At the end of the war my father was moved to Schloss Annabichl in Klagenfurt, Austria, with the operation supplying the Yugoslav partisans. The main British headquarters for that part of Austria was in Villach. Unfortunately he left no written memoirs of his time there, but he often spoke of it with great affection, and retained a lifelong love of things German as a result.
Here he learnt German, it would seem, from a lady called Maria Wrangel, who was a great fan of his violin playing. I should be very grateful to anyone who could provide any further information about the British in Klagenfurt in 1945-46, and particularly Schloss Annabichl and Maria Wrangel.
Shortly after his death in 2002 I discovered several remarkable letters from her to him in English. I reproduce them below.
1. Letter from Maria Wrangel to Ernest Dale, Klagenfurt, Austria, early autumn 1945
To the artist,
Yes, you guessed right & thank you for your kind words. The world is nothing but a whole big muddle, & I know that also the English people have suffered & lost much. I am very sorry for it because they are our Brother-Nation & I think you & we are the only decent people of the world.
But what a pity they do not understand good classical Music. The Muses are jealous & therefore artists must always be lonely.
Why do you not give a concert at Klagenfurt? I’m certain you would have great success. I have seldom heard the “Flautotöne” (whatever you call them in English: played with only one side of the bow) and the “Doppelgriffe” so clear & clean as you bring them. I was very happy listening to you & hope to hear you yet sometimes when I slip in & out of Annabichl.
Have you any interest in “graphology”? A friend of mine knows something about it and if you would write a line or two I might send you her opinion. [See below]
Goodbye and thank you.
[handwritten in pencil: The Listener]
2. Letter from Maria Wrangel to Ernest Dale, Klagenfurt, Austria, 1945
Sandhof, October the 16th
Dear Mr. Dale,
Your letter was another rainbow. It was my own language again & like a voice out of the dark. You know this is so nice to find in other nations people with whom you have more in common than with your own. I like to cross swords in the dark. You get nearer to an understanding than in usual intercourse and it is so seldom and does so good to find sympathy in this depressing world of today.
I quite agree with you that the world may not be free but it depends of what you call “freedom”. Certainly man must be ruled by a strong hand else, as you say, bestiality would reign, because mankind still is on a low standing-point. But the ruling hand must be of your own nation. You may try and be as kind as you can, you will never know what people foreign to you really want. Be your ruling ever so good you will never find the right “password”.
So you were not contented with our graphological study of your handwriting. But still it seems to me to be true in the essential parts. To judge from your writing I should only have thought you would be rather more optimistic but of course one must reckon with today’s circumstances. Optimism surely was in your original nature. Don’t let all the fine things be swept away! There lies quite a big lump of idealism in that one sentence of yours: “the small speck of Loch Ailort”. I should very much like to have seen it. I’m so glad that you like our little Carinthia after having seen so many and much grander countries. Just now it is especially fine in all this green and red and gold. You should walk through the woods up onto the mountains. Then standing there and looking down your soul will open wide to all that beauty and you will get reconciled with the naughty life that has brought us all so unaccountable many deceptions. I think life’s only authorisation is Art. Artists and Art-loving people form a chain through the world, hand-in-hand, like at the Christmas dancing parties that romp through the house so we run through life and the feeling of your neighbour’s hand helps you to keep up and not to break down.
My interest in you was awakened by your musik & I am very sorry that I never hear you anymore. Why is that so? I should like to stand once more under the ivy-window & be nothing else but only […]
[… handwritten in pencil: The Listener]
3. Letter from Maria Wrangel to Ernest Dale, Klagenfurt, Austria, 1945
Sandhof, October the 31st. 1945
Do you know what your own private & most successful weapon is? It is your kindness by which you hit your antagonist’s sword out of his hand. It made me quite sad to think of you standing by yourself to be wounded by a useless stroke of a useless sword. But you must not think that you are the only “one” man to catch all my attacks. Since May I have had no amount of duels over that same respect. One of your officers that came to learn German twice a week was one of my victims. We did nothing but talk politics from beginning to end. – But you & I we shall not do it again. I shall bear in mind your pacific nature and let you float along peacefully, poor straw in the torrent. There are so many more interesting things to talk about. You seem to have travelled a good deal and you speak about it with so much intuition that it is a pleasure to read your letters. I must say I like them very much. It seems to me that we speak the same language & maybe this is why I understood your music so well. There is, thank God, no personal feeling in it, but the pure abstract feeling for the composer’s intentions. Did you ever hear about Burmeester? I’m afraid he was long before your time (as was Rackham by the bye). Burm. was one of the most famous violinists. His tones were like the water in a well. I could have sat & listened to him for centuries.
“What does one know of England – -” (it’s Kipling’s, is it not?) I should rather say: What does England know of Europe? They know and interest themselves for the most out-of-the-way lying islands some where in the Pacific, for their religion & customs, health etc. but of Europe they know little or nothing.
