1874 - 1944 (70 years)
||Anna Hoberg |
- Maiden name could be Hohenberg
- MARIE LOUISE NECKLACE STORY
ERNST WEBER INTRODUCTION (2nd husband of Sonya Eisenmenger Weber)
Sometime in the summer of 1986, Wolfgang sent me a copy of the "Journal December 1985/January 1986" which contained the story under the title, Al Capone and the Necklace of Maria Louise - A Near Grotesque Criminal Story Told at an Interview by Wolfgang Pfaundler. Since it is printed in German, I have translated it to be added to the Biography of Sonny.
Al Capone and the Necklace of Maria Louise
Almost a crime grotesque according to an interview by
Last summer died in Innsbruck in her ninetieth year, Sonya Weber, the daughter of Theodor von Escherich, who was the Director of the Children's Clinic in Vienna from 1902 to !911 and had achieved world fame through his discovery of the bacillus Coli Communis, now referred to as Bacillus E, E standing for Escherich. Dr. Sonya Weber worked in the United States of America up to her 86th year as orthopedic specialist. Except for the war years she came every summer from the United States to Oetz to visit her mother, and in fact, was buried in the churchyard of the mountain village Oetz. Her first husband, whose brother Victor will play a prominent role in this interview, was Hugo Eisenmenger. Her second marriage was with the Viennese Physicist Prof. Dr. Ernst Weber who taught in New York City.
"I was born in Graz, Austria, in 1895 and emigrated to the United States in 1913. During the summer of 1914, I returned to Europe with my husband in connection with a Mediterranean cruise. By chance, we bought a newspaper in Genoa, Italy, and read about the murder of the Austrian Crown Prince Franz Ferdinand in Serbia. We knew that my brother-in-law Victor Eisenmenger always travelled with FF-Franz Ferdinand was commonly called FF -and so we thought at once, that he had been killed, too. Victor was the personal physician of FF, both had had serious infections of Tuberculosis. FF was rather arrogant and not an agreeable person and public opinion held that only nice people succumbed to Tuberculosis. Victor and FF spent considerable time in Egypt which was supposed to generally lead to cure. My sister-in-law, Anna Hohenberg, a lady of royal bearing, also had acquired the same infection, and, therefore, also stayed at that time in Egypt, as well as a certain Captain Townsend.
The story I am about to tell occurred in 1928 and relates to the famous necklace that Napoleon gave to Maria Louise at the birth of their son in 1811. When Napoleon was deposed, Maria Louise was smart enough to retain this necklace and bring it back with her to Vienna. The necklace had been composed out of the loveliest diamonds of Europe containing 40 large individual crystals with a pendant of five very large diamonds. Cartier in New York at one time asked me to wear it for examination, but it did not really fit my figure. Anyway, nobody would have believed them to be genuine diamonds.
At that time, I still had to work very hard professionally. One day I received a telegram from Anna Eisenmenger-Hohenberg, "Please call for me at the ship wharf!" Not knowing what it was all about, I called for her. When she arrived, she acted rather secretively and with some dramatic posture. I always addressed her at "Aunt Anna" even though she was my sister-in-law. I had called for her in my personal auto and she immediately examined the back of the car as if she feared someone was hidden there. When the customs examination was finished, I asked again what was the object of her visit. She then said: "I have come as the confidential delegate of Archduchess Maria Theresia" and she confided that the Archduchess owned the Napoleon Necklace. Actually, when FF, Victor and Anna Eisenmenger sojourned in Egypt on account of their Tuberculosis, they had encountered this "Captain Townsend" who apparently was neither Captain nor carried the name Townsend, but was an absolute, but smart, foreflusher. The Archduchess who was a rational and practical mother had been looking for some contact that would facilitate the sale of the necklace and Aunt Anna had suggested Townsend. Maria Theresia had three daughters, Annunciata, not married, and the subsequent Duchesses of Württemberg and of Liechtenstein. Since the necklace could not be divided between the three daughters, the mother wanted to sell the necklace for something like three million dollars and divide the money. However, the economic conditions worldwide were not favorable, the best opportunity appeared in the U.S. The Archduchess concluded to send the necklace to America and to avoid any special attention, she packed the necklace in newspaper and a box for shoes, without insurance, to the address of that "Captain Townsend". Thus, the necklace had been mailed, Townsend had rented, upon the recommendation of the Archduchess a safe deposit box at the Harriman Bank in New York and had given full power to this Captain to sell the necklace if he found a reliable purchaser. The Harriman Bank was the only one where one could get to the safe deposit box during 24 hours, thus exhibit or wear the necklace at any time, and return it at any time. For the first few months after Townsend had confirmed receipt of the necklace, he sent reports. But when no further reply was received, even though the Archduchess had urgently asked for reports, the Archduchess became suspicious. She asked Aunt Anna Eisenmenger to travel at once to New York and check on the situation. At the same time, she had cancelled the power of attorney of Townsend, and had published that fact in the newspapers in New York.
