Habsburg, Otto

(1912–)
   The eldest son of Charles I (IV), the last Austrian emperor and king of Hungary, Otto is the current pretender to a Habsburg throne, in the unlikely event that the office will ever exist again. Legally forbidden any form of Habsburg succession in the First Austrian Republic, which emerged from World War I, Otto studied with private tutors and at foreign universities. In 1935, the University of Louvain granted him a doctorate in political science.
   During the 1930s sympathy grew in Austria for a Habsburg restoration as a counterweight to the threat of Nazi authoritarianism. The Habsburg Exclusion Act was repealed in July 1935, and the erstwhile ruling family was allowed to reclaim much of its property in Austria. With the Anschluss of 1938, however, the Nazi regime in Austria reconfirmed the exclusion measure.
   Otto fled the Nazis from Belgium to New York in 1940. While in the United States, he made influential contacts with American officials in Washington, including Secretary of State Cordell Hull and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Otto argued for classifying Austria as an occupied country rather than an enemy belligerent, once World War II ended. He also suggested some form of a Danubian confederation to block the probable expansion of the Soviet Union. His presence in Austria, however, remained very conditional. He was only allowed to visit the country in 1966.
   In 1978, Otto von Habsburg became a German citizen; he officially resided in Pöcking in Bavaria. As a member of the Bavarian Christian Social Union, he has been an activist in the cause of the European Parliament located in Strasbourg. He was elected to that body in 1979 and continues to promote pan-European unity. His arguments for a common defense, foreign, and financial policy are, by his own admission, inspired by the structure of the 1867 Ausgleich between Austria and Hungary. He has also vigorously supported the incorporation of the former communist states of eastern and east central Europe into the European Union.
   Otto and his family scoff at talk about a Habsburg restoration. Two of his sons, however, have also been active in pan-European affairs. A daughter, Walpurga, tried to enter electoral politics in Sweden in 1998. She is prominent in several charitable and advocacy organizations throughout the world.
   See also Habsburg Empire.

Historical dictionary of Austria. . 2014.

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