11th to 25th August 1939

 

Here we are in August with summer drawing to a close. I am writing this in my backyard, enjoying the cool of the evening after a very hot day. In my hometown, Portland, Oregon, USA, masks are still required everywhere and schools will remain closed for the foreseeable future. I was born in 1966, and have no memory of the turmoil that shook my country at that time, so what’s happening now is a new and alarming experience. I would say that people here are pretty much equally worried about the pandemic, racial tension, rioting in the streets, and the integrity of the upcoming presidential election. Life does go on, of course. Many of us have even managed to take mini-vacations close to home. There are plenty of good options in the Pacific Northwest, where the abundance of gentle wilderness (we’re not talking Alaska) makes it possible to remain socially distanced even while pursuing popular outdoor activities. But now, with autumn approaching, we have to face up to what might easily turn out to be a season of crisis even more acute than what we have already experienced. Perhaps its not really fair to compare today’s tension and anxiety to what people were experiencing in August 1939, but we are getting a small taste of it at any rate.

The period between 11 and 25 August 1939 witnessed a rapid succession of disturbing developments, with a last minute diplomatic effort to avert war, and, at the same time, hasty measures to prepare for it. Talks between Germany and the Soviet Union began on 12 August and culminated on the 23rd with the signing of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. There were no Russians at Schatzalp at that time to either extol or deplore that development.

On 17 August the border between Germany and Upper Silesia was closed, and eleven days later the French-German border followed suit. As of the 25th, Germans could no longer communicate by telephone with anyone outside the country, which would have had a direct impact on the lives of the fourteen Germans then in residence at Schatzalp, assuming they had hitherto made use of that form of communication to keep in touch with loved ones. Rationing of shoes, textiles, and certain foods began on the 26th, so anyone at the sanatorium who had become accustomed to receiving such things from Germany would now have to obtain them locally.

I looked in vain on YouTube for a recording of Pope Pius XII’s 24 August radio broadcast to the world, declaring: “the danger is imminent, but there is yet time”. Perhaps you can find it if you would like to listen to it before continuing on with the blog (the text is available in French at: https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/fr/speeches/1939/documents/hf_p-xii_spe_19390824_ora-grave.html). Pius XII has, in recent years, become a highly controversial figure, but it is likely that many of the guests at Schatzalp, both Catholic and non-Catholic, listened to his broadcast on that somber Thursday in 1939. Did they share his belief that something could yet be done to secure the peace? I wish I could go back in time and conduct a survey!

The Schatzalp census for 11-25 August was actually up a little from the previous two-week period, with 108 guests (an increase of three). They came from 21 countries, a new arrival from Brazil having broken the previous 1939 record of 20. The gender ratio had shifted from a female to a male majority, but remained very nearly even. The six nobles were still there, and only one individual with a doctorate had departed — our friend H.C. Bodmer — leaving nine others still in residence.

Here is the list of nationalities:

  1. England 18
  2. Portugal 15
  3. Germany 14
  4. France 8
  5. Ireland 8
  6. Spain 7
  7. India 6
  8. Switzerland 6
  9. Belgium 4
  10. Holland 4
  11. Yugoslavia 4
  12. Romania 3
  13. Czechoslovakia 2
  14. Dutch East Indies 2
  15. Austria 1
  16. Brazil 1
  17. Finland 1
  18. Hungary 1
  19. Iraq 1
  20. Italy 1
  21. Syria 1

Departures:

  1. Frau Margaret Hild (Austria)
  2. Mme H. Boin (France)
  3. Frau Paula Bachem (Germany)
  4. Herr Dr H.C. Bodmer (Switzerland)
  5. Frau Lena Warsitz (Germany)
  6. Frau Luizi Bohm (Yugoslavia)
  7. Frau Caroline van Haeften (Holland)
  8. Mons Charles LHonneux (Belgium)
  9. Frau Amande Cuypers (Dutch East Indies)
  10. Frl. Hanna Montfort (Germany)
Half of the ten men and women who departed (Lena Warsitz, Luizi Bohm, Caroline van Haeften, Charles L’Honneux, and Amande Cuypers) had been there visiting family members, and Hanna Montfort of Germany may have been a visitor as well, since she stayed only a very short time — at most three weeks.

