Albrecht von Urach was born to a minor Catholic royal family in Württemberg, southwest Germany in 1903, 3rd son of Wilhelm, 2nd Duke of Urach. His childhood included visits to Monaco where his great-uncle Albert was prince, and he / they occasionally met the Kaiser and Franz-Josef of Austria. In 1918 his father, a general in WWI, was briefly elected king of Lithuania.
That world collapsed in November 1918 and in the 1920s he studied art in Stuttgart and lived in Paris for some years, painting expressionist-style pictures which he exhibited there and in London, Oslo and Berlin. He exchanged ideas with just about every famous artist in Europe. However this career was ended by the Depression.
He married in 1931 to Rosemary Blackadder (1901-75), also an artist who had got a scholarship to Cambridge. Both were multi-lingual. My mother Mariga was born in London in 1932 and they lived in Venice writing as freelence journalists until a tip-off in 1934 that Hitler was flying there to meet Mussolini. Albrecht took unofficial photos and had a ‘scoop’.
This led to the journalist’s job in Tokyo, and a recent law required membership of the Nazi Party. When he arrived in 1934 there was a staff of 12 at the German embassy; when he left finally this had grown to 300. As one of the first, he was seen back in Berlin as an expert on Asia.
Albrecht is quoted in Count Ciano’s diary in early 1942 (ed. Malcolm Muggeridge c. 1948) as telling an Italian airforce general that the Russian war would be very difficult. Ciano was Italian foreign minister and Mussolini’s son-in-law. This reached Mussolini who taunted Hitler about it, who flew into a rage. He had travelled along the Siberian railway in 1940-41, and had a better idea first-hand of Russia’s vastness and heavy industry than most Europeans.
Latterly he was posted to the embassy in Berne in 1944-45 as Press Attaché, where he was said to be involved in an undercover attempt to shift money out of Germany via Switzerland and Monaco to the United States. He was subsequently denazified and charged in 1948 for his writings at öhringen Court in Germany, case no. St/Gr.36/46/665/K 2382. He apologised and continued writing as a freelance on the Far East for German magazines, this time with a pro-American anti-communist slant.
After a lean time as a journalist after 1945, he was made press attaché at Mercedes-Benz in Stuttgart in 1953, where his brother Wilhelm was a director. He suffered a stroke in 1967 and died in 1969. He left us hundreds of photos and his draft memoirs.
Albrecht remarried in 1943 to Ute Waldschmidt and they had two children, born in 1944 and 1945.
As well as the memoirs he wrote long (~15 page) essays on Matsuoka in 1941 and the Japanese officers’ revolt of February 1936. As you may know, he also wrote a 200-page book on the Far East which was published in 1940, titled ‘Ostasien, das kommende Grossreich’, and interestingly on the cover the Chinese nationalist flag is superimposed on the Japanese. Also a short article in Volk und Reich magazine, May-June 1944, entitled: ‘Japans schöpferishe Aussenpolitik’ which is primarily on the ‘Greater East-Asian Co-prosperity Sphere’. It’s long on theory but short on the sufferings of the Asian peoples. He had worked in Japan as a journalist in 1934-39 and you’ll see some mentions of him in Gordon Prange’s excellent 1984 book on the Soviet spy Richard Sorge. He covered the invasion of China and the Japanese incursions into Siberia.
Albrecht’s life could have been very different. In 1934 his first wife (my Scottish grandmother) visited her cousins in Los Angeles, California and wrote to him saying that good money was to be made drawing cartoons for Hollywood — they were both trained artists. Unfortunately for them both, he took up the offer of a journalist’s position in Tokyo. I think Walt Disney set up in 1936?
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