August of 1939

 

Welcome to the 3rd installment of the Schatzalp blog written by Dr William Lee

The two weeks between 28 July and 11 August 1939 seem to have been quite eventful in Davos, so we have some interesting material to work with. Many of the events were, of course, related to Confederation Day (1 August), and it is fun to get a glimpse of how that important holiday was celebrated 81 years ago. There were only six Swiss guests in residence at Schatzalp, but I don’t doubt that their fellow residents, coming from 19 other countries, joined them in marking the occasion. I myself recall a wonderful Confederation Day dinner at Schatzalp some twenty odd years ago. The meal was served on the Snow Beach Terrace Restaurant, and I was paired by the concierge with a retired literature professor — a truly charming woman from Germany. She told me about her life as a teenager during the Second World War, and how she had listened to Thomas Mann’s illicit radio broadcasts from America. For me, as both a historian and a lover of literature, it was fantastic, and only one of the many such encounters I have had there over the years.

The two weeks between 28 July and 11 August 1939 seem to have been quite eventful in Davos, so we have some interesting material to work with. Many of the events were, of course, related to Confederation Day (1 August), and it is fun to get a glimpse of how that important holiday was celebrated 81 years ago. There were only six Swiss guests in residence at Schatzalp, but I don’t doubt that their fellow residents, coming from 19 other countries, joined them in marking the occasion. I myself recall a wonderful Confederation Day dinner at Schatzalp some twenty odd years ago. The meal was served on the Snow Beach Terrace Restaurant, and I was paired by the concierge with a retired literature professor — a truly charming woman from Germany. She told me about her life as a teenager during the Second World War, and how she had listened to Thomas Mann’s illicit radio broadcasts from America. For me, as both a historian and a lover of literature, it was fantastic, and only one of the many such encounters I have had there over the years.

At this time 81 years ago, the Davoser Blätter marked the approach of the holiday with this announcement: “Next Tuesday, the Swiss National Day will cast a festive mood over our high valley, with bonfires glowing on the mountainsides in the evening, and an impressive celebration on the large ice rink, demonstrating the importance of the day to the public”. [].

Now here are the new nationality, gender, and title numbers:

105 Guests

54 Women, 51 Men

6 Noble Titles (1 Baron, 1 Marquis, 1 Marquise, 2 Countesses, 1 Count)

11 Professional Titles (10 doctors, 1 Director)

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

I know with absolute certainty that there are German, Portuguese and Swiss citizens currently in residence at Schatzalp, but do any of you come from any of the other countries on the list? Or perhaps you are a doctor, or a baroness? If so, you can take pride in the fact that you are a modern representative of a well-established Schatzalp demographic. And if you don’t belong to any of the categories above, then congratulations on expanding the Schatzalp community!

Returning to the guest list: we find that the census has gone up, rising from 100 guests to 105 in the course of the previous two weeks, and this despite the fact that there were nine departures.

Those leaving were:

  1. Miss Nina Corry (England)
  2. Frau K. Olimsky (Germany)
  3. Herr Dr F. Olimsky (Germany)
  4. Baron d’Hooghvorst (Belgium)
  5. Baroness d’Hooghvorst (Belgium)
  6. Miss Dorothy White (Calcutta, India)
  7. Mme U. Troianos (Romania)
  8. Mrs Katherine Pittar (England)
  9. Mons Candido Sequeira (Portugal)

Those of you who read the previous blog post will notice immediately that Baron d’Hooghvorst did indeed depart, and the timing strongly suggests that his sister, the Baroness, had come to Schatzalp specifically to accompany him to his son Emmanuel’s wedding — a happy occasion, no doubt, and I am pleased that he was able to go!

In fact, the majority (5) of those departing had been at the sanatorium only a short time, and were clearly not patients themselves. Mr Sequeira left Mr Sequeira Cantinho behind (I assume they were father and son), and Mrs Pittar left Mr Pittar. Mr and Mrs Olimsky left together (I can confirm that Mrs Olimsky did not leave ‘feet first’, as the saying goes, because her name reappears on a later list).

