June 1939 (Introduction)

Welcome to the first edition of the Schatzalp history blog! This is a completely new venture for me, and an unexpected one. I have a doctorate in Russian history, and first came to Schatzalp in 1994, while researching the life of the house’s most famous resident — Grand Duke Dmitri (Romanov) of Russia. Since then I have myself become a kind of part-time Hans Castorp — so enchanted by the ‘Magic Mountain’ that I travel all the way from the west coast of the United States for a two-week stay every March. But we all know what happened in the middle of March this year — it was not a good time to be a traveler! Not long after my arrival at Schatzalp, the hotel closed and my flight home was cancelled. It could have been an absolute disaster, but the Schatzalp family jumped in to save the day. With the blessing of owners Pius App and Erich Schmid, hotel director Paulo Bernardo very generously invited me to stay on as a Covid-19 ‘refugee’, and that was when the Schatzalp history project was born. With the help of old and new friends at the Dokumentationsbibliothek, I was able to access a treasure trove of information about Davos in general, and Schatzalp in particular. I almost feel guilty about how happily my three months of ‘exile’ passed, and my gratitude to all those who made it possible is boundless. Let me assure you that the Schatzalp team truly is a family, and that is itself a big part of the magic that continues to exist on the Magic Mountain.

And now to business! The blog will be based almost entirely on an incredible tri-lingual journal that was published as a source of news and information for foreign residents of Davos during the sanatorium era — the Davoser Blätter – Davos Courier – Courrier de Davos. Each section of the journal had its own editor, but it was issued as a single publication, weekly during the winter season and biweekly during the rest of the year. Each issue included the latest news of the resort — what sporting and cultural events were taking place, what interesting people were in town, etc. The editors were clearly keen to portray Davos primarily as a destination for active, healthy, people who preferred to spend their leisure time outdoors. It must have been rather frustrating for the residents of the sanatoria to read about all the fun things going on in town when they themselves were unable to join in. But if the 3-in-1 journal had little to say either to, for, or about those afflicted with “la malade”, it certainly did not deny their existence — in fact, it mentioned each one of them by name. Every issue printed the most up-to-date guest lists of the Davos hotels and sanatoria, including our own Schatzalp. What could be more exciting for a historian? Especially at a time when the internet offers the real possibility of finding something out about the lives of the individuals in question. 

As for other sources, I will happily use them when they are available. Grand Duke Dmitri kept a diary during his stay in Davos, and also wrote regularly to his sister and a friend in Paris. His description of daily life at Schatzalp is, to the best of my knowledge, the most complete such account that exists, and it is for that reason that I have chosen 1939 as the opening year for this blog, rather than going directly back to the beginning, i.e. 1900. Meanwhile, if any of you know of, or have access to, other patient’s accounts from any period of Schatzalp’s existence, please consider contacting me about them, since this is not just a Grand Duke Dmitri project or a casual blog, but part of a larger effort to reconstruct, as far as possible, the life of a Swiss alpine sanatarium — Schatzalp. And now, after this rather long introduction, please enjoy the very first entry of the Schatzalp History Blog!

30 June – 14 July 1939

On 30th June 1939, there were forty-two men and forty-one women in residence at Schatzalp, representing nineteen different nations:

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

Not a single departure or arrival had occurred in the previous two weeks, and well over half of the residents were ‘lifers’, i.e. longterm patients who might leave for a time but would always end up coming back. One Yugoslavian woman, Vlasta Navratil, had been in residence off and on for well over two years. Since the guest lists were arranged with the longest uninterrupted resident at the top and the most recent arrival at the bottom, we can see from Miss Navratil’s placement (No. 35) that her latest stay had been a fairly long one. 

Miss Navaratil’s home, Kolin, was only about 55km from occupied Prague, where new repressive measures had recently been announced. Was she happy to remain at Schatzalp during that period of turmoil in her native land? And what about the six Spaniards in residence? They had all arrived at Schatzalp in 1938, when civil war was still raging in their country. Did any of them now consider themselves refugees?

Guest numbers had been strong and fairly steady throughout the winter, with a high of 115 on 6 January, dropping only slightly in the spring. The 7 April issue of the Davoser Blätter reported the following numbers: The Schatzalp Bahn carried 23,709 passengers in March, compared with 23,485 in February 1938, and there were 3909 foreign guests in town from 31 March to 1 April, compared with 3876 in 1938. So things were looking great despite the growing tension in Europe. But, as summer approached, that began to change. Of course, it had always been the low season. Every year the editors of the Blätter/Courier/Courrier felt compelled to extoll the wonders of the Davos summer in an obvious effort to slow the seasonal exodus. So perhaps it was neither unusual nor unexpected when the Schatzalp census dropped precipitously from 109 guests on 5 May to 92 on the 19th, followed by a steady decline to 83 on 19 June. Until then, German guests had predominated, but it was they who then departed in large numbers, leaving the English as the majority group at Schatzalp, followed by the Portuguese. Did events back home have anything do to with that phenomenon? 