 

Arrivals:

  1. Herr Egon von Brasseur (Germany)
  2. Mr Amar Kapur (India)
  3. Mr Bawa Sunder Singh (India)
  4. Mrs Devi Dinga Singh (India)
  5. Frau Maria Bundy (Yugoslavia)
  6. Frau Wilma Röllinger (Germany)
  7. Herr Hynek Katz (Bohemia)
  8. Mr C. Condé de Oliveira (Brazil)
  9. Mons José Fonseca (Portugal; Mme S. Fonseca)
  10. Mme F. du Mesnil (France, Mons F. du Mesnil)
  11. Mlle L. Achard (Switzerland)
  12. Frl. Antonie Müller (Germany)
  13. Mme Léonie Laurent (France)
  14. Herr Werner Rooda (Holland)
  15. Mr Arthur Rawlins (England, Georgina Rawlins)

Six of the fifteen arrivals (Amar Kapur, Bawa Sunder Singh, Devi Dinga Singh, José Fonseca, Mme du Mesnil, and Arthur Rawlins) endured what must have been tense travel conditions and nerve-wracking uncertainty to join ailing relatives who were already in residence. Hynek Katz, a very young man, traveling alone from occupied Czechoslovakia, will be the subject of our biographical sketch this week. He is certainly one of Schatzalp’s most poignant figures, and may well be the only former guest whose grave can still be visited in Davos.

Meanwhile the 11 August issue of the Davoser Blätter noted a decrease in visitors’ nights in Graubunden for the year 1938-1939, but an increase in those staying in Davos (from 341,800 in 1937-1938 to 354,347 in 1938-1939), and the impression fostered by the editors of the paper was one of business as usual. For golfers there were the results of the recent Angleterre Challenge Cup, and those seeking more strenuous activity were invited to sign up for guided climbs of Tinzenhorn, Radünerköpfe, and Flüela Weisshorn. But the most important local news item reported in that issue of the paper was the sudden death on 31 July of Alfred Hvalsoe, the 71-year-old owner of the Derby Hotel, which, under his direction, had not only survived its conversion from a sanatorium to a hotel, but become one of the most chic and desirable addresses for tourists staying in Davos.

As it happened, the English colony was also facing the loss of one of its most prominent members, albeit under much different circumstances, with the imminent departure of the British Vice-Consul, Dr Bernard Hudson. As with Alfred Hvalsoe, Hudson’s initial contribution to the resort had been in connection with a sanatorium: “he settled at Davos in 1908 and was Consulting Physician to the Queen Alexandra Sanatorium from 1911 until it was closed on the outbreak of war in 1914”. But when the British Consul, a certain Dr Huggard, died in 1911, Hudson took over that role. The fact that he left both the consulship and Davos in 1914 “to serve in France”, then accepted the post of Vice Consul in 1937, made his 1939 departure all the more ironic, though the editor of the Davos Courier chose not to emphasize that particular twist of fate.

English-speaking patients at Schatzalp, after reading about the exit of the Vice-Consul, and perhaps weighing the risks and benefits of taking leave themselves, could relax a little with the latest installment of Llewelyn Powys’s “Summer in My Alpine Village Home”. Powys was a respected British essayist and novelist who had been living at the Clavadel sanatorium since 1937. Three of the works he left behind for posterity deal specifically with the grim side of life in Davos: “The Conquerer Worm” and “Recalled to Life” are published editions of his 1910-1911 diary, written during his first stay at Clavadel, and “Skin for Skin” is a memoir of that same experience. But “Summer in My Alpine Village Home” is more akin to a love letter — a fitting tribute to both the man — who would be dead by the end of the year — and the place he had adopted as his own.