Nina Corry and Dorothy White both intrigue me — Miss Corry, as of 14 July 1939, was the guest with the longest period of uninterrupted residency, and she had been at Schatzalp since at least January 1937! Miss White, whose stay was quite brief, came all the way from Calcutta. But now, suddenly, they have gone without leaving us a forwarding address. It seems particularly ominous with respect to Miss Corry, but who knows? Let us hope they made their exits under good and happy circumstances!

As for arrivals, they outnumbered the departures 14 to 9. So quite an influx, really! Again, family connections predominate: Herr Dr van Haeften comes hard on the heels of Frau van Haeften. Perhaps something had prevented him from accompanying her initially.

Mr and Mrs Monk were, I guess, either a married couple or a son and his mother. The L’Honneuxs come to us as a little family group: M. Charles, Mme Gabrielle, and Mlle Françoise. I am able to confirm through her presence on later lists, sans parents, that Mlle was the sufferer, just as one would assume. But more on that topic in future installments. Ah, how I’d love to have photos of them all — faces to put with the names, which can seem so abstract. Are there any van Haeftens, Monks, or L’Honneuxs reading this? That would be fantastic!

Pierre and Amande Cuypers have now arrived, or rather, have returned since they also appear on earlier lists, where their home is identified as Java. He was the sufferer, and she was not herself in continuous residence, though she pops up from time to time, so I think it is safe to say that she did not go all the way home! I wonder if they spent any of their free time with their countrywoman, Emmy Lion? Mynheer Peeperkorn would perhaps be pleased with this little contingent of his countrymen!

Finally, both the Marquise de Benicarló and Mme Gloria Fernandez Villota were there in connection with the Marquis de Benicarló. But I will say no more about them for the moment, because the Marquis is the subject of our current biographical profile, which you will find at the end of the blog, right before the guest list.

The Davoser Blätter very helpfully published guest statistics in the 28 July issue, from which we learn that the weather had been “unfriendly” for that time of year, as, one might add, as had the general atmosphere in Europe. But numbers remained remarkably steady. On 20-21 July 1938 there had been 3446 overnight guests in Davos, and on that same date in 1939 there were 3400. Of that 3400, 2044 were Swiss. Germany provided the largest contingent of foreign visitors (706), followed by the Netherlands (235) and England (130). That, as you can see, did not match up with Schatzalp’s ratio of nationalities, where the English edged out the Germans, and the Dutch were only number 9 out of 20. But it’s no mystery why there were so many Dutch in Davos and so few at Schatzalp, to wit, they had their own sanatorium. Indeed, we learn from the same issue of the Blätter that the Dutch National Sanatorium had just laid the cornerstone for a new building extension, since: “for a number of years past the applications for admission… have been so numerous that it was quite impossible to house all that wished to come”.

So, were Mrs Kleinhoonte, Miss Opsomer, and the newly arrived van Haeftens at Schatzalp because they could not gain admittance in a timely fashion to the Dutch Sanatorium? Possibly, though there were certainly good reasons for preferring Schatzalp — it’s luxury, its elite clientele, and its world-renowned chief surgeon.

Incidentally, with respect to nationalities, I came across an interesting statistic while doing some research this week. Apparently Lisbon had the highest tuberculosis death rate of any major city in Europe in the year 1935, with 432 deaths per 100,000. The next highest was Athens with 409.* Of course, we don’t know how many, if any, of the Schatzalp guests from Portugal came from Lisbon, or whether that appalling mortality rate had decreased by 1939, but I still found it noteworthy. What remains unclear is why there were so few Portuguese at the other Davos sanatoria in comparison with Schatzalp.