Aunt Anna was quite adventurous and when she arrived and had settled down in our house in Mount Vernon, she wanted to go to the Harriman Bank to verify that the necklace was, indeed, there and had not disappeared with Townsend. I objected and told her that that would be very foolish because Townsend could bring suit against her! But we went to New York to the Hotel Belmont on Lexington Avenue, a good hotel, opposite the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. I have the suspicion that as we entered the hotel at one door, Townsend had gone out the same minute through another door! In fact, as we came to the Reception we were told: "Yes, he had occupied a room here, but he just departed." Now, what should we do? To break into the safe of the Bank we had no key. I did not dare to suggest because it could have terrible consequences. We returned home, and shortly afterwards, the telephone rang. As I took off the receiver, I recognized immediately that it could not be one of my patients, the voice was coarse, and a strange man's voice asked if I was Mrs. Eisenmenger. When I answered yes, he said: " Would you like to know where the necklace is?" I said, "But it is, of course, in the Harriman Bank". "Well, he said, you better look again: it certainly is not there anymore! It is there and there..." and he hung up. I wrote quickly the address he had mentioned on a pad that was fortunately next to the phone, namely on 53rd Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.
Fortunately, I had at that time among my patients a very well-known lawyer, Lewis Untermayer, who, in fact, had warned me before not to break into the safe. I phoned him right away, told him the story and also told him that Aunt Anna wanted to rush to that address not to lose any time. He said, however: "Do not go there in any case! I will send an armed man to a certain spot (and he specified that to me and let me repeat) and when at that spot you see a man who gives you this exact answer, it is the man I am sending."
So, Aunt Anna and I jumped into my car and we drove to the designated spot. We saw there a tall man who gave the correct answer, and he entered my car. It was Mr. Steinhart, a nephew of Untermayer.
On 53rd Street are all jewelers and valuables stores, generally the large dealers. We entered at the specified house, a heavy iron gate opened and quickly closed behind us. I thought, of course, Here we are caught! But then opened a second iron gate and we entered an office where a man sat at a desk. Steinhart had instructed us, "Let me talk, don't say a word, but when I give you a sign, start to talk like a waterfall!" In this way he wanted to gain time. I just was on needles, because the whole thing, necklace or not, really did not concern me personally. I thought about my family and the many children at the clinic, the time lost here, because, after all, I had the office with patients! Well, the man at the desk sat like a spider in her web, and my "guide" began to talk: "I heard that you have the necklace here"...and the other replied, "Yes, I have had it, but I sold it". Steinhart in turn said: "I have been authorized by Untermayer to find out to whom you have sold it!" Oh yes, "I sold it to . . . . and he gave an address about two or three houses further along. We thanked the man, went to the next address, where again: iron gates opened, iron gates closed and again a man at a desk like a spider. He said: "Yes, I bought it two days ago, but I have sold it again". "Oh, yes, and to whom?" He gave an address two houses further along.
At the third address, as we enter, the man says: "Oh, yes, I have it here". Now Steinhart said that we were the personal representatives of the Archduchess and could we see the sales contract? "Oh, yes", replied he, "with pleasure". He showed the contract of sale which amounted to less than $100,000 dollars, though the value of the necklace was at least one million dollars. The sale was signed by witnesses, the last of whom was Archduke Leopold Salvator. Steinhart asked if the necklace was actually there and the man replies, "Yes, it is in the safe behind me." Steinhart now introduced us and said that Baroness Hohenberg had power of attorney from the Archduchess and also had a wax copy of the necklace. He gave me a sign and I started at once to talk, no matter what and at the same time tried to open the container of the wax copy with intentional difficulties. In the meantime, the salesman had opened the safe and taken out the necklace - when suddenly 40 policemen were in the room. Where they had come from, I had no idea, but here they were. Steinhart now said, "I confiscate the necklace". The jeweler tried to resist and referred to the sales contract, but our man answered, "Please, we shall ask for expert valuation of the necklace and when the sales contract is for less than 30 per cent of the valuation, the contract is nullified." It was terribly exciting, the policemen had their revolvers ready and pointing and when we finally were outside, I was completely exhausted. Of course, Steinhart had taken with him the necklace.
When we arrived home, we sent a telegram to the Archduchess that we had secured the necklace, but also that Archduke Leopold Salvator had served as a witness to the sale! Actually, he had already twice been imprisoned and had agreed to give his name for which he had received $10,000 dollars. And what was the final result? He was again put in prison, because he was penniless. However, many of the society ladies took pity, brought him ever caviar to the prison. I, myself, had even the greatest difficulties trying to obtain my physical therapy license. All the cost of the telegrams I had to assume since I was the only one with financial recourse. For me it was very disagreeable. And then, the Archduchess telegraphed, "If the honor of a Habsburg is put in question, I would forego the million dollars." I could have murdered her!
