Die Habsburger und ihre Untertanen

Eine sehr bezeichnende Episode zu diesem Thema gibt Michael Tomasky in der The New York Review of Books 2/2004 wieder, und zwar in einem Artikel* über den New Yorker Bürgermeister La Guardia:

During the great wave of emigration at the turn of the century, it was an occasional diversion for members of the European aristocracy to gather at various ports to watch the sweaty surge of human cargo boarding ship for America. In the spring of 1904, the Austro-Hungarian imperial archduchess Maria-Josepha was visiting Fiume, where she made known to the local constables her desire to observe the crowd of emigrants embarking for the New World. The SS Panonia was to sail on Saturday, but the archduchess would be in Fiume on Wednesday only. To accommodate her, the local Cunard agent, the port director, and Count Szapari, the provincial governor general, agreed that the emigrants would be boarded that day. This meant that they would be spending three days in the steerage hold before sailing—cramped and dark, a virtual petri dish of bacteria and viruses. Many passengers had contracted diseases there that prevented them from being allowed entry at Ellis Island, and they had been sent back on the next boat.

But the resident US consular officer in Fiume who was responsible for signing the certificate of medical clearance required of any ship before it left for America protested that such treatment stood in contravention of both the law and standards of decency. In an attempt to mollify him, local officials invited him to tea with her highness to view the embarkation at her side. The officer’s refusal was considered an insult to the Hapsburg crown. Washington, the consul was assured, would hear of this. „I told them,“ Fiorello La Guardia would later write in his memoirs, „to tell their precious Archduchess that maybe she could boss her people around but she couldn’t boss the American consul.“ The embarkation did not take place on Wednesday; the archduchess returned to Vienna disappointed.

* Die Rezension ist nun Teil des kostenpflichtigen NYRB-Archivs.

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