But perhaps the most striking thing revealed by the Schatzalp guest lists is the large number of Portuguese patients in residence. They were quite consistently the third most numerous nationality represented there over the years, while the other Davos sanatoria hosted few, if any, of their countrymen and women. What was the basis of that special relationship? I don’t know yet, but stay tuned…

Another thing we learn from the lists is that rules against the housing of healthy people in the sanatoria were routinely flouted. That family members visited periodically is hardly surprising, but the 30 June list reveals that there were also spouses in residence. Both the Müller-Dubrows from Ireland and the Valerianoses from Romania had been living there as couples for some time. Carmen Creus y Santos Suarez and Marie Cecil de Carnide were both undoubtedly well brought up young ladies whose families did not consider it appropriate to deposit them at a sanatorium without a chaperone, hence the presence of Candelaria Santos Suarez y Giron, and Marie Cecil’s parents, the Comte and Comtesse de Carnide. It is nice to picture the two girls, one from Portugal and the other from Spain, enjoying each other’s company. One can almost hear their laughter as they sit together on the terrasse or stroll through the Alpinum. But, of course, the reality may have been far different. Especially in the case of Marie Cecil, the presence of both parents is rather ominous. Let us hope both young ladies returned healthy and happy to their native lands!

Meanwhile, if the aristocratic de Carnides preferred to limit their social interactions to people of their own class, they would have had Baron F. von Langenn from Germany and Baron Victor d’Hooghvorst from Belgium to turn to, as well as the Spanish Marquis de Benicarlo. The Kaiser may never have turned up at Schatzalp to occupy his permanently reserved rooms, but the nobility were always well represented, and, of course, a royal patient would be arriving soon in the person of Grand Duke Dmitri. The European bourgeoisie made up the bulk of the residents at any given time, and professional titles were numerous. On the 30 June list we find six doctors — two of whom I know to have been physicians — and one “Director”, Mr Müller-Dubrow, who had hitherto been in charge of an enormous hydroelectric plant in Ireland. So those were two little ‘castes’ — the noble and the professional — within the overall patient population at Schatzalp, to which we might add the various nationalities, and wouldn’t it be fascinating to know who associated with whom, and whether such designations mattered?

Non-Europeans were not at all a rarity at the Davos sanatoria, albeit their numbers were always small. Schatzalp was certainly one of the most international houses, with never fewer than eighteen nationalities in residence. A close comparison can thus be made to the “Berghof” of the “Magic Mountain”. There would even be an Egyptian Emir there in December 1939, recalling the Berghof’s Egyptian princess, and in lieu of Herr Peeperkorn, Miss Emmy Lion from the Dutch East Indies, though one doubts she was quite as flamboyant as her fictional countryman. 

Was it worth traveling so far to take the cure at Schatzalp? The voyage must have been both dangerous and miserable for the truly ill. Were they drawn by the brilliant reputation of Chief Surgeon Gustav Maurer? Certainly he was well-published in the medical journals of his day, and one assumes that tuberculosis specialists all over the world were familiar with his work. Grand Duke Dmitri’s choice of Schatzalp would be made on the basis of a referral from a London doctor who considered Maurer the best of the best, and I am going out on a limb to suggest that that was typical, though it may also be that some prospective patients simply looked for the most prestigious and luxurious house — which was certainly Schatzalp! Meanwhile, one question I hope to be able to answer at some point is whether there was outside advertising. Within Davos itself, Schatzalp always included a full page ad in the Davoser Blätter, just as it does now on the back cover of the Davoser Revue. 

And now let us turn to a brief sample of what was in the Blätter/Courier/Courrier at this time 81 years ago. What, if anything, might have captured the attention of Schatzalp newcomers like Winifred Taylor, Fernando Madureira, or Lena Warsitz? Well, Walter Kern, the editor of the Blätter, was keen to emphasize the sporting possibilities of a summer stay in Davos: 

“The Davos summer season with its many possibilities is here, which we see not only in [the return] of the three Post buses or the coming and going of our red Parsenn Bahn, up and down the green mountainside, but in the colorful hustle and bustle on the tennis courts, the arrival of outstanding golf coach Domenico Picchiottino from Geneva, and last but not least, the announcement of the schedule of our summer orchestra, which will give its first concert tomorrow under the baton of Guy Marocco…

“As Lake Davos warms itself apace under the brilliant rays of the high Alpine sun, the opening of the beach is imminent and the Davos sports season is getting underway — the mountaineer is checking his ropes for possible defects, and gymnasts and footballers have already started their training on the green lawn of the ice rink.”

