Historical story

Michał Radziwiłł. A Polish magnate who bequeathed his property as a gift ... to Hitler

He came from one of the most influential Polish families. Depending on financial needs, he maneuvered between liberalism and extreme nationalism. In addition, he was especially fond of Hitler. No wonder his family and surroundings saw him as crazy ...

But that's not all! An extreme megalomaniac, he told his associates to call himself "the Brightest Prince". He was a helpless person, and the family fortune could lead to collapse. His numerous scandals gave his relatives so much shame that they decided to legally incapacitate him. This is the figure of Michał "Rudy" Radziwiłł, whose family would certainly like to erase not only from memory, but also from history ...

Scandalist prince

Michał Radziwiłł was born in Berlin in 1870 and was baptized with eight names. After all, he was a prince and ordinate, so this had to be effectively emphasized at the very beginning. However, the family did not predict that its new member would lead to internal conflicts with his scandalous life.

"Rudy" in his turbulent life never avoided women. The prince, who was fond of numerous romances, was difficult to convince to marry and settle down. Eventually, as he was approaching thirty, he decided to marry the Orthodox daughter of a Russian of Greek descent, Maria de Benardaky.

Maria de Benardaky in 1893. Before she became the first wife of Michał Radziwiłł, she was the first love of Marcel Proust himself. Although the Polish magnate had a woman desired by many by his side, he not only humiliated her but also beat her.

This relationship was a real curse for the aristocrat - beaten and humiliated by her husband, she endured his despotism for seventeen years. As Witold Banach reports, in his latest book "Radziwiłłów. The turbulent fate of the famous family ” :

Radziwiłł treated his beautiful wife terribly, there was violence, humiliation, a case became loud when the prince pushed his wife out of the car in another fury, as a result of which Maria broke her leg .

The marriage was annulled in 1915. Thanks to religious differences, the decision from the Vatican did not take long. The care of the abandoned Maria was undertaken by Michał's father, Ferdinand, who provided for the maintenance of both her and his two grandchildren.

The article was inspired by the newest book by Witold Banach, Radziwiłłów. The stormy fate of a famous family "(Wydawnictwo Poznańskie 2018) telling the story of one of the most powerful families in the history of Poland.

Meanwhile, the prince, without wasting any time, was going through the next love raptures. This time his chosen one was a Spanish widow, Joaquina Martinez. "Rudy" didn't mind that the woman was well in her fifties. However, it was not beauty for the magnate that was the most important asset, but a fortune thanks to which he could pay off his numerous debts.

In love, Joaquin did not pay attention to the antics of her lover, including his unique propensity to gamble. The marriage lasted until 1929, when "Rudy" decided to divorce. The situation, however, was more complicated than before. The Catholic Church did not think to approve the prince's request. Without waiting for an official divorce, Michał Radziwiłł quickly found another object of sighs - an English nurse, Mary Atkinson.

Michał Radziwiłł's autograph. He usually submitted it in two situations:by getting into debt or signing for divorce.

Witold Banach, in his latest book "Radziwiłłów. The turbulent fate of the famous family ” yes, based on the testimony of contemporary witnesses, describes another chosen one of "Rudy":

Mary Atkinson (...) was supposedly ugly and despotic, but for several years she took possession of the prince losing health. As it soon turned out, she was also clever, she forced Radziwille to obtain powers of attorney that allowed her to manage - inept - the Przygodzice County .

With time, however, the Englishwoman will also get bored with "Rudy". When her residence card in Poland expired in 1937, she returned to London, and her lover did nothing to allow her to stay in the country. Mary Atkinson could not stand the breakup and committed suicide a few months later. When the broken one took her own life, 67-year-old Michał Radziwiłł started another romance, which echoed not only in Poland, but all over Europe .

The antics of prince "the Red" shook the scales of bitterness in the magnate family. In the end, it was decided to put an end to the scandals, incapacitating Michał Radziwiłł. In the photo on the left the father of "Rudy", Ferdynand; on the right - brother Janusz.

Mental illness and family processes

Uncontrolled outbursts of anger, extreme extravagance and constant moral scandals of "Rudy" exposed him to many years of disputes with his family. The scales of bitterness spilled over when, after parting ways with Atkinson, the prince fell in love with Judith Suchestow, who was 30 years his junior.

Both the domestic and foreign press wrote about this romance. In one of the titles, the prince stated that he had become a zealous liberal after spending several years in the West; adding that in England no one is surprised by the relationship between the prince and a Jew, and he only demands respecting the same rights for himself and his bride. By the way, he also expressed his dislike of German conservatism, which, according to him, had only brought misfortune to Poland so far.

