point of view, this lunch was nothing to write home about; however, what was interesting was that the president said to each of us who were sitting there, including me: ´You will do this and this.´ All of a sudden I became employed by the president, something I would not have imagined that very morning. But when the president offered me that I could collaborate on a change of this republic, on building free Czechoslovakia, it was natural that one says ´Yes!´ to it. I didn’t hesitate for a second, because this was a unique offer. I became a chancellor. That was it.”

  • Full recordings
  • 1

    Praha, 16.10.2013

    duration: 38:14
    media recorded in project A Century of Boy Scouts
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Do not give up! This country and this nation are worth it

 Schwarzenberg Karel
Schwarzenberg Karel
photo: natáčení Eye Direct

Karel Schwarzenberg was born December 10, 1937 in Prague-Bubeneč into an important aristocratic family. In 1942 Heydrich imposed sequestration on the family and their property was confiscated. The family was allowed to live only in their chateau in Čimelice. In 1948 the communists confiscated the property of the Orlice branch of the Schwarzenberg family and Karel’s family emigrated to Austria. While in Ischl, Karel Schwarzenberg was an active Boy Scout for three years and he has remained faithful to the ideals and principles of Scouting throughout his entire life. After the death of their grandmother with whom the family stayed, the Schwarzenbergs moved to Vienna, where Karel began his university studies. At first he studied law, then forestry, but he completed none of them. When he was twenty-two, he was adopted by his uncle Jindřich and thus became an heir to enormous property. He started managing the heritage and at his chateau in Bavaria he established the Czechoslovak documentary centre, which served to preserve the literary works prohibited by the communist regime. In 1967 he married Therese, countess of Hardegg, and together they raised three children. Between 1985 and 1990 he was the chairman of the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights. Karel Schwarzenberg returned to Czechoslovakia immediately after the Velvet Revolution. Soon after his return he became the head of the Office of the President for Václav Havel. Since 2004 he was a member of the Senate, and in 2007 he was appointed the minister of foreign affairs. In 2009 he became the leader of the political party TOP 09 and in 2013 he was a candidate for the presidential office. In the direct popular vote he finished second. Even in his age of seventy-five, Karel Schwarzenberg is still full of energy.