F. Wilmotte at the Courrier was no less eager to praise the Davos summer, but with an interesting change of emphasis — one perhaps more attuned to the needs of the sanatoria residents. 

“How well we understand the supporters, and even fanatics, of the summer season in Davos. A dazzling spectacle, an unforgettable picture — those are certainly the right words to describe Davos in winter, when its covered in snow and glittering with unparalleled sunshine. But the green valley in summer has its own charms, less triumphant, perhaps, but far more enduring. The beautiful alpine winter is both a masterpiece of nature and, let us admit, an abnormality, lying beyond our little human conventions, while this feeling of deep tranquility and absolute rest, exuded by the mild daytimetemperatures, the invigorating freshness of the nights, and the calming green landscape of summer, are perhaps less rare, but no less precious.”

As for me, having just witnessed the transition from spring to summer in Davos for the first time in over twenty years, I am ready to lend my whole-hearted support M. Wilmotte! I hiked almost every day during my three-month stay, and sat out on my balcony in the evenings, and the beauty was so intense sometimes that I almost wanted to cry — the deer in the meadow around sunset, the smell of the woods after a fresh rainfall, the wild Lupins, and the Alpinum! Even before it was in full bloom, it just dazzled my senses. 

A. Blake Adams of the Davos Courier did not write a paragraph of his own about the summer season, merely noting: “Golf is now in full swing. It is cheap at Davos. The club subscription for the whole season is only Frs. 60.-“

As for non-sporting entertainment, Guy Marocco and his orchestra were not the only option for those who fancied a little dancing — there were also “Josy and Mimy” who, from 1 July, would be performing daily at the “cosy rooms of the Coucou”. 

So what are those of you who are currently in residence at Schatzalp planning on doing during your stay? Golf? Tennis? Dancing (or is that even allowed these days)? If the answer in mountain biking, then that, of course, would not have been an option 81 years ago. How much things have changed in that respect!

And now, let us conclude with my favorite part of the blog… a biographical sketch of one of your fellow guests, albeit one who was in residence 81 years ago. Please allow me to introduce Dr Hans Conrad Bodmer¹. Who knows? He may even have occupied the same room you are staying in today! 

Hans Bodmer¹, unlike Hans Castorp, was a mature, married man of 48 when he arrived in Davos toward the end of March, 1939. His journey had been a short one from his native Zurich, and he came alone, or, at least, his wife, if she accompanied him, did not stay at Schatzalp. 

Bodmer¹ was a man of great wealth and culture, a scion of one of the most distinguished families in Zurich. Thomas Mann had been a guest in the Bodmer home, so Hans Conrad¹, when he sought a cure in Davos, had a more intimate connection than most with the Magic Mountain phenomenon. That he chose the most luxurious and prestigious sanatorium in Europe is hardly a surprise given his means and social standing, but he would also have appreciated Dr Maurer’s reputation, being something of an expert on lung diseases himself. Perhaps no one who had known Bodmer in his youth, when he was studying musicology in Berlin and beginning to compose his own pieces, would have predicted the major life change he embarked upon in his thirties — trading music for medicine. He entered medical school in Zurich at the end of the 1920s, and a decade later, just as he was completing his dissertation on childhood lung sarcomas, fell seriously ill with pneumonia. 

Bodmer’s stay at Schatzalp lasted approximately five months, his name appearing on the guest list for the last time on 24 July 1939. Upon his return to Zurich, Bodmer neither practiced as a doctor nor returned to musical composition, but he is well known to this day for his important contribution to the living memory of Ludwig von Beethoven. Hans Conrad and his brother Martin were “two of the most important private collectors of the 20th century… Martin Bodmer dedicated his whole life to the comprehensive task of compiling a ‘library of world literature”, while Hans Conrad “concentrated entirely” on Beethoven. His fascination with the great composer began at a very young age and never waned. Before his death in 1956, Hans Conrad bequeathed his priceless collection to the Beethoven House in Bonn, and the text I have quoted here comes from that institution’s website: da.beethoven.de.

Hans Conrad Bodmer died in his native Zurich at the age 64. He was a man who “loved the tranquility and grandeur of the mountains”, so one can easily imagine him enjoying Schatzalp as a hotel guest if he were alive today. It’s a pity we don’t know the identity of the ‘Bodmer Zimmer’ so that it could be adorned with a small bust of Beethoven, but consider listening to the Coriolan Overture (Opus 62) at some point during your stay. Hearing it for the first time as a boy inspired such passion in Hans Conrad Bodmer that his life would never be the same thereafter— and all those who love Beethoven are certainly the richer for that.

