Author Topic: WWII damage and use of the palace  (Read 25104 times)

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Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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WWII damage and use of the palace
« on: March 20, 2004, 12:00:15 PM »
Well, this period of the palace is most interesting or me, and so could be for someone else.
My grand father was a colonel and was in Russia with the Blue Division in 1942, as a veterinary. He was living in Gatchina. His recollections about that days are quite different to those i´ve read. The only thing he carried with him was a souvenir cane(german made in fact) and some photographs he took. He always told about the russians kindness, and in the photographs you can see him with them and other spanish friends. I´m sure that the Blue Division did a lot of damage to the palaces as well as the germans but some russian friends of mine old enough to remember that times told us that the spanish attitude was far different from that of the germans. Logically  you can think:"and what can you say? you´re spanish just like them! ", but i´m telling what i´ve been told and what i´ve seen in photographs. By the way, for the germans the spanish men were  inferiors, so to speak and therefore i doubt the german generals would have let the spanish take anything of value...
My grand father used to tell about the "Summer palace of Catherine the Great" and its beauty, the gardens and georgeus architecture of Tsarskoe Selo and Pavlovsk...
I must say however that he was very unwilling to go, and was literally forced by the Government( he would have lost his post and job). In 1942 my father was 3 years old and my grand mother was already waiting for another son to come, so although it was the worst time for him to leave his family he had to think in their future and so off he went. For those that do not know Spain had just ended a terrible civil war(1936-39) and the general situation was bad enough...
However he always treasured his recollections of that country and its people.

Offline LisaDavidson

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2004, 02:11:22 PM »
Antonio: Thank you for sharing about your grandfather's war experiences. I would love to hear more about them and any letters he may have left.

I have a similar situation in my family. My great-great grandfather was a German named Wilhelm Heinrich Schilling v. Canstatt who came to the US in the mid 19th century. While farming in Virginia, Will was conscripted into the Confederate Army as company clerk for Stonewall Jackson. This because he was fluent in a handful of languages. With the general's death, he ended up in a POW camp commanded by his cousin - also an SVC!

At any rate, Will certainly did not want to fight in that war, but he was unable to avoid conscription and he, too, had a family to support - and a pregant wife to worry about.

Many times ordinary people are forced into situations not of their own making - which is probably the case with your grandfather. I am glad he was able to appreciate the beauty he saw at Gatchina and Tsarskoe Selo.

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2004, 07:47:49 PM »
Hello Lisa,
Thanks a lot for your words. It´s very interesting the story of your great-great grandfather, really amazing. I´ve seen a lot of films about the EEUU civil war because it was a subject i liked, but to have a family member that really participated on it, well that´s what makes history come to life. (i cannot help thinking about Cold Mountain...). Your last paragraph is so toughing, i totally agree with you, life isn´t  sometimes the way we´d like...
I will try to find wome more information about my grand father´s time in Gatchina.
Take care Lisa.

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2004, 08:16:47 PM »
Does anyone know (perhaps Bob...) if the interiors of the palace were photographed just after the war to show the damage??? i long to see the actual state of these rooms and what remained of their decoration...I suppose that although the damage was great, many fragments surely perished afterwards when the palace was prepared for being a generic museum about Pushkin. I´ve seen many photographs of the other palaces after the war and the rooms described as "totally" destroyed had sometimes many plaster details standing...I know that this palace was in fact the best preserved and that most of the Palisander room decoration(surely more than in other palaces now fully recreated...) survived the war.
I asked the palace curator but wouldn´t know about them...
Thanks!

Offline 3710

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2004, 06:18:56 AM »
Antonio, I have not seen anything on Alexander Palace after the war, but pictures of what it looked like are displayed everywhere in Pavlovsk and  Peterhof. It was BAD! I can't imagine how museum staff felt about it, I would have been heart broken.
You can probably read more about it in Sussane Massie ''Life of the Palace''.
I have read that Spanish soldiers were practising their shotting in Catherine Palace. I do not think Russian soldiers behaved any better when in Europe. War is war.
Having said all that - can I add  in my family story to your's and Lisa's. My Mum, a beautiful 25 yo back then was passing by a construction site where German POW  have been working with a huge bunch of flowers. One of them asked her to give him one and  she did. I found the story so moving: it was just after the bloody war, with her friends and relatives killed, her youth ruined. When I asked why she bothered, he was an enemy after all, she replied that ''he was just a soldier, people are not to be blaimed''.
Galina

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #5 on: March 22, 2004, 07:05:45 AM »
Galina,
What your mother did is really moving. Russia suffered beyond words could say during that war...and your mother had a truly christian heart. I don´t know if i would have give him the flower...but greatly admire her doing it.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2004, 08:12:34 AM »
I have around a dozen pictures of the Alexander Palace after the war.  
They show:

Maple Room - damaged but preserved.

