The European Union’s Very Strange Father

(Updated Oct. 14, 2020)

Behold, Richard Nikolaus Eijiro, Count of Coudenhove-Kalergi (November 16, 1894 – July 27, 1972), an Austrian-Japanese politician, philosopher, and Count of Coudenhove-Kalergi. The main pioneer of European integration, he served for 49 years as the founding president of the Paneuropean Union, the basis and ideological foundation of the European Union. He proposed the EU’s anthem and symbols, the adoption of a single currency and most of the EU’s main policy lines, including the ideal of turning it into a “United States of Europe.”


This may sound incredible but, in 45 years as European-born citizen of a European Union country, correspondent in Europe (including stints in Brussels, the EU capital) for a large American newspaper, never in my life I heard of this man (or his also very important Polish comrade who founded the Bilderberg Group and drove European integration) until I did, by sheer chance, a few weeks ago.

I suspect many people who think they know a lot about the EU don’t know anything, or at least very much, about the EU’s father. That is just weird, because this was a truly fascinating man, so much more interesting than, say, Jean Monnet or other gray bureaucrats who are often celebrated for their later and smaller contributions to the EU project.

The son of an Austro-Hungarian Count and a Japanese lady of means, Count Richard was a freemason and an ardent philosemite at a time of growing anti-semitism in Europe. He was also for mass racial mixing, even though he never had any known biological children of his own. In his 1925 book “Praktischer Idealismus,” he wrote that he wanted the indigenous people of Europe to disappear slowly by interbreeding them with African, Asian and Middle Eastern immigrants who would be encouraged to arrive in Europe in vast numbers.

As the father of two beautiful Eurasian children, I feel strange writing this stuff about mandatory interbreeding (I can assure you, reader, that in my case the interbreeding wasn’t mandatory), but it appears, to the best of my knowledge, to be Count Richard’s blueprint for the future of an unified Europe. And it gets weirder.

Strangely, the Count’s plan didn’t involve Jews, as they (given their intellectual superiority, Count Richard argued) would be allowed a separate status as a sort of natural nobility towering over the newly-minted brown masses from their capital city at Jerusalem (in 1925, an Arab-majority city in a British mandate). This is how he puts it in the aforementioned book, one of many he published:

“The man of the far future will be of mixed race. Today’s races and castes will fall victim to the increasing overcoming of space, time, and prejudice. The Eurasian-Negroid future race, outwardly similar to the ancient Egyptians, will replace the diversity of peoples with a diversity of individuals… Instead of destroying European Jewry, Europe, against its own will, refined and educated this people into a future leader-nation through this artificial selection process. No wonder that this people, that escaped Ghetto-Prison, developed into a spiritual nobility of Europe. Therefore a gracious Providence provided Europe with a new race of nobility by the Grace of Spirit. This happened at the moment when Europe’s feudal aristocracy became dilapidated, and thanks to Jewish emancipation.”

This is what he wrote. You may find it weird, shocking, an excellent plan or whatever. I don’t know what to tell you. Let’s continue:

According to the Count’s autobiography, at the beginning of 1924 his friend Baron Louis de Rothschild introduced him to Max Warburg, a German-Jewish banker (*) who offered to finance his movement for the next three years by giving him 60,000 gold marks. Warburg remained sincerely interested in the movement for the remainder of his life and served as an intermediate for Coudenhove-Kalergi with influential Americans such as banker Paul Warburg, a relative of Max, and financier Bernard Baruch.

It must be said that this American support is not coincidental: Pan-Americanism is an even older movement than Pan-Europeanism, starting with a conference in 1889, extending all the way to its latest meeting in 2001, including a moment of peak attention during World War I when people such as U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing were on board. For example, the “Pan-American Scientific Congress” held several meetings (**).

Some have suggested that Pan-Americanism was always an obvious U.S. ploy to secure greater control over its neighboring American states, and ensure no external power would meddle with them. That view appears to have been shared by the U.S. Latin American neighbors.

In Europe, in April 1924 Coudenhove-Kalergi founded the journal Paneuropa (1924–1938) of which he was editor and principal author, on the basis of ideas first published in his 1923 book Pan-Europa. The next year he started publishing his main work, the Kampf um Paneuropa (The fight for Paneuropa, 1925–1928, three volumes).

The Count then launched the Pan-Europa movement, which held its first Congress in 1926 in Vienna, as the first popular movement for a united Europe. In an interview during that congress with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Count Richard Coudenhove-Kalergi expressed the support of Jews by the Pan-European movement and the benefits to Jews with the elimination of racial hatred and economic rivalry that would be brought by a United States of Europe.

In 1927, French politician Aristide Briand was elected honorary president of the Pan-Europa movement. Public figures who attended Pan-Europa congresses over the next few years included Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann and Sigmund Freud. The movement may sound like a weird precedent for the E.U. but it was absolutely kooky, which explains such membership: Einstein never knew an absurd political movement he didn’t like.

Paneuropa, for the Count, wasn’t such planned association of free states, but a super-state that would comprise all of the European states save for the Russian and British empires, PLUS THEIR OWN COLONIAL POSSESSIONS. Dutch Indonesia was, for this insane person, a logical extension of Brussels.


Reflect on the map above for a minute, because Kalergi’s grandiose, toxic fantasies extended well beyond Europe: the way he saw it, the world had to be divided in five superstates: Paneuropa, the beneficent British Empire, the Soviet Union, Panamerica and East Asia — which, for this son of a Japanese mother, meant a great Japanese empire extending all the way to the Afghan border, completely swallowing China and Mongolia.

It really is no wonder that, for a while, the Count courted Fascist Italy, hoping for virile support from Benito Mussolini; the Count was a hot ticket, despite the Nazis’ strong distaste for his movement.

How hot? OK, let’s put it this way. Staying one step ahead of the Nazis during the World War II, he continued his call for the unification of Europe along the Paris-London axis. His wartime politics and adventures served as the real life basis for fictional Resistance hero Victor Laszlo, the character in Casablanca who is married to Ingrid Bergman’s character, Stephen Dorril wrote in his 2000 book “MI6: Inside the Covert World of Her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service.” (***)

The Count published his work Crusade for Paneurope in 1944. His appeal for the unification of Europe enjoyed some support from Winston Churchill, Allen Dulles, and “Wild Bill” Donovan, as he was firmly in the VIPs radar. In the winter of 1945, Harry S. Truman read an article in the December issue of Collier’s magazine that Coudenhove-Kalergi posted about the integration of Europe, according to the Japanese academic Hidenori Tozawa, author of a 2013 book on the Count.

This article impressed Truman, and it was adopted to the United States’ official policy. Winston Churchill’s celebrated speech of 19 September 1946 to the Academic Youth in Zurich, which was perfectly in line with such policy, commended “the exertions of the Pan-European Union which owes so much to Count Coudenhove-Kalergi and which commanded the services of the famous French patriot and statesman Aristide Briand,” wrote Walter Lipgens and Wilfried Loth in their exhausting 1988 compilation “Documents on the History of European Integration, Volume 3: The Struggle for European Union by Political Parties and Pressure Groups in Western European Countries 1945–1950.”

In November 1946 and the spring of 1947, Coudenhove-Kalergi circulated an enquiry addressed to members of European parliaments. This enquiry resulted in the founding of the European Parliamentary Union, a nominally private organization that held its preliminary conference on 4–5 July at Gstaad, Switzerland, and followed it with its first full conference from 8 to 12 September (****). Speaking at the first EPU conference, Coudenhove-Kalergi argued that the constitution of a wide market with a stable currency was the vehicle for Europe to reconstruct its potential and take the place it deserves within the concert of Nations. On less guarded occasions he was heard to advocate a revival of Charlemagne’s empire, added Lipgens and Loth.

The 1972–1973 academic year at the College of Europe was named in his honour. Coudenhove-Kalergi proposed Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as the music for the European Anthem. He also proposed a Europe Day, a single currency, European postage stamp and many artefacts for the movement including badges and pennants. This very strange man, a great admirer of Trotsky and the Soviet Union, received the first Charlemagne Prize (also won by Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger) in 1950, and probably killed himself.

(* Warburg is (in)famous as he remained as member of the German central bank’s board for two years after Hitler’s takeover)

(** Lansing gave a keynote to the 1915 meeting, which stated: ‘Pan-Americanism is an expression of the idea of internationalism. America has become the guardian of that idea, which will in the end rule the world. Pan-Americanism is the most advanced as well as the most practical form of that idea. It has been made possible because of our geographical isolation, of our similar political institutions, and of our common conception of human rights. Since the European war began other factors have strengthened this natural bond and given impulse to the movement. Never before have our people so fully realized the significance of the words, “Peace” and “Fraternity.” Never have the need and benefit of international cooperation in every form of human activity been so evident as they are to-day.’)

(***I know what you’re thinking: what about the Hungarian count in The English Patient, the movie and the novel? Apparently, our count has nothing to do with that character, which is loosely based on László Almásy, a well-known desert explorer in 1930s Egypt, who helped the Axis in World War II.)

(****World War II essentially settled the modern shape of the European Union, not the fact that there would be one: in March 1943, Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop proposed the creation of a “European Confederation” including virtually all European states. The draft declaration states: 2. The members of the Confederation are sovereign states and guarantee one another’s freedom and political independence. . . . 4. The states of the Confederation will conclude an alliance for the defense of Europe, the plans for which will be drawn up in due course. 5. The European economy will be organized by the member states on the basis of a uniform plan arrived at by mutual agreement. Customs barriers among them will be progressively abolished. Cited by Trevor Salmon and Sir William Nicoll (eds.), Building European Union: A Documentary History and Analysis (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1997), p. 23.)

About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
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