Halloh, was this a relapse? Please excuse it. “O, wad a lille Giftie gae us tae see oorselves as ithers sae us.” So we used to say it as children. I was always so fond of “the lille Giftie”. I imagined it with tiny green wings perfectly transparent as a sort of “Godworshipper”. I do not know if that is the right word for “Gottesanbeterin”. They are very delicate/frail. (Please correct all my faults & write them down in your next letter. I should be grateful.) Are you fond of animals? I love them & I can talk to all of them & understand them. This is because I am a “Sonntagskind”. Do you have that in England? Should you not like to write to me in German? It would be an excellent practice for you. I might also correct them & write down the words for you. Were that not a good idea? But how naughty of you to make fun of my grandmotherly pompous style of writing! You really are & will always remain a “Spitzbub” What is it you do not quite understand in my letter? You may ask without fearing to seem “neugierig”. I don’t mind telling you anything as long as the iron curtain is not down. ([Handwritten in pencil:] What does she mean by that?)
Usually when I walk home from Annabichl the Germans in their camps are just cooking their dinner. In the sinking night on the background of green and brown the blue smoke & the red fires give a beautiful picture. I wonder whether you are on the cemetery just now. I hear the bells ringing & should go myself if I were not so dead tired. Therefore excuse the heap of faults. The lights are of course candles burning. How wonderful must be the Aurora Borealis, whatever that may be, I have never even heard the name of it. Is it a natural phenomena or artificially done?
But now good night & good by & don’t let yourself be drifted too far away from us, poor little straw!
sincerely & peaceful-friendly,
4. Letter fom Maria Wrangel to Ernest Dale, Klagenfurt, Austria, early autumn 1945, offering a graphological study of his handwriting
Graphologische Studie für Mr. Ernest Dale
Equilibrierte Natur, nicht unharmonisch, Idealismus, wenig Sinnlichkeit. Offene Hand. Eher offen-herzig, nicht hinterhältig, ehrlich u. offen. Brav und anständig, guter Ehemann. Nicht übertrieben viel Energie. Eine gewisse Naïvität. Keine Abgründe, keine Überhebung, eher bescheiden. Nicht nervös. Ausgesprochen musikalische Begabung. Etwas kurz angebunden. Discret. Eher Optimist als Pessimist. Logisches Denken. Aristokratisch vergleichendes Selbstgefühl. Ausgesprochen liebenswürdig. Liebenswürdige Heiterkeit, entgegenkommend. Menschenfreundlichkeit, natürliche Herzlichkeit der Starken. Bestreben Gegensätze zu mildern, Kontraste auszugleichen, Feinde zu versöhnen, Härten zu beseitigen etc. Herzensgüte, Milde, Mitleid. Eine gewisse ” lazyness“. Grosse Gleichmässigkeit und Sorgfalt. Sensibilität aber keine Leidenschaft. Unterhaltungsgabe, Mutterwitz. Ausgesprochenes Tactgefühl. Hohes Formgefühl Kunstsinn. Etwas Selbstsucht. Freude an Diskussionen, debattensüchtig. Konzentrationsgabe, guter Überblick, rasche Orientierungsgabe in Personen und Verhältnisse. Beharrlichkeit. Metodisch geschultes Denken.
Nachdem Sie, wie ich annehme, gut deutsch können sende ich diese Studie auf deutsch, umsomehr als es mir sehr schwer fallen würde alle diese sachlichen Ausdrücke in’s Englisch zu übersetzen. Sie haben sicher einen Dictionär und können, falls Sie das eine oder andere nicht verstehen dort nachsehen. Ich bin nun sehr begierig zu hören, ob Sie mit Ihrer Characterisierung einverstanden und zufrieden sind.
[Handwritten in pencil: “the multimoron“ (?)]
Graphological study of Ernest Dale
Balanced nature, not without harmony, idealism, little sensuality. An open hand. Rather open-hearted, does not hold things back, honest and open. Brave and correct, a good husband. Not exaggerated, lots of energy. A certain degree of naïvety. No hidden depths, no arrogance, rather modest. Not nervous. Definite musical gift. Somewhat curt and abrupt. Discreet. More the optimist than the pessimist. Logical thought processes. Aristocratic sense of self. Definite charm. Charming cheerfulness, accommodating, likes people, natural warmth of the strong. Endeavours to smooth things over, to balance contrasts, reconcile enemies, remove harshness etc. Good of heart, gentle, compassionate. Somewhat lazy. Very balanced and careful. Sensitive, but without passsion. Entertaining, witty, definite sense of tact. High sense of artistic form. Somewhat egoistic. Enjoys conversation, seeks debate. Likes to concentrate, has good overall view, quick to assess people and situations. Stamina. Trained in methodical thought.
Since it seems you know German well, I am sending you this study in German, as it would be very difficult for me to translate all these technical expressions into English. You no doubt have a dictionary and can look up what you don’t know. I am very curious to hear whether you agree with this character study and are happy with it.
[Handwritten in pencil: “the multimoron“ (?)]