New Study - damaged but preserved.

Marble Hall - preserved.

Semi Circular Hall, Portrait Hall, Billiard Room - preserved

Chapel - damaged roof

Nicholas's Reception room - preserved

Nicholas's Study - preserved (partially damaged?)

Nicholas's Dressing Room - preserved

Alexandra's Formal Reception Room - preserved

I don't know what happened to the Mauve Room, Bedroom, Pallisander Room, Alexandra's Dressing Room and Bathroom because I have no pictures - I suspect they were damaged but preserved as well since I saw vestiges of their original decoration left before they too were ripped out in recent restorations....  I think Suzanne's book is wrong about the damage during the war  - I think she must have misunderstood Kuchumov and overestimated the damage.

The Imperial wing - at least the ground floor - was preserved along with the formal rooms in the center - the REAL damage was done in the conversion of the palace to a museum of Pushkin by the Soviets.  Tha's very sad.

Bob


Offline 3710

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re-burried thRe: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2004, 08:33:51 AM »
Bob when was it  a Pushkin Museum? Or are you talking about Pushkin's Liceum nearby?
Surely from Soviet point of view Pushkin was  more worthy to be commemorated then the last Tsar.
You would strongly disagree but I sort of like the way the Palace, the Park, the Cathedral and the Gorodok are at the moment. There are no hords of  tourists, and it feels good  to wonder around and think of the Family who lived there.
Runied world, ruined lives, ruined Palace. Very fitting.
I read RFA was suggesting that they should have been re-burried there, not in StP&P's.
Galina

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2004, 09:52:39 AM »
Galina:

After the war Stalin personally decided that the Alexander Palace was not going to be reopened as a 'Romanov' museum.  It was opened to be a museum of the poet and the town.  Later - during the Zhdandov affair I think - he went even further to 'bury' the museum by later giving the building to the navy.

The town museum was moved to the big church of the Catherine Plaace and some years later it moved to another building in town.  They had a few things from the palace... icons, an icon lamp from the bedroom in the shape of a dove - other things.  They were very nice people at this museum when I met them some years ago.

The Alexander Palace collection was divided up among the various museums of the Leningrad area.  Some things were given to foreign leaders as gifts.  Other things were sent to museums in distant cities - and now are outside Russia.

We really pushed the idea of the burial of the family in the Feodorovski Sobor.  Unfortunately powerful forces wanted the Romanovs in Peter and Paul - so that's what happened.

We had the support of the RFA - but it wasn't very strong and they were not willing to 'push' for the Feodorovski.

Bob
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by BobAtchison »

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #9 on: March 22, 2004, 10:03:14 AM »
Hello Bob,
As i told i´m most interested on that photographs, and think anyone would be too. Is there any possibility for me to see them?
Will they be added to the Alexander palace web?
Thanks so much!

P.D.:It´s terrible that thre is no photos of the boudoir or the bedroom, but think that somewhere they could be preserved, pehaps....couldn´t they? It would be absurd taking photographs of the other rooms and to leave those very important interiors behind.

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #10 on: March 22, 2004, 10:16:15 AM »
Antonio:

It's possible there are more pictures of the rooms as they were after the war in Petersburg.  I would have thought they would have taken more pictures than just those I have.  Kuchumov didn't have any others I know of...

I am told there are many pictures in Germany of the palace during the war when it was an SS hospital.  I would think there would be pictures in Spain as well of the palace during the war.  I have found a Germam military magazine from the war with pictures of Tsarskoe Selo palace sin it, but it's expensive and I don't know if there is anything more than a passing reference to the palaces there and the images could be bad.  It would be much better to find original pictures.

Kuchumov told me the members of the Blue Brigade shipped many things from the Alexander Palace to their home country.  He wanted to issue an appeal to survivors of the Blue Brigade and their families to help find them.  We we not able to do this...

