News came this week from Germany of the death of Otto von Habsburg at the age of 98. Von Habsburg was the son of the last surviving emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. He was born on November 20, 1912, two years before the start of World War I, which would lead to the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire ruled by his family.
The Austrian monarchy was abolished in 1918, and Otto von Habsburg's father, Emperor Karl I, relinquished the throne.
Those who knew him describe him as one who had amazing foresight into Europe and was always ahead of his time in understanding the importance of Europe in the modern world.
A Wall Street Journal article this morning recounts his insight into the Nazi past of the former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. Ever the diplomat, von Habsburg was discreet in how he handled this information with reporters. An honorable man indeed.
Having been to Vienna and Budapest last January the Habsburg story is fresh in my mind. While the glory of that that past empire has faded from our minds, its legacy still lingers over Central Europe. The Habsburg story is very important in understanding the ancient roots of European history. These roots will one day revive in a final chapter of history that will astound the world.
Europe is going through major changes that will set the stage for a future role in global affairs. To understand the future you must also understand the past. This is especially true with Europe.
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