The next morning, I had to leave home by 7:00 a.m. because I had patients scheduled for 8:00 a.m., and Aunt Anna wanted to see Untermayer. Apparently, the excitement was not good for Aunt Anna. After we started with the car she sat in the rear of the car to be proper as passenger. She felt getting weak and, in the mirror, I saw her getting lower and lower. Finally, I had to stop, she vomited the scrambled eggs she had for breakfast, but more than that, she really appeared to be sick so that she could not possibly meet with Untermayer. I turned into 68th Street, stopped at a hotel to get a room for her.
Being in a better section, a black doorman in a red coat opened the car door where Aunt Anna lay on the seat practically unconscious. The doorman pulled Aunt Anna by the legs out of the car and I just could get close enough to prevent her head from dropping to the Street. The doorman and I carried then Aunt Anna to the hotel where unfortunately the doorman entered the revolving door, where of course we three got completely stuck, together with our heavy winter coats. This was a real dilemma. People wanted to get out, others wanted to enter, but nobody could move, and more and more people collected. At this point, a small Jewish hotel guest who probably had some subway experience, went back in the hall, took a good start and ran with full speed against the inner side of the revolving door so that the impulse projected the three of us into a heap on the floor of the hotel hall. Aunt Anna lay on the floor, moaning and complaining to be dying. Upon Sonny's questioning she only whispered, "the heart!". Sonny called for a doctor, tried to massage the heart until he came. Of course, they had to transport her to a room and there Sonny phoned Untermayer that Mrs. Eisenmenger could not come because of her fainting spell. He said, "that really does not matter, we have control of the situation, all harbors are blocked, and all railways are being watched." I just had the presence of mind to ask, "But what will be the expense?" Untermayer replied, "$2000 dollars per day". I nearly had a stroke!
Two days later, Aunt Anna went again to see Untermayer. Since I had to attend to my patients, I brought Aunt Anna to a subway station on a line that led directly to Untermayer's office. In the subway, Aunt Anna felt a little weak, so she wanted to buy some chocolate. However, she mistook chiclet for chocolate, and of course, the chewing gum had practically caused her teeth to get stuck so that Untermayer had to extricate the gum.
Untermayer actually handled the affair very well and the expense was less than I had feared. Aunt Anna had to return to Europe but was scheduled to come back the following year for the court proceedings. For the meantime I was made the official representative of the Archduchess together with a Mr. Perry from Untermayer's staff. For a whole year I had the necklace near me, had to hire a chauffeur and personal guard, but nobody had interest to acquire the necklace. I got so desperate that at the St. Patrick?s Day parade, I walked in crowds even though my personal guard warned not to do that. I thought that since the necklace was insured for one million dollars with Lloyds, should it be stolen, the Archduchess will get the money. But nobody made any attempt.
During the court proceedings it happened that someone approached Aunt Anna and said, "Al Capone who now is in prison, wants to offer one million dollars for the necklace!" When Aunt Anna came home and told us that, I told her: "When you do that, you will leave this house at once, that is out of the question."
In the course of the court process, the necklace was actually appraised to have one million dollars material value. The historical value could not be expressed in money value at all.
About two years later, the Maharajah of Haiderabud bought the necklace. What happened later on and particularly after World War II, I do not know.
||25 Sep 2022 |
||Anna Hoberg Eisenmenger |
Stolen Napoleon diamond necklace taken to NYC District Attorney; Dr. George Schmidt, Austrian Consul-General | Anna | Lawrence Steinhart, Attorney
||Anna Hoberg Eisenmenger|
Friend of Austrian Arch Duchess who retrieved stolen diamond necklace with cousin Sonya Eisenmenger Weber's assistance. Mother of Annie Eisenmenger, ceramic artist and Hildi Eisenmenger,notable tennis player.
||Anna Hoberg Eisenmenger & daughters|
Daughters: Annie (artist) and Hilde (tennis player)
||Stolen and recovered|
Now part of the Smithsonian collection
||Necklace Napolean I Gave Empress Maria Louise Gone|
Article published in Star Gazette
||BARON EISENMENGER, COURT PHYSICIAN, DEAD
Medical Adviser to Late Archduke Francis Ferdinand and Ex-Emperor Charles.
Special Cable to THE NEW YORK TIMES.|
VIENNA, Dec. 11.Baron Victor Eisenmenger, former personal physician to the late Archduke Francis Ferdinand and the former Emperor Charles, died at the age of 69 after an operation.
Victor Eisenmenger was a son of August Eisenmenger, painter and professor at the Imperial Academy of Arts in Vienna. His brother, Hugo E. Eisenmenger of 111 South Ninth Avenue, Mount Vernon, N. Y., is an electrical engineer of international reputation who has been associated with the New York Edison Company since 1921.
The close relations of the Eisenmengers with the former Austrian royal family were made evident in New York in the Spring of 1930 when the Baroness Anna Eisenmenger, wife of the physician arrived with authority from the Archduchess Marie Therese to represent her in the tangled proceedings that followed the alleged unauthorized sale here of the historic diamond necklace of the Archduchess. The Baroness was successful in her mission, receiving from the purchaser the gems and their authenticating documents.