A few years ago I was approached by a man who claimed to have a big ikon from Catherine the Great's rooms in the Catherine Palace.  He said he was a former member of the Blue Brigade and had taken the ikon himself.  I never saw any pictures and nothing came of that as well.  I think many people who have these things in Spain are afraid to come forward.

Bob
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by BobAtchison »

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #11 on: March 22, 2004, 07:16:45 PM »
I agree with you Bob that many things could be now in Spain, I´ve thought many times when passing by an anquiques´shop if i would see some chair or frame...(surely i would not recognize an icon from the palace)
I´m sure too that if any descendant has preserved one of those things would never tell easely...
By the way, i´ve always wondered how they could destroy, for example, all the chairs from the mauve boudoir, for if they didn´t think of them artistically at least would have used them, and then would have survived...Do you think the germans-spanish shipped such things too???
Suzanne Massie wrote that Kuchumov found in a restaurant some panelling,i´m not sure now, from the palace, do you know about its subsequent fate?
And a last question, Iraida Kurtovna told me when i asked her about Anatoly that he wasn´t at all the curator and that this work was done by Yakovlev, also pointing out for my study the latter complete catalogue of the palace(a pity it´s not translated and have to fight with my poor russian...). I´ve always thought Anatoly was the last curator but didn´t want to insist on this matter with Iraida....
Do you have the answer?
Thanks so much!

Offline BobAtchison

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2004, 08:51:41 AM »
That book was written in the 20's.  I have a couple of copies of it, one of them has Kuchumov's hand-written notes for me throughout it indicating where everything he could remember went after the war and things that were sold..

I don't think the furniture from the Mauve Room was considered valuable by the occupiers - as you will remember from Suzanne's book Alexandra's desk from beside the window was found broken in a ditch. Kuchumov patched it up and used it in his rooms.  It's back at the palace now.  Plus they have found some other things now - such as the Becker piano...

Kuchumov was not popular with everyone in the palace-museums.  Some people say negative things about him, that he was difficult to get along with, stubborn, egotistical, etc.  I don't know if that's true.  All I know is that he saved what we have from the palace and he saved the photo-documentation.  He told me the pictures were thrown out - nobody wanted them and he saved them.  He gave them to me so we could 'save the palace' by getting the pictures out there for the world to see - and to tell the truth about what happened to ther palace and the people that lived and worked there.  That's worked.

I don't know what this woman said exactly, but I know Yuri Mudrov from Pavlovsk (the Director of the time) used to go see Kuchumov with us and he said he was the former curator and I have no reason to doubt that - he was reported as such in the press.  Obviously there were other curators at the palace from 1917 through 1940 - that's 23 years.  Kuchumov was not there the whole time and he came up through the ranks.  That's all in Suzanne's book.

Bob
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by BobAtchison »

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #13 on: March 23, 2004, 09:44:46 AM »
Hello Bob,
Thanks for so much information. The Becker piano has been found?????!!!!!!!!! Do you know where is it now??? That´s wonderful!
I assume that Anatoly gave you his collection of photographs of the palace. It´s very noble of you not taking the other things like the fabrics, but in my opinion you are the more apropiate person to preserve those things. I know what i say Bob. I think you "live" for this palace and Anatoly saw it clearly and therefore wanted you to have them. I´m afraid that the present curator(and i´m very sorry to say this) made some mistakes when whowing me the museum exhibits; she was sure that one gilded chair that is now in the forming working study was original to the semicircular hall...i told her it wasn´t but i didn´t want to insist because she was so kind...but the chair was not from that suit of chairs, and this is only an example.
Then as she told me many things are "hidden", so to say, and the Pavlovsk curators are unwilling to let those of Tsarskoe to see them...
Relating the new fabrics from the restored New study i think they are similar in design but the quality-texture must be quite inferior to the former one, and studying the old photographs i saw the leaves decoration around the arch behind the desk is a bit different on the left corner, what do you think?

Offline Antonio_P.Caballer

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Re: WWII damage and use of the palace
« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2004, 12:32:59 PM »
I´ve also read that the trees planted marking the birth of OTMAA were chopped down by the germans(i think in Suzanne´s). Then i read in The lost world of N and A that four of those trees were still standing near the Fyodorovsky Cathedral, just behind the new monument of Nicholas, do you know anything about this?