The Aristocracy of Hinterstoder- Chapter 10

The period in Germany and Austria from 1890 to 1914 was a grandiose time.  Great cultural achievements in art, music, architecture, and science came about.  Electric lighting superseded gas lights.  Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler joined forces and

by 1900 cars were a common mode of transportation replacing the horse and buggy.  Moving pictures entertained the crowds.  Johann Strauss III, Franz Lehar, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel capitalized on the Belle Époque musically.  Particularly in Germany the military was pushed to the forefront by Kaiser Wilhelm II.It was called Wilhelminism and embodied in the appearance, demeanor, and showmanship of the Kaiser.





Kaiser Wilhelm II


The Aristocracy of Hinterstoder was very much connected to the Kaiser, as Philipp zu Eulenburg was given the title of Duke and then Prince by the Kaiser, and with that promotion Phillip became the best friend and most trusted adviser to the Kaiser.  Philipp through fortuitous    inheritances garnered large tracts of land.  With these inheritances also came additional names.  He became Philipp Duke of Eulenburg and Hertenfeld, Count von Sandels.  His favorite residence was some 60 miles north of Berlin at Schloss (Castle) Liebenberg. After the scandal created by the Eulenburg Affair with accusations of homosexuality that rocked the Empire, Philipp had lost the trust of the Kaiser.  He continued on at Liebenberg, but the loss of stature and personal illness took its toll.  The oldest of Philipp’s eight children was Friedrich-Wend zu Eulenburg and Hertenfeld.

Friedrich was born, raised, and married Marie Mayr-Melnhof at Liebenberg.  Marie had large landholdings in Austria including in Hinterstoder. They had two children at Liebenberg.  As if the family did not suffer enough from the Eulenburg Affair, the whole spy debacle of Libertas, Friedrich’s niece, who along with her husband Haro, were identified as committing high treason by the Gestapo and executed, raised the ire of Hitler.  Additionally, Friedrich had signed a petition that did not sit well with the Gestapo, calling for the release of imprisoned priests that had displayed opposition to the so called racial purification activities of the SS which included “mercy killing” of the “unfit and the elimination of “nutzlose Brotfresser – useless bread gobblers” (See chapter 6). In retribution Hitler ordered the only son of Friedrich to be drafted into a penal battalion that fought on the Eastern Front.

Friedrich-Wend zu Eulenburg and Hertenfeld in 1923


This battalion had a very high casualty rate due to the very fierce partisan fighters they battled. Friedrich managed eventually to get him reassigned to a tank battalion that was not as likely to end in death.  As fate would have it, that tank battalion was completely wiped out by the assault and landing of General Mark Clark at Salerno. Although the son was taken prisoner, he survived.   At the end of World War II the entire family had to escape the Russians who confiscated the Liebenberg estate, which forever was lost to them.  Luckily, Friedrich had other properties.  He was the last to leave Liebenberg, just hours ahead of the advancing, marauding, uncivilized “Red Army” and proceeded to his estate in Schleswig-Holstein, as his other estate, the Prielervilla in Hinterstoder was occupied by war refugees, like me and my parents.  Eventually we moved out in 1952 and Duke Friedrich zu Eulenburg und Hertenfeld moved back to his beloved Hinterstoder, where he occupied himself with administering his properties and hunting.



The Prielervilla


Friedrich-Wend Duke zu Eulenburg and Hertenfeld in later years (1955) and his wife Marie.


In the summer of 1937, the daughter of the Duke and Duchess, Ingeborg (Ingi) married an accomplished pilot, Carl August  von Schönebeck, who had a minor aristocratic title. He was a “von” the lowest of the ranks in the aristocratic hierarchy, but he was promoted; now it would be Baron von Schönebeck.  He was already a hero of World War I.  He had flown in the squadron which was commanded by perhaps the most legendary fighter pilot ever, Baron Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron) who had 80 confirmed kills in his blazing red Fokker airplane.




Baron C. A. von Schönebeck didn’t do all that badly himself, with 8 victories in 10 months.  He garnered the Iron Cross, The House Order of Hohenzollern, and the Order of the Zahringer Lion.



Between the wars Baron von Schönebeck flew trans-Atlantic flights to South America, and also was a test pilot.  In 1934, he joined the Luftwaffe (Air Force). He was promoted to Major and became the Group Commander of the fiercest and most prestigious air squadron in the Luftwaffe, the old Richthofen wing some of whom attended his wedding to Ingeborg Countess of Eulenburg (daughter of Friedrich) at Liebenberg in the summer of 1937 and included  his best friends, Ernst Udet, and Werner Mölders, who would distinguish themselves as the best and bravest pilots, even exceeding their mentor, Richthofen.

Baron Schönebeck seen here as an officer in the Luftwaffe






Later he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to be the Air Attaché first in Yugoslavia, then in Bulgaria.  While in Bulgaria he was witness to the death of the Bulgarian King, Boris III, who died under mysterious circumstances. Baron Schönebeck reported day by day events in his diary and tried to get German doctors to attend to him, but it was too late. This affair remains unsolved to this day. From subsequent discovery of secret German military documentation that came to light post-war and Hitler’s personal belief, the suspicions fall on the Italian government of Mussolini.


In 1943 Schönebeck was promoted to Major General. Schönebeck was captured and held as prisoner of war by the Russians from 1945 until 1948.  I was six years old, but remember his return from prison.  His son, Andreas, and I had traded some toys of which he did not approve (see chapter 6).  He personally came to retrieve a very expensive toy with I had traded for a cheap plastic water pistol.  He had been imprisoned for three years, had lost considerable weight and did not look very healthy.  During this time, he had built a very intricate model of a castle that I now believe was based on the Eulenburg Hertfeld Castle in Weeze, North Rhine-Westphalia.  The model of the castle was the only thing he brought back from his imprisonment, and showed off with considerable pride.

Eulenburg-Hertenfeld Castle


This is the Baron and Baroness, Ingeborg, in the more recent times.

After the war he worked for a variety of airplane manufacturing companies including Piper and Beech Aircraft Corporations.  He was one tough individual, even in old age, as exemplified by his learning to fly hang gliders at age 77.  Here is a letter he wrote when he was 90 years old, still having all his wits about him.

The letter deals with his membership in the Richthofen Squadron, and in this picture Richthofen is sitting in the middle of the top row with a head bandage from a plane crash injury.  Schönebeck is sitting in the bottom row far right in the shade. He died September 4, 1989 at age 91.

America has never understood, nor appreciated aristocracy, even though we have always had our own version and continue to have it.  Just think of the Kennedy Clan, or the Hearst Empire, or even Elizabeth Taylor.  We forget that without the help of Louis XVI our own revolution would have likely have failed and we would still be paying taxes on tea to England.  It is considered undemocratic and old world, but without the aristocracy in Hinterstoder, I doubt that I would even exist.  Through their generosity and humanity our family survived the war.  I owe more than a debt of gratitude to the Eulenburg and Schönebeck Aristocracy.