Prince Michał Radziwiłł with his fiancée Judyta Suchestow on a terrace in Monte Carlo in 1938. Not only the domestic, but also foreign press wrote about the magnate's romance with a Jewish woman who was 30 years his junior.

Michał Radziwiłł lost his head so much for attractive Judyta that he quickly began trying to get married. However, the unresolved divorce with Joaquina stood in the way. Fearing the accusation of bigamy, the prince considered converting to Judaism, which would allow him to remarry . In the interwar period, changing religion in order to remarry was a common practice.

The confessional adventures of Michał and Judyta must have caused anxiety among the Radziwiłłs. It was feared that the family property would pass after the prince's death into the hands of Judith's descendant from the previous marriage. The Radziwiłłs could not allow this and tried to prevent marriage with a woman. His brother, Janusz Radziwiłł, sued him for incapacitation due to alleged mental illness.

The article was inspired by the newest book by Witold Banach, Radziwiłłów. The stormy fate of a famous family "(Wydawnictwo Poznańskie 2018) telling the story of one of the most powerful families in the history of Poland.

Even his own daughter, Leontyna, entered the court against the extravagant prince. The trials began in 1937 and the press reported to readers incessantly. Before the official struggle began for good, "Rudy" found another love - wealthy widow Harriet Stewart Dawson.

Regardless of the formal and legal problems, to everyone's surprise, Radziwiłł and a British woman were married in 1938 in a civil marriage in London. After the confusion related to the legality of the marriage and the settlement of passport matters, the couple was finally allowed to come to Poland to the court in Antonin. It was the end of the summer of 1939, the hecatomb of World War II was approaching. And Michał Radziwiłł? She will behave outrageously once again. This time, however, it will be extremely disgraceful in history.

The famous hunting palace of the Radziwiłł princes in Antonin. It was built in the 1820s for Prince Antoni, who visited, among others, Frederic Chopin. During World War II, it fell into the hands of Adolf Hitler.

Record for Hitler

Janusz Radziwiłł, who sued "Rudy", was the complete opposite of his older brother - a patriot, senator, associate of Józef Piłsudski. When the war broke out, on his estate in Ołyce he organized help not only for the authorities, but also for all those fleeing the German invasion. During the occupation, he personally intervened with Hermann Göring to stop the repression against Poles.

When he devoted all his energies to the Polish cause, his brother Michał scandalously adapted to the new conditions. He welcomed the Nazi troops entering Poland with joy. During the rallies, he gave surrender speeches and called himself "Great German" . The height of hypocrisy was the donation of the property in Antonin as a gift to ... Adolf Hitler. He also hoped that in return for his sacrificial gesture he would be able to receive a pension and be entered on the Volkslist.

Janusz Radziwiłł, brother of "Rudy", was his complete opposite. As an influential politician in the Interwar period, when the war broke out, he used his contacts to help his compatriots. He intervened, among others, with Hermann Göring himself (in the photo Göring with Józef Beck and his wives, July 1935).

Michał Radziwiłł quickly forgot in his allegedly strong liberalism and relationship with a Jewish woman. The Germans, however, had a much better memory. The Führer did not accept the gift from "Rudy" because, as Witold Banach writes in his latest book "Radziwiłłów. The turbulent fate of the famous family ” :

(...) it was decided that something that has already been confiscated cannot be accepted . Governor Greiser did not take much care of Michał Radziwiłł's declarations and ordered the confiscation of his property .

More failures awaited the inconsolable prince. First, his wife Harriet, seeing her husband's pro-Nazi attitude, challenged him from "German pigs" and finally broke up with him. Then, in 1944, the Germans refused to enter Michał on the Volkslist. It was the end of the extravagant conduct of "Rudy". After the war, the man tried to regain his property, which he willingly offered to the leader of the Third Reich not so long ago. Ultimately, however, the prince left Poland.

It is hard to believe that a member of one of the most powerful Polish families himself asked to be entered on the Volkslist. It is even more paradoxical that he was denied this "honor". The photo shows a group of Volksdeutsche from Poland after receiving gold NSDAP badges from the hands of Adolf Hitler for services to the Third Reich in September 1939.

Things had turned so bad for him that he decided to make a desperate return to his second wife, Joaquin Martinez. The same one with whom he wanted to divorce so hard for years. The fate of "Rudy" turned out to be exceptionally kind in the end. The Spanish woman kept him in her estate in Tenerife, where he forgotten his last days . He died at the age of 85.

You can buy the book at empik.com: