This past March the Austrian community of Washington, D.C. lost one of its most endearing and charming members, Franziska von Weber.
Often known as the “Minister of Culture and Good Will,” she worked at the Austrian Embassy for 38 years from 1949 until 1987. During her long tenure at the Embassy Mrs. von Weber became something of a symbol of continuity. Among those who fell under the spell of this gentle, gracious and cultured woman were the former President of Austria, Thomas Klestil, as well as Ambassadors Guenther Birnbaum, Hans Winkler and Fritz Hoess, all of whom served at the Washington Embassy, initially as counselors and later, in the case of Klestil and Hoess, as ambassadors. Always perfectly groomed and vivacious, almost everyone who worked at the embassy gravitated to her office, where against a background of classical music one could enjoy a lively chat. Perhaps her greatest legacy was that of remaining true to herself and imparting to others the civility, manners and values of her youth in the city of Vienna.
Franziska von Weber was born in Vienna in 1910 as the youngest daughter of a well-to-do merchant who owned department stores in Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Sofia. Forced to leave Austria in 1938 following the Anschluss, she made her way to Budapest where she remained for the duration of the war and met her second husband, Paul von Weber. In October 1945 she returned to Vienna and worked for the British occupation forces.
With the help of her brother and mother who had spent the war years in New York, she came to the United States in 1948. Her knowledge of five languages provided an opportunity to work in the Austrian Embassy.
In many ways Franziska von Weber was the quintessential Viennese of an earlier era. For 68 years she represented the best of Austria in this country. For many members of the Austrian Embassy and the Austrian Community, Franziska von Weber will always remain in their memory as a highly regarded representative of Austria.