But moving on from the Dutch and Portuguese… the Davos British Association held its General Meeting on 8 August at the British Vice-Consulate, which occupied the Haus am Kurpark. Undoubtedly it ended up being quite a solemn occasion given the worsening situation in Europe. For the time being, however, Davos remained a popular cure and recreational destination for the English, who had their own little section of the city, including St Luke’s Anglican Church and the Hotel Angleterre. The latter, unfortunately, no longer exists, but apparently it was the place to be on 1 August 1939! Announcements were made in both German and English that the hotel would be holding its “annual summer Golf Club Dance on the evening of Confederation Day” with dancing due to begin at 9 p.m., for which purpose the “Parsenn Orchestra” had been engaged.

I have not been able to find anything out about the orchestra as yet, but the Angleterre will figure prominently in an upcoming installment since it was the hotel in which Grand Duke Dmitri spent his first night in Davos before securing a place at Schatzalp. Meanwhile, I don’t imagine many of the Schatzalp guests managed to slip away either to the Golf Club Dance or the celebration on the repurposed ice rink.

French-speaking readers found the same Confederation Day information in the Courrier de Davos, which also featured a charming article about Davos, originally published in lIndépendance Belge. Apparently M. Fast, the editor-in-chief of that newspaper, was a big fan of Davos, writing:

“A long street, flanked by a multitude of shops. The spirit of a small town. Hotels, guesthouses, bakeries — that’s how Davos looks at first glance. But the real Davos can be found in the wonderful Parsenn region — Schatzalp, Weissfluhoch — which can be reached by the longest funicular railway in the world. These are the wild, laughing valleys, where it is lovely to be borne along through the sunlight in antique carriages. The real Davos is the lake, without a ripple on its surface… It’s the bright light that brings joy and a wonderful sense of well-being”.

Well, my translation is certainly not as elegant as the French original, but I share the author’s sentiments, especially with respect to the special quality of light in Davos. For me, the indescribable uniqueness of both time and light is a big part of the “magic” on the Magic Mountain. That requires some explanation, I suppose, but I could scarcely provide it without writing an entire essay, so for the moment I will simply refer readers to Thomas Mann, though you have undoubtedly had your own experience of those twin phenomena while sitting out on your balcony early in the morning, or going for a pre-dinner hike in the twilight.

Turning now to this week’s biographical sketch, allow me to introduce you to Don Juan Guillermo Pérez Sanmillán y Fontanals, II Marquis de Benicarló. I hope he was able to enjoy himself on Confederation Day in 1939. He had his wife with him, which must have made the occasion that much more pleasant (at least I will assume so), and there was undoubtedly a grand celebratory dinner for the patients at Schatzalp, who could not make it to the Hotel Angleterre or the big ice rink. Perhaps they dined outside and admired the bonfires across the valley.

The third member of the little Benicarló family group, Mme Gloria Fernandez Villota, was apparently a relative of the Marquise, née Maria del Pilar Fernandez Villota.

We don’t know Guillermo’s birthdate, but his father, Don Juan Perez San Millan y Miquel was born in 1868, and became the 1st Marquis de Benicarló in 1905 by royal decree. He was a civil engineer who focused on large, water-related projects like bridges and canals. But beyond his profession, he was also a deputy in the Cortes Generales, a senator for Valencia, and a gentleman of the chamber at the royal court.