If Powys’s piece was fittingly wistful, however, then the other essay on Davos that appeared that week strikes one today as incredibly ill-timed, written as it was on the very eve of the destruction of the old order of life in Europe, and the end of the cure-resort era. I am quoting it at length for your amusement, translated from the French (it was the main feature in the current issue of the Courrier de Davos):

Watering Places and Health Resorts — a great resource for anemics and neurasthenics. But it’s hardly surprising when they fail to improve. What is extraordinary, on the other hand, is that the healthy people who go such places don’t end up getting sick. Everything needed to ruin their health is provided: the heightened emotions of the gaming tables, the late night hours, the stale air of the rooms and the crowded hotel lobbies. That is an apt description of many watering places. We speak about them with a tinge of acrimony, because what they really deserve to be called is Pleasure Resorts. And the pleasure they offer, along with the overexertion it entails, is the enemy of good health.

But let us look now at what Davos has to offer. The difference is easy to establish. Meticulous and sensible hygienic rules regulate life here. The rest cure in the open air, carefully paced ascents on the many forest trails. No casinos, no “Petits Chevaux”, propriety and cleanliness in public spaces. That makes for quite a different scene and way of life. But don’t imagine that Davos is a sad place. If, in summer, the temptations of exertion are reduced to their simplest expressions, in their place one finds distractions healthy to the mind — those inspired by the various views of the Alpine landscape, the positive aspects of a cosmopolitan environment, the advantages of a modern city with concert halls, cinemas, parks and luxury shops. […]

Obviously, in accordance with the common expression which is so often misapplied, this is no Paris. But Parisians come here and find in abundance those things that they cannot get in Paris or the various watering places: the tranquility of the streets, the purity of the atmosphere, good air, clear water, and rest for strained nerves. The French are, indeed, always numerous in Davos — in summer there are one or two hundred, in summer six or eight, without counting the Belgians, the French-speaking Swiss, and all the appealing representatives of those nationalities that love our language and pronounce it with a Castilian accent, an Italian lisp, a Slavic chirp, or the sweetness of miel de l’Hymette on their lips. […]”

Well, what can be said about that? I’m sure no comment is required on my part, beyond repeating that the timing of the piece was genuinely bizarre (or perhaps just naively optimistic)!

And now let us turn our attention to Mr Ignatz Hynek Katz. He was nineteen years old when he arrived at Schatzalp in August 1939 from his native Bohemia — now occupied territory. His parents had both been born in Poland, but had raised their four sons and one daughter in Czechoslovakia. Hynek was the baby of the family — ten years younger than his next eldest sibling. He hoped to become a doctor and entered medical school, but fell ill with tuberculosis. His father, Jindrich Josef Katz, was, we are told, an iron merchant who specialized in house wares, and his business must have been a successful one since he was able to send his ailing son to the most prestigious sanatorium in Davos.

We don’t know just how ill Hynek Katz was when he first arrived and submitted himself to Dr Maurer’s care, or whether he received any surgical treatment, but he would survive another ten years, dying in Davos in 1949 at the still young age of thirty. At some point he left Schatzalp and took up residence at Haus Rudolf in Davos Dorf, which still exists today. It was not at all an uncommon step for those whose health stabilized, but who didn’t dare return to the flatlands. There were people like Thomas Mann’s Herr Settembrini, who left the Berghof once he realized that the treatment could not definitively cure him, people who could no longer afford the high cost of the sanatoriums, and some who simply had no where else to go.

Whatever the case may have been with Hynek Katz, he was not only sick and alone at the time of his arrival, but undoubtedly worried about what might happen to the family members he had left behind in occupied Bohemia. Even before the outbreak of war, life had become difficult for them, as for all Jews living under the Nazis. The irony is that, despite his life-threatening illness, Hynek was still much safer than his relatives, and would outlive almost all of them. His sister Anna had emigrated to the US with her husband, but his parents, brothers, nephews, sisters-in-law, and maternal grandparents were all rounded up and sent to various concentration camps where they perished one by one. The first to be “deported” was his brother, Dr Julius (Julek) Katz, the father of two little boys, who was taken in October 1938. The first to die was his grandmother, Henrietta Itte Katz, in 1941, and the last was his brother Vilem Katz who survived until 1943. After that, only Hynek and Anna remained, living on two different continents. So the young man who was just settling in at Schatzalp this time 81 years ago would never see the family he had left behind again. Apparently his tuberculosis, though eventually it killed him, also, for a time, saved his life.

