Mysterious Photos Returned to Schloss Rüdenhausen

Apr 21, 2017

German Castle Enlarge image (© The German Embassy in Washington recently received 17 old photos of an unidentified castle in Germany, along with a letter asking for help in returning the photos to the castle owner. The photos were mailed in by the son-in-law of an American lieutenant who was stationed in Germany at the end of the Second World War and occupied a German castle for part of his time there.

"These photographs were in the possession of my father-in-law," the letter said. "He died April 2016 and my wife (his daughter) and I are now able to return these."

The German Embassy took the search for the unidentified German castle to social media, posting photos and asking followers if they recognized the castle in the photos. Within 24 hours, a Reddit user correctly identified the castle as Schloss Rüdenhausen in Bavaria. The photos, which were allegedly taken from a photo album in the castle during the war, were returned to the family Castell-Rüdenhausen, which continues to own - and live in - the castle today.

Find the Castle Enlarge image (© / Wikimedia Commons) "I never would have thought that this would have gotten into the hands of one of the owners and that he recognized the rooms," the son-in-law of the American lieutenant said in an interview. "My wife and I were very surprised and pleased. I thought this might end up in some archivists' cabinet in Berlin somewhere. Knowing that the photos made it to the owner (...) Actually I'd be even happier knowing that they'd be put back into the empty slots of the photo album that they came from."

The photos were likely taken from Castle Rüdenhausen in the year 1944 or 1945. At the time, the castle was occupied by an American unit. Declassified American documents show that the 13th century medieval castle served as both a storage facility for art during World War II and also as temporary housing for American soldiers after the war. The father-in-law of the man who wrote the Embassy had served as a lieutenant during the war. The young lieutenant was a so-called "90-day-wonder", which was a term to describe young men who graduated from high school and became officers in just 90 days. When the American lieutenant landed in Normandy towards the end of the war, he was just 20 years old. In the weeks that followed, he made his way from France to Belgium and ultimately, Germany. But reflecting back on his wartime years, the former lieutenant could not confirm with certainty where the castle was.

Rüdenhausen Enlarge image (© Courtesy of Manto Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen.) "At that point we never knew what headquarters he was at," his son-in-law said. "I didn't even know if the photos were taken in Germany or Belgium. We suspected Germany. He said he remembered seeing all the sausages hanging in the shops on Christmas day - which I also thought was surprising considering the scarcity of things at the time."

"When I saw the pictures I thought, this is really neat," he continues. "My wife and I had assumed that these were pictures that he took, which is strange because they didn't carry around cameras. It wasn't until about a year before he passed that he told my wife and I that he took the photos from a photo album in the castle."

The lieutenant's son-in-law suspects that his father-in-law took the photos from the castle as a memory - to show others where he was during the war.

This is not, however, the first known case where items are being returned to Castell-Rüdenhausen.

In 2014, the son of a different American lieutenant contacted the family Castell-Rüdenhausen, stating that his father had a valuable painting that came from the castle. He plans to travel to Castle Rüdenhausen in September of this year to return the painting.

Manto Graf von Castell-Rüdenhausen, the brother of the current owner of the castle, said that receiving the photos is exciting for him and his family.

Rüdenhausen Enlarge image (© Courtesy of Manto Graf zu Castell-Rüdenhausen.) "We of course were delighted, and it is also exciting for us because we know very little about the castle's history from this time period," he said in an interview. His father, Siegfried Fürst zu Castell-Rüdenhausen, was the owner of Castle Rüdenhausen in the post-war period. Manto Graf remembers growing up in the castle as a child. He said that living in the castle was not much different than living in a large house, since it served solely as a residence. He said the art on the walls has not changed over the years. The walls are filled with paintings from the Netherlands, which is due to the fact that his father, Siegfriend Fürst, was married to a Dutch woman. Aside from minor decorative changes, the castle looks largely the same today as it did during the post-war period. Manto Graf's brother, Fürst Otto zu Castell-Rüdenhausen - the eldest living son - currently resides in the castle, while Manto Graf lives in a house next door. The castle continues to serve as a private residence for the eldest son and is not open for tours. It is the oldest castle still in use as a residence for family members of the House of Castell, a noble German family line dating back to the 11th century.

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

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