September 26, 2022

Brighton Journal

Complete News World

Fritz Mandl: The eccentric billionaire who escaped Hitler, married a Hollywood star and built an empire in Argentina

Strong, intelligent and feminine. Define as Pub Mantle (82) For his father, the Austrian businessman nationalized Argentina Fritz Mandl. “The actress was the second of the five women he had Hedy Lamarr, is considered one of Hollywood’s top beauties, according to her eldest daughter. When they got married, he had her picture taken ecstasy, he created the first nude in the history of cinema. My very jealous father took it badly: he tried hard to buy as many copies of the film as he could. Made an Italian copy, so dad would buy them all. In the end, she decided not to pay him much, and then, no more copies appeared,” she says, laughing, from the garden of her home in Recoleta.

Born in 1900, Fritz Mandel took over at the age of 19 Hirdenberger, a munitions factory headquartered in the Baden district of Lower Austria with subsidiaries in Hungary and the Netherlands. Known throughout Europe as the “King of Cartridges,” the young businessman boasted that he did not mix politics with business: he sold ammunition to the Francoist army and the Spanish rebels; Italians to attack Ethiopia and Ethiopians to defend themselves against the Italians. For Egyptians, Turks, most European countries, Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Brazil and Colombia. He was in business almost all over the world and was associated with high officials in many countries. “Dad hailed Mussolini as a fascist. But I didn’t know him, he did business with Italy through his ministers,” says Bube, dispelling the myth that his father was a close friend of the Italian dictator.

Fritz Mandl with his third wife, Herta Vrany, and their two eldest sons, Bueb and Fritz, in their apartment in Palermo.

Not only that. Over the years, many theories and conjectures have been written about his father: he was a Nazi spy, he was an arms dealer, he was Perón’s best friend, and his bicycle factory in Argentina was actually an arms factory. “How many barbarities have been uttered. The truth is, he made munitions and he always opposed Hitler. Even at the Nuremberg trials, my father was named as one of the main opponents of the Nazi regime,” says his daughter, who has not forgotten the date or the details.

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Apart from being a renowned businessman, his father was also a leader Austrian Industrial Union and was a member of the Austrian political group Homeland SecurityFascist leanings. Neither his business nor his parallel political activities caused him major problems until the Nazi regime annexed Austria to Germany on March 12, 1938. “My father had no choice but to run away. He was part of the opposition. “Through his political group, he donated a lot of money, and he spoke out against Hitler’s invasion of Austria,” recounted his eldest daughter.

Fritz Mandl with his second son also called Fritz, in La Cumbre
Fritz Mandl with his second son also called Fritz, in La Cumbre

His father and his mother are Austrian Herda Wranyi, wife number three, left the munitions factory and fled to the south of France. But, faced with the threat of German troops spreading across Europe, they decided to move to New York, where Bubbe was born. Soon, disgusted with the North American way of life, they moved to Argentina. “They loved this country. In those days, there was more of a European lifestyle here. In addition, my father had friends here, such as the maritime businessman – ambassador of Hungary and Poland – Alberto Todero, says his daughter, who came to the country with five months of life.

Mandel and his third wife became naturalized Argentines upon their arrival in Buenos Aires. For 15 years, till 1955, he could not return to his native country. Because of his nationalist and anti-communist policies, he was considered an enemy not only by the Nazis, but also by the Russians who had settled in Austria after World War II. That is why the president settled permanently in Argentina, where he opened the “Cometa” bicycle factory, together with the businessman Alfredo Fortabut, bought a field in Flores and established one of the country’s first rice factories in the Mazaruca region. Las Lechiguanas Islands in the Entre Rios. He became a partner in the Argentine Metallurgical and Plastic Industry (IMPA SA). Buttons and pins, tableware for the military and aviation, and Mauser cartridge cases were produced.

When Mandel bought the castle of La Compre, it had four towers and a remarkable medieval style.
When Mandel bought the castle of La Compre, it had four towers and a remarkable medieval style.