We can only imagine what Hynek must have gone through as he lost all contact with his loved ones while he was living at Schatzalp. Perhaps he didn’t yet fully realize just how dire the situation was, but he must have been frantic at any rate, and oppressed by his helplessness. Grand Duke Dmitri, when he arrived at Schatzalp in September, was perhaps the only person there who could in any way identify with Hynek Katz’s situation. Twenty years before, in 1918-1919, he had received an alarming trickle of information from Russia about the fate of his loved ones, culminating in his father’s violent death in January 1919 after a year’s imprisonment. The intolerable waiting, the constant mental swing between optimism and pessimism, and finally the initial disbelief at the news of the worst possible outcome, followed by hopelessness, guilt, anger and depression — those were all stages he described in his diary.

We have no indication that the middle-aged Russian Grand Duke and the young Bohemian medical student ever sat down together at Schatzalp and commiserated — it would seem an unlikely pairing, and the thing they had in common (beyond tuberculosis) would not have been obvious to either one. But it is reasonable to believe that Hynek Katz did find sympathy and commiseration during his stay there. The English and French patients who remained would have shared some of his feelings of helplessness and uncertainty, as would many of the other patients, and the house itself was one of the conspicuously anti-Nazi establishments in a town very much divided. Chief surgeon Gustav Maurer, for all his many flaws, was particularly sympathetic to the plight of the Jews, and immediately after the war worked hard to gather medical supplies and antibiotics to send to Jewish refugees. So let us hope that Mr Katz felt less isolated than might otherwise have been the case, and had some comfort and support during his ordeal.

If you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning, you know that in each installment I suggest an activity relevant to the highlighted guest. In Hynek Katz’s case, I can think of no better way to honor his memory than to pay him a visit in the small Jewish cemetery in Davos Islen. It’s a rare opportunity since almost none of the sanatorium patients who died and were buried in Davos are still to be found in any of the local cemeteries. But, for religious reasons, the Jewish cemetery has retained its dead, and it’s a fascinating place to visit. Last time I was there I found the grave of a woman from New York City who died in Davos in 1934, most likely of tuberculosis. I wish I knew her story! There is also an impressive raw-stone monument to two young men who died in a climbing accident on Jungfrau. The Jewish tradition is to place stones, rather than flowers, on the graves of the departed, and several of the graves bear these symbols of loving memory, but Hynek Katz, when I went there last May, had none. Well, now he does, if the one I placed has not been disturbed in the meantime, and there’s plenty of room for more.

Until next time, enjoy the late summer and early autumn days in at Schatzalp!