Guillermo was born in Valencia, and does not seem to have followed in his father’s footsteps as an engineer or a politician, but he did surpass him at court, becoming a Knight of the Holy Chalice of Valencia and in 1928 a “mayordomo de semana” to Alfonso XIII. The latter was a traditional position that went back to the reign of the Habsburgs. There were no fixed number of majordomos, and the only requirement was that the appointee must be an individual of “high social position”. Without knowing the details, I am inclined to equate Spanish majordomos with British equerries and Russian flügel-adjutants, the latter of which would serve the Tsar for 24 hours at a time as personal assistants. It does not seem likely that the Marquis’s stay at Schatzalp overlapped even briefly with that of Baroness Pauline de Hooghvorst, so the two of them could not compare notes about their service as attendants of Alfonso XIII and Princess Clémentine of Belgium, respectively, but the Marquis did have certain things in common with the soon-to-arrive Grand Duke Dmitri Romanov, who had attended Nicholas II as a flügel-adjutant. If the two men spent any time talking, the most likely subject of their conversation would have been Alfonso XIII. Dmitri was quite fond of the Spanish King, who was particularly kind to him after the revolution. When Alfonso visited London in 1919, he and Dmitri spent a fair amount of time together. But, for purposes of full disclosure I must just add that Dmitri was even friendlier with Alfonso’s wife, Queen Victoria Eugenie. The two of them cultivated something of an amitié amoureuse during the London visit, and “Ena” ended up giving Dmitri an expensive ring as a token of her affection, in a reverse of customary gender roles. This flirtation occurred more or less in the open, and does not seem to have bothered Alfonso, who was scarcely a faithful husband (he fathered six illegitimate children). The two men, at any rate, remained good friends.

Of course, Alfonso, like Dmitri, was destined to become a royal exile. The Spanish monarchy was abolished in 1931, and Franco later made it clear that he did not intend to reestablish it. What all this meant for the Marquis de Benicarló I cannot say. He was only a majordomo for three years before the monarchy ended, but Alfonso didn’t actually abdicate until 1941, and it may be that he still served his King in some capacity. He survived tuberculosis, or whatever lung ailment had brought him to Schatzalp, dying in an automobile accident in 1975 in his native Spain.

Finally, as unlikely as the scenario seems, I can’t resist asking if the Marquis might not have been cared for by the same large, mustachioed nurse whom Dmitri mentions in his diaries — the one who behaved suspiciously like a bodyguard. An alternative version of the story purports that the patient being guarded was a refugee from the Spanish Civil War, wanted in his native land and in danger of assassination. But, aside from his nationality, the Marquis hardly seems to fit that profile!

So that’s it for the 3rd installment! I’m not sure what would be the most fitting way of remembering the Marquis, the Marquise, and Mme Fernandez Villota. I was going to suggest eating some Valencia oranges, but I have just discovered that they were actually developed by a horticulturist in Mexico. So perhaps just enjoy a delicious Spanish orange of any variety on your balcony.

Now here’s the guest list:

  1. Mme Andrée Ferrand, France
  2. Herr Doctor Walter Mackh, Germany
  3. Herr Erwin Geist, Germany
  4. Mlle Laurice Antaki, Syria
  5. Frau Marg. Hild, Austria
  6. Miss Doris W. Bartlett, England
  7. Mme Maria Ernestina Infante da Camara Martins Pereira, Portugal
  8. Mons le Dr Louis Baudrux, Belgium
  9. Mons Spiro Valerianos, Romania
  10. Mr Alphonso Zobel de Ayala, Spain
  11. Mr Manuel Aguilar Otermin, Spain
  12. Mons Guy Lefort, France
  13. Mrs Emilie Francis, England
  14. Mr Bowa Dinga Singh, Lahore, India
  15. Mr Frank Ingham, Austria
  16. Mme C. Valerianos, Romania
  17. Miss C. Howell, England
  18. Herr Dr W. Zechnall, Germany
  19. Mr Robert Holt, England
  20. Mme Mello Osorio, Portugal
  21. Herr Baron F. von Langenn, Germany
  22. Herr Dr G.Wallach, Germany
  23. Kumar S. Gupta, India
  24. Frl. B. Weiss, Switzerland
  25. Mrs Georgina Rawlins, England
  26. Mlle Marie E. Alvarez, Portugal
  27. Mr Martin McGrath, England
  28. Mlle Hélène Mathieu, France
  29. Mr Oswald Müller-Dubrow, Director, Ireland
  30. Mrs M.E. Müller-Dubrow, Ireland
  31. Mons G. Perez-Sanmillan, Marquis de Benicarló, Spain
  32. Frau Nada Paolovic, Yugoslavia
  33. Frl. Vlasta Navratil, Kolin, Czechoslovakia
  34. Mr P. Cunningham, Ireland
  35. Herr Andreas Kammer, Hungary
  36. Frl. S. Lackner, Germany
  37. Mme Candelaria Santos Suarez y Giron, Spain
  38. Mlle Carmen Creus y Santos Suarez, Spain
  39. Mr George Foreman, England
  40. Mlle Z. Manolesco, Romania
  41. Miss Alice O’Neill, England
  42. Mme H. Boin, France
  43. Mr M. Clenagham, Ireland
  44. Mme Josefa Murteira, Portugal
  45. Frl. Nedja Krunic, Yugoslavia
  46. Mons Joâo Sequeira Cantinho, Portugal
  47. Mr James Clarke, England
  48. Mr Mario Ferreira, Portugal
  49. Miss A.C. Rouse, Ireland
  50. Frau Petronella A. Kleinhoonte, Holland
  51. Frau Paula Bachem, Germany
  52. Frl. Eva-Brita Aminoff, Finland
  53. Frl. Marg. Sachse, Switzerland
  54. Mr Vincent Reynolds, Ireland
  55. Mr S.L. Chaturvedi, Calcutta, India
  56. Herr Dr H.C. Bodmer, Switzerland
  57. Mons F. Gosset, France
  58. Mons André Crouzier, France
  59. Mons Antonio Orfila, Spain
  60. Herr Heinrich Wepf, Switzerland
  61. Frl. Emmy Lion, Dutch East Indies
  62. Mrs Cecily Drummond, England
  63. Mlle Comtessa Marie Cecil de Carnide and nurse, Portugal
  64. Mons le Comte Jose de Carnide, Portugal
  65. Mme le Comtesse Tereza de Carnide, Portugal
  66. Mons Dr Julio de Vasconcellos, Portugal
  67. Herr Hans Warsitz, Germany
  68. Mr George Bull, England
  69. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  70. Mr Geoffroy Pittar, England
  71. Mlle Jeanne Opsomer, Holland
  72. Mr Hussein Kamil, Baghdad, Iraq
  73. Mons Fernando Madureira, Portugal
  74. Mme S. Fonseca, Portugal
  75. Mr K. McFadden, Ireland
  76. Mons F. du Mesnil, France
  77. Frau Lena Warsitz, Germany
  78. Mons Antonio Lopes de Fonseca, Portugal
  79. Mr John Kennagh, England
  80. Mlle Rosalia Termini, Italy
  81. Herr Dr. Hans Cornet, Germany
  82. Mlle Marthe Iweins, Belgium
  83. Mrs Florence Howell, England
  84. Mrs G. Solomon, England
  85. Frau Luizi Bohn, Yugoslavia
  86. Frl. Felicia Bohm, Yugoslavia
  87. Herr Dr. E. Kux, Germany
  88. Ew. Generaloberin Mussiliey, Schweiz
  89. Frau Caroline von Haeften, Holland
  90. Frau Dr. Gerda Wallach, Germany
  91. Mlle G. Humbert, Switzerland
  92. Herr Dr. Jonkheer van Haeften, Holland
  93. Frau L. Bierman, Germany
  94. Mrs Ph. Monk, England
  95. Mr. Eric Monk, England
  96. Mons Andre Gilles, Belgium
  97. Mlle Francoise Lhonneux, Belgium
  98. Mme Gabrielle Lhonneux, Belgium
  99. Mons Charles Lhonneux, Belgium
  100. Herr Dr. P. Cuypers, Dutch East Indies
  101. Frau Amande Cuypers, Dutch East Indies
  102. Mr Nathaniel Hone, Ireland
  103. Frl. Hanna Montfort, Germany
  104. Mme Marquise de Benicarló, Spain
  105. Mme Gloria Fernandez Villota, Spain

*See: Goldberg, Benjamin, ed., Clinical Tuberculosis, “Chapter 1: Epidemiology of Tuberculosis”, by Godias J. Drolet, F.A. Davis Co., Philadelphia, 1946

 

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