Secrets of a Suitcase

The Countess, the Nazis, and Middle Europe's Lost Nobility

Pauline Terreehorst

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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte


When Pauline Terreehorst bid for a vintage Gucci suitcase at Sotheby’s Amsterdam, she had no idea what was inside. After picking up her prize, she found that the case was filled with dresses, fur collars and lace voiles, and accompanied by two brown boxes of postcard albums showing churches and castles in Austria, France, England and Scotland. This curious correspondence was addressed to an Austrian countess, businesswoman and philanthropist called Margarethe Szapáry, and her daughter.

These unexpected family treasures open a window onto a lost world. The Szapárys’ social, cultural and political landscape disappeared in the upheavals that seized Europe during the first half of the twentieth century—a time when borders were redrawn, old cities received new names, communities changed loyalties, and the transnational, monarchist aristocrats of Middle Europe had to decide whether to become Germans under Nazi rule.

What did Margarethe choose, when her neighbour Hermann Göring came knocking? What were the consequences for her and her children? And how did her family’s suitcase cross war-torn Europe and survive decades of rupture to end up in Terreehorst’s hands?



European history, Central Europe, World War II, Middle Europe