11-25 August Schatzalp Guest List:
  1. Mme Andrée Ferrand, Frankreich
  1. Herr Doctor Walter Mackh, Deutschland
  2. Herr Erwin Geist, Deutschland
  3. Mlle Laurice Antaki, Syrien
  4. Miss Doris W. Bartlett, England
  5. Mme Maria Ernestina Infante da Camara Martins Pereira, Portugal
  6. Mons le Dr Louis Baudrux, Belgien
  7. Mons Spiro Valerianos, Rumänien
  8. Mr Alphonso Zobel de Ayala, Spanien
  9. Mr Manuel Aguilar Otermin, Spanien
  10. Mons Guy Lefort, Frankreich
  11. Mrs Emilie Francis, England
  12. Mr Bowa Dinga Singh, Lahore, Indien
  13. Mr Frank Ingham, Österreich
  14. Mme C. Valerianos, Rumänien
  15. Miss C. Howell, England
  16. Herr Dr W. Zechnall, Deutschland
  17. Mr Robert Holt, England
  18. Mme Mello Osorio, Portugal
  19. Herr Baron F. von Langenn, Deutschland
  20. Herr Dr G.Wallach, Deutschland
  21. Kumar S. Gupta, Indien
  22. Frl. B. Weiss, Schweiz
  23. Mrs Georgina Rawlins, England
  24. Mlle Marie E. Alvarez, Portugal
  25. Mr Martin McGrath, England
  26. Mlle Hélène Mathieu, Frankreich
  27. Mr Oswald Müller-Dubrow, Director, Irland
  28. Mrs M.E. Müller-Dubrow, Irland
  29. Mons G. Perez-Sanmillan, Marquis de Benicarlo, Spanien
  30. Frau Nada Paolovic, Jugoslawien
  31. Frl. Vlasta Navratil, Kolin
  32. Mr P. Cunningham, Irland
  33. Herr Andreas Kammer, Ungarn
  34. Frl. S. Lackner, Deutschland
  35. Mme Candelaria Santos Suarez y Giron, Spanien
  36. Mlle Carmen Creus y Santos Suarez, Spanien
  37. Mr George Foreman, England
  38. Mlle Z. Manolesco, Rumänien
  39. Miss Alice O’Neill, England
  40. Mr M. Clenagham, Irland
  41. Mme Josefa Murteira, Portugal
  42. Frl. Nedja Krunic, Jugoslawien
  43. Mons Joâo Sequeira Cantinho, Portugal
  44. Mr James Clarke, England
  45. Mr Mario Ferreira, Portugal
  46. Miss A.C. Rouse, Irland
  47. Frau Petronella A. Kleinhoonte, Holland
  48. Frl. Eva-Brita Aminoff, Finnland
  49. Frl. Marg. Sachse, Schweiz
  50. Mr Vincent Reynolds, Irland
  51. Mr S.L. Chaturvedi, Kalkota, Indien
  52. Mons F. Gosset, Frankreich
  53. Mons André Crouzier, Frankreich
  54. Mons Antonio Orfila, Spanien
  55. Herr Heinrich Wepf, Schweiz
  56. Frl. Emmy Lion, Niederländisch-Ostindien
  57. Mrs Cecily Drummond, England
  58. Mlle Comtessa Marie Cecil de Carnide and nurse, Portugal
  59. Mons le Comte Jose de Carnide, Portugal
  60. Mme le Comtesse Tereza de Carnide, Portugal
  61. Mons Dr Julio de Vasconcellos, Portugal
  62. Herr Hans Warsitz, Deutschland
  63. Mr George Bull, England
  64. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  65. Mr Geoffroy Pittar, England
  66. Mlle Jeanne Opsomer, Holland
  67. Mr Hussein Kamil, Baghdad, Irak
  68. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  69. Mme S. Fonseca, Portugal
  70. Mr K. McFadden, Irland
  71. Mons F. du Mesnil, Frankreich
  72. Mons Antonio Lopes de Fonseca, Portugal
  73. Mr John Kennagh, England
  74. Mlle Rosalia Termini, Italien
  75. Herr Dr. Hans Cornet, Deutschland
  76. Mrs Florence Howell, England
  77. Mrs G. Solomon, England
  78. Frl. Felicia Bohm, Jugoslawien
  79. Herr Dr. E. Kux, Deutschland
  80. Ew. Generaloberin Mussiliey, Schweiz
  81. Frau Dr. Gerda Wallach, Deutschland
  82. Mlle G. Humbert, Suisse
  83. Herr Dr. Jonkheer van Haeften, Holland
  84. Frau L. Bierman, Deutschland
  85. Mrs Ph. Monk, England
  86. Mr. Eric Monk, England
  87. Mons Andre Gilles, Belgien
  88. Mlle Francoise Lhonneux, Belgien
  89. Mme Gabrielle Lhonneux, Belgien
  90. Herr Dr. P. Cuypers, Niederländisch-Ostindien
  91. Mr Nathaniel Hone, Irland
  92. Mme Marquise de Benicarlo, Spanien
  93. Herr Egon von Brasseur, Deutschland
  94. Mr Amar Kapur, Indien
  95. Mr Bawa Sunder Singh, Indien
  96. Mrs Devi Dinga Singh, Indien
  97. Frau Maria Bundy, Jugoslawien
  98. Frl. Wilma Röllinger, Deutschland
  99. Herr Hynek Katz, Böhmen
  100. Mr C. Condé de Oliveira, Brasilien
  101. Mons Jose Fonseca, Portugal
  102. Mme F. du Mesnil, Frankreich
  103. Mlle L. Achard, Suisse
  104. Frl. Antonie Müller, Deutschland
  105. Mme Léonie Laurent, Frankreich
  106. Herr Werner Rooda, Holland
  107. Mr Arthur Rawlins, England
 

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