For his family’s entertainment, he also built several mansions and farms. In addition to his permanent residence in Palermo, he purchased properties in La Cumbre and Mar del Plata. “My father visited Punta del Este once, but he didn’t like it. He said there was a strong wind. Instead, he fell in love with Mar del Plata and decided to buy a house there, which I inherited”, says Bube. For many years, in the mansion’s 10 rooms with a gable roof and a stone facade, he managed the country’s first bread and breakfast.

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Undoubtedly, the most famous of the properties acquired by Fritz Mandl is the White Castle, today known as Castle Mandl, located between the Córdoba mountains of La Cumbre. When the Austrian billionaire bought it, in 1942, the large property was completely different from what it is today. Built in the 1930s, the fort has a striking medieval style. Besides the four towers and the moat, there was also a dungeon with period weapons and a drawbridge.

Mandl Castle is for sale.  International real estate agency Christie's is asking USD 3,800,000
Mandl Castle is for sale. International real estate agency Christie’s is asking USD 3,800,000Denise Giovanelli

When buying it, the businessman ordered a major remodeling that took two years. Where the drawbridge was, he built a tunnel for cars to enter. He filled the moat with earth, demolished three of the four towers – leaving the rest to serve as a water tower, and built a service area on the roof. “Previously, the most common thing was that domestic servants lived far from the house, but he wanted them to be closer. All the changes he made were to make the house more practical,” says Pueb. “It was a divine house, he adored it. And the view you see is amazing. When my father died, it was left to my two brothers, who turned it into a hotel. Currently, the house is for sale. International real estate agency Christie’s is asking USD 3,800,000.

For many years, the Austrian-Argentine businessman and his family spent most of their summer and winter vacations at Córdoba Castle. It receives different guests every season, including well-known personalities from the owner’s country and Europe. “My father had many guests. He invited many foreigners who lived here, many of whom had come as refugees in the Second World War,” recalls his eldest daughter. Among the most important, he highlights Prince von Starhemberg, a former vice chancellor and former defense minister of Austria, who, like Mandel, settled in Argentina after Austria’s annexation of the Third Reich. The prince, his wife, the famous actress Nora Gregor, and their son spent a long time at the castle.

Mandel with his two eldest sons in the gallery of Mandel Castle, La Compre
Mandel with his two eldest sons in the gallery of Mandel Castle, La Compre

Fritz Mandl returned to Austria in 1955 as soon as he was able to return to his native country. But until his last days he returned to Argentina every summer to spend his holidays. “I always come here to escape the European winter. On the other hand, my brother and I are always here,” says Bube. Years later, he was able to restore his factory, Hirtenberger Patronenfabric. Instead of retiring, he decided to rebuild the colossus of weapons that had made him one of Austria’s richest men before World War II. Despite having no branches before the Nazi invasion, the company once again established itself as one of the largest munitions and dynamite factories in Europe. “It was the only ammunition factory managed by a single person,” Bube described. Today, the company still exists, but it is owned by another family. It is called Hirtenberger Holding GmbH and has more than 1,800 employees.

Prince von Starhemberg at Castle Mandel in La Compre
Prince von Starhemberg at Castle Mandel in La Compre

After divorcing Vrani, her father married an Argentinian woman for the fourth and final time. Glory of Quaranda, with whom he had three more children. Six years later, when he divorced her, he married a German Monica Bruecklemeier, who is 40 years younger than him and the same age as his eldest daughter. “He’s already had so many women, age doesn’t matter to me,” Buppe says with a smile. Together with his young wife, Fritz had his sixth and last child. He was still married to her when she died on September 8, 1977 at the age of 77.

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In Austria, historian Ursula Prutsch, hired by Mandl’s sons, published a biography of Fritz Mandl a few months ago. For Buppe, that hardcover book on his living room coffee table helps debunk many of the myths that have been created around his father figure.

Mandl Castle today is a boutique hotel with 16 rooms
Mandl Castle today is a boutique hotel with 16 rooms