for all of Podhajsky’s stallions, and she extended an invitation to him. But an
increasingly desperate Podhajsky could not get the authorities to let him leave.
No transport was available. All trucks were being used for military purposes.
One day in January 1945, looking out the window of his office, Podhajsky
saw four large furniture moving vans; movers were loading priceless works of
art from the National Museum to transport them out of the city for safety.
Podhajsky had a thought: Even if his pleas to save the horses were not working,
perhaps he could make a case to move the rest of the precious artifacts—saddles,
bridles, and artwork— from the school. When he obtained permission to remove
the artifacts, he added an additional request: Could he not use some of the extra
space on the truck to remove some of the horses to the empty stables in Upper
Austria where he had been offered accommodation? Instead of presenting this as
the riding school leaving the city, he said that it was just to ease overcrowding at
the stables in Vienna. To his relief, the city official agreed. In this way, in January
and February, Podhajsky managed to ship small groups of horses to safety, so
that by late February 1945, only fifteen stallions and a small number of riders
remained. He had fulfilled his obligation to keep the riding school in the city
while making sure that a good number of the horses were out of harm’s way.
But as February dragged into March, the bombings intensified. On March 7, the
Allies crossed the Remagen bridge over the Rhine into eastern Germany. Mean-
while, the Russians were pressing in from the east. Podhajsky then tried to contact
the Army High Command in Berlin, but the phone lines were so badly damaged
that he had trouble making contact. Finally, he managed to obtain permission from
General Weingert, the cavalry inspector in Berlin, to evacuate the remaining fifteen
horses and at last to close down the riding school entirely, although the inspector
Gauleiter. Podhajsky was reluctant to approach him. The school was under the
direction of the Army High Com-
mand. He felt that bringing himself
to von Schirach’s attention might do
more harm than good. But he could
not think of any other way forward.
He remembered the letter from von
Schirach commanding him to keep
the horses safe—was that just Nazi
business as usual, or was he possibly
a lover of horses? Podhajsky steeled
himself. He would have to find out.
On the telephone, he was given a
chilly reception, but after a three-day
wait, he was told that the Gauleiter
would receive him at his villa.
Podhajsky, wasting no time, stated
his business. “Due to the danger to
the horses posed by the air raids, it is
necessary to remove the horses from
the city immediately.”
“If the Lipizzaner are seen leaving
the city, it will make the citizens feel
as if they are in a hopeless position,”
the Gauleiter countered.
Podhajsky avoided stating the obvi-
ous—that the citizens of Vienna were
indeed in a hopeless position.