The Lipizzan Rescue- more of the story

My sister has been doing quite a bit of research into the 1945 Lipizzan Rescue at Hostau, Czechoslovakia. The following is research she has investigated about the 94th Division’s role in saving the Lipizzan breed, which she is developing into a book.  (As an aside to her research, in 1994 the German and American governments dedicated a monument to peace, a monument initiated by the work of my father, John Hoerber.  Because of the 94th’s role in preserving the Lipizzaner, the Spanish Riding School performed at the dedication of the monument.

A Brief History of the 94th Division’s Role in Saving the Lipizzan, by Kathe Mensik

It is important to note the importance of the role of the 94th Infantry in assisting the 2nd Cavalry in “Operation Cowboy”. At the Conference of Yalta in February of 1945, the Big Three had divided Germany into four occupation zones, anticipating the winning of WWII. While the 2nd Cavalry was in Austria, in order for the 94th to get to CZ, they had to travel through a small portion of the Russian zone. This operation was set for May 12, 1945, four days after VE Day. To not upset the delicate balance of power between the democratic nations and the Communists within the Allied armies, it had to be swift AND successful. To understand the significance of Patton’s decision to chose the 94th Infantry to assist the 2nd Cavalry, one must realize that the 94th was sitting in Dusseldorf at this time in the British zone just 40 miles east of the Dutch border—and 370 miles west-northwest of Hostau CZ. The 94th was so prized by Patton that he named them his “Golden Nugget”. This was due to their success in opening the way for each step of the Battle of the Bulge where other units had initially failed. Once made the front outfit, they never failed in gaining their objective by never permanently losing any ground back to the enemy.

They were sent in ahead of the 2nd Cavalry to clear the pockets of resistance that still remained in SE Germany and CZ. That way, the 2nd Cavalry could swoop in quickly and release the captured horses and the 400 Allied POWs before the Red Army arrived. The Red Army had already slaughtered the National Horses of Hungary, feeding them to their starving army. There was no reason to believe things would be any different if they arrived at Hostau first.
It is also worth noting that these pockets contained the most radical of Nazi diehards–men not willing to concede defeat and would fight to the death! There were fierce firefights between their snipers and the 94th, the first Division to be comprised of all Expert Riflemen (a marksmanship distinction earned through testing). They proved themselves worthy of this distinction
through the fiercest and bloodiest battles of the Bulge.

Also, for those wondering why the 375 Lipizzaner mares plus 800 more horses comprising the best of the best of all of Europe’s finest breeds were in Hostau CZ, here is the answer:
Most know that Hitler was very interested in genetics and creating a Master Race of Aryan ancestry. This ancestry was comprised predominantly of Nordic genetics. Hitler greatly admired the Nordic tribes and considered their genetics to be most desirable of all human physical traits.
Hitler was also interested in created Master Races in livestock and dogs as well. He had his genetics scientists working on creating the Master Horse in Hostau CZ, much to the chagrin of Colonel Alois Podjahsky, head of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna during the war. He feared both the dilution of the Lipizzaner breed by the Nazis and the annihilation of the breed by the Russian Army.

With the annexation of Austria in 1938, Podjahsky was forced into the German Army due to his rank within the Austrian Army. However, he was personally very anti-Nazi. His love and dedication to “his” Lipizzaners caused him to do whatever was best for them. He had to accept the removal of his mares from the stud at Piber, Austria, but he was constantly writing to the German High Command, urging the return of his mares to Austria, especially as the Russian Army moved westward and the American bombing raids moved eastward, targeting Vienna itself. Hitler insisted that the mares had to stay at Hostau and the stallions in Vienna to convey to the Austrian people that their national treasure (the Lipizzaners) were perfectly safe in the care of the Third Reich. He was unmovable in his decision. The stallions were only moved to St. Martin’s after one of several American bombing raids of Vienna with the cooperation of a personal friend of Podjahasky’s, an Austrian general in the German Army. This decision to override Hitler cost this general his life.
So now you know a little more of “the Rest of the Story”.

For more information, see these links:     This is a well-written article with many details that explain how the rescue was able to be successful, as well as the aftermath of the rescue.     Excerpt of a film, originally made for Austrain TV     Colonel Reed’s personal account of the rescue operation

Cheri Isgreen Fine Art

     Living is a constant source of interesting connections, if we are open & aware to how life is interconnected.  Sometimes painting gives us interesting connections too.  Several years ago, the Spanish Riding School performed on a US tour to honor the veterans who participated in the rescue of the Lipizzans from Czechoslovakia during World War II.  My daughter and I met my dad in Houston to see an SRS performance.  While in Houston, my dad related his part in the Lipizzan rescue of WW2.
     Since all the breeding mares of the Spanish Riding School were in Czechoslovakia and all the stallions were in Austria, it seemed the breed was doomed.  The Russian army was advancing upon Hostau, Czech, toward the large stud where the 300 Lipizzan mares, along with other prize horses from Europe’s breeding elite were stabled, with the intention of using the livestock for food rations.   My…

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Author: Cheri Isgreen

I have been a lifelong rider and horse lover. I got my first "horse" at a yard sale; it was a pony actually. It was sometime in the early 60's. I was in 3rd or 4th grade. The pony was perhaps $10. My sister, brother, and I pooled our money and led him home. At the time my parents were traveling, and my Uncle Bill promptly made us return it. (stay tuned...more to come...)

4 thoughts on “The Lipizzan Rescue- more of the story”

  1. This is very interesting to read. Being the son of Ernst Schumann from
    the Schumann Circus Family, who was the dominant circus business operator together with the Renz family during the first part of the 20 th century in Germany and Scandinavia, I have heard stories from my father and his nephews that our family were involved in the transport of a part of the horses before he final transfer. Unfortunately these stories are not precise enough to sustain or complete anything. What I know for sure is that Colonel Podhajsky made a few very friendly gesture to my family during the early post WW2 years, and I always heard talking of Colonel Podhajsky in very greatfull terms. Neither Colonel Podhajsky nor my uncles were particularly warmharted people, as most men at that time ! I would be very interested to know if you ever heard anything of my “story” To end this message I wish you all a good life and hope you can profit from what you have ! yours sincerely John Ernst Schumann – 78121 Crespieres France.

    1. What a wonderful family story; I’m sure you treasure your connection with the SRS and the Lipizzaners. I will pass your comments on to my sister, as she is doing all the research. I wish we had all been able to learn more when our parents were younger and that we had written our histories down, so the past could have been better preserved. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Very interesting. I’d forgotten a lot of this story and the true facts surrounding it. This should be know along “with the rest of the story.” Bravo to you and Kathe both
    for getting this out where all people can read all about it.

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