So that’s it for now. Thanks again for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the maiden blog and will return on 14 July for the next edition. 

Dr. William Lee 

Schatzalp Guest List, 30 June 1939

  1. Miss Nina Corry, England**
  2. Mme Andrée Ferrand, France**
  3. Herr Doctor Walter Mackh, Germany*
  4. Herr Erwin Geist, Germany**
  5. Mlle Laurice Antaki, Syria
  6. Frau Marg. Hild, Austria
  7. Miss Doris W. Bartlett, England*
  8. Mme Maria Ernestina Infante da Camara Martins Pereira, Portugal
  9. Mons le Dr Louis Baudrux, Belgium*
  10. Mons Spiro Valerianos, Romania*
  11. Frau K. Olimsky, Germany*
  12. Mr Alphonso Zobel de Ayala, Spain*
  13. Mr Manuel Aguilar Otermin, Spain*
  14. Mons Guy Lefort, France*
  15. Mrs Emilie Francis, England*
  16. Mr Bowa Dinga Singh, Lahore, India*
  17. Mr Frank Ingham, Austria*
  18. Mme C. Valerianos, Romania*
  19. Miss C. Howell, England*
  20. Herr Dr W. Zechnall, Germany*
  21. Mr Robert Holt, England*
  22. Mme Mello Osorio, Portugal
  23. 23. Herr Baron F. von Langenn, Germany**
  24. Herr Dr G.Wallach, Germany*
  25. Kumar S. Gupta, India*
  26. Frl. B. Weiss, Switzerland*
  27. Mrs Georgina Rawlins, England
  28. Mlle Marie E. Alvarez, Portugal*
  29. Mr Martin McGrath, England**
  30. Mlle Hélène Mathieu, France**
  31. Mr Oswald Müller-Dubrow, Director, Ireland*
  32. Mrs M.E. Müller-Dubrow, Ireland*
  33. Mons G. Perez-Sanmillan, Marquis de Benicarlo, Spain*
  34. Frau Nada Paolovic, Yugoslavia*
  35. Frl. Vlasta Navratil, Kolin**
  36. Mr P. Cunningham, Ireland*
  37. Herr Andreas Kammer, Hungary*
  38. Frl. S. Lackner, Germany*
  39. Mme Candelaria Santos Suarez y Giron, Spain*
  40. Mlle Carmen Creus y Santos Suarez, Spain*
  41. Mr George Foreman, England*
  42. Mlle Z. Manolesco, Romania*
  43. Miss Alice O’Neill, England*
  44. Mme H. Boin, France**
  45. Mr M. Clenagham, Ireland*
  46. Mme Josefa Murteira, Portugal*
  47. Frl. Nedja Krunic, Yugoslavia*
  48. Mons Joâo Sequeira Cantinho, Portugal*
  49. Mr James Clarke, England
  50. Mr le Baron V. d’Hooghvorst, Belgium*
  51. Mr Mario Ferreira, Portugal**
  52. Miss A.C. Rouse, Ireland
  53. Frau Petronella A. Kleinhoonte, Holland
  54. Frau Paula Bachem, Germany
  55. Frl. Eva-Brita Aminoff, Finland
  56. Mrs Lotte Ingham, Germany*
  57. Frl. Marg. Sachse, Switzerland
  58. Mr Vincent Reynolds, Ireland
  59. Mr S.L. Chaturvedi, Calcutta, India
  60. Herr Dr H.C. Bodmer, Switzerland
  61. Mons F. Gosset, France
  62. Mons André Crouzier, France 
  63. Mons Antonio Orfila, Spain
  64. Herr Heinrich Wepf, Switzerland
  65. Frl. Emmy Lion, Dutch East Indies
  66. Mrs Cecily Drummond, England
  67. Miss Dorothy White, Calcutta, India
  68. Mlle Comtesse Marie Cecil de Carnide and nurse, Portugal
  69. Mons le Comte Jose de Carnide, Portugal
  70. Mme le Comtesse Tereza de Carnide, Portugal
  71. Mons Dr Julio de Vasconcellos, Portugal
  72. Herr Hans Warsitz, Germany
  73. Mr George Bull, England
  74. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  75. Mr Geoffroy Pittar, England
  76. Mlle Jeanne Opsomer, Holland
  77. Mr Hussein Kamil, Baghdad, Iraq
  78. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  79. Mme S. Fonseca, Portugal
  80. Mrs Winifred Tyson, England
  81. Mr K. McFadden, Ireland
  82. Mons F. du Mesnil, France**
  83. Frau Lena Warsitz, Germany*  Guest was present in 1938
    ** Guest was present in 1937
    ¹ Hans Conrad Bodmer 
    Beethoven Haus Bonn (German) / Wikipedia Beethoven House
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